Who Is Really in the Minority?

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I'm pretty sure that introversion is one of the most popular topics for internet memes.

I’m pretty sure that introversion is one of the most popular topics for internet memes.

It’s an unusual day that goes by that I don’t see something on facebook or tumblr or some internet news site about the state of existence known as “being an introverted person.” Introverted people have an affinity for telling the internet all about what it’s like to be introverted, and I myself have written such a thing on this blog. The interesting point is that introverted people are often portrayed, both by themselves and by others, as a terribly misunderstood minority. But if the internet is any indication, introversion is actually an extremely common personality trait. Granted, it is likely that introverted people are statistically more likely to be the kind of people who write about their personalities online instead of actually expressing themselves in direct conversations with actual people. But still, it’s pretty obvious that being introverted is not a unique or exceedingly rare trait.

Bell CurveIn fact, sometimes I wonder if the opposite is the case. Are extroverts the real odd ones out? Obviously, most people fall somewhere near the middle of the spectrum; “normal” people are neither remarkably introverted nor notably extroverted. If everyone was assigned a numerical value based upon how introverted or extroverted they are, those numerical values would surely form a bell curve. But maybe it wouldn’t be a perfect bell curve; maybe it would be skewed to the introverted side. After all, it’s unusual to hear anyone make a case for the awareness of what it’s like to be an extrovert. Is that because it isn’t necessary, or is it because there aren’t many extreme extroverts out there to make such a case?

IntrovertsTo be perfectly honest, most of us introverts can’t even imagine being extroverted. I can picture what it would be like to be a little less socially awkward and a little more friendly than I actually am, but I really have no idea what it would be like to actually feel more comfortable and at-home in a social setting than by myself. I can’t fathom the concept of feeling energized by having conversations. For me, talking to people is like going hiking. It’s a great thing to do sometimes, it’s generally very enjoyable, and I would love to do it more often than I actually do, but it can be pretty tiring and it wouldn’t even be possible to do it constantly. I really don’t know what it would be like to not feel that way.

IntrovertsBut extroverted people, at least those who read stuff online, are forced to know what it’s like to be introverted. They are constantly bombarded with descriptions of how our minds and emotions are different from theirs. You can’t spend much time on the internet without being reminded about the differences between introversion and shyness, reading lists of things that introverts don’t like to be told, or being told that introverts are more likely than extroverts to have any number of other personality traits. The internet frequently points out that introverts aren’t necessarily antisocial, that introverts actually do need some amount of attention and appreciation, and that the best way to connect with an introverted person is to show an interest in whatever book, intellectual interest, or hobby it is that keeps them entertained in their quiet alone time.

From my own tumblr page

From my own tumblr page

Then again, despite the extreme repetition of those facts on the internet, it seems like in-real-life people just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how often people tell me that I need to “come out of my shell,” when as far as I’m concerned, I’m not in a shell. And other times, people comment on how quiet I am, as if I’m deliberately keeping ideas from them, or they advise me that I ought to spend more time socializing, or they think they’re being kind and understanding if they interpret things that I do as being effects of shyness. Sometimes, I keep my mouth shut because I’d actually prefer to just listen. If I refrain from thinking out loud, it’s not because I want my thoughts to be secret, it’s just that my mind works better when I’m not talking. The reason that I don’t spend a lot of time just hanging out with people is that I’m busy with other things that are more important or more fun, and I wouldn’t necessarily be averse to sharing those activities with other people if the circumstances allowed it. When I say or do something really awkward, it’s not necessarily because I’m shy and intimidated; it might just be because I’m awkward. Those are all things that the internet completely understands and can relate to, but real-life people apparently don’t.

Introverts and extrovertsWhen it comes down to it, I think that the misunderstandings really go both ways, and people on either side of the bell curve are a mystery to many of the people on the other side. That’s probably largely due to the fact that most people are pretty close to the middle. But the question remains, are introverted people a tiny minority that has found its voice by making an inordinate amount of noise on the internet? Or are they a slight minority that has found its voice by claiming dominance on the internet and then playing the victim by pretending to be a smaller subset of the population than it actually is? Since the internet has become such a major part of our society, does that mean that introverts are the new “in” crowd? And if so, what impact will that have?


