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Gapes of wrath 

Plus, terms of endorsement

My wife of six months is the love of my life, and everything I want in a woman. We've been together two years, and have a 6-month-old son. The problem is, and always has been, my looking at other women. I don't usually realize I'm doing it, but my wife catches me, and is now just waiting to catch me. Honestly, when I look at them, I don't have any sort of intentions, it's just something I do. Yet, my wife is now threatening divorce because she believes it means I don't love her. I realize I'm doing something horrible, and I've mostly quit, which takes a lot of conscious effort, and that's what's worrying me. Is something wrong with me? Should I get professional help?

-- Wandering Eyes

You're only looking at women, not chasing them down telling them you'll meet them behind the bowling alley ... just as soon as you can park your stroller-bound son with somebody you trust -- say, that guy lying in the doorway with the sign, "Will baby-sit for gin."

OK, so, if you're with your wife, and your head swivels around like that girl's in The Exorcist, you have, let's say, a few manners issues. Think about how you'd feel if your wife were always walking down the street with a cartoon dotted line from her eyes to every passing guy's package: "Woohoo! There's a big'un!" But, as for the idea that you need "professional help" because your eyes are drawn to beautiful women -- that's kind of like running off to a shrink all worried that you keep wanting to eat lunch.

The truth is, after millions of years of evolution, the impulse to ogle comes factory standard in men. At the recent Human Behavior & Evolution Society conference in Williamsburg, Va., I cornered Dr. David Buss and asked him about your question. Buss told me that when men ogle women, the reward centers of their brain light up. "So, it's just inherently pleasurable for men to look" (kind of like taking a bong hit of hottie). Your wife, on the other hand, wouldn't get the same buzz from eyeballing hot men, because, Buss explained, there aren't corresponding reward centers that light up in women. And, he said, contrary to your wife's fears, your inclination to eye-grope doesn't mean you don't love her. Buss' book The Evolution of Desire, which details how standards for female beauty are actually cues to women's reproductive fitness, may help both you and your wife understand your look-a-rrhea for what it is -- an evolutionary knee-jerk reaction.

Now, it's one thing for your wife to expect you to be faithful to her, but visually faithful? What are you supposed to do, say, "Oh, no! Scarlett Johansson's coming down the street, better hide"? Your real problem is your wife's real problem: She's irrational and insecure. That isn't something you can change, but you can tell her you love her very much, and think she's hot, and show her, too. If your eyes regularly bug out for her, maybe she'll be less bugged if she occasionally catches them wandering down some other girl's cleavage. And stop being such a wimp. Tell her, "Look, we have a kid, and we're going to have a marriage, and not one that revolves around you looking to see if I'm looking." And, remember, all men look. The smart, kind ones look without getting caught. Some do this with practice, some wear wraparounds, and some develop an affinity for tiny portions of Jell-O with a side of chickpeas -- whatever it takes to keep going back to the salad bar for another helping of bazooms.

Terms Of Endorsement

When I'm single and available, I can barely get a woman to return eye contact. Yet, last weekend, I was with my girlfriend at a bar, and a married woman (sitting with her husband) remarked on how attractive she found me. Why is it that I'm always most appealing to women when I'm with another woman who's into me?

-- Dumbfounded

Rich people, who can afford to fly first class, get free rides on private jets. Poor people go full-fare on Greyhound -- next to the broken bathroom and a gassy 450-pound man who keeps losing track of his pet tarantula: "Stellaaah! Stellaaah!" Yes, life is a little bit backward. When you're desperate for a girlfriend, women look at you like you have that incurable form of TB. The moment you get one, it's like you've been stamped "pre-approved." But, it's not just the girlfriend with you, it's how self-possessed you are when you're with her. So, the key, when you don't have a girlfriend, is carrying yourself like you do: exuding the quiet confidence of a guy unaware that his two front teeth are probably about to become hood ornaments on the boot of some married lady's jealous husband.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com).

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