Obsessive Trip Planning Disorder

Jennifer suffers from OTPD. Obessive Trip Planning Disorder.

I would write a longer post tonight, but we got entirely side-tracked with the booking of our summer vacation. I feel a bit funny posting exactly when my house will be vacant on the Internet, so will recap it after the fact.


I can visibly see her going small scale crazy on me if she doesn’t go somewhere on vacation each year. She really likes traveling about and seeing new things and places. It’s not even like it’s something ultra expensive she wants to happen, we’re not flying first class or staying in penthouse suites. Doesn’t have to be weeks away either. But if she doesn’t go somewhere, she’s quietly disappointed for the remainder of the year.

Okay. So she nags about it lol.

But I can see her nagging about it in a trying-very-hard-to-not-nag-about-it way.

Now for the most part I’m just teasing Jennifer with this post, because having actually booked hotels, transportation, two events and basically set the trip in stone on the calendar, she looks visibly perkier. She’s sitting across from me now and going flat-out on her laptop looking up yet more things to do, deals to find and places to eat. As I’m writing this post I’ve already been told five different things that are either free or cost next to nothing to do.

Overall I think this is a genuine need she has to just go do something. But I have certainly noticed that it can easily turn into a Fitness Test by pushing the limits of affordability. I can think of a single instance where I did actually get rather blunt with Jennifer about that. In that instance we had just cashed out my 401k early with penalties to pay off credit cards and put money aside for producing the book, but for a while there we had several thousand dollars sitting in the checking account… whereupon she informed me she was getting antsy for a vacation… whereupon I said I thought we just gutted my life savings because we were totally broke, there would be no possible way we could go on vacation anywhere for any reason. She did apologize to me for that. Then we went to New Zealand to say goodbye to dad before he passed on. Oy.

I’ve also noticed that all the women in my family like trips. Eldest daughter “just wants to stay in a hotel”. Youngest daughter “just wants to go on a plane”. When the book money started coming in, my mother-in-law slipped in the idea that I could take everyone on a cruise. Oh real-ee.

Anyway… the trick is watching affordability. If you can afford it, it’s fun and all good. Points to you. If it’s going to make you work overtime for months to pay it off, it’s you failing a Fitness Test. This summer our trip is actually a Plan B after our Plan A idea looked good on paper but I just felt funny about it laying awake at night. Plan B costs half of Plan A and I feel fine about it. Eldest is getting her wish as we will stay in a hotel. Youngest is out of luck as we’ll be driving. MIL is going on a cruise somewhere else on her own nickel. So whatever your budget is, there’s always something that you can find your way to do for a vacation. Even if it’s just a single night away, it’s better than nothing.

And despite my gentle teasing of Jennifer in this post, I thought she took the Plan A vacation getting deep sixed fantastically well a few weeks back. And her OTPD really does work to everyones advantage finding great things to do and deals.

Jennifer: In my defense lol…Plan A was your idea to begin with  :-)   I appreciate that we can spend some “let’s build some memories” time with the kiddies once a year when Athol is mostly content being a home body.  I’m happy being the one who runs the errands and takes the children where they want to go because I need that external stimulation, while Athol is the ideas man who is happy being home writing and reading and thinking big thoughts.  And while he pokes fun at me a bit, the looking for deals thing is my way of helping to keep things affordable.  (youngest daughter’s friend calls me “the Coupon Queen”…it’s true and I’m not ashamed lol)

Child Beauty Pageants. Poise or Posion?

Reader:  Hi Athol, I have some questions about raising daughters, and I’d like your perspective on a few cultural things:  the whole sexy + appealing vs modest + safe issues, HOW do you guide your girls?

I watched an episode of Our America with Lisa Ling last night on child beauty pageants and I was just wondering what you think about them. A few things that struck me:  even Lisa seemed to note that pretending beauty didn’t matter is unrealistic, and that perhaps life is like a pageant- we are all judged, beauty does matter.

I grew up in the South where there were a lot of pageants, and while my Yankee feminist mother NEVER would have allowed me to do pageants (she wouldn’t even let me be a cheerleader, and forced me to wear glasses until college because she said I looked like Gloria Steinem).

