Monthly Archives: September 2006

I am told somewhere that there is an animated short entitled, “How To Pick Up A Woman.”

The first video they had was entitled “WRONG” and it showed a scrawny nerd walking up to a cheerleader-type asking, “Hey baby, what’s your sign?” He gets splashed with drink.

The second part was entitled “RIGHT” and it showed a studly, athletic looking fellow walking up to a cheerleader-type, asking, “Hey baby, what’s your sign?” He gets the girl.

Category: Coffeehouse

I had a sort of surreal experience earlier tonight.

Earlier this year much of the office at Falstaff became interested in The Office at Dunder-Mifflin. I ended up listening to and watching the entire series while I was at work (the job, for all its faults, was not mutually exclusive with a TV running in the background!).

Tonight was the season premier on NBC and I decided that I really wanted to watch it live. So I did.

Watching television has never been so strange. I am so used to being able to rewind I had to sit there and think for a minute about how I was going to be able to do that before realizing that I couldn’t. When it was over, I couldn’t rewind to my favorite scenes. Worst of all, awkward humor wears thin on me very quickly so I have to take well-timed breaks to alleviate the awkwardness in my mind. Except that I had to take the breaks when there was a commercial break.

These things, which I lived with on a daily basis up until a couple years ago, all seemed so odd and foreign to me.

Unfortunately, the VCR doesn’t pick up TV stations very well so I am going to have to get used to it.

Category: Theater

A while back I had a coworker that complained about his inability to hook up with young women. Essentially, it was his point-of-view that he was having difficulty finding a woman because he was shy and unremarkable in appearance.

He was correct insofar as those two things hurt his chances with the fairer sex, but those two things did not even begin to describe the barriers he’d put between himself and a happy, fulfilling relationship. When he wasn’t bitterly ranting, he was sulking. He attached moral superiority in any debate to the side with which he had more in common. That he was generally quiet around new people didn’t hurt his prospect nearly as much as much as what he said when he was ready to start talking to you.

This guy is an extreme example of a pattern that I’ve noticed among a certain subset of guys: their problems with women are not what they think their problems with women are — and their tendency to lay primary blame on that which they cannot change mostly just excused them from making those changes that they could make.

Almost every close friend I have had a good deal of trouble with relationships in high school. We didn’t even set our aims very high and yet we came up short time and time again. Over ten years later, all but a couple are married or living with someone as though they are. It wasn’t purely a matter of lightning striking because they had opportunities before their spouse and had they never met their spouse I am relatively confident they would have found somebody acceptable to them.

All of this despite the fundamental things that we perceived our problems to be (shyness, unremarkable appearance) didn’t change and, in some cases, got worse (years add pounds, it seems). That is to say the things that we could not change ourselves did not actually change to favor us, for the most part. Those things that we could change, however, we did at least to some extent.

I was thinking about this when I read commentary on Half Sigma and 2 Blowhards on the subject of finding women. The moral of the story for many is that there are absolutely no girls out there looking to date geeky, tech-oriented guys and they guess they’ll just go eat worms so there’s not much point in really trying.

It’s a not-uncommon belief that being interested in geeky things (computers, scifi, fantasy, comic books, and anime) is off-putting to women and it’s not wholly without merit. The thing is, though, that these things largely serve as indicators and not generally, and of themselves, a factor in the decision-making of most women that I know.

So what do these things indicate? A stereotype, mostly, but one with enough real-world grounding as to be significant. People that identify with the above hobbies tend to be introverted and socially awkward. They also are very oftenly underachievers insofar as a lot of their brainpower is dedicated to minutae that aren’t particularly helpful in a marriage and family. Very smart people that apply their smarts to their career become lawyers and superstar programmers in Silicon Valley and typically don’t have much trouble with women and to the extent that they may be interested geeky things is usually an afterthought.

So to an extent, geeks have a bum rap in that they are associated with the most problematic of their kind. On the other hand, if you cultivate enough social skill and otherwise have enough going for you, the fact that you’re interested in geeky things is something of an aside, of not much import (except to the extent that the person you end up with must be interested in these things, which is itself a problem) .

For the most part the answer is to improve that which you can. What’s hard about this, particularly for the proud geek-type, is that you have to admit your shortcomings and stop viewing life as unfair that you have them. In a perfect work maybe introversion and lackluster looks wouldn’t hurt you. But what matters is that they do hurt you and if you want to succeed at relationships you have to spend time and energy figuring out how to compensate for them (usually by learning how to meet and talk to new people and improving hygene and attire).

The good news for now, though, is that if you’re a geek, it’s relatively easy to stand out from the pack with even marginal social skills and hygene habits. To wit, the average guy-girl ratio at anime conventions when I used to go was about 4-to-1 or so, 7-to-1 if you don’t count girls under 15. Yet despite these long odds, three of the four of us that used to go to these things together managed to meet someone at a convention.

But it seems that a lot of geeks have very little interest in self-improvement. They seem to feel that the world is stacked against them, to an extent, and would prefer to leave it that way than risk their pride by admitting the the problem may not entirely be society’s and that, on the whole, the system may not be merely as unfair as they had previously suspected.

Category: Coffeehouse

One of the less fortunate byproducts of consumer culture is advertising. A lot of advertising makes me angry because it is built around people spending money they don’t have for things that they don’t need. I was reminded of an exception today that is worth noting.

I stopped by the bank to deposit a couple of paychecks. The advertising campaign of our bank, which may be familiar to you, is a person holding up a sign outlining something that they want.

Example: A woman in a laundrimat holds up a sign that says “Someday I will have washers for all of my customers.”

Example: A woman in a living room full of boxes holds up a sign that says, “Someday I won’t have to assemble the furniture that I buy.”

