By Amy Alkon
Q: I’m a 29-year-old woman, and I’ve been dating a guy for two months. I was scrolling (OK, stalking him) on Instagram and saw a pic of him with this pretty girl with her arm draped around his neck. Does monogamy just happen, or should I initiate the “commitment talk?”—Nervous
A: Welcome to the place relationship dreams go to die, also known as social media. One moment, you see your relationship heading toward the town of OnlyYouville, and the next, it’s looking more like a Ten Commandments production still of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
Understand why men commit: Because they come to love a particular woman more than they love their freedom—not because they’ve decided that it would be a bore to have sex with the Pilates-teaching twins. Getting to “only you” happens after a guy starts to feel attached to you, which comes out of a combination of sexual attraction, emotional compatibility and the sense that you have a package of qualities that he’s unlikely to get from anyone else. Feeling this way takes time—time spent together, and sometimes, a little time spent comparison shopping. Trying to rush the process is like planting a pea in the morning, yelling, “GROW! GROW! GROW!” and expecting to be climbing a beanstalk by noon.
Also, even for a guy who’s starting to care about you, hearing, “We need to have the commitment talk” can be like hearing the starting gun at the Olympics. There are couples who get serious without ever having this icky conversation. It just happens organically. But to avoid misunderstandings, right from the start, you should be indicating your interest in getting into a relationship. No, not with strategically strewn Brides magazines or messages magic-markered across your breasts: “MARRY ME!!!” You simply drop remarks about what you want and then ask questions to draw out what a guy’s up for. This allows you to get out fast if your goals aren’t a match—as opposed to getting to the four-month mark, holding him down and screaming in his face: “So what’s it gonna be, buddy? You looking to start a family—or a harem?!”
As for the woman in this photo, she could be someone to your man—or someone standing near him when his friend was taking his picture. (People shooting photos rarely say, “OK, you two, get as far apart as you can.”) You could ask him—and reveal that you’ve been going all Secret Squirrel on social media. But you could also ask yourself, simply by applying context. Look at the photo as one piece of information in the whole of your experiences with him: Is he increasingly sweet and attentive? Increasingly eager to see you? Are you starting to meet his friends? Chances are, you already have the information you need to figure out whether your relationship is going places—without trying to conduct it at a speed that suggests your ancestry is part French, part Italian and part cheetah.
Q: My boyfriend just said, “Your lips get bigger and smaller. What’s going on?” I admitted that I’ve been getting them injected. He hinted that I should stop, saying, “You’re too hot. You don’t need it.” Do I really need to kick the habit?—Smoochy
A: If your boyfriend wanted to kiss something inflated, he’d make out with his tires.
There’s a reason you feel compelled to join the reality-star-led parade of women duckbilling it up—as opposed to going in for a nostril enlargement. Men evolved to prefer women with plump lips. As for why, it turns out that the features that men across cultures find beautiful are those that give them the best shot of passing on their genes. Biopsychologist Victor S. Johnston, who studies the biological basis of human facial attractiveness, finds that full lips on a woman (along with small jaws and a small chin) are associated with low androgens (male hormones) and elevated levels of the female hormone estrogen—a combination that translates to higher fertility. In other words, big pillowy lips are basically a message from nature’s ad agency: “Wanna have descendants? Pick me—not some thin-lipped Lizzie.”
However, there are full lips and lips full of stuff some plastic surgeon injected in them, and any plastic surgery that can be spotted as such is usually a turnoff to men. (You might as well get a tattoo that says, “Hi, I’m insecure!”) So, tempting as it is to keep up with the Kardashians, you’ll be more attractive to your boyfriend if you don’t seem to need to. Best of all, to accomplish this, all you have to do is avoid spending hundreds of dollars to look like you just got out of a heavy make-out session with the vacuum cleaner.