Ask Tina

Dear Tina,

My boyfriend just left me for another woman. I don’t want to date ever again.

Lost in Nashville

Dear Lost,

Pure rubbish!! Why not ring up my good friend Simon Dumenco-I adore him! V. hot!!! Not such big fan of cuckolding boyfriend … try K. Andersen, also ….

Dear Tina,

No matter how much I shower, I always seem to smell bad. My odor affects my friends and co-workers, I’m sure of it, though they’re too polite to say anything. And I think it’s why I rarely get asked out on a second date, even though I’m an attractive, successful woman. I’m in despair-I’ve seen doctors, I own more perfume than anyone I know-nothing works. Please advise before I do something drastic.

Malodorous Maven

Dear Malodorous,

Do you think you need to use a “big” word like “malodorous” to impress me? Frankly, I’m more a fan of short, punchy words. Have you read my Wash. Post column? If you do, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Dear Tina,

I’ve been married for 23 years and I adore my husband-he’s always been there for me, he’s a wonderful father to our children, and he’s always telling me how beautiful I am. But I’ve recently been tempted to stray: There’s a very sexy Frenchman at my Pilates studio. Perhaps I need to see a therapist before I do anything that would jeopardize my marriage?

Sleepless on Sutton Place

Dear Sleepless,

A Frenchman? Did you not see Unfaithful ? Better to have a go with my dear, dear friend Moby. V. playful!!

Dear Tina,

You’re always so elegant and brilliant, the way you handle the spotlight. I’ve recently received a lot of media attention-let’s just say I’m a columnist at a weekly publication-and the “buzzocracy(!)” is buzzing about moi . Some are even calling me a “mogul” in the making! How silly, right? P.S.-love your hair.

Buzzed and Bewildered

Dear Buzzed,

Make sure to get self booked on C. Rose. Adds gravitas.

Dear Tina,

I get “the blues” every autumn-the fading daylight really gets to me. Some days I can’t even get out of bed. Any advice?

Sundowner in Pelham

Dear Sundowner,

This is an easy one: Have your hairdresser come to your house every day at 6 a.m.-perks you right up!!!

Dear Tina,

My wife and I are both journalists who are doing well for ourselves. She’s better known, but I’m more respected. Anyway, my agent proposes I write a book about a horrific race crime that occurred in Alabama, but I’m not sure. My wife thinks it will raise me up to David Garrow territory. What do you think?

Blanched in Brooklyn

Dear Blanched,

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz . …. Oh, was someone talking? Race, schmace! That topic has no buzz. Tell your agent to propose a book about the New Hollywood and sit back and wait for the offers to pour in! (I’ll take 15 percent. Only fair.)

 

What Women Want

“Sex endows the world with everything you need to make it interesting,” said Dr. Leonard Shlain as he sipped coffee at the Warwick Hotel on a recent morning. The silver-haired, mild-mannered surgeon was explaining why he wrote his new book, Sex, Time and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution .

He said he saw a “dissonance of desire” in human society.

“Men want it all the time, and women want to control when they get pregnant,” he said. “But in other species, when the females are in heat, she wants it as badly as the male does …. If you watch dogs and cats, when the females are in heat, they’ve got to have it …. In chimpanzees or lions, it’s the female that solicits sex from the males …. We’re the only species in the world where woman have gained control over reproduction, and she can refuse sex when she’s ovulating.”

Dr. Shlain, who is 66, wore a charcoal tweed blazer, gray button-down shirt and black slacks. The next day he would speak to more than 200 people at the Open Center on Spring Street. He was in the middle of a 29-city book tour. “But I don’t give readings,” he said. “I find them so boring . My presentations are filled with 300 tasty images of art. It blows people away.”

When not writing books, Dr. Shlain is chief of laparoscopic surgery at the California Medical Center in San Francisco. He holds five patents on medical devices.

“Typically, I’d take out a gall bladder through the belly button. It’s a pretty straightforward procedure,” he said. “I used to operate four to five times a day-I was a madman. Now, with my writing career, I’m scaling back. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have four or five more books I want to write, so I just need more time.”

His first book, Art and Physics , postulated that artists such as Picasso and Braque foreshadowed scientific breakthroughs such as Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“There’s something about the visionary artist who can understand a new idea before it’s expressed in numbers and equations,” Dr. Shlain said. “Ezra Pound once said, ‘The artist is the antennae of the race.’ And he was right.”

He received a healthy advance for his second book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess , in which he analyzed the impact of the written word on Western culture.

