MALE CALL: Why does he keep looking at other women?

Q: Could you please explain to me why men stare at other women when they are with their wives, girlfriends, etc. They have the nerve to say to us "Look at that beautiful woman. Why don't you get a red dress like that?" Do men realize that this can be hurtful? My boyfriend has always done this when we are out. He has always had a roving eye and will actually try to start a conversation with the lady. As he gets older (50), he is actually getting worse. No name, please.

A: Your timing, anonymous, is excellent. An earlier note from a female reader suggested that one deathly no-no in the dating world is ogling other women - doy! - but she then graciously allowed that peeking is OK, since (she alleged) all men do it.

Gosh. We know! What an indictment of an entire gender! But still. Name me a guy who wouldn't sprain his superior oblique eye muscle when Heidi Klum walks by (yeah, even after the kids!) and we'll show you someone who is either, a. legally blind, or b. gay.

So apparently it all comes down to technique. One reader (an engineer, if we had to guess) put it thusly:

"How long a time elapses before the innocent (and complimentary) peek becomes the uncomfortable leer? In my vast experience, you've got approximately 1.3 seconds. (This assumes you are not with a female companion when said surveillance occurs. In that instance you have .02 seconds)."

We've not stop-watched it, but that sounds about right. Our correspondent, whose name we will not reveal so he can continue his important scientific work in obscurity, went on to describe a couple of techniques for unobtrusive ogling. But in deference to our female readers, we refuse to traffic in such base endeavors. And no, it's not just because we don't want you to know when we're totally checking your package. Honest!

But to get back to the question: Anon, the answer is as timeless as time itself: You just have kind of a dipstick for a boyfriend. Sorry, but sometimes it's as simple as that.

So, for the record, no, it's not OK to hit on other women while you're out with your girlfriend. Nor is it OK to leer. But if you are going to look - hey, Heidi Klum might walk by - do so discreetly. There's a big difference between gazing nonchalantly at a comely passerby and drooling and howling like those tuxedoed wolves in a Tex Avery cartoon.

Seems like you have three choices: 1. Demand that he stop; 2. Find a new BF; 3. Um, how do you look in red?