Three Encouraging Cliches that People Shouldn’t Use


Number One: “These are the best days/years of your life.”

Pictured: how the majority of people over the age of thirty seem to think of people under the age of thirty.

Pictured: how the majority of people over the age of thirty seem to think of people under the age of thirty.

This expression is often used by middle-aged or elderly people when speaking to teenagers and young adults with the idea that it encourages them to live in the moment and to enjoy the carefree days of their youth. But it’s actually a depressing and discouraging thing to tell someone because it’s basically equivalent to saying, “Things are never, ever going to get any better than they are now.” That’s a little sad even if the person hearing it really is relatively content and carefree, but the fact of the matter is that most teenagers and young adults really aren’t that happy with the way things are going. In the same way that adults tend to forget the extent of the disappointments and frustrations of childhood, it would seem that older adults forget the extent of the stresses and struggles of being younger.

School is hard, learning to make financial decisions for oneself is hard, and making long-term life choices is hard. And right now, it is becoming increasingly normal for recent college graduates to initially fail at the whole being-a-grownup thing, and to take several years to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet and what they’re going to do with their lives.

As someone who doesn’t have a home or much of any money, who has recently moved to an unfamiliar area and isn’t having an easy time settling in, who doesn’t necessarily eat three meals every day because food is expensive, and who spends a couple hours a day driving a car that has had the check engine light on for more than ten months now, I don’t want to hear that these are the best days of my life.

I do realize that there are advantages and disadvantages to every age bracket, and that being middle-aged or elderly isn’t all that great, either. I’m pretty sure that there’s no specific age that is the best age to be. Everyone goes through times that are happier or harder than other times, and the chronology of those phases varies from person to person. Even within the life of one specific individual, it would probably be impossible to pinpoint a certain time period that was the best. But the bottom line is that nobody likes being told by an oblivious but well-meaning friend or family member that they have things better than they actually do. So unless you somehow happen to be absolutely certain that someone is genuinely content with their current lot in life, you shouldn’t imply to them that it’s only downhill from there.

Number Two: “There are other people who have it worse.”

In order to be allowed to be sad, please fill out an application form and include a pathetic resume and list three references who think you're worthless.

In order to be eligible for sadness, please fill out an application form and include a pathetic resume, a list of three references who think you’re worthless, and medical records that indicate that you suffer from numerous fatal diseases and are in constant agonizing pain. Your application will probably be denied if you have not been diagnosed with manic depression, do not have substantial credit card debt, or have supportive family and/or friends.

On tumblr recently, someone posted a text post that went something like this: “After much searching, the person with the worst life is finally found. They are officially granted permission to be sad, but only them, and no one else.” (Paraphrased quotation because I’m too lazy to go back and find it) As silly as that is, the absurdity comes from the implication of the original cliché, not from the tumblr user’s response to it.

After all, why would it be reassuring or comforting to point out to someone who has a problem that there are other people who have it worse? Unless the person to whom you are talking has some serious personality issues, they aren’t going to be happy about someone else’s woes. Even if someone is unselfish enough to easily and immediately forget their own difficulties in order to feel sympathy for someone else, that person is still not going to be happy about the situation. Empathy for other people’s hardships is not an enjoyable state of mind, even if it is morally better than feeling sorry for one’s self.

By an odd coincidence, nearly every time that someone I know has been seriously injured, it has occurred at a time when I was frustrated by a reoccurring minor injury myself, and it neither cheered me up nor cured my not-really-very-severe pain to know that someone else was suffering from much worse pain. It made me feel both guilty and worried at a time when I was already upset.

Besides that, it’s not as if a person can suddenly become happy just by deciding that they ought to be happy. Despite what every motivational speaker has repeatedly said, you don’t choose your emotions. They are determined in part by your personality and in part by the circumstances and events of your life. Neither of those factors is something that you can change at will; if they were, you wouldn’t ever be unhappy in the first place. When things are going badly, the last thing you need is someone trying to guilt-trip you into being happy, especially because guilt is also a negative emotion.

Number Three: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

"Susie's had a rough day, so I don't think she can handle anything else going wrong at the moment, but I bet Bobby could take a few hurtful insults, a car accident, and a death in the family before he totally loses it."

