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Some Modern Love Advice From Cleopatra

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Was 2012 a banner year for your love life? If so, fantastic. But not all women had such luck. Some wasted the year doing backflips in bed, hoping the hot sex would make him propose. It didn't. Instead, he continued to enjoy no-strings sex while keeping his options open. Other women languished in the slump of a sexless, sparkless marriage that wasn't any more thrilling for their unhappy husbands than it was for them.

Over the past decade, I've given some solid modern relationship advice to women. This year, I'm going back a couple thousand years to excavate some ancient advice from history's most cunning women, such as Cleopatra. I want to dust off their femme fatale relationship strategies to see whether time has increased their value.

What's the point of this? Well, it's fun. And in my line of work as a couples' mediator, I see many women who have stopped having fun in their relationships. Plus, feminine mystique isn't just a mystery to men. Nowadays, it's a mystery to many women, too. Perhaps there are some forgotten feminine wiles that might help the modern woman find and keep Mr. Right.

Angry yet? Maybe. While many women prefer a man to act like gentlemen, they blow a fuse when asked to act like a lady. The last time I suggested it, the haters hit hard and fast. "WTF? This is garbage, you're oppressing women!" And here I thought oppression was an inability to vote, own property, choose our husband, enjoy sex or equal pay, or make our own reproductive decisions. Is it really oppressive for a woman to show allure instead of just ass?

Enter Cleopatra VII, Egypt's most famous queen, who masterfully exploited both her allure and her ass in perfect proportions. Despite dowdy features, this savvy but slandered "Whore of the Nile" was able to craft herself into an irresistible woman who seduced and married two of the ancient world's most powerful men, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

How'd she do it? Well, not by being a doormat and letting a man treat her like a second-class citizen. Not by sending a thousand desperate text messages. Not by posting glassy-eyed, open-mouthed party pics of her doing muff-diver shots on her Facebook page. Not by lifting her dress and showing her cards to every player at the table. Not by nagging her husband or withholding sex to make him miserable. If you see yourself in any of those sentences, and if you still don't have the relationship you want, perhaps it's time to re-think your approach to romance.

To be sure, Cleopatra was a sexual creature. Her bedroom skills are the stuff of history books and Hollywood movies. In fact, the ancient rumour mill had it that she sought fellatio instruction from Egypt's finest prostitutes, a talent she used to seduce Caesar. Yet despite the power and skill of her sexuality, she kept it under wraps -- silky, sensual, well-fitting wraps -- and saved it for those select men who mattered. The anecdote that she fellated 100 Roman men in a single night was a political smear campaign, not her calling card. The Egyptian queen knew what her men wanted and needed in a wife, and she behaved accordingly. Her marriages served her interests, too. If they didn't, she wouldn't have wasted her time.

Cleopatra's allure and ability to accentuate her features was well-known even in her day. She was the original What Not to Wear girl and surrounded herself with experts in make-up, hair care and fashion. Her tip for modern women? Turn your imperfections into highlights. A well-managed flaw can make you unique and unforgettable. A tailored dress can transform extra weight into erotic curves, just as lavish folds of a gown can sculpt a scrawny frame into a curvaceous figure. Cosmetics can make your face a work of art. Jewelry can draw a man's gaze toward those features you want him to focus on. Work with what you have. It's more than good enough.

But Queen Cleopatra knew that brains were as important as beauty. As a royal princess, she had been educated by Egypt's top scholars. She spoke several languages fluently and it was believed that she had authored a number of books. She was educated in politics, philosophy and astronomy. Her tip for the modern woman? Don't be a bimbo -- they're only good for one thing, and it isn't marriage. Moreover, they attract the type of man that isn't worth marrying. Be well-read and have the ability to discuss a wide range of topics, from current scientific discoveries to the arts. Your knowledge base should extend beyond the latest apps on your iPhone.

Cleopatra also knew how to keep them coming back for more. Her voice, the way she moved her body, the jokes she told and the perfume she wore -- all were calculated to captivate. The ancient author Plutarch conveyed that her presence was "irresistible" and her conversation "bewitching." Shakespeare spoke of her "infinite variety." Indeed, her long marriage to Antony was pleasure-filled. Her tip for the modern woman? Be the woman that your man wants to rush home to, the women whose company he longs for all day. Fan the flames of passion and partnership every day, so that boredom and familiarity cannot extinguish them.

Yet Cleopatra's best relationship strategy was her sheer determination to have the man and the marriage that she desired. Her tip for the modern woman? Instead of complaining about how poorly a man treats you, choose a quality man and become a woman that he would not dream of mistreating. If it worked for the Queen of Egypt in 41 BC, it may work for you in 2013 AD.

Want more ancient advice? Check out Debra's new ebook: Ancient Bitches: Cutthroat Love Advice from History's Most Cunning Women
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