Something that has struck me about girls I’ve known who have done pageants is that they have a lot of poise.  Poise is not something I naturally have – I tend to be more intellectual and have my head in the clouds rather than in my body.  But in the times in my life where I have felt really pretty and I’ve been more aware of people looking at me, I naturally had a higher sense of poise.  Do you think beauty pageants are good for girls/teens/women?

And in a related topic- my husband and I are Christian and have been coming across a lot of messages about modesty recently.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that modesty is overrated, and I’ll teach my girls about being a lady, not about hiding themselves.

As a side note, I’m naturally very pretty, though I do have to watch my weight.  I’ve found being pretty to be a bit of a disadvantage in some ways- the prettier (thinner) I am, the more threatened I’ve felt.  When I lived in the south as a child some men even said disgusting things they would like to do to me while I was in front of my father!  The prettier I am, the less I can trust men. They will lie, cheat, and pretend to be someone completely different than they are if I’m TOO pretty.  I happen to have married a wonderful man who loves me for me and not for my looks and no matter what my weight is  (perhaps because I look a lot like his mom did when he was a kid, perhaps because he’s even more intellectual than I am, perhaps because both of his sisters and his ex are obese), so I don’t feel much pressure there, but I do notice that looks help a lot in my career.

One thing that I don’t know how to teach my daughters is how to be safe around men.  Teaching them to hide beauty with being a nerd, or by being a little bit fat, or with false religious modesty seems really stupid.  But I don’t have another safeguard (other than a blackbelt husband).  How are you teaching your daughters?

What age do you start discussing game?

Athol:  Jennifer and I actually watched some of that show last night, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. My feeling on the child beauty pageants is that they are simply ways for less attractive mothers to live vicariously through their daughters and to feel better about themselves. It’s certainly not an activity that the kids have any ability to win at, as all the skill in the competition is taking place on the level of the mom rather than the daughter. It’s more like a Pokemon battle than anything else.

Jessica uses Charm!

It’s effective!

Bobby-Jo uses $3000 Dress!

It’s super-effective!

Jessica uses Smile!

Jessica missed!

Bobby-Jo uses Pornstar Makeup!

It’s super-effective!

Jessica is knocked out!

I don’t have a problem with teenage beauty pageants in that beauty is simply a fact of life and if girls want to enter a pageant they can. Appearances matter and it certainly doesn’t hurt to get good at your appearance if you’re female. Though my caution would be that if you’re starting pageants when you’re 15-years-old, you may well experience good early success, but eventually you’re going to run into girls that have already been doing pageants since they were five-years-old and they will defeat you easily.

The one downside of pageants is that they focus solely on being eye candy. So it’s all female Alpha and nothing on the Beta. I mean it’s not like you can pick a wife out of a beauty pagent line up because while looking good in a swimsuit and and playing the flute is great and appealing… well you can only bang a hot chick for about 30 minutes a day and that leaves 23.5 hours to fill up with her Beta skills. If I was devising a competition to pick a wife out of, there’d be a few more segments in the pageant. Say a cooking segment, running a mile, chess, shop for an outfit with $100, archery, orienteering, dancing, sheep shearing and the most popular… the demolition derby.

Come on admit it, you’d watch a show like that.


So poise… yeah it’s probably nothing more than the inner game of knowing you look good right now. That men are going to come to you and seek you out. That’s about it. So look good and they will come.

Modesty and looking good is a real balancing act. The basic rule is to never show more than 40% of your body as bare skin. I.e. you can show off your boobs, midriff or legs, but not more than one of those areas at a time. In terms of makeup, I think as natural looking as possible is the best.

If you’re “too pretty”, you do run into the effect of being too hot for regular nice guys to think you’re within reach, and every other male with a libido wanting a little piece of you. This is why hot girls are notorious for “Bitch Shields” and snubbing guys fairly firmly. Though I agree with Mystery that these are in fact not Bitch Shields, but Protection Shields. If you walk down the street and ten different men check you out and look like they would make a move if you showed any hint of interest in them, you can’t let your shields down and show any interest to anyone if you want to finish your day.

