Binary School

Some people get the whole being smart and wearing a shirt and a tie thing and some people don’t. I am one of those who don’t. The best answer I was ever given was that on relevant occasions you should wear a collar and tie for the people who do get it and think it’s important and these people were family, so I learnt the times when it was expected, when you had to.

The other night I was listening to a radio discussion about the old chestnut of school uniforms. What was interesting was that instead of an advocate of no school uniform against  an advocate of school uniform, one of the protagonists argued for a balanced position, the other for strict uniform.

There is very much a middle position on this, a sensible compromise, so i was very much on the side of the gentlemen who argued for the  middle way. The most practical argument for school uniform is that it is cheap for parents to kit out their children in a school uniform. However there are educational arguments too. On the one hand it teaches that there are occasions when you represent an organisation other than yourself that you are required to dress in a particular way. On the other hand it helps children develop style, by which the child can make decisions on how to wear the uniform, which usually involves some rakish way of wearing the tie.

The gentlemen arguing for strict school uniform argued for no adornment, no jewelry, which seems overly harsh. When I was at school you were allowed one earring per ear, one neck adornment and one bracelet per wrist. Many children at my school wanted to wear more than this, but that there was a compromise, enabled compromise. It allows experimentation with style without the onus to take things to an extreme position.

I very rarely wear a suit, but I do see men who do wear suits stylishly. These gentlemen have a tendency to be Italian, it is indeed rare for me to see people in this country pull off a suit well, yet people seem to persist. I always imagined that this suit wearing thing was just old-fashioned and by the time my generation had grown up, the practice would have fallen by the wayside, but it hasn’t. Enough people still expect people to dress a certain way. Really it takes some effort to get away from these stereotypes. For example I have a bright yellow high-vis coat. Whenever I wear it, I can almost disappear in a crowd, I become unnoticed, I’m assumed to be working. rather than being myself.

Yet there continues to be a dark side to all of this. Particularly women for whom the rules are so much more complex, especially if they are in a public facing role. There have been cases of women being asked to go out and buy high heels for roles that involve traipsing up and down stairs. I have been in a situation where a female host was escorting me in high heels, which is daft and I just felt really uncomfortable.

I get the idea that when you are working you are not supposed to be stylish or express yourself. You are there to be the organisation you are working with, so you wear the uniform to blend into the background, so your personality doesn’t distract from what you are doing. However does this really have any meaning in most modern organisations, as surely we are usually trying to attract peoples interest, to be novel rather than bland?

The middle way is interesting, as those with a developed sense of style seem to have a lot of fun, like children with school uniform of doing just enough to blend in and just enough to stand out. These are the skills that a moderate school uniform helps develop. I at least get school uniform now. I am coming around to the idea that style in clothing and fashion in general is about this finding a reaction to recent past styles, to conform to where things are whilst expressing a difference in a new direction. After all being able to express yourself is important for your own well-being. The difficulty with style is that there are those few who are naturally really thoughtful about it and have a well developed sense of style , whilst people like me blunder around shops wondering how on earth to replace my tatty old garments. You have to wear clothes, it’s too cold most of the time, so having some sort of style is unavoidable and people will make judgements about how you look. So, it is really important that as a society we do what we can to help young people explore this and school uniform does seem the best way of doing it.

Seeking Relationships or Not

Beginning heterosexual relationships is a weird, complicated, fraught, scary process. There is perhaps only one reason for this, that there is the possibility of a romantic or sexual attachment.

I’ve always been somewhat jealous of the ease with which my gay friends establish friendships with women. I think that the reason is purely and simply that the possibility of romantic attachment isn’t there. I have many female friends, with whom there is an ease with each other, this has occurred as at some point the possibility of a romantic attachment was settled and moved on from, this settling usually happens sub-consciously, it is perhaps a product of time and getting to know the person. some women who I meet sometimes start acting dismissively as if I am seeking a relationship with them. What has disturbed me is sometimes men, even heterosexual men, start acting strangely towards me as if I am seeking a romantic relationship with them.

