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Exploring a world that harbors a subtle bigotry against introverts

Walking on RailroadI’ve been reading the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and while I haven’t finished it yet, it has truly been an eye-opening read.  (If you’re an introvert, seriously, GET THIS BOOK.)  Incredibly, it touched on nearly everything I’ve come to observe about the world of Christianity, dating, education and work that always felt… wrong to me.

The book exposes what was in fact a culture-wide shift in perspective on how one succeeds in life that began in the early 20th century, spearheaded by none other than Dale Carnegie.  Evidence of this shift could be found in part by simply making a comparison of the advice manuals in the 19th century to the manuals of the 20th century that Carnegie helped to shape.  Using word counts, the 19th century guides often resorted to words like these:

  • Citizenship
  • Duty
  • Work
  • Golden deeds
  • Honor
  • Reputation
  • Morals
  • Manners
  • Integrity

Cain writes:

But the new guides celebrated qualities that were–no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound–trickier to acquire.  Either you embodied these qualities or you didn’t:

Magnetic
Fascinating
Stunning
Attractive
Glowing
Dominant
Forceful
Energetic

Now why does this sound so FAMILIAR?  I realized that this described almost to a T the VERY same traits the “manosphere” has long since recognized as the necessary qualities a man must have in order to attract women.  Far from being a case study on sexual attraction, this actually appears to be part of a MUCH larger cultural phenomenon, one that engulfs nearly every area of life and dictates how successful we would be not only in dating and relationships, but also in our careers and education too.

Speaking of education, Cain quotes a dean in her research as an example of what college admissions officers look for in candidates:

“…in screening applications from secondary schools it was only common sense to take into account not only what the college wanted but what, four years later, corporations’ recruiters would want.  ‘They like a pretty gregarious, active type, so we find that the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity.  We see little use for the brilliant introvert.'”

This bias against introverts runs so deep that some view introversion as a pathology, not merely a distinctive personality trait, or at the very least a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Rather than being able to embrace their introversion, introverts are forced from the very beginning of their adult lives to abandon their natural proclivities if they’re ever to have any hope of getting ahead in life.

In today’s world, it’s no longer about quality, but appearance.  It’s the one who speaks the loudest that gets promoted, not the one who actually put in the work.  In the book Cain described a Toastmasters meeting in which an attractive brunette performs an exercise called “Truth or Lie,” where she must tell a group of participants a story, after which they must decide whether to believe her or not.  She tells her story, and when the room is queried, everyone believed her story was real.  She then gleefully admitted that not one word she said was the truth.  She confided later on that because of the competition in the workplace, it was important to keep her “skills” sharp.  Um, what?

Cain notes:

But what do “sharp skills” look like?  Should we be so proficient at self-presentation that we can dissemble without anyone suspecting?  Must we learn to stage-manage our voices, gestures, and body language until we can tell–sell–any story we want?  These seem venal aspirations, a marker of how far we’ve come–and not in a good way–since the days of Dale Carnegie’s childhood.

In another example Cain spoke of a group exercise conducted at Harvard Business School, the theme revolving around trying to survive at a hypothetical arctic substation.  The idea was to promote working together as a group and improve collaboration.  One group in particular had a member with extensive experience in the backwoods, yet because he was an introvert, he suggested his ideas too softly, and was hence ignored.  Of course the group failed miserably in their exercise, because they listened to the most vocal participants (despite their utter lack of experience in survival skills) rather than the soft spoken man who had been the true wellspring of knowledge.

I’ve met these loud, braying types before, and I never ceased to be amazed at how easily they could forcefully sell themselves as experts in whatever field they were working in, despite not having one ounce of actual knowledge in it.  The hubris is just incredible.  They basically lie, BUT they lie very well, and because of it they’re the ones that get the plush assignments, the best jobs, and the highest paying gigs.

It works in dating too.  Of numerous examples I can think of, I still remember one where the guy flat out lied about everything to the girl he was dating.  He simply played the game he needed to play to attract a girl, and it worked just long enough for her to marry him.  Once he had her though he dropped the charade and of course their marriage went to pieces as a result.  It’s hard to argue the effectiveness of his approach though: had he always been honest about himself she never would have been attracted to him.  And for an introvert who believes honesty is the best policy, it can be painful constantly watching a world succeed and get ahead on lies and deceit while he continues to trudge in the mud.

Even worse, this cultural infatuation and bias towards the extroverted has plagued modern Christianity as well.  Cain also took the time to interview an introverted pastor named Adam McHugh while visiting Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.  As examples of this bias she mentioned a few job advertisements she read recently on what large churches require of those interested in being a rector:  “The priest must be… an extrovert who enthusiastically engages members and newcomers, a team player.”  “If the first letter {of your Myers-Briggs personality score} isn’t an E [for extrovert] think twice… I’m sure our Lord was [an extrovert].”

