I discovered Neil Strauss’ blog today. Here is my first response, on approach anxiety.

Here is his entry from earlier this year, “Is Your Mind Your Worst Enemy?” It talks about approach anxiety and the little voice inside our heads that tells us “Don’t bother” when we want to approach others or try to form a relationship with them.

It’s a great rallying cry for social courage. But there’s just one teensy weensy problem with it… and it starts with a B.

It’s a very specific kind of insecurity that fuels the Don’t Voice. Insecurity about boundaries.

Because what good is conquering your approach anxiety if you still end up stepping on boundaries? Only when you succeed at both, when you can approach without violating boundaries, do you stand a chance of being attractive. Otherwise, all your outgoingness may matter for nothing, because you’re being a creeper.

But here is my problem with boundaries: everything I read about them seems to reinforce the Don’t Voice. There is such a theme of “one and done”– you come off as creepy once, and you’re forever cooked with that person. Is that not what “move on” means? “Move on” is something you see all the time in any discussion of boundaries.

But what I’ve found must frustrating about boundaries in that I feel they put me in a position that’s dependent on others’ approval. I know intellectually this is not true, but emotionally I can’t trust in any behavior of mine being attractive, unless I see other people saying yes to me as a result of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a positive behavior like smiling or conversing– if others don’t want it, it becomes negative. It doesn’t matter anymore what I feel about my self, my needs or my values… if the boundary keeps them out, they’re worthless in any sense that matters.

Basically, in order to be boundary-safe, it seems your default mode should be NOT to be look for love, or think you’re going to be attractive to anyone but yourself. Curb your expectations. This is where I really HATE all those studies saying humans are social creatures and we’re healthier when we’re in relationships and blah blah blah, because it makes us have all these expectations for our lives and our support systems. Because you can’t have a relationship– ANY relationship– without being said yes to. And you never have control over whether someone says yes to you.

I don’t think most people realize how many ducks have to be in a row for relationships to he successful. Because “we’re social creatures”, we think it should happen easily and magically. When really, if we’re going to fully implement a consent and boundaries model, we’re going to have to accept that a lot fewer relationships are going to happen. That our default mode is, in fact, “alone” unless someone else makes the free choice to let us into their boundaries.

Which means we have to stop shit like measuring our social skills based on others saying yes to us. Because it doesn’t matter if we have all the personal skill in the world, if someone else’s boundary stops that skill from reaching the outcome it was intended to reach.

Most of what I’ve read about boundaries takes this cautious approach. Better not to approach than be creepy. “Move on” is forever. When someone in your life sets a boundary with you, that’s forever too.

And it’s hard to convince me of the value of self-confidence, when impact matters exponentially more than intent. You really don’t even know how positive a personality trait, behavior, or choice is until you see its impact on others. Anything you think of as positive can be transformed into something negative this way.

So please, stop telling me how important relationships are. Because what you’re really saying is, “you’re a failure as a human being unless other people want you”. Which is about as beneficial for you as arsenic.

Sexy people bring in more Benjamins… even in high school sports.

Hugo Schwyzer has an excellent post up about the creeping sexualization of women’s high school sports– about how this rare bastion of freedom from pressure to look sexy is now losing it.

The most important point Hugo makes is here (emphasis mine):

The issue isn’t improved performance. In high school volleyball, it’s hard to argue that French-cut briefs lead to a dramatic step up in anything other than attendance at games. (Many women I interviewed for this piece report that the number of people showing up for volleyball matches or track events rise when schools begin to require skimpier uniforms).

But a dramatic step-up in attendance at games means increased profits. Increased buzz about the team. And therefore, it’s a sound business and sales decision in the eyes of the athletics department. Why would anyone kill a golden goose, especially when the alternative may be to scrap athletics altogether for lack of funds?

The last thing we need in a recession is what’s happening right now– a greater and greater restriction of salability (synonymous with employability in a sales-dominated economy) to those who adhere to a stereotype of sexually attractive.

I’ll let my responses on Hugo’s personal and body image blogs sum it up for me:

In order to tackle this problem, we have to find a good way to rebut the business point the sexualization proponents are going to make.