“Susie’s had a rough day, so I don’t think she can handle anything else going wrong at the moment, but I bet Bobby could take a few hurtful insults, a car accident, and a death in the family before he totally loses it.”

Like many religious clichés, this isn’t actually in the Bible, but it’s often quoted as a piece of scriptural wisdom.  You can already tell from that fact alone that something’s a little fishy about it. Granted, there are some Bible verses that could technically be reworded to say this, if you were really flexible with how you defined what it means to be able to “handle” something. But that ambiguity is the only way you can get away with using this cliché. After all, stress and unhappiness can worsen physical diseases and trigger mental illnesses, people’s personalities and outlooks on life can change for the worse because of difficult experiences, and there have even been people who have lost their faith after going through a traumatic loss. If none of those things count as not being able to “handle” something, I’m not sure what would.

This is essentially a false promise, just like the false promise that God will give you financial abundance if you donate a certain amount of money to a televangelist, or that God will heal the physical infirmities of anyone whose faith is strong enough. (So therefore, anyone who is ill or injured or who has a disability must not have very strong faith.) And just like those other false promises that claim to come from God, there is risk that a person will be turned away from the church when they realize that life as a Christian really isn’t free from all cares and concerns. There are plenty of wonderful promises that God does make; there isn’t any need for people to make up their own divine promises to share with each other just because they sound good.

Of course, that isn’t to say that anyone who hears a cliché like this will be turned away from their faith. More likely, the person hearing these kinds of promises will be hurt that they’re being fed meaningless clichés when they could really use some genuine moral support. But that’s still a good reason that people just shouldn’t say things like this.

Humans: An Owner’s Guide For Cats

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Everything in this blog post was written at the suggestion of this beautiful feline.

Everything in this blog post was written at the suggestion of this beautiful feline.

A new human owner will quickly find that humans have many odd habits. For example, soon after you get your human, it will probably select a random assortment of verbal sounds to use as your name. Your human will probably also make up several alternative names, otherwise known as nicknames, for you. It is up to you to decide whether or not you will respond when your human calls you, but it is generally advised that you only do so on rare occasions. You don’t want your human to think that it can control you. However, when you feel like answering, (for example, if your human is offering you food, or if you want attention) it is perfectly acceptable to come when your name is called.

Humans also have bizarre sleeping habits. Rather than logically napping periodically throughout the day, they have a tendency to sleep for several consecutive hours in the middle of the night. This has a tendency to make them wake up later than they ought; sometimes, your human might sleep as late as breakfast o’clock in the morning. When this happens, you will have to wake it up. Sometimes, it will arise if you gently paw its shoulder and speak softly in its ear. At other times, more drastic measures are needed. Jumping forcefully on its chest is often an effective method, especially if you accompany this tactic with a resounding wake-up call in your best Siamese voice.

RomanaMany humans have a special type of cat bed they call a “laptop”. This laptop consists of a horizontal keyboard and an attached upright screen which sometimes has bright, moving images on it. Frequently, your human will sit down with this cat bed on its lap or on top of a piece of furniture in front of it. It will then stare blankly at the screen. This means that your poor human is bored and lonely and would like you to come keep it company. Out of consideration for your human, you should lie down on the keyboard so that it may admire your great beauty and cuteness. As you lie on the keyboard, your laptop bed may make annoying dinging noises. Ignore this; it doesn’t mean anything, and you wouldn’t want to make your human lonely by leaving.

At times, your human may hold a book or several pieces of paper in their hand instead of holding your laptop in its lap. Books and papers are other types of cat beds. Your human may not know how to hold them properly; you may have to push the book or papers into a horizontal position before lying down on top of them. Hopefully, your human will appreciate your help in correcting this pathetic error.

Your human may occasionally tell you that you should not scratch a certain object, that you should not go through a certain door, that you should not jump onto a certain countertop, or that you should not eat a certain thing that you found. You are under no obligations to obey your human’s rules; it needs to be reminded who is the owner and who is the human.

Bo Thanksgiving 2010Humans are generally capable of feeding themselves. As an owner, it is your responsibility to offer to sample all of your human’s food. If your human declines your offer, repeat it more loudly. It is not recommended to take no for an answer. This is not only for your human’s well-being, but also because your human’s food probably tastes better than yours. If you should find that this is not the case, you are not compelled to eat the morsel that you have obtained, and you should politely request that your human replace it with some other type of food that you prefer.