McHugh tells Cain:

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion.  The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people.  It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out.  And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension.  It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.’  It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.”

Cain further writes:

Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved.  It also emphasizes building community among confirmed believers, with many churches encouraging (or even requiring) their members to join extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable subject–cooking, real estate investing, skateboarding.

Discussing the experience of the Saddleback church service, McHugh notes his discomfort with it all:

It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions.  The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of Saddleback’s culture doesn’t feel natural.  Not that introverts can’t be eager and enthusiastic, but we’re not overtly expressive as extroverts.  At a place like Saddleback, you can start questioning your own experience of God.  Is it really as strong as that of other people who look the part of the devout believer?”

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme,” Cain writes, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.”

{McHugh} knows that meaningful change will come slowly to a religious culture that sees extroversion not only as a personality trait but also as an indicator of virtue.  Righteous behavior is not so much the good we do behind closed doors when no one is there to praise us; it is what we “put out into the world.”  Just as Tony Robbins’ aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as Harvard Business School expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite of leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability.

Astonishing.  I’ve always felt like a fish on dry land, but that feeling extended to almost every aspect of my life.  It didn’t matter if it was church/Christianity, my job, or trying to find the girl of my dreams: there was a common denominator that seemed to define my frustrations with it all, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly, until I read this book.  In essence, I’m dealing with a culture that has evolved to reward only the extroverted.  It’s not so much that being extroverted in and of itself is wrong, but that society has come to revere it in its most extreme form, all the while regarding the introverted at best as a peculiarity, and at worst as a pathology or disease.  Not even church can provide a respite from this.

Cain’s book helped me gain an immense understanding of the world we live in, but I’m still left to wonder where I go from here.  Should I play the game like everyone else, push myself to become more extroverted and “fake it till I make it?”  That does seem to be the advice of many.  If I’m ever to attract women, move up the career ladder, or establish an authoritative presence in the Christian community, then I have to get with the program.  Adapt as they say, or die.

But as a Christian, do I really have to resign myself to playing the world’s game of extreme extroversion in order to succeed?  Or did God assign me another path to follow, one different from the path the world (and most Christian churches) expect me to travel on?

I know in some respects, I could afford to be more outgoing, to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to people.  But I also know there’s a line that can be crossed, where I’m not merely learning to become extroverted in a way that’s still comfortable to me, but where I start to deny who I am.  There’s a reason why God made me an introvert, and I can sense the danger in trying to repudiate His work.   I may not like it, and may resent how my introversion has “handicapped” my ability to succeed in life, but then again, I also feel an inner sense of peace when I stop (to use a biblical phrase) “kicking against the pricks.”

Rather than blindly accept things as they are, maybe it’s more important that I accept who I am, and let the chips fall where they may.

How Halloween explains in a way why I’m still single

Her:  So Frank, what are you going to dress up as on Halloween?

Me:  Myself.  I’m scary enough as it is.

Joke aside, because of my Christian beliefs I actually don’t celebrate Halloween.  I believe people with the same views represents, oh, .00000000000000001% of the population if I had to guess, with the exception of those zany members of the Watchtower Society.

So how does that explain why I’m single?  I think because it exemplifies just how fringe I am.  I don’t begrudge Christians in particular who still celebrate Halloween, and still get along just fine with most people with opposing viewpoints even when there’s a fake butcher knife sticking out of their heads while they beg, BEG me for candy (and this is just the adults).

But it’s one thing to forbear with a disparity in beliefs and perspectives when you’re dealing with acquaintances and friends, and maybe even family members.  It’s quite another though when that disparity exists between you and someone you share your bed with.  This is a bigger problem for me than it is for others because I’m a nonconformist with a perspective on life that very few people can relate to.  For those who are the byproduct of a monolithic culture in which they and everyone else around them all believe the same things, behave the same way, and root for the same teams, they have little issues meeting and marrying those who are just like them.  A Mormon in Utah for example will have no trouble meeting and pairing off with a Mormon girl.  For all our talk about individuality, the truth is the vast majority of us are all like sheep, ready to conform to whatever subculture we happen to be immersed in.  By being part of the herd, you reduce the risk of being isolated and alone, as well as the complications of trying to find a significant other you can relate to and call your better half.  Everyone in the same herd gets along pretty well, as long as everyone believes and behaves exactly the same.

