Q: I’m a single dude in my 30s, and I really want a girlfriend, but I keep striking out with women. My female co-worker says that if I want a relationship, I need to upgrade my shoes. I wear a pair of super-comfy New Balance sneakers that I’ve had since college … yes, even wearing them on dates. In the summer, I wear Crocs sandals. What’s the problem? Are girls really that shallow?—Footloose
A: Sadly, the CDC has been remiss in informing men of the exceptional protection against sexually transmitted diseases that open-toe shoes can provide.
Men’s shoes speak to women. They are a form of what anthropologists and zoologists call “signaling”—communication between organisms. In the mating realm, signals advertise quality in a potential partner—or sound the alarm when it’s lacking. Wearing bad shoes suggests that you lack the social intelligence to dress like a grown-up and/or the interest in taking care of more than your own needs—like for the five basic bachelor-dude food groups: Beer, Hot Pockets, pizza, Doritos and pot edibles.
Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller surveyed women—straight single American women, ages 20-35—on what they like and loathe in footwear on a potential partner. The women were asked to imagine going on a casual lunch date with guys wearing 32 different types of men’s shoes, from Birkenstocks, to chukkas to leather Oxfords.
Women’s preferences were “strong” and “consistent” and point to the following advice: Wear nice leather shoes, like Oxfords or loafers—that cover your feet. (Women hated every single type of sandal.) Your shoes don’t have to be expensive. You can probably do just fine with a stylish loafer that you get on sale for $50.
Finally, it isn’t enough to just buy the right shoes; you have to take care of them. Learn how to polish and clean them. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually part of a whole of living like a man instead of a manchild. Admittedly, living the man way isn’t “super-comfy,” but consider where your priorities lie: More in the realm of Dr. Scholl or Dr. Kinsey?
Q: I’m in love with my male best friend and unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he’s never been attracted to me. This is very painful, and trying to stop thinking about him so much isn’t working. To be fair, he isn’t emotionally available right now, as he’s still mourning his divorce (a little too long for it to be healthy, I think). I’m thinking that if I stay close and stay available, he may pick me once he becomes emotionally ready again. Is that crazy? I really want a relationship and am willing to wait for him.—Tormented
A: Nothing says, “Your welfare means the world to me” like clocking a man’s mourning with a stopwatch.
Beyond how the guy isn’t up for a relationship right now, you seem pretty sure that you’re just the girl next door to the girls in his wank bank. So mooning over him is not the road to a relationship, but the equivalent of trying to get from New York to California by doing endless doughnuts in a Walmart parking lot.
If unrequited love isn’t the point—offering you protection from heartbreak and distraction from pursuing a guy who’s a real possibility—you need to disengage. Social psychologist Jennifer L.S. Borton found that asking research participants to suppress a specific thought led to their experiencing it “more frequently” and led to “a more anxious and depressed mood.”
Because of this, when you have a thought of the guy, don’t try to shove it away. Instead, shift how you think of him. Focus on how he isn’t emotionally available and then on how he probably never will be for you. Next, take action. Make an effort to shift your circumstances by going on dating sites to look for men who might be possibilities for you. This ultimately allows you to be there for this guy as a friend—as opposed to mentioning that you happen to be wearing a very soft and super-absorbent pushup bra.