Kindness. Jesus. Altruism…. On Not being Selfish

I don’t like it, but I believe in equity and conflict theory, which are essentially the same thing, but that’s a different post. I believe every interaction with another person is motivated by the desire to get something out of the situation; every interaction is an exchange of goods. This belief has lead me to push away invitations, dates, as well as looking very skeptically at friendly gestures. Not an enjoyable way to live.

Taken to a more long term scale, a relationship depend on whether each party perceives their benefits to be at least qual to or more desirably greater than what they put in. The term “exchange of goods” might bring to mind physical goods like money or food. Or, if you have a more perverse mind like mine, you may think about a very physical exchange: sex. That is something that throws me into a foaming at the mouth, stinging at the eyes, puddle of a headache, which I’ve written about here.

In my eyes it goes something like this…

Friendship- I’ll listen to you if you’ll listen to me

Relationship- I’ll give you sex and listen to you if you’ll give me sex and listen to me OR I’ll listen to you if you give me sex

Fuck buddy- I’ll give you sex if you give me sex

This bothers me. It bothers me because we don’t often talk about it. We move through these social niceties and politeness. It would be crass to talk plainly about what each party wants. By not talking about it though, it creates a situation where everyone is a businessman for him or her self. Everyone is trying to close the best deal for themselves or cheat on their taxes to get more.

Although addressing this directly does help, I’m still distraught by this perceived situation of the world. More than other people trying to get something out of me, I’m disturbed by the way I can trace my own actions back to their motivation. I’ve been searching for a few months now to find what I’ve termed “true caring” or “true kindness”- actions that are motivated for solely selfless reasons – but I have yet to find any.

It can always be argued that the acting individual gained some social reward of praise or positive regard. It’s so engrained in us that we must be accepted in the group for survival that simply being accepted can be explanation for almost any action. This creates a post hoc loop that allows for the argument to be applied to every situation. If it is always true, the statement becomes somewhat null. Either my definitions need to change or I need to find a falsifying situation.

Death seems to eliminate most rewards. If someone died for something or someone, would they be acting solving out of selfless motivation? Even then, they may have been compelled to act in that way by social forces making them believe it was the correct thing to do. The idea that their name would live on and therefore they may continue to live in some way also means that they might still have sense of social acceptance.

Jesus. Jesus, this sounds like the story of Jesus. But that’s not the answer, I don’t believe. The answer to resolving this abhorrent situation is in myself. I need to find what true kindness is; what selflessness is. Or, find a way to accept that this is the way the world is. I keep asking myself “Is it that bad?” Maybe that’s just justification for my own selfish acts. And then the larger question “Why is it good to be selfless?”

 

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Dainty & Strong

My mind paints two conflicting imagines in my desired identity as a women. It is starkly visible on two of my private pinterest boards: “delicate” & “fuck off”. One has photos of beautiful, slim women with small wrists and visible collarbones. The other, women with six-packs doing pull ups and boxing. This is the root of my dissatisfaction, or maybe more accurately undecidedness, with my body, my identity, my social roles.

The girl I long for a man to see is sweet. She is physically delicate and perfect in every way; pliant and graceful. She is a little frightened of the world. Her innocent ambitions consist of only to be safe and cared for. To be alone is frightening.

The girl I want the world to see is capable. She is physically strong. No one could take advantage of her, physical or otherwise. Her ambitions are clear and straightforward. But there is no sexuality to her. To be near someone is to be vulnerable. She can’t be sexual because she cannot be weak. To be alone is necessary.

When I met women or men I’m not attracted to, I strive to show them the strong women. When I met men I am attracted to, I strive to show them the delicate girl. Maybe it is purely out of fear, but I do not want to be weak. I have to be strong to avoid being taken advantage of. Being a women makes me inherently weak, which results in most of my frustration.

Being strong erases all sexuality for me. I don’t like it, but I have a very strong connection between being vulnerable and weak and sex. There is a very strong attraction to being used; ideally by someone attractive and caring, but still used, overpowered. Even if it annoys the heck out of me, I think this is a fundamental part of sexuality for most women.

Lacking physical strength is the root of feeling vulnerable which is something I strongly do not desire in my daily life on any level. However, this otherwise undesirable situation is an essential element for physical attraction.

I don’t have a solution right now. I don’t know that these opposing roles can be reconciled fully. Maybe they can be kept separated. That is still frustrating because it prohibits a cohesive person. For now, I am just working on being being physically strong. It’s a better solution than hurting myself, but it doesn’t solve the conflict.

What do I value?

After writing this description of what my dreams were for my adult self at age 10, I’m beginning to reevaluate my values.

I don’t know what triggered my thinking about this past painting of hopes for my future. Probably a combination of my brother getting a “real” job and beginning to want to connect with someone on a personal level. It’s a strong image I used to think about a lot; a young women embarking on her life with bubbling confidence and thirst for life. The images are very specific and I recall conjuring them up often. Walking in the rain from the grocery store back to my apartment; meeting friends for coffee and light conversation; excelling in a job; painting and making beautiful things throughout my space.