Because God help you if you start to form a dissenting opinion the rest of the herd may not agree with…

So if I were to meet a girl, even one who is sugar and spice and everything nice, but who failed to understand me and why I believe the things I do (and vice versa), I’d suspect things just wouldn’t work out between the two of us and break it off before it started to get serious.  Really, who wants to be with someone who is incapable of being able to see who you truly are as a person and where you’re coming from?  That’s how we connect and form bonds after all.

I asked some of the people close to me who are married and about the nature of their relationships with their spouses, and the nature is such that they know each other so well they’re able to complete each other’s thoughts.  They may fight and argue and whatnot, but ultimately they are both on the same wavelength.  They’re in sync, which is why even when there’s friction in the relationship, it doesn’t threaten the bond they have with each other.

As opposed to me, who seems to be out of sync with the entire universe.  If God could make mistakes, I’m sure my existence would be the best proof of it.

And yes, part of this ability to form such a bond happens with time I’m sure, but much of it I believe has to do with having a pre-existing kernel of insight into the other person’s mind, something I believe can come supernaturally or simply as a result of having similar walks in life.  Even if you don’t know someone very well, you just GET who they are, and hence you’re drawn to them.  Such is the plight of human nature where we are naturally drawn to the familiar rather than the unfamiliar.  Science describes this as assortative mating, and by and large it’s probably an accurate process of how most of us meet our significant others.

But I am a glitch in the Matrix, an anomaly, a… special snowflake if you will.  There is none like unto me, and hence I may indeed be doomed (or blessed depending on how you look at it) to a life of solitude.

Is it possible that I’m being too trivial though?  So what if the perspectives and beliefs between myself and that of a potential spouse didn’t perfectly align.  Did that HAVE to spell automatic doom for the relationship?  Aren’t there other factors to consider?  Wouldn’t true love conquer all?  More importantly, even if we were initially on different wavelengths, isn’t it possible that they could eventually converge together somewhere down the road?  Well, anything’s possible, but how likely would that be?  I can’t imagine the odds for success walking hand in hand with someone who finds your thought process completely alien to their own would be very favorable.  People don’t really change, so if they fail to understand you now, it would require a leap of faith to believe that could change later on.  Maybe, depending on the right circumstances that leap would be warranted.  But it hasn’t happened to me yet.

How I surprisingly got a date out of chatting up a hot girl on a flight back home

Finally got back yesterday after wrapping up a 16 day road trip!  (I’ll start recapping with photos and posts as the week goes on.)  I had a pretty awesome time, but towards the end I was ready to go home.  As much as I truly love the road (and Colorado) it still remains a place I can only visit, not a place I can truly call home (yet).

So I arrive at Denver airport, check in my bags, and eventually make my way to my window seat.  While I was moving through the plane I was thinking, “I’ve been on dozens of flights now and I never, EVER wind up sitting next to a hot girl.  EVER.”  I see some ugly dude standing over the aisle seat in my row and I’m like, “Yep, here we go, same old crap.”

But… he was standing there to let people pass and winds up moving to the row in front of me.  Whew.  I get into my seat and patiently await to see what Michael Moorish 500 pound creature out of Lovecraft’s books would end up sitting next to me.

It never materialized.  Instead, this GORGEOUS looking girl takes the aisle seat next to me, and it turns out no one had booked the middle seat between us, so we had the entire row to ourselves.  And I’m like… “Did that really just happen?”

After griping not 5 minutes earlier about never having the random good fortune of sitting next to a beautiful woman on the plane, lo and behold here she was, with the extra bonus of having a seat between us free for added comfort and minimal distractions.  It was like God had heard my complaints and presented a GOLDEN opportunity for me, all wrapped up in a nice red bow, and was now challenging me, “Here’s what you wanted Frank, now what are you going to do about it?”

So what did I do?  Nothing.

It was the curse of the introvert.  Instead of seizing the moment, I was calculating probabilities in my head, exploring every conceivable outcome that could arise from my talking to her.  Was she married, was she single, is she friendly, or would she rudely cut me off, would I even be able to hear her over the roaring of the jet engines, or would I completely embarrass myself, was she from Colorado or New York, and if Colorado how could that work, and if New York would she have that typical New York attitude, was her boyfriend/husband actually on the plane too and just in another seat, and would he curbstomp me for daring to speak to her after we de-boarded?

The more I thought and envisioned all the possible scenarios, the worse the knot in my stomach started to get.  Meanwhile I had to exercise serious restraint from openly admiring her exotically feminine figure, stealing a glance every now and then, but otherwise being a gentleman (I hope).  Of course it didn’t help that she would occasionally stretch her arms out, accentuating every gorgeous curve of her body as she did so.

