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The Advice Goddess: October 2019
Wednesday, 02 October 2019 22:02

Friend over backward

A friend agreed to dogsit while I flew up to visit my ailing dad. She bailed at 7 p.m. the night before I flew out, saying she needed three days to pack for a vacation. She never even apologized. I don’t want to be friends anymore. She said, “You’re throwing a friend away over not watching your dog.” But it’s not that. It’s that she broke her word and left me in a huge bind. Still, I feel bad about cutting her out of my life, as we’ve been friends a long time. Thoughts?

— Disgusted


This is like that game Trust, where you let yourself fall backward in the belief that somebody will be there to catch you.

In this case, your catcher ran off last minute for a mani-pedi, and you woke up in the ER getting the crack in your head stapled shut by four surgical residents.

At least your anger hasn’t deserted you. Maybe that sounds odd, given that anger gets a bad rap as a “destructive” emotion. But anger actually has an important function. It’s a “recalibrational emotion,” one of a few emotions — along with shame and embarrassment — that evolutionary scientist Aaron Sell explains evolved to regulate our own behavior as well as someone else’s.

Sell writes that anger arises in a person in response to their perception that another person “does not value their interests highly enough.” This motivates the angry person to push for better treatment. There are two tactics for this: inflicting costs (sometimes simply through the scary ugliness of aggression) or withdrawing benefits.

The function of these two tactics, Sell explains, is to show the other person (the slacking offender) that they will be worse off if they keep neglecting the angry person’s interests. Interestingly, in research across six cultures -- including Shuar hunter-horticulturalists in the Amazon -- Sell and his colleagues found that people were “less angry when harmed for a large benefit compared to a small benefit.” 

Accordingly, chances are you’d be less angry and less motivated to retire this woman as a friend if she’d bailed after being hit by some big emergency. 

Instead, it seems she just wanted to spend three days packing for her trip unimpeded by the slightest bit of doggie care. That desire in and of itself isn’t wrong, but being friends with someone (and getting the benefits) can involve some inconveniences from time to time — putting yourself out to make things better for a person you care about.

What’s more, this woman never apologized. So, your anger — your imposing a cost on her — did not motivate her to feel remorse or show you that your needs and feelings mean something to her. 

Yes, it’s good to keep friends —  if they actually act like friends. Otherwise, you should probably treat them like a broken vacuum cleaner. 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you probably wouldn’t keep it “for old time’s sake!” after it starts to smoke, blow big dust clouds, and scream like 20 goats being slaughtered in your living room.


No way to retreat a lady

What should you do when a man you’ve been dating stops texting or otherwise responding? We had an amazing time when we were last together. I can’t believe he just isn’t interested. Should I call? Drop by? What do you suggest?
— Hurt


As a woman, there’s sometimes good reason for you to chase a man, like that he’s good-looking and funny and has also stolen your wallet.

 A man who’s interested in you will not need chasing. In fact, if he’s really into you, he will chase you like a dog chases a squirrel... a squirrel wearing a tiny jumpsuit made entirely out of bacon. 

Unfortunately, human psychology is particularly bad at helping us detach from lost causes, motivating us to lead with our ego and emotion rather than reason. 

For example, we’re prone to keep putting time, energy, and and/or money into something based on what we’ve already invested — what we’ve already “sunk” into it. This is called the sunk cost fallacy, and it’s irrational behavior because our initial outlay is gone. The rational approach is to base any further investment on how likely the thing is to pay off in the future.

 Cut your losses. Come up with an ego-soothing explanation for his disappearance — like that he was kidnapped from the mall parking lot and never seen again. Crazy as that advice might sound, research on memory by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus actually finds we are quick to turn our malarkey, especially our repeated malarkey, into our reality, i.e., what we believe. Also, quite frankly, there’s a good chance he actually was kidnapped — though probably just by some other woman’s butt cleavage.


Not a good lurk

My girlfriends and I have had this experience numerous times: A guy who’s interested in one of us will suddenly stop texting us but then reappear a few months later liking our social media posts. This just happened to me. It’s about three months since he vanished, and he’s suddenly all up in my Instagram. Why do guys do this?
— Annoyed


You almost wish the guy would greet you honestly: “‘Sup, Plan B?!”

 This guy might’ve initially been interested in you. However, chances are you eventually became what evolutionary psychologists like Joshua Duntley call a “backup mate” (basically the dating-and-mating version of a spare tire or the vice president).

 Duntley’s work suggests humans evolved to identify and cultivate backup mates so we wouldn’t be left high and dry for long if our main boo died or ran off with the hot neighbor.

 I romantic. That said, it isn’t wrong to have backup mates. Research by Duntley and his colleagues points to many or most of us having them, though we’re often not aware of it.

 The thing is, this guy’s disappearing and then sliding back into your life with likes on some of your Instagram posts, is a big red flag — a big red sequined flag with cop flashers on top. 

Character is revealed in how people behave when they feel they have nothing to gain from someone. Maybe this guy got the hots for some other woman and the lukewarms for you. Or maybe he just got busy. Whatever the reason, it takes minimal effort to make a kind exit — even saying, “I’ve got a lot going on right now, and I need to take a break from talking.”

 When someone shows themselves to be a jerk, you may want to broom them out of even the edges of your life. This is clickably easy on Instagram, thanks to the block function. 

Blocking a guy like this should be a wise pre-emptive measure, considering his idea of good manners is probably prefacing the 2 a.m. “I’m horny!” text with a few likes on photos of your kitten in a tinfoil conspiracy hat.

(c.) 2019, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ( Weekly radio show:



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