In terms of our own girls… well the most fun eldest has dressing up is doing special effects bloody wounds for her zombie costume for the Con. They are in fact somewhat disturbing to look at lol. Youngest is a tiny thing and to her mother’s disgust is a Size 0. Finding her shorts is a challenge and when I found a bunch of Size 0 shorts in Gilly Hicks I excitedly announced I had found some figuring I was gaining points, but youngest declined interest because, “I don’t like short shorts.”  So I’m pretty much failing on the slutting them up front, for which I assign blame to their modestly dressed mother. :-)  (Jennifer: Okay, all you ladies who are getting worked up about “slutting them up”…breathe, it’s a joke!)

You have always been teaching your kids about sex and relationships from the day they were born. Jennifer and I have a happy and obviously vibrant sex life… though that’s obviously something we do behind closed doors. Every day we’re modeling a happy married life for them. The girls are aware of the books and the blog, though neither claim to have read it, though if they have it’s not a problem to me. They certainly get a good grounding in basic sexuality at school, so they aren’t naive by any means. Otherwise it’s a case of paying attention to your kids a looking for the teachable moments.

In terms of teaching Game itself, eventually I will be getting to a “MMSL for teens” type book as it’s one of my most requested things I get through email, but it’s a ways off yet. And as a final thought on beauty pageants… while tens of thousands of young women have said they were interested in world peace, I believe beauty pagents’ successes in actually bringing world peace about have been… modest.


When Do You Tell Someone Bad Stuff About Their Marriage?

Reader:  Hi Athol, I recently found out that a female relative of mine had done a handful of porn movies many years ago. I don’t know the why, how or wherefore. She’s now in her late thirties, married, with two kids and seems to be doing well for herself. I’m not going to tell anyone about this, least of all. her husband.

I know intuitively that this is not one of those situations where it would be appropriate to tell––she has kids, it’s behind her, I don’t really know her that well and it’s probably none of my business anyway. For all I know, he knows about her past and is cool with it. If he isn’t, nobody gains anything from the revelation and a possibly broken family.

However, this got me thinking. When is this kind of potentially-marriage-destroying information appropriate to divulge to the spouse (or spouse-to-be)? Are there any general guidelines to follow?

My horse sense is that, if you’re related to the “offending” party, and it happened years ago, you should keep your mouth shut. Ditto if the marriage has already happened, or if they’ve been together some years. However, I can think of other situations where things be a little weird. Notional examples:

-Your brother’s about to be married to a wonderful girl. He (your brother) was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early twenties, a condition which he keeps in check with medication. As far as you know, he takes his medication regularly, but he tells his girlfriend it’s “for insomnia and headaches” and she believes him. The marriage is in a couple of months. Should you tell your brother’s wife-to-be?

-Your cousin has mooched thousands, maybe even millions of dollars off family and friends. Now she’s getting married to a wealthy guy who she’s told lies to (e.g. that her family “hates her for no reason”). Do you tell her beau what he’s going to be in for?

-Your niece is getting into massive debt with her shopping addiction. She told her husband that it was from an inheritance but she spent that years ago. He thinks everything’s fine. It isn’t. Should you speak up?

In essence, when is ignorance bliss, and when is it a curse? When should you tell, and when should you avoid it?

Athol:  These are good questions and there is not always a perfect answer to these “landmine” issues. I call them landmines because they lie under the surface, are hard to detect and as long as you have the area the landmine is placed in fenced off pretty well… they don’t actually do much damage. Plenty of people in the world live “next door” to uncleared mined fields from past conflicts and apart from having to buy a new soccer ball every time you kick it out of bounds, it’s not like they are catching the full brunt of exploding mines.

The difference between physical mines and these emotional ones, is that the emotional ones explode as soon as knowledge of the mine is brought to light. Thus the secret has to be kept, or it explodes. I know of people who have unbidden fessed up to things ages after the fact and vastly more regretted the telling, rather than the actual thing they did.

