Friday, July 20, 2007

Dating Advice Part II: Too Bad I Can't Sue This "Doctor" For Malpractice

Another example of "Relationship Advice" gone terrible wrong. From the same Yahoo link as Mr. Katz's little missive on why we are all just stereotypes, Dr. Trina Read tells us to "Give Your Partner A Flirting Pass". She tells us couples should lighten up, and allow flirting to go on with outside people, because of the "good couple energy" it can produce. Then, Dr. Read tells us:

The fine art of innocent flirting has created many an after-party fight.

Sound like "good couple energy" creation to you? 'Cause it sure doesn't to me. But wait, she goes on:
The idea is, the more positive feelings you share with other people, the more you will get back.

Yeah... So, I "share" good feelings with my coworker by flirting with him, and he flirts back, and so I feel good...about my coworker. How does that help my relationship with my SO? Dr. Read illustrates by telling us how it works for her:
Ever since my partner emerged out of his I-can't-look-at-any-other-woman box with the freedom to flirt, he feels better about himself. He feels and acts sexy. He is more fun to be around. The end result is our relationship is stronger and healthier because he brings that positive energy home to me.

Ahh. NOW I get it. It's the same argument that women used to use about "letting" men have affairs. He feels sexier, (because OUR boring sex life just wasn't cutting it, poor thing)he comes home all revved up,(thinking about the other woman)and I can then pretend it's me he is all stiff over! Yay!

I just bet that does LOADS of good stuff for a relationship. I feel even more "sold" on the advice when Dr. Read gives her next line:
The irony is that he does not really even flirt. It's simply that he has been given a pass-card to flirt that has made all the difference.

Dr. Read sure does feel the need to qualify her "Flirting is Fab!" position with the qualifier "he does not really even flirt". I sense a little subtext, here. As long as he just feels like he can flirt, but doesn't, that's "good couple energy". If he started to actually, you know, flirt... Kinda reminds me of those "invisible fence" systems for dogs. Gives 'em the feeling of freedom, without actually being free. I also notice a distinct lack of narrative about her flirting. Is that because she leaves flirting to the "menz", or because she doesn't want to talk about what she really feels when she's chatting up some other guy?

Dr. Read downplays a "friend's" negative reaction to sanctioned flirting in a "conversation" she had on the subject (pretty convenient, eh?), and brushes aside the notion of being "insecure" as a barrier to such action. As a matter of fact, she waxes rhapsodic about the positive effects of jealousy in a relationship, provided it doesn't get "twisted into a full blown fight"- though she never tells us how to avoid that outcome. And that's an important deficiency, if you remember her pithy comment from earlier:
The fine art of innocent flirting has created many an after-party fight.

She tells the reader about setting mutual definitions of flirting, and boundaries, but that doesn't really solve the jealousy problem, does it? Because jealousy almost inevitably erupts over people stepping over the boundaries of "good clean fun". So the whole "jealousy is good" thing becomes a non sequitir, and the only "benefit" we are left with is the whole "trickle-down passion" thing.

"Trickle-Down" Economics was a bust, and I think "trickle-down" passion is, too.

Maybe Dr. Read and her partner are happy with their flirting agreement, though by her own description, I'd wonder if the whole thing wouldn't turn sour tomorrow if she felt he was "really" flirting. I, for one, think the whole premise of bringing "happy couple energy" in from someone who isn't a part of the "happy couple" a bit dodgy. I particularly think telling people who probably feel "insecure", as Dr. Read's "friend" does about opening the door, to toss inhibitions aside and go for it pretty suspect. But what does Dr. Read care if people read her hack piece on Yahoo, "give a free pass on flirting", and screw up their relationships?

It's not like a Doctor of Sexuality can get sued for malpractice, or anything.