by Amy Alkon
Q: There’s a girl who works at the hotel where my co-workers and I go for drinks. She’s hot and smart and fun, and I really like her and want to ask her out. The problem is that when she laughs, she cackles in this really annoying way. I’m wondering whether, if we started dating and hit it off, I could subtly hint to her that she should change her weird, witchy laugh. Because, honestly, she’s perfect otherwise.—Bothered
A: It’s great to find a woman who laughs at your wit, but not when she sounds like she’ll follow up with, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
I know, the “expected” reply to a man wanting a woman to change something about herself is, “How dare you, you shallow pig?!” And I’m aware that behaviors that initially seem mildly annoying can, in time, make you want to bludgeon the person with the soup ladle. But it does seem a shame to nix a woman you really like right off the bat simply because it’s hard to tell whether she’s laughing or you’re around the corner from a donkey engaged in erotic asphyxiation.
It’s possible that her laugh really is her laugh, “designed” by the shape and location of her larynx. HowStuffWorks founder Marshall Brain explains that when we’re laughing, the larynx gets half-closed by the epiglottis. (Laughter, most charmingly, is the sound of a person struggling for air, which we each do in our own special way.) But the reality is, some people with disturbing laughs have created them, often out of a desire to seem unique or get attention. They repeat their fabricated ha-ha, and it becomes part of them. And then time passes, and they forget to check whether their creation is still serving them or whether it might be to potential dates what garlic and crosses are to working vampires.
Obviously, a woman is likely to be to hurt and offended if you announce, “If we’re going to have any future together, you’ll need a laughectomy.” However, IF you started dating her and IF you saw that she’s one of those (rare) people who “would rather know,” you could ask her about her laugh: “Have you always laughed that way?” But brace yourself for her to come back with something like “Do you hate my laugh?” At this point, like a rat on flotsam after a shipwreck, all you can do is grab for a piece of flattery: “Uh, um … it’s just that you’re so elegant. It doesn’t seem to go with the rest of you.”
But first things first. You haven’t even asked her out. She might say no (laughing raucously and scaring away crows). Or, if she said yes, things might fizzle after a date or two. So maybe go out with her a few times, taking it slowly (no sex, tickling, or comedy club visits), and weigh whether her general fabulousness is enough to offset the intermittent cackly audio. Who knows … maybe you’ll fall for her to the point where her laugh becomes endearingly awful—always making you long to grab her and kiss her in the back seat of her broomstick.
Q: The guy I’m seeing revealed that he is hesitant to get into a relationship because it means “taking responsibility” for another person on a level you don’t have to when you’re just friends with benefits. In his words: “I mean, what if you got cancer?” He wants the friendship and connection of a relationship, but he inevitably fails to step up and women bail. (What a surprise.) He did have a three-year relationship in the past, and I really like him. Should I stick around and hope he calms down?—Unsure
A: Here’s a guy who will have your back—getting smaller and smaller in his rearview mirror at the first sign of a serious problem, such as a bad hangnail. Sadly, it isn’t enough to “really like” a guy. You need to really like a guy who’s prepared to respond to your needs with loving concern instead of burning rubber. And in keeping with this unfortunate automotive theme, assessing a guy’s boyfriendability should be approached like selling cars. The successful car salesman will not spend his morning singing the praises of heated seats and in-car Wi-Fi to the customer wearing a blanket and cardboard sandals. That guy sure could use a car, just as your guy sure could use the “friendship and connection” (and, no doubt, the sex) of a relationship, but neither will be able to make the required payments. So, yes, waiting and hoping this guy “calms down” is an option—but you’d probably have better luck waiting for the brown bird outside your window to turn into a UPS driver.