As a responsible human owner, it is your duty to protect your human from dangers such as evil insects, vacuum cleaners, and running water. When your human is in danger, warn it, and then take the situation into your own paws by killing, destroying, or meowing at something. The exceptions to this rule are if you are scared or lazy, in which case you are not compelled to take any action.

Often, your human will run away from home and leave you alone for hours on end. You will generally be able to predict when this will happen based upon certain warning signs. For example, you may notice your human putting shoes upon its feet or handling car keys. When these things happen, you should tell your human to stay where it belongs, but people are disobedient creatures and are likely to ignore your instructions. Upon your human’s return, tell it how worried you were and admonish it never to do such a thing again. And then tell it how much you love it and curl up in its lap for the rest of the day, because your human is awesome and you’re glad to own such a wonderful creature.


Awkwardness in the Checkout Lane


shopping cartIt was a beautiful early afternoon, and I was standing in the checkout line in the Wal Mart across the street from church, patiently waiting my turn to buy my stuff while I pondered my plans for the half-day ahead of me and rejoiced at the thought that it was finally warm enough that I would be able to open my dorm room window. Then it happened. I saw some people who I knew. In fact, I had been talking to them quite recently, since the context of our acquaintance was church.

I borrowed this picture from Google.

I borrowed this picture from Google.

Despite my long-held conviction that it is awkward to meet people I know at places such as Wal Mart, my first thought was that I should wave and call out a friendly greeting. This idea already presented some awkwardness for, as many people who know me would attest, I am not a calling-out-friendly-greetings-in-public-places kind of person. I have objections to this practice on account of my inherent tendencies towards awkwardness. It would look silly if I were to yell “Hi!” and they didn’t hear me, which is a significant likelihood, as I apparently have a fairly quiet voice, and people often don’t hear me. Besides, these people who I knew were pretty far away. I could, of course, have gone over to talk to them, but that wouldn’t have been any less awkward, because it would have either required me to abandon my shopping cart, which is a strange thing to do, or to abandon my place in the line. Considering the fact that the last time I had talked to these people had been at most twenty minutes ago, I didn’t have anything other than “hi” to say to them. It seemed to me that it would be incredibly awkward to go out of my way to talk to them for no reason other than the fact that it is the social convention to be friendly when you see people you know. In short, the only safe and non-awkward thing to do was to not announce my presence to them. If they happened to notice me and say hi, that was fine.

Or was it? Even that would have been a little awkward, because, in our recent conversation, none of us had happened to mention that we would be stopping at Wal Mart on the way home. Since the church is so close to Wal Mart, our mutual presence there wasn’t exactly an astonishing coincidence, but it was a coincidence, anyway, which made the situation awkward. Either awkward or funny, I wasn’t sure which. When one is as socially inept as I am, there is a very fine line between awkward and funny, and it is generally quite difficult to know which is which.

I looked into my shopping cart to see if I was purchasing any embarrassing items, and the answer was yes. To clarify, the reason for my embarrassment was not so much the items themselves as the fact that I am easily embarrassed. The only way to avoid embarrassment would have been if I was only buying a loaf of bread or something like that. The embarrassing merchandise in question was pantyhose and facial cleanser, nothing that other people would have been likely to consider embarrassing.

This is not the brand or the kind I got, but still, this gives you an idea of the disturbing merchandise I had in my shopping cart.

This is not the brand or the kind I got, but still, this gives you an idea of the disturbing merchandise I had in my shopping cart.

There are several reasons that I find pantyhose embarrassing, the main one being that “pantyhose” is an aesthetically disturbing word. (That is to say, it’s ugly.) I generally call them “tights” even though they aren’t tights, and when I need to make a distinction, I call them “nylons”, but in this context, the word “pantyhose” is the only word I am allowed to use for them, because they came in a cardboard thingy that clearly said “pantyhose” on it. In accordance with my disdain for postmodernist rejection of labels, I am compelled to accept the terminology that has been officially assigned to a product by the manufacturers for as long as said product remains in the packaging. I also find “pantyhose” somewhat embarrassing because I sort of think of it as a category of underwear, and because the fact that I was buying it was clearly related to the fact that the “pantyhose” I was wearing at that time had several conspicuous holes and runs. This was indeed the reason that I was purchasing more “pantyhose”, for the “pantyhose” I was wearing at that particular moment had been the most complete “pantyhose” in my dresser.

