I was reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman yesterday and was a little surprised to stumble upon this remarkable portrait of a sigma in Haruku Murakami's short story "Nausea 1979", in which he meets a young man who inexplicably begins vomiting every day after receiving a mysterious series of crank calls from a stranger:
I knew this young illustrator from the time he did a drawing for a story I published in a certain magazine. He was a few years younger than I, but we shared an interest in collecting old jazz LPs. Another thing he liked to do was sleep with his friends’ girlfriends and wives. There had been quite a number of them over the years, and often he would fill me in on his exploits. He had even done it a few times while the friend was out buying beer or was taking a shower during one of his visits.
“You do it as fast as you can, with most of your clothes on,” he said. “Ordinary sex can drag on and on, right? So once in a while you take exactly the opposite approach. It gives you a whole new perspective. It’s fun.”
This kind of tour de force was not the only kind of sex that interested him, of course. He could enjoy it the slow, old-fashioned way, too. But it was the act of sleeping with his friends’ girlfriends and wives that really turned him on....
I found it hard to believe that such things could be carried off so easily, but he didn’t seem the type to spout a lot of nonsense just to make himself look good, so I began to think he might be right.
“And finally, most of the women have been looking for something like this.... What they want is for somebody to be interested in them beyond the—in a sense—static framework of ‘girlfriend’ or ‘wife.’ That’s the most fundamental rule in all this. Of course, on a more superficial level, their motives are all over the map.”
“For example, getting even with a husband for fooling around, or boredom, or the sheer satisfaction of attracting another man. That kind of thing. I just have to look at them to know. It’s not a question of learning a technique. This is strictly an inborn talent. You either have it or you don’t.”
He did not have a steady girlfriend himself....
I probably average a little over twenty-three hours a day alone. I live alone, I hardly ever see anybody in connection with my work, I take care of most of my business by phone, my girlfriends belong to other people, I eat out ninety percent of the time, the only sport I ever practice is long, lonely swims, my only hobby is listening to these more or less antique records by myself, and the only way I can ever get my kind of work done is to concentrate on it alone. I do have a few friends, but when you get to this age, everybody’s busy, and it’s impossible to get together all the time. You know what this life is like, I’m sure.”
“Sure, more or less,” I said.
He poured more whiskey over the ice in his glass, stirred it with a finger, and took a sip. “So then I started thinking seriously. What was I going to do from now on? Was I going to go on suffering with crank calls and vomiting?”
“You could have gotten a girlfriend. One of your own.”
“I thought about that, of course. I was twenty-seven at the time, not a bad age to settle down. But I’m not that type of guy. I couldn’t give up so easily. I couldn’t let myself be defeated by something so stupid and meaningless as nausea and phone calls, to change my whole way of life like that. So I decided to fight back. I’d fight until every last ounce of physical and mental strength was squeezed out of me.”
“Tell me, Mr. Murakami, what would you have done?”
“I wonder,” I said. “I have no idea.” Which was true: I had no idea.
“The calls and the vomiting kept up for a long time after that. I lost a tremendous amount of weight. Wait a minute—here it is: On June 4, I weighed 141 pounds. June 21, 134 pounds. July 10, whoa, 128 pounds. 128 pounds! For my height, that’s almost unthinkable! None of my clothes fit anymore. I had to hold my pants up when I walked.”
“Let me ask one question: why didn’t you just install an answering machine, or something like that?”
“Because I didn’t want to run away, of course. If I had done that, it would have been like admitting defeat to the enemy. This was a war of wills! Either he was going to run out of steam or I was going to kick the bucket.
What is interesting is that Murakami accurately describes many of the attributes of a Sigma decades before the concept was articulated. The young illustrator is solitary, but successful with women despite being physically unremarkable, is likable and makes friends easily, but has little interest in a social life. He possesses unusual motivations and preferences, has strong willpower and a high level of self-discipline, and exists almost completely outside the normal social hierarchies. His interests fall on the obsessive side. He understands women on a level few men do, but has very little interest in them beyond their sexual utility and is more inclined to view them with contempt than place them on a pedestal. Relationships, both friendly and romantic, are open to him, but he instinctively shies away from them.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, Sigmas are weird, and usually quite a bit more bent than they are superficially perceived. Needless to say, this socio-sexual profile has virtually nothing to do with the gammas who are dissatisfied with their place in the social hierarchy or the omegas who are largely barred from it. They can be reasonably described as a twisted form of introverted Alpha.