The shopping cart before the horse
I had to talk a guy friend out of showing up on a first date with a rose and a book the woman had casually mentioned she liked. He's a genuinely nice guy and professionally quite successful, but he repeatedly turns women off by coming on too strong too soon with these gifts. Can you please explain to guys why they shouldn't do this? — Woman Who's Been There
It's a really bad idea for a guy to give flowers to a girl he's just meeting, unless she's just won the Kentucky Derby. In that case, he could also slip her a carrot and slap her on the rump.
Unless a woman shows up for your first date wearing a saddle, limit your gifts to an on-time arrival and smelling like you've showered recently. Anything more comes off like a sales promotion: "Date your way to a free panini maker! Trip to Mazatlan after five completed sex acts!" Selling a woman on liking you before you see whether you like her suggests you have wildly low standards. Never mind who she is; you'll take any woman who's a woman and not in jail or too busy filing a restraining order against you to meet you for a drink.
Evolutionary psychologist Gad Saad, author of the terrific new book The Consuming Instinct, has studied the timing of gift-giving in romantic relationships. He explained to me that courtship behaviors need to be modulated in their timing and frequency. "Telling a woman that she looks beautiful is nice. Repeating it 35 times during dinner is not. It creates an asymmetry in the power dynamics that renders the guy less attractive."
Likewise, giving gifts too early in dating "reeks of desperation," Saad said. "Recall that many women are attracted to alpha males who can otherwise only be 'tamed' by the love of the one unique woman (the classic rendition of the male archetype in romance novels). If the guy is swooning all over the woman on the first date, there is nothing to tame."
There's that saying that gifts should be given from the heart, which always makes me flash on gift-wrapping Grandpa's stent. But, as a rule, you shouldn't give a present to a woman until you've worked up some affection for her and she seems to have some for you. Expensive gifts early on tend to make a woman who isn't a gold digger uncomfortable and tell a woman who is that you're a prime chump. Instead, give fun, inexpensive things that tell her you were listening when she said she loves monkeys and weren't just saying "Yeah, uh-huh" and running baseball stats in your head.
By showing that you care about what's special to her, you're telling her that she's becoming special to you, sending the message "It had to be you," as opposed to "It could've been anyone, but you'll do."
That special thumb one
This guy I've gone out with only contacts me late at night via text (just looking to text, not for a booty call). I work early, and I'm always about to go to sleep when he texts, but because he so rarely contacts me, I always respond (and usually fall asleep while texting). I've told him repeatedly I'd like to talk during daylight hours and given him my work number. How do I get him to call during the day instead of playing Textmaster Flash until midnight? — Eye Bags
There's a reason he won't contact you during daylight hours, and it isn't because he's a vampire and that's when he lies in his coffin watching Judge Judy on his iPad. You've actually been setting the time for your texting sessions. Nothing says "How dare you text me at 11 p.m.?!" like spending 20 minutes texting with a guy who just has. Think about what you're telling him: All he has to do is make a bell ring, and you'll roll over and start texting. (Are you looking to be somebody's girlfriend or Pavlov's dog?)
The fact that a guy "rarely" contacts you is all the more reason to avoid texting him back pronto. It's absence, not unlimited text messaging, that makes the heart grow fonder. If you want a guy to respect your boundaries, show him that you have them. When he texts you too late, wait till the next morning and send him a single text telling him you go to bed early and asking him to call you during the day. If he can't swing that, let him call the sort of woman who'll pick up the phone for a man at any hour — whispering sweet nothings like "Thank you for choosing 24-hour roadside assistance. This is Erica. Do you need a jump or a tow?"
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society.