Admitting to myself that I do not know much was a huge relief. For years I had assumed that I had most of the answers, and I held on to that belief like a child with a blanket. It took a great deal of conflict between my beliefs and reality for me to finally see that I was full of shit. I read somewhere that confusion is the beginning of understanding. I would say that recognizing that confusion is the beginning. It certainly was for me.
Accompanying that relief was a growing sense of curiosity. If there is more than one way to be happy, then what are the possibilities?If my failure to attract girls and live a happy is based on a incorrect understanding, then tossing that model is the first step to obtaining what I want. This is why mistakes rarely bother me. The fact that I make mistakes means that I am learning. Even with my minimal efforts to change I have seen success. But none of it would have happened had I not been willing to make mistakes.
"I don't know" has become a personal mantra. If I consider every approach an experiment where I do not know the outcome, then I have no reason to become emotionally attached to what happens. Most importantly emotional detachment allows me to observe myself.
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of a confrontation with a feminist. She was a 5 and I was not interested. I sat next to her in the reading section at Barnes and Noble because I needed the power outlet. She was using it to power her laptop. I was intent on minding my own business. Despite my attempts to ignore her she kept talking to me, so I gave up trying to read and engaged her. I was curious. It was an opportunity to practice and learn.
She was more than willing to do the majority of the talking and as soon as I asked what she was doing she was off. She explained that she was looking for work and that no one was hiring. She was an English major and I took the opportunity to gently tease her that it was "shocking" that an English major could not get work. She seemed a little miffed at my teasing and asked what my degree was in. I told her that I was I programmer, but that I did not have a degree.
I said: "Yeah, I am smart enough to learn on the job", throwing a little arrogance into the mix.
She said: "Wow, you're not shy."
I shrugged and said: "Yeah, not very much."
I asked how many jobs she had applied for. I was a decent number and she complained and blamed the difficulty on the need to know the right people. Specifically she complained that she could not get a job because she was not LDS. She asked if I was LDS. I said that it was complicated. Curious to see how she would react I told her about the polygamy I was raised in. She was a bit shocked and asked how I felt about polygamy. Would I practice it? I said that there was a small possibility, but that it was unlikely (again I wanted to see her reaction). At this she became offended and stopped talking to me. But only briefly. She tried to convince me how awful polygamy is. She called the practice disgusting, that it was unfair to the women, that it was impossible for someone to spread himself among multiple women, that a man could never know his wives in a polygamist relationship the way the a monogamist man could, that it should not be allowed. I listened but after I explained that I had no problem with the practice. I asked her if she agreed with gay marriage. (At this point she confirmed that she was a feminist. She said that she did and that it was different situation than polygamy. For the first time in the conversation I became slightly confrontational.
"So you feel that one group of people should be allowed to pursue what makes them happy, while another should not be allowed?"
She reiterated her previous argument and explained that it was different because a gay couple could get to know each other in a way that a polygamist relationship could not. She tried again to convince me and when I did not budge told me that I needed to travel so I could see other points of view. She said that her summer in Italy gave her a larger perspective and that I could benefit from it. Then she played the education card. She said that I thought the way I did because I was uneducated.
"What makes you think I am uneducated?"
"You don't have a degree."
"Since when does a degree equal education? I know people who have degrees but are total idiots."
She took this personally. "Are you saying I am an idiot?"
"I don't know you well enough." I said.
"How are you educated if you do not have a degree? She asked.
"I read. A lot."
"Science, history, math, Newton's Principia, mostly novels. I never did finish the Principia though." I said. This quieted her down and she tried a different tack:
"You are part of the problem, you know."
"How is that?" I asked.
"There are a lot of computer science majors with a degree who are in competition for your job. It is not fair that people with a degree have to compete with people like you." She said.
I said: "That is not my problem. Its not my fault I am smarter than them."
She got pissed and said she could not talk to me anymore, she had to get back to work. She was about to start up again when my party showed up and I left with them.
Throughout the entire conversation I was motivated almost exclusively by curiosity. I had no investment in the outcome. If it had been less hostile the outcome would only be different in that I would have forgotten within hours. But because I had no investment I was able to observe myself and learn several things:
-Feminists get pissed about polygamy. Not surprising, and definitely something to bring up if I ever want to get a feminist riled up.
-I need a stronger more aggressive frame. I was too passive.
-When I answered her question about my education I was playing into her frame, in fact I played into her frame several times. During the conversation I could feel that answering the question the way I did was BETA. Making that mistake was valuable since I need practice catching those moments.
-I was honestly surprised that she took my comment about idiot degree holders. I knew that women take things personally but this was unexpected. It was directed at her at all but she took it that way regardless. I will keep this in mind as another tool to rile girls up.
-The arrogance was overstated. I could have been more subtle about it with a similar effect.
Most importantly I did not care about the outcome. If she had not talked to me I would have done nothing to strike up a conversation. I truly did not care. That attitude is something I want to transfer to interactions where I want something from the a girl. Because I had no emotional investment in the outcome, nothing she said could make me feel worse about myself. Later, I thought about what she said and realized that I would have been justified in getting very offended. During, it did not even cross my mind. My most successful approaches have always had this in common: the outcome was trivial. Once I cease to care I am free.