Dear Rachel,

I turn the lights off when my boyfriend and I make love because I’m insecure about my body. My first boyfriend told me I had saddlebags, so I’ve never let a boyfriend see me naked since. I know that I’m an attractive person; I just feel that men are critical of a woman’s tiniest flaws, even though they would die if a woman told them they were short, balding, had love handles, thinning hair or a small package. Recently, my boyfriend mentioned showering together and making love with the lights on. Aah! I don’t know how much longer I can hold him off. Society is so unfair! What should I do?

Signed, Scared of the Light

Dear Scared of the Light,

I agree that it’s unfair that society holds women to a higher standard of physical perfection than men. While you can’t change society’s views on female beauty overnight, there is a way that you can make a small, but immediate impact on the acceptance of women’s bodies that could have a far-reaching ripple effect. You could choose to be proud and accept your body as it is right now, despite your ex-boyfriend’s insensitive comment. You say you are an attractive woman, and I bet you’re even more attractive than you realize. Your current boyfriend seems to think so, hence his pro-showering and lights-on suggestions regarding your lovemaking rituals. In fact, despite all the time you’ve spent hiding yourself, I’m sure your boyfriend has a fairly clear idea of what you look like naked and he’s still coming back for more.

But, forget what any past or present boyfriend thinks for a minute and consider this: Whatever your age, you’ll never be this young again. You don’t want to look back one day and feel like you wasted your energy being insecure about your imperfections when, in retrospect, you realize how beautiful you were. Start by accepting and loving yourself as you are now, and then if you want to make improvements, exercise is good for both your body and your self-esteem.

The secret is this, if you think well of yourself, others will too. And if you don’t feel confident yet, fake it ‘til you make it. Behave as if you love yourself until it starts to feel natural, and never trash-talk yourself by pointing out your flaws. Most people don’t judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves, and you don’t want to declare open season on your imperfections. The people who matter the most will either overlook your flaws or find them endearing because they love you.

Instead of being your own worst critic, why not start a revolution in your own life by being proud of the body you have? You may find that you’ve been missing out on even more than romantic showers and lighted lovemaking sessions.

Dear Rachel,

A month ago I had a great date, but then the guy never called. He told me I was beautiful and that he really liked me; he even talked about restaurants and concerts he wanted to take me to in the future. I thought it was one of the best first dates of my life and he was smitten. How could I have been so wrong?

Signed, Fool for Love

Dear Fool for Love,

I’ve mentioned men with “good style” before, and your question is a classic case of a date with a good style man. When I refer to good style, I’m not talking about Armani v. Birkenstocks. I’m referring to a man’s interpersonal style or charm. These men are charismatic and have a way of leading women to believe they care more deeply than they actually do. They do all the little things that drive women crazy, like gently stroking her cheek or brushing the hair out of her eyes, and they toss around constant, sincere-sounding compliments, like sweetie, honey and beautiful. Men with good style are great listeners and they have a talent for making women feel special. Dating a man with good style is bittersweet; sweet because they shower you with attention and make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world for a moment, then bitter once that moment passes and they make a fuss over the next woman.

Good style, in itself, is not a bad thing, but it’s important to recognize this quality in a potential date so that you can identify their behavior for what it is — superficial charm. It’s not indicative of any deeper feelings on the guy’s part because they use their style with everyone they meet, from young women to elderly ladies and everyone in between. Good style men are not necessarily promiscuous, although their good style serves as an asset for those who are. Enjoy a man’s good style, but take it with a grain of salt. The only way to gauge this man’s feelings for you is by repeated dates over a length of time. Although these men appear warm and open, their charm often acts as a shield to keep women at a distance, since it tends to take longer than average for these men to develop an emotional attachment.

Your good style date sent you mixed signals by acting affectionate and then disappearing. You may never know why he didn’t call and it doesn’t matter. Either his interest in you wasn’t high enough, or there was an external obstacle that outweighed his interest in pursuing you. Now that you know about good style men, you’ll be able to spot them in the future and you’ll never have to be a fool for love again.

Rachel Iverson is a freelance writer, dating coach and author, who lives with her husband in Venice Beach. Her book, “Don’t Help A Man Be A Man: How To Avoid 12 Dating Time Bombs,” has been endorsed by Dr. John Gray, author of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” For more information on Rachel or her book, visit www.rebelgirlpublishing.com. For dating advice, contact: rachel@rebelgirlpublishing.com.