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Amy Alkon


Dork Matter I'm just out of a bad relationship and ready to start dating. I recently met a guy I liked at the mall. There was definitely a physical attraction, and we had a lot in common, but not an hour after we met, he sent me a text that said, "Miss you …Read more. Owe, Baby, Baby My girlfriend always cries that she's "broke." I just ended up buying her groceries and paying to have her car fixed, and then I discovered by accident that she'd recently paid hundreds of dollars for hair extensions, beauty products, and a facial. …Read more. Rise And Spine My fiance is good friends with his ex-girlfriend from college. (We're all in our 30s.) She isn't a romantic threat, but she's become a source of stress. Long before I met my boyfriend, they began hanging out at a local bar together twice a week. …Read more. The File High Club A year ago, a co-worker I had a crush on made moves on me after hours at work, and we stopped just short of having sex. I saw him as a potential boyfriend, and I emphasized that I was not interested in casual sex. He told me at the time that he had …Read more.
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Beyond Thunderdomes


I have a great circle of female friends, but one of "the group" has a way of making backhanded comments about my appearance that make me feel bad about myself. Her latest topic is my breasts and how much smaller they are than hers. Incredibly, she manages to work this into any conversation — exercising, fashion, shopping, camping. If I confronted her, I know she'd act as though she's been paying me compliments. ("But you're SO lucky to have small boobs!") How can I get her to stop? — Annoyed

Stopping her would be easier if you two were guys: "I don't like the way you're talking about my boobs, Marjorie. Let's take this outside."

But while men will sock each other in the bar parking lot (and can sometimes go back in and have a beer), women engage in what anthropologists call "covert aggression" — attacks that are hard to pinpoint as attacks, like gossip, social exclusion, and stabbing another woman in the self-worth. ("Stabracadabra!" — you're bleeding out, but nobody but you can tell!)

Psychologist Anne Campbell, like others who study female competition, explains that women seem to have evolved to avoid physical confrontation, which would endanger their ability to have children or fulfill their role as an infant's principal caregiver. (Ancestral Daddy couldn't exactly run up to the store for baby formula.) So while guys will engage in put-down fests as a normal part of guy-ness, even women's verbal aggression is usually sneaky and often comes Halloween-costumed as compliments or concern: "Ooh, honey, do you need some Clearasil for those bumps on your chest?"

The tarted-up put-down is a form of psychological manipulation — a sly way of making a woman feel bad about herself so she'll self-locate lower on the totem pole. And because men have visually driven sexuality, women specialize in knocking other women where it really hurts — their looks. Like those supposedly minuscule boobs of yours. ('ll have a latte, and she'll just have another mug of your tears.)

The next time that she, say, turns a trip to the mall into a riff — "Har-har...Victoria's Secret is that they don't carry your size!" — pull her aside. (In a group of women, conflict resolution is most successful when it's as covert as female aggression — as in, not recognizable as fighting back.) By not letting the others hear, you remove the emotionally radioactive element of shaming.

This helps keep your defense from being perceived as an attack on her — yes, making you the bad guy.

Simply tell her — calmly but firmly: "These mentions of my boobs are not working for me. You need to stop." Be prepared for the antithesis of accountability — a response like "Gawd...chill" or "I have no idea what you're talking about." But she'll know exactly what you're talking about, which is that you've just become a poor choice of victim. She may float a remark or two to test your resolve, so be prepared to repeat your warning — calmly but firmly — until she starts acting like just one of the girls instead of yet another breast man.

Tinder Mercies

I'm a successful lawyer in my late 40s doing online dating. I'm active in the Republican Party and philanthropic causes, so I often go to benefit dinners, for which I typically buy two tickets in advance. I've asked two women I met online to come to these as a first date, but both canceled by text at the last minute. (The dinner yesterday was $1,000 a plate and for a political cause that means a lot to me.) Maybe I'm just attracting rude women, but I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm doing something wrong. — Empty Chairs

You can learn a lot about a woman on the first date — like that she still hasn't worked out her drinking problem and that she doesn't always like to wear panties. Ideally, you find these things out while seated across from her at Starbucks, and not after she climbs on the table at a benefit and starts doing some sort of fertility dance with the centerpiece.

Sure, it seems convenient when your need for a plus-one coincides with your desire to go on a first date with some online hottie. But you're better off coming up with a list of attractive female friends you can take or even male friends who share your politics or just enjoy free meals enough to not challenge your tablemates to a duel over theirs. Not taking a woman you barely know is also an important business safeguard — so that when some conservative client of yours turns to your date and asks "So how do you two know each other?" he won't hear something like, "We met in the 'Republicans Who Like Hot Wax Play' chat room on Christian Mingle."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Her weekly radio show can be found at Her latest book is "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."