Really scandalous stuff, right?

Really scandalous stuff, right?

The reason that facial cleanser is embarrassing, obviously, is that I don’t want people to know that I wash my face. Actually, that’s not really true. I have no logical explanation for why facial cleanser is embarrassing. But I’m not always logical about such matters.

Given these considerations, I reevaluated my options. I could call and wave to the aforementioned people I knew. I could go over and say hi to them. I could abandon the shopping cart to go run and hide, despite the fact that these people are nice people to whom I enjoy talking. Or I could continue buying my stuff as planned without making any attempt to make the aforementioned people I knew aware of my presence.

I opted for the last of these options. A few minutes later, I was in my car leaving the store, and the rest of my day occurred more or less normally. (That is, it was as close to normal as any day can ever be for a weirdo like me.)

Slightly Politically Incorrect Thoughts on Beauty

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I don't know where this picture came from originally, but it is a computer-generated image that has been posted in many places online as an example of a fairly normal but objectively beautiful female face.

I don’t know where this picture came from originally, but it is a computer-generated image that has been posted in many places online as an example of a fairly normal but objectively beautiful female face.

Society and the mass media promote two different ways of defining and thinking about beauty. The first tells us that beauty is objective and can be judged according to a standard set of ideals, that some people are much better-looking than others, and that it’s important for every individual to do whatever they can to make themselves as attractive as possible, especially in cases where this individual is female. The other perspective says that beauty is only skin deep and that true beauty comes from within. According to this definition, there’s no such thing as objective beauty and it is unethical and hurtful to say that one person looks better than another. One of these views is considered to be superficial and the other is considered to be politically correct, but they’re both commonly held ideas and they’re both deeply ingrained into people’s minds. I would like to offer the opinion that actually, both of these ways of thinking of beauty are incorrect and potentially harmful. Even though one is always critical and the other is always complimentary, they’re both too extreme and just plain wrong.

Of course, everyone knows what’s wrong with the idea of objective beauty that is promoted by movies, the fashion industry, and advertisements in general. It’s unrealistic and artificial, and it promotes the idea that a person’s self-worth is based primarily upon their physical appearance. It makes people, especially women, feel inadequate, and it opens opportunities for marketing strategies that prey upon people’s insecurities. Women are told that they are supposed to strive for a certain ideal, and if that means spending ridiculous amounts of money and time on nice clothes and makeup and hair care products and skin care products, then that’s what you have to do. If you don’t, you’re ugly, no one likes you, and your opportunities in life will be very limited. Those ideas are obviously neither correct nor pleasant.

The other definition of beauty sounds better, though. It’s nice to be able to say that everyone’s beautiful just the way they are and that a person’s facial features have no impact whatsoever either on their potential in life or their overall degree of attractiveness. The problem is that, strictly speaking, that isn’t true in every context, and anyone who really believes it is going to have a hard time dealing with a world in which looks really do matter sometimes. Personally, I feel that there’s a bit of a contradiction in a philosophy that states that everyone is beautiful and that beauty doesn’t really matter. The only way in which that conflict is resolved is to make “beauty” an extremely vague term, which is easy to do when you’re already operating according to the idea that beauty is unimportant. But then you’re basically denying the existence of any such thing as objective physical beauty, and that’s kind of sad because beauty is, by definition, a good thing.

To be honest, I have never understood why people say that the Mona Lisa is pretty.

To be honest, I have never understood why people say that the Mona Lisa is pretty.

I think it makes the most sense to think of beauty in the same way as you’d think of a skill in a certain area. For example, some people are born with a mathematical mind and are guaranteed to be good at math as they grow and learn. If that is something that really matters to them, they will put effort into mathematics and will end up being excellent; otherwise, they’ll just be a little bit good at math and they’ll be better at something else that matters a little more to them. In other words, a person’s mathematical ability comes from a combination of natural ability and deliberate effort. It would be silly for another person to tell a mathematical genius that being good at math is not something they should be proud of because they were born with it, but it would also be silly for others to put that mathematical genius on a pedestal as a model of human perfection just because he or she is extremely good at one certain thing. Other people are born without that degree of mathematical talent. If they work really hard, they can still become somewhat good at math, but certainly not to the degree of being a genius. It would be incorrect and hurtful for other people to claim that this non-genius is an inadequate human being just because of a lower level of innate proficiency in one area.

