Dorothy Heller

A writer, blogger, mother, medical interpreter, bookaholic, grandmother, shower singer, translator, tea-aholic and an aspiring songwriter. Still writing her novel and wants to write at least one good song.


As mature single Boomers, we depend on science. We’re not asking for much—we just want to live at least 100 years—if not forever—in terrific health and vitality with a hot sex life while Fitbit monitors us 24/7. But can research tell us the most efficient and scientifically proven method to attract and keep love? Or are we blinded by science, chasing after the latest cure/discovery/scientific revelation?

According to the media, science is constantly providing us with one slam-dunk solution after another, each trumpeted with fanfare as if written in stone and delivered personally by Moses, just back from the mountains with his stone tablets.

Except when the studies all contradict each other. Hormone Replacement Therapy is good for women. But wait–it’s bad for women. Then it’s good for women once more. Eating saturated fat causes heart disease. But, wait—it doesn’t. But wait—it does. Coffee, eggs, meat, and/or butter—good/bad/good/bad…. Undaunted, we still seek scientific knowledge as our solution for living. If we only watch PBS specials long enough, we’ll discover the magic bullet. Even if we’re not personally suckers for love, we’re willing to be suckers for anyone who claims to explain it to us.

The media love to turn every finely tuned research project into a sound bite, to add to the confusion. Some shlub in a lab coat gets the National Institute of Health to cough up funding about almost anything, then publishes his results—proving that there is a 2.8% possibility that rhesus monkeys eating more than six-7/8 semi-ripe Ecuadorean bananas a day may prolong their lives by 0.32878 hours. Announcement in the news: EATING SIX BANANAS A DAY PROLONGS LIFE! Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Which is why I have to give due credit to Kayt Sukel, science and travel writer and author of This is Your Brain on Sex: Science and the Search for Love, which introduces science to the most messy and mysterious area of our lives, Indeed a worthy research project, and well worth reading, especially if you like words of more than five syllables and diagrams of the interior of your brain.

Sukel makes it all understandable and accessible. If you’re not a neurobiology freak you may find the idea of all the lobes and wrinkly matter sloshing around in your head to be somewhat off putting—TMI. Makes a person glad that we all have skulls, skin, and haircuts (or hairpieces, as the case may be) to cover up the squishy stuff. Even the gorgeously bald Yul Brynner (think The King and I) never went outdoors with his cingulate cortex or medulla oblongata on display. It’s a little like going to a nudist colony and wishing for the sake of aesthetics that at least two-thirds of the naked would get dressed.

Sukel sacrifices all for her research, including letting herself be filmed and recorded giving herself an orgasm in an MRI tube while wearing a fitted electronic face mask. Most of all, she resists the perfectly natural impulse to turn the fruits of her research into a massive bestseller by converting all of her careful and conscientious research into simple sound bites.

All Sukel would have to do is apply the media hype treatment to each chapter to have a blockbuster bestseller instead of an entertaining and respectable science book. Instead of titling one chapter, “The Ever-loving Brain,” she can reframe: “How Science Will Make You and Your Mate’s Brain Ever-loving.” Instead of “The Neurobiology of Attraction”, she can reframe it as “Discover the Scientific Rules of the Neurobiology of Attraction.” Etc. Marketing 101. How hard is that?

So here we are, waiting for the scientific solution to love before our sell-by dates expire. Although a mere thirty-something, the author herself is more than a little invested in getting these questions answered. And what’s the typical scientific response to her queries? “I don’t know.” It’s discouraging.

One study asked whether men do indeed become stupid in the presence of a pretty woman. Here’s the summing up: “…we still cannot answer… whether these results hold true across a whole battery of different cognitive tasks, across heterosexual and homosexual groups, or if they are somehow facilitated by our hormones.” Scientists always hedge their bets. Popular science never does.

Another scientist’s suggestion to our dating dilemmas: “Meet more people.”

Sukel refers frequently to Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist. Dr. Fisher has parlayed her serious research into the biology of love and attraction into the dating website Chemistry, plus appearances at TED Talks, and is presumably generating a healthy income by becoming the guru of dating science.
How scientific are the results? As a member on Chemistry, I was asked to prioritize my pet peeves from a preselected list, such as people picking their teeth in public or talking on cellphones at the movies, and to choose preferences from preselected lists, such as steak and sushi, beer or wine, etc.

I did date a guy I met on Chemistry, which led to all kinds of interesting– permutations. The highlights of scientific matching, however, were when I was matched with other women, which happened at least eight or nine times, and the time I was matched with a man in Oakland (geographically undesirable) who was looking for an Asian female (I’m not), under forty (I’m not chronologically, only mentally). I’m sure it’s all terribly scientific. But remember the old baseball rule (also used diastrously as a legal code)—three strikes and you’re out? The blinded me with science.

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