7 Comments | Post Comment
LW1: Wow. This one is so easy. Just ask her, in front of everyone, why she is so obsessed with your boobs next time she says something. You have to stop being so stupid. People are not complicated. If someone is trying to make you feel bad then stop hanging out with them. Why do you want to be around toxic people?

LW2: If only there were common sense classes people could take .....

Comment: #1
Posted by: Diana
Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:53 AM
LW2 -- My husband used to work for a member of Congress, so he attended many, many political functions. Until I came along, he NEVER brought a date with him. In fact, since he spent the first eight years of his career NOT bringing a date with him, a number of people thought he was gay. The only reason that one of our first dates was a political function was that I was a reporter at the local newspaper -- I was going to find a way to attend that function (at which the governor was speaking) one way or the other. Prior to that, the reason he never brought a date with him was because for anyone who isn't politically active, they are beyond dull. Moreover, as the Congressman's representative at these events, he was expected to "work the room" -- which can be hard to do if you have someone who isn't into politics glued to your hip. Hubby took me because he knew I'd be totally comfortable in that environment -- and would also not need him to introduce me around, as I would be just as happy "working the room" myself. Trust me, you do NOT want to take someone to a political event as a first date.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:36 PM
LW2: A $1,000 a plate benefit dinner is way too much pressure on a first date. Few women want to spend a small fortune on clothing and hair and makeup for a first date if they would never normally attend an event like this. Do you expect her to show up looking like polished marble and able to converse with virtually anyone on any number of relevant topics connected with your organization of choice? Is she just there to make you look good? Will she have to pretend to enjoy a bunch of speeches? It doesn't sound like the kind of evening that allows for much time with you or any real conversation. Unless you know the person you are inviting has an income and a wardrobe to support this kind of event, and is also highly politically compatible with you, it's way too much. What you are describing is less of a date and more of a public appearance. Don't get me wrong, agreeing to be your date and then bailing at the last minute is lousy, but maybe they became increasingly overwhelmed and didn't know how else to get out of it. For a first date, these benefit dinners are a really bad, bad idea. You will have better luck if you dial down the formality by at least $950 a plate, and make a plan that allows you and your date to get to know each other.
Comment: #3
Posted by: LouisaFinnell
Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:36 PM
Re: LouisaFinnell
I agree. A man who'd ask a woman to a $1000 a plate fundraiser as a first date is trying way too hard to impress her.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Seabeast2
Wed Jul 1, 2015 11:09 AM
LW1 -- Be proud of your breasts, if your not then get them altered.

LW2 -- You take first dates somewhere simple, not a benifit dinner. Take her out to dinner just the two of you.
Comment: #5
Posted by: J
Wed Jul 1, 2015 6:10 PM
LW1 -
I would have no problem treating her to a dose of her own medicine, but although I'm not the kind to be catty just for the sake of making all females around me feel like sh!t (I don't need this in order to feel good about myself), I do have a sizeable mouth, so anyone looking for me sure is gonna find me. :-))))

However, you may have trouble finding your inner b!tch if she's buried far down under the Mezozoic layer. Maybe you should try pretending you have hearing problems and have her repeat the same thing 3-4 times, and then boom, "OOOOOH, you meant my minuscule BOOBS! NOW I get it!" I'll bet two or three treatments like this should cool her jets nicely. (Bullies don't like to attack those who fight back)

LW2 -
As Lisa explained very well, to anyone not politically involved AND of the same stripe as you, a political rally will be a dreadful bore. Not to mention that you will have other things to do but to pay attention to her, which is what a first date supposed to be about.

I'm not surprised at the no-shows - most women would take a pass and wonder what the hell is wrong with you that you think this is a suitable venue to get to know each other. Again, as stated before, this is more like a public appearance (i.e., WORK) than an introductory date and, frankly, for him to confuse the two is a bit of a concern regarding his common sense.

*I* would have been interested, if the rally was of my political leaning... but I doubt it.

Comment: #6
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Jul 1, 2015 7:09 PM
LW1 - Your friend is either oblivious, or stuck in a pattern of making backhanded compliments than acting all innocent when you react. I had a friend like that; I put up with her for years, thinking other elements of the friendship were good; finally though I gave up on her. The suggestions to sit down with her privately and say, "This isn't working, you need to stop," is a good one. If she doesn't stop after fair warning, drop her.

LW2 - The women got to feeling like it was strange to be invited out on a first date in which a man was spending $1000 on them. It may not be much to you but to some people it's a week or month's salary. It sounds like you may be trying to impress them; instead go somewhere for coffee, to talk. They're far less likely to cancel, and it won't matter as much if they do.

Lisa and Lise also made excellent points.

Comment: #7
Posted by: sarah morrow
Wed Jul 1, 2015 10:47 PM
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