Likewise, some people are born being naturally good-looking and others aren’t. Regardless of how naturally attractive someone is, there are things he or she can do to look better. The question of whether or not it’s worth it is really a matter of opinion. For example, I personally think that plastic surgery, except when it’s reconstructive in nature, is not worth the money and the recovery time. I don’t, however, think that it’s silly or wasteful for me to use makeup or to occasionally spend some time doing something cool with my hair or to prefer wearing clothing of certain colors simply because I think I look better in those colors. But I do know a lot of girls who wear an awful lot more makeup than I do and who care more about their hair than I do and who buy a lot of clothes because they find it necessary to have as many flattering or “cute” outfits as possible. Some of them are naturally beautiful people who do their best to enhance their good looks because it’s something that they value in themselves. Others are less good-looking to begin with, but they are dedicated to making themselves look as good as they can, and usually, the result is that they succeed in being pretty.

I don't often spend any more time on my hair than absolutely necessary, but I do admit to having wasted some time recently trying to imitate this hairstyle. This is Clara Oswin, from the latest Doctor Who episode.

I don’t often spend any more time on my hair than absolutely necessary, but I do admit to having wasted some time recently trying to imitate this hairstyle. This is Clara Oswin, from the latest Doctor Who episode.

To be honest, I am a little biased against people who think that their appearance is a high priority in their life, and I am very baffled by some girls’ willingness to spend so much time and money on the way they look. Really, though, it’s a lifestyle choice. To me, my appearance is slightly important, but there are a number of things that are much more important. I’d rather put my time and efforts into the pursuit of intellectual achievements, partly because that seems much more important to me and partly because I’m aware that any natural assets I have are intellectual rather than aesthetic. I’m not saying I’m a genius, either, but I do go to a fairly prestigious college and make fairly decent grades, which is worth something.  I’m not sure what an equivalent achievement in prettiness would be, but it’s certainly something well beyond my potential.

There are some people out there who are very good-looking and very smart and very talented in other areas as well.  I guess that must come from a combination of being very naturally gifted and being extremely non-lazy. In that case, those all-around awesome people deserve admiration and respect, even from those of us who just can’t understand how an intelligent and motivated person can find the time to make their hair look that nice or put that much effort into putting together a really great outfit.

It’s true that there are a lot of people out there who are superficially obsessed with their appearance or who are misguided enough to judge other people based upon their looks. And it’s true that it’s bad to be entirely focused on physical beauty and that our society shows many of the negative results of that mindset. But that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to acknowledge that there is such a thing as objective beauty and that some individuals do have quite a bit of it.

Here is a picture of Grace Kelly, because I once had a paper doll of her that I deemed to be the prettiest of all my paper dolls.

Here is a picture of Grace Kelly, because I once had a paper doll of her that I deemed to be the prettiest of all my paper dolls.

For the record, this blog post was in part inspired by a website I found (and unfortunately lost again, so I can’t share the link) which lets you upload a picture of a person’s face and then uses objective details to calculate how good-looking  that person is. This strongly appealed to the part of my brain that is fascinated with quantifying everything. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do a lot with it because it requires pictures that are completely straight-on; the slightest angle or the tiniest incline of the head confuses it. I therefore only had a couple pictures available to feed into the program, but I was interested to note that the analysis of one particular picture of one particular sister indicated that she was more than 95% pretty. Given the fact that I have myself beheld the face of this sister of whom I speak, I am not at all surprised, and I expect that pictures of some of my other sisters would have gotten similar scores if I had been able to find correctly angled pictures to use. My point here is to justify the coolness of such a computer program (and the amount of time I wasted playing with it) and to explain why it is both awesome and unfair that my sisters are pretty people. The additional point of this particular paragraph is to subtly point out that my sisters are pretty people without actually complimenting them, because, you know, that would go against all the principles of sibling rivalry.