I have realized that my values have changed drastically in the past almost-decade. I feel I have grown very hardened. I don’t believe in relationships of any kind. I don’t believe people truly care about one another. I think the end result is the only measure of value. I look at society with a very scientific, sociological view point that makes me feel like I have no control over my life.

A big part of this might be that I have still been seeing Steve. It’s been so on-and-off I haven’t bothered to write about the “relationship”. And that’s what it is, isn’t it? Even though we aren’t together in the sense many people associate with the word, our interactions constitute a relationship of shorts. Feeling that I don’t feel much toward him– or maybe feeling that I do feel something toward him –has commenced a rethinking of my views on relationships. It’s making me rethink the mantra in my mind “I don’t want to be in a (any) relationship”.

More than that, maybe kindness is more important than examination. Maybe people are important, and not just in the sense of propagating our species. Or even if they aren’t, isn’t it a better– no, more pleasant way to live life? To live without having to question every pretty idea. We might be insignificant and there might be pretty thoughts that allow for injustice, but that doesn’t mean I have to rain on everyone’s, including my, parade.

I want to believe in happiness. I want to be happy. Does that mean I have to be delusional and believe things I think are perpetuated only because it serves a social function? Is there a balance between analyzing (aka being cynical) and believing “pretty thoughts”?

Balance, balance, balance. Everything in moderation, right?

 

I’m A Sexist, Raciest, Bigot: Comfronting My Own Biases

Henry A. Murry developed the Thematic Apperception Test during the 1930’s. You may have seen or read about it studying children’s social biases by showing them ambiguous pictures of different scenes and examining how they interpret what is going on in the pictures. Recently, I unknowingly participated in a real life form of this test by projecting my own sexism onto a news headline.

‘She’s getting violent’: Miami doctor suspended after attack on Uber driver was the title of an article published in the Washington Post which caught my eye. The thumbnail showed a women with her leg slightly bend, a rather bland expression on her face, and a male arm reaching into the side frame of the picture. The ambiguity of the photo forced me to interpret it using my own schemas.

Obviously it was a male doctor. He must have gotten suspended for attacking this poor female driver. I wonder if she is okay. Then I watched the video. The women was heavily intoxicated. Surely she was not driving in that state. So, she must have gotten violent with him and he got suspended for defending himself. Do a lot of doctors drive Uber cars? Don’t they make enough money? How would he have time for that?

You may not be as biased as me. It might be clear to you by now that the women was the intoxicated doctor and the driver was the male victim of assault. I’m embarrassed to say how long the video confused me. I was determined the doctor was a male. Before watching the video, based only on the thumbnail, I was sure the female was the victim, despite the title.

We have schemas about everything from certain situations, races, sexes, to professional positions. When I think about all the underlying biases that affect our every thought, my first instinct is to push these associations away; to try to make myself totally unbiased. But we cannot separate these associations from our experience of the world. By attaching certain characteristics to different symbols, we make the world easier to understand. At best, we can make ourselves more aware of our own biases by seeking them out rather than pushing them away.

This experience made me wonder what other biases I hold. So, I googled racial bias test and took the first one that popped up. The debriefing page at the end of the test, which felt more like a brain teaser than anything to do with race, proclaimed me morderately raciest! Well, it found that I had a moderate automatic preference for European American children over African American children.

Immediately I think the test is not accurate. Sure, the test was have been designed by Harvard, but it couldn’t be accurate because I don’t have racial preferences. Then I recall my shock at my own sexist interpretation of the Washington Post article. I would like to rectify these prejudices I hold about the world. How exactly, I’m not certain, but I think having the desire to become less biased and seeking out my own preconceptions is a good start.

Chewing, Slurping, and Misophonia

I squeeze my hands and press my legs against the bottom of my chair, bracing myself as if preparing for some kind of internal combustion to occur. Holy good mother of god, he still has three pieces of broccoli left. The good news is I am back in class, so as soon as I am done eating, I can excuse myself to study.

Misophonia is the “hatred of sounds”. Eating with others is not only never racking for me because I feel very conscious of how I am eating, but also annoying because the noise of others eating makes me want to punch my fist through a window. Chewing anything, crunchy or otherwise, causes this feeling in the base of my abdomen which is something of a mix between the feeling you get when about to start a race and having just seen a spider on your shoulder. Mix in a little anger and you’ll know how I feel during most meals with my family.

This is not currently a psychiatric disorder. In fact, this article states that it not the chewer’s fault at all, but rather something the annoyed individual must learn to cope with. They suggest exposure therapy. Honestly, sometimes the sounds are more tolerable than others. I’m certain my emotional state effects how I respond to the sound of the mastication of food.

I cannot remember when this started, but I would guess somewhere in middle school. I have a lot of bad memories surrounding food. I wonder if that effects my reaction to eating around others now. 

Most of my memories about meals in my family, aside from when my father was not home, involve tears, and all involve anxiety around the end of the meal. I remember keeping a close eye on my father’s plate, knowing when he was done he would assess whether I could leave the table or not. Then, inevitably, he would demand I eat more while everyone else left the table. I remember feeling trapped. You have to remember that to a child, parents are gods; their word is the end all. There was no way out. 