Sweet mother of merciful goodness…  (I reach out and twist the A/C to full blast…)

I was still cognizant of all the ridicule I had received in a previous post about befriending women in public, the consensus by feminist trolls being that I was teh creepy creeps giving off teh creepeh vibes, and that under no circumstances should I ever smile, approach or talk to women in public, lest it be considered a form of stalking and verbal rape.  The Feminist Imperative has spoken.  So let it be written…

And the truth was, I honestly didn’t want to bother a girl if she didn’t want to be bothered.  But it was always hard to tell what their state of mind was.  The safe route of course is to simply not talk to anyone, EVER, and being an introvert that would have suited me just fine (while making all the feminists happy by acknowledging my place at the bottom of the totem pole and not polluting the air they breathe with proof of my existence).

But then I knew, if I didn’t say something, ANYTHING, I was going to regret this lost opportunity, just as I’ve come to regret all the other lost opportunities over the years.  Whereas before the old Frank would have shrunk further into his seat and buried himself in his book or iPad, the new Frank decided, “You know what, I am getting TOO OLD for this S@#$.  CARPE DIEM.”

I gently tap her shoulder.  “I was just wondering, are you from Colorado or New York?”

Her soft, expressive face brightened at my opening question, and off we went, chatting about this and that.  I tried to absorb the tremendous relief that arose from her willingness to talk to me, but my stomach continued to be in vice-like twist, pain receptors going off almost everywhere I had sensation.  It was literally like trying to move a muscle that I hadn’t moved in years.  I soldiered on though.  No more regrets.

As our plane made its descent I asked her out for coffee since she lived in Brooklyn, to which she said yes (?!?!?) and afterward we traded contact info and emails.

VICTORY!

Not so much that she said yes, but in forcing myself to turn over a new leaf, to resist the old patterns of withdrawing and letting opportunities like these slide past me.  In a way I think it’s part of getting older.  You realize time is not in fact on your side, and life will only offer you X amount of chances to meet, befriend and perhaps find the person you’re meant to be with.  I decided I would rather go through life knowing even though I may have failed, at least I gave it my all, than to say I failed because I never tried at all.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must commence the fine art of strutting.

Cool mice strutting on red carpet

I am a special INFJ snowflake

Loved reading the following link, which really parses out many of the various traits of having an INFJ personality.  Too lazy to fisk it out in depth on my blog though, but go take a look if you’re curious about what makes me tick.  Might also help you understand why I have a tendency to feel like I’m right about… oh… everything?

INFJs are, by definition, rare, reserved, and unlikely to initiate anything, which means that many of them can end up alone and misunderstood. To help with things, I’ve compiled a list of points which I think would be of great use to anyone considering dating someone who identifies as an INFJ. (Source Link)

David Platt’s One Sided Sermon on Marrying

Coincidentally after I wrote my Proverbs 18:22 post, David Platt, popular pastor of a megachurch in the south had just given a sermon on the same subject a day before:

I can’t help but notice the irony of a dude who looks like he’s 14 years old telling men to grow up.  Far from being a “radical” message, this is a familiar tune in many churches today, where pastors constantly berate and rebuke the men of the congregation to stop being little boys and start marrying up.

For balance though, Platt does offer this particularly sound advice to the women:

Crickets

Profound.  Apparently women don’t need to do anything after all.  Odd considering I had previously written a post pointing out that women themselves were also putting off marriage for as long as they could.  So David, what’s a guy to do when he does want to get married, but gets nuclearly rejected by women who are still trying to “find themselves?”

Ever consider maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t only with the men?

I find it intriguing that Platt appears to use Proverbs 18:22 precisely the same way I was reading it until I realized  I had been misinterpreting the verse the whole time.  Apparently 3 theology degrees still isn’t enough to give one the skills to properly exegete Scripture.  Go figure.

Platt also has this insightful advice for handling rejection:

“If she rejects you, then make that as easy as possible for her, humbly bow out and seek somewhere else.”

Make that as easy as possible for her, because only her feelings matter.  *face palm*

Nothing about prayer, nothing about seeking the Lord’s will FIRST in everything, no suggestions on where and how to meet women, no effort to create ministries for singles looking to get married, no admonishment to the women for putting off marriage themselves or rejecting men for flighty reasons such as him not having blue eyes, nope, nothing of the sort.

The unspoken assertion here is that the only thing, literally the ONLY ISSUE involving dating, courtship and getting married for Christians today is that men play videos games too much.  I’m sure every woman in Platt’s church tithed a bit more than usual due to their itching ears being tickled silly after that service.

