I have known Amy Alkon since the mid-1990s. I was sitting at the Farmer's Market with Cathy Seipp, waiting for others to arrive at the every-season-or-so writer girls breakfast Cathy used to call us to, and up walked two very tall, very glamorous women. One was Monica Corcoran, now editor-in-chief of Capitol Couture. She was wearing a sailor-stripe top and twill trousers, very chic. The other was in a floor-length mermaid-sheath of a dress, heels that made her six feet tall, powder-white skin and red red lips.
"Hi! I'm Amy!" she said, and extended her hand, which I recall as being gloved to the elbow, though I know this could not have been the case at ten in the morning, it is simply the spell Amy casts, the perfect manners, the ring of her voice, the laughter, the conviction to speak her mind, to--as I have learned as we've celebrated books and marriage and linked arms when Cathy was dying--to stand alongside, to have your back.
Also, to tell you when you're being a jerk--and how and why not to be. Amy writes the funny, wry, science-based, long-running syndicated column, The Advice Goddess (from which the below Q & A is culled). She also hosts the weekly Advice Goddess Radio, blogs copiously, and is the author of 2009's, I See Rude People: One woman's battle to beat some manners int impolite society, and the upcoming Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, out in June but available now for pre-order.
Save the Wails
Are guys scared of politically active women? My boyfriend of two months just broke up with me over my support for animal rights, and I’ve generally had difficulty keeping boyfriends because of this. This boyfriend was bothered by two incidents. In the first, I got into an argument about zoos with one of his friends at a party. Another time, we were driving alongside a car with a pro-hunting bumper sticker, and I rolled down my window and shouted something to the driver. I’m trying to do good -- protect creatures without a voice. Does that mean I don’t deserve a boyfriend?
--Yes, I Stand For Something
Men tend to like it when a woman screams passionately, but it’s less sexy if what she’s screaming is “McDonald’s is murder!”
But, wait -- you’re trying to do some good; don’t you “deserve” a boyfriend? You, like the rest of us, deserve not to be run over by a truck. The Declaration of Independence also spells out that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” stuff we’re all supposed to get. That’s right; you have a right to chase happiness. It doesn’t get delivered to your door. (“Sign here, please.”) And the reality is, every requirement you have for a boyfriend and every, well, nonstandard practice you have (like Wicca, being a serious Civil War re-enactor, or a hobby of throwing fake blood on people in fur) narrows your options. The size of a person’s dating pool is determined by their level of hotitude factored with how hard they are to be around. (An annoying 9 might still have many romantic opportunities, though with limited staying power.)
And just a guess, but for at least some of these guys who dumped you, maybe the problem wasn’t so much your support of animal rights as it was your lack of boundaries in expressing it. Even a guy who’s with you in principle on sticking up for Bambi and the lab rats might not be comfortable with your transforming every social gathering into an animal rights protest rally. Also, consider that there’s a difference between speaking your mind and yelling it out the window at someone who has announced in writing on their vehicle that they are likely armed.
In other words, you can refuse to ever bend your principles, or you can have a man in your life. This isn’t to say you have to start wearing snow leopard legwarmers and eating baby seal McNuggets; you probably just need to divide the world into political and social forums. Social forums would be reserved for pleasant cocktail party conversation -- even if a guy is gnawing meat off a skewer and you long more than anything to stick him in the eye with it and say, “See how you like it!”
When you start dating somebody new, ask him what his comfort zone is regarding your activism, and either respect the boundaries he needs or be honest if you can’t or won’t. If you come to see a relationship as a party of two, each of whose needs matter, there’s a good chance you’ll find a guy who’ll at least be there to bail you out of jail -- maybe for years to come -- until you two finally retire to the country to run a lentil rescue. (Some say they scream when you drop ‘em in boiling water.)