I really like these ads for a couple of reasons. First, they are almost uniformly after reasonable things. They’re not talking about fast cars or plasma televisions, they’re talking about expanding their business, making their home a more livable place, or going on a vacation. In fact, I would say the furniture one above was the most questionable of the aspirations.

The second thing is that they usually begin with “Someday…”, which means that they are goals to work towards. I think that impatience is one of the bigger problems that our countrymen have today. We don’t just want it, we want it now.

It’s been well covered that our society is producing a lot of debt. We don’t save and we spend more than I make. The debt that a lot of people I know carry with them is astounding and, student loans aside, largely voluntary. The problem is actually worse for those that were raised in the middle class than those I kn0w in the upper-working class.

A good part of the problem, I believe, is that young people get out of high school and particularly college with a sense of entitlement. They have often had a pretty comfortable life up to that point, and though they haven’t gotten everything they’ve wanted, they at least have a workable (if not desirable) car and a good deal of stuff.

They got all this without actually working for most of it.

But then they get out of school and have a job. For the first time they are earning real money. Naturally, they believe that they are entitled to the lifestyle that they were afforded when they were younger. The logic makes a certain amount of sense. Parents + work = stuff, me + work = stuff. What’s missing from that equation is that the parents usually worked for over twenty years building the kind of career that they could afford to buy the nice car, the nice house, and so on.

But the young people want it immediately. And often are willing to go into debt to get there. It seems backwards to have to work ten years just to get to where you were when you were sixteen!

I am now more grateful for the things my parents did not give me than the things that they did. When I was getting my first apartment, my father cosigned and I was stunned to find out how much he made. Flabbergasted. It was over 50% more than I had thought.

But I didn’t get what I wanted. I had to make tough decisions. I had to delay the purchase of some things and forego the purchase of a lot of things. And, more importantly than that, I saw my parents do the exact same thing. A lot of my peers thought it was unfair that they couldn’t get what Johnny got. I didn’t (as much, anyway, kids will be kids!) because I saw that my parents didn’t get to go out and buy what Mr. and Mrs. Jones did. Now that I know they could have I am all the more impressed.

Category: Market

Hugo Schwyzer has an insightful very long post about male self-loathing, popular music, and passive-aggressively defusing women’s anger.

There’s another aspect to all of this “Self-Hating, Passive-Aggressive Male Pop.” As many women find out, lots of men use self-loathing as an effective tool for deflecting female anger. Women very often express profound exasperation with their boyfriend or husband, only to have him hang his head and say “You’re right. I’m a worthless piece of shit. I’ve always been shit. I can’t believe you stay with me.” If he fought back (not physically, mind you), a constructive discussion might take place. But if the fella says worse things about himself than his wife or girlfriend would ever say about him, then he cleverly tries to steal her thunder. She’s forced to either agree with him or to bite back her own anger and begin to comfort him. Many women find out sooner or later that male expressions of self-loathing are usually a passive-aggressive technique designed to avoid conflict. It’s a technique that invariably undermines and eventually destroys the relationship. It leaves both partners depressed and exhausted. And it has no place in a healthy relationship.

The only issue I take with the post is that this is not a distinctly male phenomenon (and by extension disagree that this has much to do with feminism and the increasing confidence of women. In fact, the James Blunt song is more expressive of the female manifestation that I’ve witnessed than male behavior. A sense of not impotent anger but pitiable helplessness. I’ve actually run in to more females that do this then males, but then considering that I am a straight male it would be the female manifestations that capture my attention.

The basic idea is this: He/she is a broken person. They have a cafeteria of weaknesses to choose from. You are good for them because (when they’re doing well) you bring out the best in them and (when they’re not) you help them through like no one else can. By this point they usually have you sufficiently ensnared that they do not have to explain why they are good for you.

Young ladies are susceptable to this logic because their self-esteem is often tied up in service. It’s the whole “you complete me” line from Jerry Maguire. For that line to work, he has to be incomplete. An incomplete male provides a romantic job opportunity. A use.

Young men are susceptable to this logic because their self-esteem is often tied up in protection. If the damzel isn’t in distress, a knight has no reason to suit up. There are very few wicked godmothers and evil kings have better things to be doing, so we take opportunities where we can find them.

Ultimately, though, these confessions are little more than a pre-emptive strike. On The Wire, a character by the name of Wee-Bay copped a deal assuring that he would get life in prison but not the death penalty. He was told to confess to every murder he’s done because if he leaves one out, he could get the death penalty. So he confesses to anything and everything he can think of so that he doesn’t get burned.

Which is sort of how the relationship confessions work. Like Weebay, they think (consciously or usually subconsciously) that they can’t be punished for anything that they admit to up-front. And if they find something else and leave you, even then they are not accountable for all of the time, money, energy, and love of yours that they wasted because you were warned.

If you’ve never heard that line at the end of a timultuous relationship that you carried most of the weight for, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re angry because you now realize it as the cop-out it always was… and you’re angrier still because they were right and you were warned.

And of course if you are the one that leaves, everything changes. If you’ve ever tested someone’s theory that they don’t deserve you and that you’d be better off leaving, you know how quickly the tune changes once you actually do try to leave. Nothing they’ve said is untrue, mind you, and they are usually aware of that on some level. But though the evidence doesn’t change, the second you seriously contemplate leaving, the verdict changes almost immediately.

My best friend Clint has a tendency to do this (the James Blunt, feminine manifestation). His current girlfriend was the first that I recall that actually called him on it. She apparently said “I don’t want to hear it” when Clint would open up about his varied weaknesses. She believed, as I do, that the first several months of a relationship are about setting expectations (of your own behavior) high so that you have the goal of living up to them later.

So whether your male or female, beware of anything that is enthusiastic about telling you all that is wrong with them.

Category: Coffeehouse