The core questions I would ask myself is, (1) whether or not the situation is going to be made better and/or further disaster averted by the revelation of the potentially relationship breaking issue, (2) whether or not innocent bystanders are going to be damaged by the revelation. i.e. are the children going to be screwed over by it, and finally (3) whether or not the inappropriate behavior is ongoing and/or likely going to continue into the future and screw over an innocent bystander who will get taken advantage of.

So lets try the cases…

Short term porn lady from ages ago. The best possible hope from revealing the information is that nothing much changes other than a month or two of drama that gets sorted out in porn lady’s marriage. The worst case is that the husband is unable or unwilling to continue on in the marriage and it ends rather quickly. In the worst case scenario, the kids have their family shattered and it’s going to blow up their world like a bolt of lightning on a clear sunny day. So telling is potentially going to screw up four lives and offers no clear benefit. Plus she’s no longer engaging in this behavior and doesn’t appear to be currently trying to be anything other than a good wife. Thus don’t reveal.

(As a clarification, if Porn Lady was shooting porn on the side now, or cheating now, or anything really bad now…that I would reveal. In that case what she’s currently doing can turn into something that’s going to blow everything up and end the marriage. Or she can catch a disease, or get pregnant, or get a crazy obsessive guy or whatever else can go wrong in cheating and affairs. What she did in the past and stopped doing, didn’t result in disease / pregnancy / relationship failure / et al, so it’s a in a sense like she ran a red light… but didn’t hit anyone. In a sense, she indeed got away with it, but you also don’t T-Bone red runners purposely to “punish” them.)

Schizophrenic Brother. My hunch is that eventually once she’s a wife, she’ll discover the truth about his schizophrenia. She’ll Google the medications he’s taking and wonder why he’s seeing a psychiatrist instead of a neurologist for his “headaches” and it will all start to unravel. The truth will always come out with this one, so you may as well reveal now, as opposed to letting the issue blow up even bigger in the future. Telling now does of course risk the ending of the relationship, but if ends now, it would have extremely likely ended when it was revealed in the future anyway. Schizophrenia is a definite need to know information, and the fiance is an innocent bystander here as well. So reveal.

 Mooching Cousin. Well if her pattern is to siphon cash off the unwitting, you can bet that she’s planning to continue it with her new husband. When it blows up a few years into the marriage, that might be the end of things. Revealing now might mean that the situation doesn’t spiral out of control, yet the wedding could potentially proceed. The new husband for example may want to restructure things financially before he marries, but still marry. Revealing potentially makes things better and protects an innocent bystander in the potential new husband. Reveal.

Shopzilla. This is almost exactly the same issue as the Mooching Cousin one, except things have already progressed in the direction of bad. Blowing the lid off it when she’s $10,000 in debt is better than the husband finding out about it when it’s $25,000 debt. Revealing now might turn a marriage ending crisis into a rough patch in the marriage. So reveal.

How To Reveal…

This is a fairly simple process. You offer them the option to save as much face as possible and tell their partner the truth, or if they don’t, you’ll tell them. Plus you also offer to be present for the telling if they decide to do it. Having a third person present will typically reduce the chances of moments of unfortunately poor judgment by both parties. Look, sometimes people just snap and five seconds of seeing red gets them landed in jail despite a lifetime minus five seconds of being a pretty decent guy. People tend not to snap with an extra witness in the room. Oh they may well get mad as hell, but it can stay verbal rather than physical. Your frame is that you are a friend of the marriage, rather that taking sides.

And yes indeed you’re going to be unpopular as a fart in an elevator when all this goes down. Over the long term though, things should get better and even if they don’t like you much, they will at least respect you. Which if you take the moral high ground is considered a win.

However… if the person doing the bad things is bona fide Batshit Crazy and all that Batshit Crazy is going to now focus on you like the Eye of Sauron… suddenly an anonymous tip off looks really good. If you could reason with crazy people about the moral high ground, they wouldn’t actually be crazy. That’s what crazy means.


The Sex-Fest In The Olympic Village

I got asked about the legendary sex-fest that is the Olympic Village and why it it so. The way I’ve heard it is that it’s  a running-of-the-bulls like stampede to the bedrooms all across the village for the whole two weeks.