If showing more female skin has increased the audiences for high school sports, then it has increased profits and word-of-mouth for them. One of the rare recession-proof industries has been the “breastaurant” chain, where basically only “hot” women interested in wearing skimpy clothes on the job need apply as waitstaff. The message is clear: you must be sexy to be profitable.

This very powerful business incentive means businesspeople will keep on sexualizing until we confront it directly. It’s nothing personal to them; scantily clad women just rake in the profits, they will tell you. Our task is to break this link… to broaden the definition of beautiful (and therefore profitable). To break the linkage of the meaning of “customer service” with being ever-sexually available and attentive (in other words, like a gender-biased exemplar).

It’s one thing when it’s images in the media; it’s quite another when making a living itself becomes more and more dependent on us either having the right genes, or a few extra thousand dollars cash lying around at any given time for appearance upkeep and maintenance– which inevitably will favor the economically privileged and the conformist.

This has always been an inherent danger in an economy as dominated by sales and customer service as ours. The conventionally attractive person comforts us, and makes us want to open our wallets in a visceral way; and it will remain like this and get worse unless we are willing to go toe-to-toe with our own gut instincts as well as those of an increasing number of employers.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have to look like a centerfold to be a trial lawyer, a doctor, or any other job facing the public.

We have to confront whoever makes sexualizing decisions from a business standpoint. Like it or not, scantily-clad women and girls are golden geese to them, and indeed to any cash-strapped organization seeking to make a quick infusion of profit. No one is going to kill a golden goose– unless you provide them with a strong business reason to do so.

But we also have to check our own instincts, and our tendency to let ourselves be sold sexuality. It takes both a salesman and a customer to create a message about what is salable. We break that cycle, we substitute it for a profitable model where the girls don’t need to be sexualized, we’ve cracked the code. (I’m sorry, they’ll just have to be on their own when it comes to contests of who can generate the most profit.)

Yet another reason why we need public schools, and public amenities! The need to make a profit puts pressure on all of us to be profitable. Which eventually, invariably means those who adhere most faithfully to stereotypes.

Beauty should be fun. Beauty should be enjoyable. Beauty should not be a job requirement.

First post on The Tractatus: Amen, Graduate Fog.

What a breath of fresh air to find Graduate Fog. Boy, as bad as things have been here in America, it looks like the Brits are having it far worse.

I mean… unpaid internships for retail jobs???

And they’re about five years behind us as far as questioning the whole “blame the applicants” culture… if anything, they’re doubling down on these toxic, demoralizing ideas.

I’ll just let my first comment with GF speak for itself:

What really strikes me is all the “employability skills” talk. Five years ago we were in the same place the UK is in today– almost universal consensus on the part of employers to blame the applicants. Where we are starting to come out of this Hayley Taylor self-confidence-magical-thinking trance, I’m very sad to see that in the UK they’re doubling down.

I have a sinking feeling I know what “employability” really means. It’s someone who will turn off their dignity, own opinions and right to a personal life. It’s someone who will cheerlead the company brand 24/7/365, even in their personal life. It’s someone who turns off their empathy for fellow human beings, and thinks and acts exactly like the people spouting this crap.

It’s someone who, in other words, is in no position to make any constructive change at their organization, and has no time or energy for anything but survival.

If we have to become that kind of person, or adhere to an ever-increasing list of cultural demands, in order to be employable… then despite any proclamations of freedom from our government, we are NOT free. Nor can we think, love, or do anything else humans do at their best.

And that is inhumane. For humanity can only do its best when we can rise above survival. Where we have time, energy and money for friendships, love, art, adventure, and discovering who we are.

What do these employers think… they already have the workers they have in mind, the ones who have been carefully screened and selected to be EXACTLY like them? Is that why they’re almost universally decided not to care about education, hard work, or reality of what it really takes to become an accomplished worker?

Let me repeat: when you have to sacrifice your personal thoughts, character, personality and dignity in order to make a living, you are NOT free. No matter what any politician overly fond of using the word says.