The thing that has troubled me about this is that it seems that everyone deals with this issue differently, and sometimes distressing situations can occur whereby individual systems clash. In Western society this is a particular problem, the society is so socially liberal that etiquette has been largely rejected, anything goes. Etiquette is a essentially a set of social rules to make social interactions easier. So, why has Western society adopted a position of making social interactions harder?

This has been an issue for me as I suffered from anxiety for so long that it has perhaps warped my own interaction system. Basically in my system I don’t seek relationships. I enjoy communicating with people, sometimes things click and there is a kind of understanding of who the other person is, sometimes there is a liking of that person,there are then three possibilities: 1/ Nothing, 2/ a friendship begins to form, 3/ a romantic relationship begins to form. For me, these things just happen.

It seems as though everyone has, perhaps it’s another personality spectrum, a degree to which interactions are monitored for the seeking of relationships, perhaps people always invest some effort in interacting in seeking a relationship. If this is the case, then perhaps I am at an extreme end of this spectrum.

What I have struggled with is that I am sensitive to people thinking that I am seeking a relationship, because it annoys me, as conversation dries up, the question you are asking is is no longer about the question but responded to as if by asking you are seeking a relationship. I feel like crying out ‘I’m not seeking a relationship, I’m just talking to you”. It seems that people once they get the idea in their head that you are seeking a relationship, normal relations are no longer possible, that can be very awkward, particularly in environments where you spend time together, such as a working environment. I find it quite ridiculous as both parties then go out of their way to avoid each other.

It is quite understandable how this situation arises. I do speak to women just because I am attracted to them. Fairly quickly one realises that they are not interested in a romantic liaison, I immediately take that on board and move on (Well I might find a corner to cry in at some juncture). However, some men, continue to seek relationships after this point, this continuing strategy does work, sometimes, as it is possible to change your mind after getting to know someone better. Such a strategy is generally acceptable, however if it continues it becomes harassment, how much to employ such a strategy varies as people are different, it is a grey area. Once members of a population use a strategy, there then arises a counter-strategy, the women develop strategies for dealing with unwanted attention, to monitor people for seeking relationships to trigger the defensive response. Really, the whole ‘game’ of finding a sexual partner is complicated and some people actively play this game.

This is perhaps why it becomes problematic for people such as myself, who are very low level relationship seekers. This group don’t seek relationships, so such people don’t really know what is going on when people are analysing a situation for relationship seeking. It is possible to think that this group are victims of being in a game they don’t know the rules of. It is tempting to join in and simply ‘play the game’, however fighting against your own personality is dangerous.

Of course, this non-relationship seeking is a strategy in itself, it is simply not purposefully used as a strategy. I have many male and female friends whom I’ve formed relationships with precisely because I wasn’t seeking a relationship. I like having relationships, I just hate all the faff involved in getting to a point of mutual trust and respect. The thing that perhaps bothers me is that social groups form due to social type, one only socialises with people like yourself. There are positives to only socialising with like minded souls, but it is also limiting, the perception is missing out on understanding other types of people.

Non-relationship seeking does tend to be the preserve of introverts. Because introverts are really happy to be alone, there is no need for social interaction to be fulfilled. Introverts simply like social interaction, but are equally happy doing things by ourselves. Then there is this low self-monitoring issue, whereby low self-monitors don’t change their behaviour to suit others.

 

Tomboys and Tomgirls

I sometimes wonder why it is that I have a tendency to be attracted to tomboys, women who exhibit ‘masculine’ traits such as not into dressing up and wearing makeup all the time. My conclusion is that I am attracted to women who know themselves, happy not to conform to a gender role and are confident in who they are. I like strong women.

So, does this make me a tomgirl, a man who exhibits ‘feminine’ traits? Maybe! In some ways I am quite feminine. My personality is made up of a mixture of traits. sometimes people don’t get me, perhaps they just see contradictions, perhaps especially if  I am perceived to be be all over the place in terms of gender.  I am just being me.