One particular meal I believe we were eating lima beans along with our usual precooked chicken. The end of the meal arrived and my father tapped my plate, saying I needed to finish my beans. Everyone got up and put their plates in the dishwasher. I started crying. I had developed many methods of cutting up and pushing my food around to make it look like I had eaten. I asked my mother if I’d eaten enough. She couldn’t say yes because that would be going over my father. She begged him to let me get up. 

“She’s just pushing it around her plate!” They started yelling. My mother picked me up for some reason. I clung to her and this upset my father. He wanted me to go to him. I remember him grabbing me while they yelled and I screamed. I was terrified. He was angry and his grip was strong. Mother pulled me back, saying he was scaring me. At that point they were really yelling, so my father sent me outside with my brother and sister.

Eating was okay when my father was not around. From a young age I can remember sneaking food when nobody was looking. This may have been because I didn’t eat at meals. The few times we did visit the doctor growing up, I was always underweight. I wish that was the case now. My mother started giving me some kind of shake drink in the morning to help me gain weight since I wasn’t eating.

Whether my negative memories surrounding meals effects how I perceive eating around anyone now, I cannot be sure. I don’t like eating around others. Often I cannot stand the sound of anyone eating. A more positive perspective on the cause of this supposed misophonia, is that I am simply a creative person. I saw this in the Huffington Post. I’ll have to set aside the fact that I believe there are a multitude of creative paths that I don’t believe can be measured accurately by any one test. It’s a little bit brighter and what I’m going with for now.

My Father’s Time of the Year

Since I was little, the holiday season has ignited a congenial and playful side in my father. Throughout the year, when he was home, his interactions with us children were didactic and parental in nature. At Christmas time however, he became a much happier, child-friendly parent. So much so, that our mother would actually let us spend time with him alone.

We would go shopping and get lunch. He wouldn’t even get upset if I didn’t eat my food, although it was clear he was biting his tongue. Everything was okay. He would put on a grandiose kind of persona in public, making the sales people laugh (or pretend to laugh). And if one of us broke something by accident, he wouldn’t be happy, but he also wouldn’t yell. We would cry anyway though.

He continued his happy christmas spirit this year during the week he can now take off from work thanks to his seniority. It’s difficult to not get frustrated when his words feel flat. It’s more difficult to not feel guilty when he buys you acceptance with nice gifts.

Maybe it isn’t an act. Maybe he really does love christmas. Maybe he’s just stressed at other times. Am I really complaining about him buying nice gifts and being cheerful? I like it when he’s like this. Even if it feels like it is following some happy-christmas-formula. You simply can’t be unhappy at christmas time, otherwise you appear ungrateful. But there is a somberness underlying the warmth in the air.

A somberness of knowing the good terms between us don’t last. We are never on bad terms at other times. But it isn’t real. I so badly want him to be authentic. To stick around during the year. To show that he cares. To have a real conversation with him, not as father and daughter, but as one person to another. Of course, I’ll always respect and admire him. There will always be a certain dynamic between us. I’m craving something from him. Something that isn’t this poster card week. 

I have a bad taste in my mouth. Is it coming from me?

The Weddings are Weird and Women are Weak

This past weekend, a friend of my brother’s got married and I attended the wedding. Not only was it surreal to think people so close to my age are getting married, it was bizzare watching the wedding.

Sure, there were tears, the emtions were true, but everyone looked as if they were playing some role in a play. Layers and layers of cultural values, symbols, and traditions came together in a strange, medieval-like theatre.

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These particular friends of my brother’s are particularly religious. The misogyny was pugnant in the air. Phrases like “submit to”, “helper for”, and being “ruled by” a Christian husband were referred to straight from that holy book.

Like many other situations, this wedding reminded me how much I hate women. The bride, while not literally being sold to a man, was being given to him. Yes, yes, he was devoting himself equally to her.  Additionally, the act of the father stating he was “giving away” his daughter enforced the feeling of the women being sold.

Aside from that, I generally hold women in contempt for their purpose as baby-making machines. This wedding brought those thoughts to the forefront of my mind.

She was dressed up with hair pinned in a painstakingly complex fashion and dressed in a frilly white gown like a present waiting to be unwrapped. Her dainty figure reflected her purpose as a play thing, and foam orbs on her chest represented her future use as a caregiver.

Women aren’t just for making babies! They are people too. We make our own purpose in life. This is the reaction most would have to these ideas. Today we women can make their own purpose. However, from a biological and evolutionary sense, our purpose is to perpetuate the species. That means using a women’s body. Men are necessary, but not used to the same degree– no, they aren’t being used at all, they are using. And that irks me.

It more than irks me. It makes me want to rip out my ovaries and slice off my breasts. It makes me want to hide from myself even more and dig into my fat.

It isn’t the Stone Age. Women are not forced into lives they don’t want- at least for the most part in the United States. They are still vulnerable to it though. I don’t know how to get over this. I don’t know how to be okay with it and recognize the opportunities I have.