By Amy Alkon
Q: I’m a 28-year-old guy in a corporate job. I’m out there trying to meet women and date (or hook up), but I’m not doing so well. In college, I was able to hook up and get girlfriends pretty easily, and I haven’t put on 100 pounds or anything. I’ve noticed that three of my male co-workers (at my same level at work) are getting lots of girls. All three are in major debt from buying clothes and leasing cars they really can’t afford. Is being on the road to bankruptcy really what it takes to impress the ladies?—Living Within My Means
A: Candlelight all over your apartment is really romantic—unless you’re using it because they’ve cut your power off again.
When women finally start looking to settle down and make a life with a man, the last thing they want is some credit-card-surfing spenditarian who gets his exercise running from collection agents. However, despite this, women can also be like blue jays on shiny objects—especially shiny objects with, say, Audi emblems.
Research on men and women ages 18 to 45 by evolutionary social psychologist Daniel Kruger found that men who had run up credit card debt were more likely to have multiple sex partners than their more sensibly spending bros.
Again, rather obviously, women aren’t all, “I’m looking for a man who’ll eventually have to crowdfund our children’s dental bills.” However, looking at Kruger’s findings, another evolutionary psychologist, Glenn Geher, speculates that men’s overspending “may act as a false signal of wealth, and although it is a false signal” (of the ability to provide resources for a woman and any children) “sometimes this deception is effective.”
Going into the red to get girls is ultimately a bad strategy for any guy who wants more than a string of flings. However, what would probably lead more women to give you a chance are the first-glance trappings of success—beautiful shoes, designer eyeglass frames, that fab cashmere sweater and maybe a really nice soft leather jacket.
The thing is, you can get these items simply by shopping shrewdly—like at end-of-year sales or on eBay. Remember, even women who want a boyfriend who’s fiscally responsible are likely to be impressed by that sweater that took four years combing a Mongolian goat to make. And let’s say some woman is just looking for a hookup. It’s all good; she won’t know you long enough to discover that although you do drive a brand-new “alternative-fuel” vehicle, it isn’t a Tesla; it’s a Schwinn.
Q: I love my girlfriend and try to be good to her. However, her folks came to visit, and she thinks I was rude because I seemed uninterested and was on my phone the whole time. I told her that I think her parents are boring. I was just being honest. She got really mad. Am I supposed to lie about being entertained by her parents?—The Boyfriend
A: There comes an age when other children’s parents shouldn’t have to hire monkeys and birthday clowns.
Twenty-some years ago, in the hospital maternity ward, your girlfriend’s mom and dad heard the wonderful news—and it wasn’t, “It’s an iPhone!” So, when her folks are visiting, there’s a reasonable expectation that, yes, you would redirect your attention from “Words With Friends” to words with parents.
Surely, this is not news to you—or really anyone whose brain has not been relocated to a jar. So you might ask yourself whether this ignore-athon of yours reflects some subconscious desire to sabotage your way out of the relationship. If that’s not the case, consider something the late German social psychologist Erich Fromm pointed out: “To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” Tragically, this acting lovingly business may sometimes require you to put your entertainment needs second—even if the only way to survive the crushing tedium of being with your girlfriend’s folks is to spend the evening secretly pacing the floater in your right eye.