I find it a bit taxing to believe the Holy Spirit would have inspired Platt here to give such a one-sided sermon, especially one that involved poor exegesis of Scripture and a baffling lack of discernment.  And this guy pastors a huge church?

Hey Platt, since you’re so big on giving, how about you give away your pastorship to someone who actually knows what he’s talking about?  Now THAT would be radical.

Using Highlight to meet new people, and by new people I mean hot girls

This is going to be one of those social experiments of mine that always fails but I do it anyway because I’m mostly bored and a glutton for punishment.

Anyhow, there’s an app called Highlight that basically uses your iPhone/Android to *ahem* highlight the people around you that are also using the same app, and who share similar interests.  It utilizes my Facebook profile as part of its algorithm, so idealistic me thinks, ya know, this might be a great way to utilize technology to randomly meet women of similar interests instead of constantly trolling dating sites like a brain dead monkey.

Sadly though, because I live in New York, the only folks that pop up on my Highlight app are in-bred yokels, guys with foreign sounding names like Shalah Maboogagaseas, and 40-something year old ex-porn actresses.  Yep, that definitely sounds like New York.

Still, I’m going to give it one more try while I drive around in Colorado next week, which is my funsie all-time favorite state to visit.  Since I’ll be covering hundreds of miles and prancing about Denver and Colorado Springs, the app is BOUND to highlight at least one interesting gal who might fancy me, am I right or am I right?

Yeah, we all know how that’s gonna turn out.

Still, I’m rather confident it will make fodder for some funny blogging before I finally rip the app off my iPhone forever and call the people who developed it a name.

Why I would never date single moms

I’m at that point in my life where the dating pool consists of 20-somethings who think a 5 to 10 year difference in age makes me old enough to be their father rather than a potential mate, while the rest have all played the merry-go-round of relationships/marriages which failed for whatever reason, and are now free to date again.  Suddenly the guy they rejected back in school because he failed to make the upper tier caste system of social status and coolness has now become a hot item in the single mom’s dating commodity market.  I feel so special now.

So let me explain (in Dan Rather terms) why I wouldn’t touch these single moms with a 12 foot pole (the kind of pole I use for things I wouldn’t touch with a 11 foot pole.)  First of all, my mother would kill me.  And I don’t mean that she would merely get upset if I brought home a nice girl with little Timmy and little Tommy from two previous failed marriages.  I mean she would stand over my bed one night, look lovingly at my angelic face while I snored away… and then smother me to death with a pillow.  Just so she can spare me the misery and agony that she knew I was heading for.

So, there’s that reason.

Another reason is that I’ve never been married, and I’ve never had kids either.  Single moms though have obviously already been through their share of relationships along with all the experiences of being a parent too.  If I wanted to get seriously involved with a single mom, I’d have to forgo the dream of having a wife where we spend time together before kids, then slowly grow together as parents from the very beginning.  Instead, I’d have to hit the ground running and learn how to be a fatherly image to kids that are not mine, despite having absolutely no experience whatsoever of being a dad.  Kids, who more likely than not would resent me and my presence for not being their real dad.

And just to add insult to injury, a lot of single moms don’t want to have more children, so I don’t even get the benefit of fathering kids of my own.  So I’m tasked with caring and draining my financial resources for a family that I have no blood ties with, with a wife who would likely have no time for me because she has her kids to think about.  My whole life would revolve around the fruit of another man’s loins.  Errr, no thanks.

This is not to say that there aren’t great single moms out there.  There are plenty, including friends who regularly follow my blog.  So when I say I don’t want to date single moms, I’m not saying they’re not worth the trouble.  I’m saying, we’re NOT COMPATIBLE.

You know who single moms should date though?  SINGLE DADS.   That’s where the life experience of both are on equal footing.  Both have a history of relationships that didn’t work out, and both have experience as parents.  There’s a sense of camaraderie that can help bring them closer together and forge a good relationship, albeit one that will have a lot of obstacles and emotional baggage to overcome.  Which just goes to show, if you’re gonna get married, get it right the first time.  :-P

I have to admit I get offended when a single mom wants to date me and gets all huffy poo when I decline.  They’re basically asking me to give up all those years of being with a girl before kids enter the picture, along with the privilege of learning how to be a father from day one (conception), rather than learning how to be a father when the kid is already 5 years old (and not mine.)  Single moms like that aren’t really interested in finding a husband/companion.  They just want a glorified ATM machine.

The only exception I’d make in dating single moms then is when the kids are already grown and out of the house.  Of course that won’t happen till I’m in my fifties, and by then I’ll probably be such an ornery and insufferable jerkball that nobody will want to be with me anyway.

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