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Dear Mary,

April 14th, 2008 No Comments

You’re right. The “tummy tingle” (or butterflies, OR, as my grandmother likes to put it, “when someone makes your heart go ‘pitty-pat’”) can be either an indicator you have potential for a future relationship or simply lust. And yep, there’s definitely a possibility it could be both.

The “tummy tingle” has its roots in chemistry – mainly compatible immune systems. What that means, in short, is that we’re attracted to people of differing immune systems (which helps us produce kidlets who have the best chance of survival).

From this article on MSNBC:

MHCs (major histocompatibility complex markers), for you non-biologists, refers to the immune system. You hear about it when somebody needs a bone marrow or other organ transplant and doctors refer to the risk of rejection. The more like one person’s immune system is to another person’s, the less the risk of rejection.

But when it comes to sexual attraction, apparently we prefer the differences. In some animals — mice are often used to demonstrate this — males and females tend to choose mates with differing MHCs. Most biologists think the animals are able to literally smell how alike or unlike a potential mate’s MHCs are to their own and avoid those with very similar ones. This helps prevent the animals from mating with mom or dad or a sibling and to make healthier babies.

In essence, we want to breed with those potential mates most unlike us … (unless, of course, we’re on birth control, which simulates pregnancy, a time in which our bodies tell us to stick close to immune systems like our own – namely, family. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion).

In any case, Mary, to get back to your question – YES. The answer is DO BOTH, but realize what you’re doing. Too many people decide they have to go one route or the other; they have to be logical and practical and SQUELCH that damn tummy tingle before it floods their brains with dopamine, or they have to go with it completely and confuse lust with true compatibility.

The former strategy is popular amongst older daters (and, cough cough, especially, New Yorkers), many of whom have been burned before. The latter is common to teenagers, who are (by definition & biology), headstrong idiots.

A healthy dating life has both types of tummy tingles; the latter keeps you hopeful and the former keeps you sane.

The only advice I have for you is to be aware, but don’t overanalyze. And whatever you do, ENJOY THEM (both kinds). After all, the tingle is nature’s love crack! Snort it up, bitch.