Wednesday, May 14 — Q: I've been dating a fun, very attractive woman for about a month, and things have been going great. However, on our last date, we were out at dinner, and the female server accidentally spilled an entire glass of red wine on her dress. Though the server seemed mortified and apologized profusely, my date absolutely lost it — going into a rage and yelling at the poor server, telling her she needs to learn how to do her job, etc. Except for this incident, this woman has been sweet to me and generally acts like a nice person. Should I give her some leeway on this?
A: Red wine and clothing have been problematic companions for centuries. Impressive as it is that Jesus turned water into wine, if only he’d developed a way to turn wine back into water, he could have opened a highly successful chain of dry cleaners.
And while it’s pretty awful when somebody spills red wine all over your outfit, it’s especially awful when you are on a date and want to be at your sexy, pulled-together best. (If you felt a 2006 Bordeaux would have improved your look, you would have thrown a glass of it on yourself before leaving the house.)
But as I note in my new book, “Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (June 3, St. Martin’s Press), when you’ve just started dating someone, the butter-paws waiter who gives them a red wine bath is probably doing you a favor. Significant character flaws (like rage issues) are unlikely to be revealed in the early stages of dating, when the biggest source of stress you see your date experiencing is the kitchen’s forgetting to leave off the parsley garnish on their medallions of duck.
If, when you’re dating someone new, you never get seated in the clumsy waiter’s section, go camping together, collaborate on a project, or engage in other stress-producing activities that strain a person’s patience and party manners. Bad personality traits, if any, are likely to scurry around like cockroaches after somebody turns the lights on.
As for this woman, it doesn’t look good. Her behavior suggests not only a lack of compassion but poor “self-regulation,” psychologists’ term for the ability to control one’s emotional reactions. You also don’t mention her expressing embarrassment or apologizing afterward as people acting out in uncharacteristic ways tend to do. If you decide to stick around, be wary of succumbing to “optimism bias” — our tendency to project a rosy future for ourselves: silver linings all around; hold the clouds. This leads to selective eyesight, like focusing on how hot a woman is rather than how hot-headed. This may work for you for a while — perhaps until she’s melting your ear in the drugstore aisle: “WHERE ARE THE TAMPONS I TOLD YOU TO GET, YOU BIG MORON?” Of course, at that point, there’s only one thing to say to her: “Sorry, ma’am. I think you’ve mistaken me for somebody else.”
Q: I'm a 23-year-old guy dating a beautiful and exciting 33-year-old woman. Because she’s older than everybody in my circle, my buddies have taken to calling her “Mom” (though not to her face) and ripping on me for dating her. She really is fantastic, but I have to admit this is having an impact on me — making me both angry at my friends and embarrassed that she and I stick out for the age difference.
A: Ten years seems like a big deal now, but when you're 139, she won't even be 150 yet. It’s understandable that you’re feeling all woundy from these razzings, but being male is about being a competitor — ultimately for women — down to the smallest scale. As one sperm taunted the other, “You swim like you expect to end up in an old tube sock.” The power of your buddies’ mockery isn’t surprising, considering the finding by UCLA’s Matthew Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger that our brains react to social pain in much the same way they do to physical pain. This makes sense, as we are a social species and, early on, our survival may have depended on what other people thought of us. But there’s being aware of people’s remarks and there’s letting them drive you like a joystick. Also, the way to pretty much ensure that guys keep ripping on you is showing that you’re vulnerable to it, like by dumping your hot mama girlfriend so you don’t stick out from the pack. Remember, “age is just a number” — like zero, the amount of sex many of them are having and would probably like to see you having, too.
It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio -- “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or listen or download at the link, at iTunes, or on Stitcher.