There is an expectation in society for conformity. I think the idea is it makes social function easier if you clearly match an expected identity. However it doesn’t make it easier for the individual if they have to expend energy trying to be something that they are not. Etiquette is the attempt to form a set of rules to govern social interactions, to make things easy and reduce awkwardness. i think most people develop their own set of social rules. As everyone etiquette is not the same, sometimes too many or complex rules are created, which occasionally fall down.

Most of my friends are female. I wouldn’t say most of them were tomboys, but it seems they all have some masculine traits and are not girly girls all the time. Perhaps this is relatively unusual. As a heterosexual sometimes I am sexually attracted to female friends, but it isn’t a problem for me if they are not interested in that kind of relationship.

What perhaps is unusual, is that I am attracted to women who are like me, are a mixture of individual traits, with a mixture of being very close in some areas and widely different in others. I don’t expect either party to play the role of the manly man and the girly girl. Generally perhaps this distinction exists for many people who are closer to the social norm to not get people who don’t need it.

To me, I think i am being very clear when I am being friendly towards a woman and when I am expressing a sexual attraction. Sometimes i am misinterpreted. Perhaps because social etiquettes are different. Or maybe because when i am sexually attracted i am also seeking friendship. Perhaps to many more conventional people it is odd that I am always seeking friendship too.

Online Sexism?

Recently, I have set my foot into the world of online dating. It is an interesting and bizarre world. I may post more about this in future. The issue for today is how perhaps, online social activities influence real world interactions.

Anyone who has ever dabbled in internet forums, message boards, chat rooms or comments sections of articles, has probably gathered that there are many idiots out there, these people are referred to as trolls. Trolls, rather than engaging in a discussion, seem to delight in taking an extreme view and abusing anyone who responds to them. In the real world this wouldn’t happen in the same way. I grew up to respect others positions, in a pub discussion if you behaved disrespectfully, you would general getting punched for it. This really is the problem of trolling, is that it is relatively anonymous and there is no social consequence for behaving like an idiot.

In the arena of online dating, there should perhaps be less trolling as people are there to meet new people and form relationships rather than seek getting a rise out of people. Though it is online, so some trolling will occur.

Having set up a profile and sent messages to ladies who seemed interesting to me, I have yet to have any response at all. This seems odd, I have written to about 40 ladies, it seems rude to have no response to having taken the time to write something.  I thought that this was how it worked, the rules of the forum, that instead of communicating a lack of interest, no response was the accepted unspoken rule that such communities had developed.

Last night, having a look through some ladies profiles I discovered explanations of why some ladies don’t respond. Basically, it seems that when ladies have responded an stated a lack if interest, that there are men who don’t take no for an answer and persist in contacting these ladies. This makes sense if this is as prevalent as it seems, however isn’t there something sexist about treating everyone as if they were a harasser. This is creating an assumption or a prejudice that all men are going to act a certain way. As a bloke, I have developed behaviours to identify and reduce and prejudice I may have, for example I don’t judge a lady by what she is wearing. In the real world it is much easier to detect whether someone is interested in talking to you or not.

Having said that I also discovered that there are men who are very sexually provocative, sending pictures of their genitalia and suchlike, this is appalling behaviour. There also appear to be instances of people lying about who they are. What is the point of lying, as if a relationship forms, such things will be exposed. Then again , it’s like CVs, you write them to present yourself in a good light, this gets you a better job and once in it’s often easier keep someone in. However, i would argue relationships are different to job applications.

As it is acceptable behaviour in online forums to not respond to messages, this leaks into the real world. It becomes more acceptable to be rude and ignore people in real life. With a generation of people who spend more and more time in online activities, such leaking of social etiquette in to the real world, has consequences. Being of a generation that generally, worked to remove prejudice of all kinds, it seems that the generation behind is introducing prejudice back into society.

I wrote in an earlier post about how I have struggled with people, most often women, who assume that i am seeking a closer relationship with them, when this is something I only do in an explicit way. So, i have entered a forum ,where I am only seeking a relationship, so simply saying no should be really simple, but it seems for many people this is not the case? I am baffled!