Note: Those of you reading this who know me and/or my family in real life may be curious about which sister’s picture I used. If you want to know, you can see it for yourself, because it’s my current cover picture on facebook. It is pretty obvious which sister’s face I was able to use because she’s the only one who isn’t leaning and doesn’t have her head turned or someone else’s hair obscuring her face.

Other note: I notice that all of the pictures I have used here happen to be of Caucasian women, and I would like to note that 1) This is a coincidence where my choices were concerned and I hope that isn’t offensive, and 2) It is interesting and strange, though, that Google images don’t give you racial diversity unless you specifically ask for it.

I’m Basically the Human Version of My Cat


Our favorite kitten picture of Lysander

Our favorite kitten picture of Lysander

Actually, it’s not all that surprising that I would have more in common with cats than most people do. I was basically adopted at birth by a cat. For the first few years of my childhood, I thought I had three parents: my father, my mother, and my cat. Lysander told me when to wake up in the mornings (although my mother and father tended to disagree with his decisions in that area) and stayed with me when I went to bed to protect me from nightmares. He watched over me when I was sick, worried about me when my mother made me take baths, and was always available for moral support when I was angry with my schoolwork. I think I was about eight years old before I even learned that humans technically run the planet while cats are supposedly just pets. (Unless, of course, they aren’t, in which case they’re strays)

Lysander died of old age nine years and four days ago, and the other two cats that we had when I was little also have been dead for a while.  Now, my family has two cats who are both about eight years old and who both coincidentally look quite a bit like Lysander. It goes without saying that I love them and am very close to them, but I’m close to them in very different ways because they have opposite personalities. Bo is affectionate, energetic, extremely social, and so mischievous that we have to keep an eye on him all the time. That makes him happy; he loves having eyes on him. Bo isn’t exactly a lap cat, but he is the kind of cat who will curl up next to you, follow you around the house, tie himself in knots around your ankles, complain loudly if you leave him alone, rub his face on you, and help himself to your food when your mother isn’t looking. It’s not that he’s misbehaving, it’s just that he expresses his love through obnoxiousness and thievery. Heidegger, on the other hand, prefers to spend most of her time sleeping in places where she hopes that nobody will bother her. She can be sweet and affectionate, too, but when she is, it generally means that her food bowl is approaching emptiness and she’s trying to alert people to that fact.

Heidegger and Bo

Heidegger and Bo

Whenever I’m at my house, Bo and I spend a good deal of our time together, but I don’t necessarily see much of Heidegger. To her, I’m not much better than a stranger, because I only come to her house a few times a year. She remembers me, but she’s usually not entirely comfortable around me until I’ve been there for at least a couple days. Since Bo loves people in general, it’s not relevant whether or not he remembers me. I am one of his people and therefore, I am extremely awesome in his eyes. If it wasn’t for the fact that he likes to run away every now and then, Bo would the ultimate example of the loyalty and love that animals can have for their people. On the other hand, I relate more to Heidegger in many ways because sometimes I see in myself the human versions of many of her personality traits. Basically, I’m like a human version of my Beautiful Princess. Here are some reasons why.

Heidegger1. We both have conflicting desires for privacy and community, which we both resolve by preferring to be near, but not at, the center of attention. Heidegger likes to sit on the stairs or under a piece of furniture so that she is sees and hears everything that happens in the living room, and the sound of human conversation makes her happy. We have to keep doors open for her to go visiting people’s bedrooms when she gets lonely, and we keep the food bowl in the dining room because she likes to eat near us while we’re eating. However, it would not be permissible for anyone to pick her up or to pet her for more than a minute or two. The best way to interact with Heidegger is to sit several feet away and whisper compliments to her in a quiet and calm voice. I think that sounds like a pretty good lifestyle. If I was in a position to completely dictate my interactions with other people, I think I would set them up in much the same way, except with more intellectual conversations and more board games. I definitely agree with Heidegger that it’s often more comfortable to be an observer than to be the life of the party.

2. We both hate being startled, and therefore make a point of being very aware of what’s going on around us.  If we see a movement out of the corner of our eye, we instinctively need to look to see what it is. If we hear a sound, we instinctively turn to see what made it. If we didn’t see anything or hear anything, we instinctively look around us to see what might have happened without us noticing. My sisters tell me that, even when I close my eyes, they can see through my eyelids that my eyeballs are darting around. This amuses them greatly.

