The Shoo Maker

I’m a single dude in my 30s and I really want a girlfriend, but I keep striking out with women. My female co-worker says that if I want a relationship, I need to upgrade my shoes. I wear a pair of super-comfy New Balance sneakers that I’ve had since college … yes, even wearing them on dates. In the summer, I wear Crocs sandals. What’s the problem? Are girls really that shallow?
— Footloose

Sadly, the CDC has been remiss in informing men of the exceptional protection against sexually transmitted diseases that open-toe shoes can provide.

Men’s shoes speak to women. They are a form of what anthropologists and zoologists call “signaling”: communication between organisms. In the mating realm, signals advertise quality in a potential partner — or sound the alarm when it’s lacking. Wearing bad shoes (like your stanky, hobo-ready sneakers) suggests you lack the social intelligence to dress like a grown-up and/or the interest in taking care of more than your own needs, like for the five basic bachelor-dude food groups: beer, Hot Pockets, pizza, Doritos, and pot edibles.

Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller surveyed women —straight single American women, ages 20-35 — on what they like and loathe in footwear on a potential partner. The women were asked to imagine going on a casual lunch date with guys wearing 32 different types of men’s shoes, from Birkenstocks to chukkas to leather Oxfords.

Women’s preferences were “strong” and “consistent” and point to the following advice: Wear leather shoes — nice leather shoes, like Oxfords or loafers — that cover your feet. (Women hated every single sandal, from Crocs to Birkenstocks to flip-flops.) Your shoes don’t have to be expensive. You can probably do just fine with a stylish loafer you get on sale for $50. (Passable sneakers, scoring OK but not so well as the leather shoes, were the classics: Vans and Converse All Stars.)

Finally, it isn’t enough to just buy the right shoes; you have to take care of them. (Another important detail that ladies notice.) Learn how to polish and clean them. Take them to a shoemaker for resoling and other upkeep. These might seem like little things, but they are actually part of a whole of living like a man instead of a manchild. Admittedly, living the man way isn’t “super-comfy,” but consider where your priorities lie: more in the realm of Dr. Scholl or Dr. Kinsey?


Cloud None

I’m in love with my male best friend and unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he’s never been attracted to me. This is very painful, and trying to stop thinking about him so much isn’t working. To be fair, he isn’t emotionally available right now, as he’s still mourning his divorce (a little too long for it to be healthy, I think). I’m thinking that if I stay close and stay available, he may pick me once he becomes emotionally ready again. Is that crazy? I really want a relationship and am willing to wait for him.
— Tormented

Nothing says “your welfare means the world to me” like clocking a man’s mourning with a stopwatch.

Beyond how the guy isn’t up for a relationship right now, you seem pretty sure that you’re just the girl next door to the girls in his sexual fantasies. So mooning over him is not the road to a relationship but the equivalent of trying to get from New York to California by doing endless doughnuts in a Walmart parking lot.

If unrequited love isn’t the point — offering you protection from heartbreak and distraction from pursuing a guy who’s a real possibility — you need to disengage. But the answer isn’t trying to stop thinking about him. Thought suppression actually seems to backfire. For example, social psychologist Jennifer L.S. Borton found that asking research participants to suppress a specific thought led to their experiencing it “more frequently” and led to “a more anxious and depressed mood.”

Because of this, when you have a thought of the guy, don’t try to shove it away. Instead, shift how you think of him. Focus on how he isn’t emotionally available and then on how he probably never will be for you. Next, take action. You could opt for a thought-occupying distraction like watching a movie — or, better yet, make an effort to shift your circumstances by going on dating sites to look for men who might be possibilities for you. This ultimately allows you to be there for this guy as a friend, offering him a Kleenex to dry his tears, as opposed to mentioning that you happen to be wearing a very soft and super-absorbent pushup bra.

 

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