Fifty Shades of Go Away
I'm the female author of a funny memoir about sex addiction and relationships. Unfortunately, I now have male readers asking me on dates via email, even if they don't live in this country! To put it politely, few are men I'd ever be interested in. Also, it feels creepy to be asked out because somebody read all about my sex life. How do I kindly turn them down?
Some will say you should be flattered that these men are showing interest. These people don't quite get that men hitting on you because they read your sex addiction memoir are appealing on the level of a barista who hits on you by drawing a penis and a question mark in your latte.
As for your observation that most of these guys are attempting to date out of their league, men actually seem to have evolved to try to do that—to be all "As I see it, those Victoria's Secret Angels just haven't met the right chronically unemployed, creatively hygienic neckbeard who still lives with his mother."
This seemingly delusional overconfidence in men on the prowl aligns with how evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss observe that both men and women seem to have evolved to sometimes perceive the world inaccurately—seeing our opportunities or potential danger in beneficially distorted ways. This sometimes involves over-perception—erring on the side of seeing more than what's actually there—and it sometimes involves under-perception, seeing less than what's actually there.
Because, for a woman, having sex can lead to nine months of soccer ball-like ankles and other pregnancy fun, plus (eventually) a child to feed, women seem to have evolved a protective bias toward underperceiving men's level of commitment. Men, on the other hand, have a chance to pass on their genes every time they have sex. So they tend to have a sexual-overperception bias—seeing signs of mere friendliness or even utter apathy as "This babe wants me! Yepperoo. Hot for bridge troll!"
That's probably what's going on here — men erring on the side of "ya never know!" Let them down with dignity. Treat them as if they have value as men and human beings, with something like "I wish I could, but I'm sorry to say, I have a firm policy that I never date readers." But perhaps a better first option would be to answer only the part of the email about the book, totally ignoring the part where they gracefully ask you out: "I really enjoyed your book, and now I'd like to enjoy you!"
Could you please educate me in the nuances of "I'm sorry"? My girlfriend sometimes says my apologies don't count because of the tone of voice I use when I say "I'm sorry." She said I sound "resentful instead of apologetic." Shouldn't she just accept the apology and not split hairs like this?
—Man In Apology Doghouse
Ideally, your tone of voice in apologizing simply communicates "I'm sorry" and not "I'm sorry you're such a total idiot about this."
Whenever you speak, the emotional packaging—your tone and attitude—is an integral part of the message. That's because, as evolutionary psychologist Laith Al-Shawaf and his colleagues explain, one function of human emotions is to act as signals, broadcasting our feelings, perceptions, and intentions. Accordingly, an apology in a snarly package—words of regret delivered in a resentful tone—reads not as an apology but as an evasion of responsibility in an apology suit.
For an apology to count for us psychologically—allow us to let go of our hurt and anger and move on—it needs to be backed with sincere remorse. This isn't to say you have to throw yourself weeping at a person's feet because you left the toothpaste cap-free for the 500 millionth time. Your tone just needs to translate to a sort of pledge to try to do better—which suggests that you value the person and the relationship, which allows them to trust you going forward.
But let's say you're snarling "sorry!" because you feel whatever was expected of you (that you fell short of) was ultimately unfair. In that case, it's better to instead say, "I see you're feeling upset" or "hurt"—"...and I think there's a misunderstanding here that we need to discuss." If things are too heated in the moment, you can ask to talk in a few minutes or an hour or whatever. This tack is sure to have a far better outcome than the classic unapologetic apology—"I insincerely apologize for the thing you say I did"—which tends to be met with "I'm so sorry you'll be taking this mildewy army blanket and going out and sleeping on the lawn chair...indefinitely."
(c)2018, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com. @amyalkon on Twitter. Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon
Order Amy Alkon's new book, "Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence," (St. Martin's Griffin, 2018)