So, some thoughts as to why.

(1) Prime rib beefcake bodies. Everyone at the Olympics is ultra-fit and in shape and top shelf genetics to boot. Everyone is at their peaks of physicality and that also equates to peaks of sexuality as well.

(2) Non-local DNA. Boys from over there and girls from somewhere else can have a major boost to sexual interest simply based on their ability to successfully cross-breed for even healthier babies.

(3)  Time Limit creates sales pressure. That amazingly hot guy  /girl who makes you hard as a rock / slippery as an eel, is going to be gone forever in a little under two weeks. Have sex now or not at all.

(4) Separation from primary partner creating opportunity. If the athletes primary partner is watching them on TV from half a world away, they aren’t around to cockblock and will likely have no way of knowing the truth of what happened. This is the same effect as “business conference” for the rest of us.

(5) Testosterone. Both male and female athletes have a higher than usual testosterone level, which is what drives the baseline raw sexual drive.

(6) Relief from Stress. Once your event is done, there’s nothing else you have to do. Four years of pent up self-discipline and epic level training can suddenly stop and the athletes can turn the party switch from all the way off, to all the way on. Suddenly they can eat ice cream, and drink and get a little (or a lot) crazy.

(7)  Altered States. The Olympics is such a high level event that athletes will typically experience very high levels of dopamine for the entire two weeks. For most of the athletes, this is quite literally the most amazing period of their life. It can almost be an out of body experience with the massive crowds and fame and TV and everything that’s happening throwing your body into an all-purpose “in love” state of being.

(8) Culture. If you go to the Olympics with everyone thinking it’s a two week orgy, it increases the likelihood that it’s a two week orgy. It’s what happens there… and when in Rome…

All that being said, it’s probably not everyone that goes to the Olympics that indulges. I suspect it’s a little like college where there’s a noisy group that goes all out and a decently sized group of people that stay out of it. Sucks if your event is on the last day lol.

Also it’s interesting in that the basics of Sex Rank don’t vanish there either…

The chaps who win gold medals – even those as geeky as Michael Phelps – are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy – smiling, flirting and sometimes even grabbing at the chaps who have done the business in the pool or on the track. An Olympic gold medal is not merely a route to fame and fortune; it is also a surefire ticket to writhe. But – and this is the thing – success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating.

Hypergamy is still in effect with the female athletes wanting to hook up with the gold medalists, and the guys still want to bang the hot looking chicks. Which all sounds like someone set the Olympic Village maturity level to “high school”.

Or spelling things out more clearly… if you’re a male Gold medalist you get to hook up with the beach volleyball babes. If you fail to medal… there’s always the women’s shotputters with great personalities.

Pro Tip: Synchronized Swimmers are your best shot at a threesome.

Sexy Move: Don’t Get Her Wet

If Jennifer and I are going somewhere – a mall, a restaurant, a school event, the movies – and we get there and the weather is fine, we typically find a parking place and walk in together.

But if we arrive and it’s raining, especially if it’s raining hard, I drop her off as close to the entrance as I can so she can make the quick scurry inside into the dry. After that I find a parking place, and make the longer run to shelter. Sometimes I’m drenched lol, but she’s dry. The other half of the protocol is that she typically gets in line for whatever it is we’re going to see.

This all seems quite Beta and that’s because it is. I’m making a move designed to provide comfort for her. However it’s only a very minor inconvenience for me to drop her off at the door, and it provides her with a lot of comfort. Thirty seconds of heavy rain can undo thirty minutes of hair and makeup, and you’re left looking at her wilted self.

But it’s also somewhat of an Alpha move too in that I don’t give Jennifer the option of walking through the rain. I just swing it around to the front of the building and stop the car. I’m driving the car and this is your stop lady. Out you go. Usually the girls are with us too and that turns it into a three person deployment to safety and warmth. The Captain sees the First Officer and crew to safety.

To her credit, Jennifer has always thanked me for this move, and that’s all I need. If she was bitchy about it… getting drenched is a natural consequence.

Jennifer:  The hair thing is so true.