“Look around the world today, and what’s the biggest problem? It’s religious intolerance,” he said. “Once people believed the word of God was set inside a book, they were willing to kill each other over these ideas. Oral societies didn’t do that …. Men used to worship women. We used to have goddesses, whether it was Athena or Victory. The Romans and Greeks all worshipped women. Then along came these three Western religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam-and they said, ‘There is no goddess.’ And then our cultures became patriarchal and aggressive, and for the first time in world history, people began to murder each other over religion.”

He added, “But now, with the explosion in television, art and pictorial images, the goddess is returning. We’re becoming a more visual and oral society.”

With Sex, Time and Power , Dr. Shlain sought to understand the question flooding many a man’s mind: Why do women play hard to get? Viking gave him a “high” six-figure advance to figure it out.

“It all goes back to two related evolutionary adaptations: Our heads are big. And we stood up,” he said. “When humans stopped crawling around and started walking about 150,000 years ago, the pelvis assumed this really different shape. We have this small bony hole to prevent your kitzches from falling out. So, as a result, women were disadvantaged, but not men. There’s no other species where the female dies during pregnancy. Look at dogs: They can turn out litters of eight, nine or 10 pups, and they just pop them out. But humans are different. During pregnancy, when the woman is trying to squeeze a child’s enlarged head through the small opening, this problem started causing women to die in large numbers. Women had to realize that sex caused pregnancy, which now threatened their life. And to do that, they had to think in months …. That’s where the time component comes in. Add these together, and that’s how women gained power over when and how they get pregnant. Men understood that changed everything.

“In evolutionary terms, women knew that pregnancy was a dangerous proposition, so now they’re programmed to refuse sex when they’re ovulating,” he said. “In turn, males have become the most sex-crazed males of any species. A stallion would never think to mount a mare that’s not in heat. If he did, she’d kick him in a very sensitive area-and that would be the end of him.”

Dr. Shlain was raised in a first-generation Russian-immigrant household in Detroit. He earned his medical degree from Wayne State University at age 23. His life as a surgeon was interrupted at 37, when he came down with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and almost died.

“I went through multiple surgeries and six months of radiation treatment. I lost 50 pounds,” he said. His writing career grew out of his experience: He contributed a chapter on death to Stress and Survival , a book of essays by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling and former Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins.

So, after taking four years to research the evolutionary history of women’s sexual behavior, has he gained any insights into the female psyche?

“I’m still as mystified as all men trying to figure out what women want,” he said. “It’s something that’s been a lifelong interest of mine.”

But there was one thing he had discovered.

“I love coming here to New York. As soon as you step off the train at Penn Station, you’re in the middle of everything,” he said. “As Woody Allen put it, ‘Manhattan is a city without foreplay.'”

-Gabriel Sherman

Emma, Happy at Last

The other night I listened to Claire Bloom read Madame Bovary (Penguin High Bridge Audio) and I’m like: What’s the big deal? What did Flaubert think was so tragic and empty about Emma Bovary’s life? She married a doctor, got invited to a fancy ball, got to dance with a handsome noble dude named Rodolphe, was banged by him for a while-at night, under the stars, in 19th-century France. So what, he blew her off. Then she had another affair with young Leon, who banged her silly, too. For hours in the back of a carriage, all day into the evening. In Rouen. Then for three days in a hotel, on an island under moonlight. In Manhattan 2003, women are so frigid they’re afraid to make eye contact with strangers (read: me) on the street for more than a couple seconds: Oh no, something might happen! And where is he socioeconomically? I don’t know. I better be careful, people might talk. And what would they say? I might lose status points. I won’t get invited to the good parties with all the good people. Sure, Emma was upwardly mobile too, but nothing was going to get in the way of a good, solid romantic bang. She didn’t care if people were watching and whispering. Then she ate arsenic and died a horrible death but was surrounded by hundreds of love letters. That’d make it all worth it to me.

And her husband Charles? Well, yeah, he got severely cuckolded, but he got to bang hot Emma and have a pretty little girl with her. He did O.K. for a while. Had a nice practice in the French countryside. It ended badly, yes. He lost everything, died in a garden, but it all sounds way more passionate than anything going on in 21st-century New York City. Look at the faces in the Times wedding announcements. What are they thinking about? Other than Bed, Bath and Beyond. Are they gonna die for love? No. They’re gonna go to Home Depot later today and buy more crap for their apartment, then watch Law and Order. And Baudelaire-why was he always complaining? Poverty? Syphilis? He didn’t realize how good he had it.

-George Gurley Ask Tina