Fault in the best of us

I’ve got a massive amount of information in one evening about how people usually get to intimacy. It was a discussion about sex organized in our student residences. The typical individual message of what I heard has the structure:

This feels uncomfortable – here’s how to make it comfortable.

It made me thinking how very social people have this negativity towards any uncomfortable/awkward situation. As if, you shouldn’t really have any of them in your life.

On the contrary, people with low social skills can’t really avoid awkward situations, and after getting through them on daily basis they develop a kind of tolerance. It’s okay to go through an uncomfortable experience if it doesn’t influence your happy future too much. For example, if you come to a new place where you don’t have any friends, it’s okay to be an oddball for a first few weeks, before you get into the hang of it. I wonder if the more serious questions, like hitting on people vs. staying cool, can be resolved in this new light:

So, the recipe we’re given on the event was “just check if what you’re doing right now is comfortable for you and the other person” for any sort of sexual interaction. If you’re feeling too nervous, back off and masturbate, then come back. They said. The idea was not to have any plans or expectations with regards to the person you’ve met. If you need to advance, first check if that person is with you, actively participating. If that person is not, they are probably uncomfortable –  back off and do nothing. As long as both are within the comfort zone, you can enjoy the relationship.

There’s an obvious flaw in this strategy: for most of us, the other person will not be “with us” when the moment demands for it. Either because they don’t know how to do this, or they are actually not interested. And when you bring in numbers, the amount of “not interested” people you will interact with is overwhelming. So in the end, the above strategy is safe, we use it all the time unconsciously looking for the signs of attention from our love interest. But it is very ineffective because the signs are not used by most of the people, and if even they use some, the chance to “decode” it at the receiver’s end is minimal. In the end, it’s the numbers that matter, and for this strategy you have zero (0) happy relationships in your life, unless you’re an exceptional human being. (It’s all exactly as they say in rants about nice guys: you don’t get extra points for being nice. If you don’t do something, you stay on square one)

As I explained before, there are quite a lot of us who developed tolerance to feeling bad and uncomfortable at least in some ways. As a whiny teenagers, we feel bad about ourselves and uncomfortable with other people all the time. So the wisdom of ages tells us that certain discomfort is not a tragedy and you can get over it. This shit happens when you’re young, and later on as well. The updated strategy will then read:

“Check if what you’re doing right now is comfortable for you and the other person, but even if it’s not, it may still be worth doing”. In other words, you ought to have some long-term plan which involves you and this other person remaining on a good terms, and you trust them to be capable of getting over the discomfort of this moment. It’s better if you know with certainty that the situation you two are in does not repeat itself for the other person every few days. In that case, that person may not be capable of overcoming the discomfort, and may be seriously hurt.

Phew. The above can be read in many ways, but by all means, I tried to advocate the respectful approach to others. I just think that short-term comfort vs. long-term happiness deserve a fair match. You don’t just  discard the second one when you make decisions. And the fault of many otherwise very intelligent sex educators is not allowing compromises between the two. From what you hear in any kind of sex info websites, only when this moment’s comfort is present, anything good can happen. But instead, sometimes you need to make mistakes to get things moving.

Also, I tried to write the text in gender-neutral way. It definitely applies to the “Nice guys” controversy – they repeatedly avoid revealing their feelings (note that above I mentioned to check whether the other person experiences the situation repeatedly, and if yes, do not proceed), and mostly they do it because it takes them out of the comfort zone. The strategy above suggests getting out of the comfort zone as a necessary step that should happen once (and only once if the love interest clearly rejected you). The strategy still allows for the guy to have feelings, and following it will not reduce your ability to feel anything.

Finally, I should illustrate the strategy with clear example. Maybe I should also make a flowchart.

You’re in online chat with a girl you got to know recently, you’re trying to ask her out on a date. Is it a good idea to tell her that you like her and this is a date? In a grown-up scenario that we see in the movies and music videos, this is indeed what is expected from a man. In real life, most of the girls that you could meet would be not very comfortable about getting all romantic in the online chat of all places. Think facebook of gtalk. So you assume that this will get them out of their comfort zone. You can check this assumption by trying to hint them at your interest. They will reply with “huh?” or just ignore your message. Then the strategy is to see if getting them out of their comfort zone (which should be considered a harm for them) is worth it? Do you really increase your chances of getting a date? Will it matter in the future if you were explicit about your feelings in the online chat? No. So it’s not worth doing. You can just go on a date without any intentions, and if she had fun, you can actually let her know about your feelings in person. It’s okay to say that you’re very open to this and she is charming, so you’ll call her more and want to spend more time with her. See how she reacts. This shouldn’t make her too uncomfortable if you are actually in a public place and talked for a while. But she’ll say no anyway, because she is not looking for this right now. Say that you understand.

So what just happened? I described a long-term plan where you are not uncomfortable with each other in the future. Even if you don’t talk very much afterwards, you still don’t hold any grudge and can say hi when you see her on the street. So at least as far as this date is concerned, nobody can get seriously hurt. The comfort zone was not violated also. Everybody was confident, there were no awkward situations.

Also, you can still ask her out and hit on her in a light way. That would be pushing it, but sometimes a clear “no” said once kinda dissipates over time. If she doesn’t talk to you or go on your dates, then it is actually a “no”.

What is the difference of the described course of action and the “nice guy” scenario? Well, the described course of action is an idealized picture you have in your head, and “nice guy” is what happens to some people in real life. But there’s one important way to compare the two: it’s the expectations in your head. In the strategy, it is nowhere assumed that you possess any good qualities. You can be anyone, and still the strategy will mildly make sense (only the outcomes will be different). The strategy does not rely on your extraordinary niceness, the strategy just tells you what to do within reason, and there are no promise of success in the end. These things are mostly random, so any such promise will be screwed up on many levels.

Another thing that made me propose the strategy is that it allows to get out of the “nerd” prison.  Some actions people do are labeled as “nerdy”. And getting uncomfortable with a girl because of fear of being rejected is one of such actions. The strategy conquers this fear. If your goals are no harm and human face in the long run, and your short term goal is to follow the strategy, there is no reason to fear for the outcome. Both outcomes are equally valuable in the strategy. Both outcomes are equally safe for everyone involved.

Finally, I should write something from a girl’s perspective. I don’t know any good examples, but as I said many people follow the strategy intuitively. It is known, for example, that first sex does not feel very good for a female body. Yet a girl gets over this discomfort if she wants to have a personal life in the future. Another one, hooking up may involve drinking a little bit too much, which feels bad a few hours later. So we make these compromises all the time. It’s long-term compromises that are rare, because it’s hard to think that way. Something like: a girl agreed for a nude photo session, even though she was shy, because she’d grow up and never get a chance to it in her future life. Maybe she risks that the photographer will hit on her, but she knows that he has done that before and seems to be on a good terms with his models.

… This still doesn’t sound like a long-term goal. It is also incredibly sexist. Let me try again: so there’s this nerd who’s the only one doing the homework in a particular class the girls wants to get an A in. This A is important for her job application. But the nerd is terribly disgusting, he is fat, smelly, with pimples all over his face, overall gross. But she still decides to sit for hours with him through all the homework. She overcame feeling uncomfortable and got an A!

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2 thoughts on “Fault in the best of us

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