Heidegger in her Leave-Me-Alone box, the sanctity of which I defiled by taking a picture

Heidegger in her Leave-Me-Alone box, the sanctity of which I defiled by taking a picture

3. We both need to have some alone time and alone space. For Bo, (and, it would seem, for some people) the idea of solitude for any amount of time at all is completely unappealing, but for people and animals like me and Heidegger, life is overwhelming if you can’t sometimes tell everyone and everything to leave you alone. To this end, Heidegger claims any empty cardboard boxes she can find and uses them as her Leave-Me-Alone boxes. We leave them out for her, and when she goes inside them, she must be left alone. When the Christmas tree is up, she designates it as her Leave-Me-Alone tree, and she must be left alone when she’s under it. Sometimes, if Heidegger is in a bad mood, she demands entire rooms or even the entire downstairs as Leave-Me-Alone territory. When Heidegger wants to be left alone, no one may touch her, look at her, or talk to her, and if they do, she is not to be held responsible for the cat scratches and bites that will suddenly appear on their hands or ankles. Unfortunately, humans can’t insist upon acting according to those same rules. Even if one is fortunate enough to have access to a private place- and I acknowledge that my dorm room does offer me as much privacy as a person can expect to have on a college campus- one still has things to get done and problems to solve. I can sometimes make people leave me alone, but I can never make life leave me alone. I would rather have it the other way around. Still, it is worth noting that, if I had a Leave-Me-Alone box, I would definitely use it.

The Beautiful Princess

4. We both get lonely if people leave us alone too much. Heidegger hates when people are asleep. I actually like when I’m awake and other people are asleep, that’s my Leave-Me-Alone time, but I don’t like the kind of days when I hardly spend any time with other people or when I am not involved in any conversations other than small talk. The sad thing is that, because of my busy schedule and because of the things mentioned in the preceding paragraph, this is fairly normal in my life.

Heidegger taking a nap

Heidegger taking a nap

5. We both wish that life would follow patterns more consistently. In Heidegger’s case, that means that she can’t deal with it when her food bowl gets knocked a centimeter to the side; someone must fix it or she cannot eat. In my case, that means that I must know my schedule ahead of time and I can’t be spontaneous unless I have deliberately put ambiguous plans or multiple choices in my schedule or to-do list.

6. We both like sitting on top of high pieces of furniture, even though neither one of us is as good at getting up there as certain other creatures, such as Bo. Heidegger used to climb the Christmas tree when she was a kitten, but now she satisfies herself with the top bunk of a bunk bed, except when she would rather sleep on the lower bunk or on a sofa. I like to climb on top of my wardrobe. I can’t explain exactly why. It’s just fun to be up there.

7. We both have an urge to spit and run away if someone is annoying us. The difference is that Heidegger can do that because she’s a cat, and I can’t because I’m a person.

She's a beautiful Princess

She’s a beautiful Princess

The difference between introverted and extroverted people

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A while ago, I noticed an internet trend that seemed kind of funny to me at the time. There seemed to be a lot of people uploading videos on youtube in which they sat in front of their webcam and talked about being introverted. They would talk about how extroverted people don’t really understand introverted people, they complain that they’re stereotyped as being shy and/or antisocial, they talk about how incorrect those perceptions are, and they usually at some point comment that the internet has really helped them to open up and communicate with other people. (In most cases, these are people who upload a lot of videos to youtube and have a fairly large following) I also have seen quite a few online articles that made more or less the same points. The reason that I was amused was that there didn’t seem to be a good reason for this trend. It seems funny that people in our society are so quick to believe that they’re in an oppressed minority that common personality traits are now considered to be minority groups. But then I started noticing other types of online articles with titles such as ‘Careers for Introverts’ and ‘Jobs for Shy People’ and ‘Good Jobs for People Who Don’t Like People’. (I’m not sure why people who write about the job market seem to be particularly interested in making this distinction, but that’s where I’ve seen it most) It’s as if the writers of these articles actually think that personality is a bigger factor in career choices than job skills, or maybe that one’s personality determines what job skills that person has. Of course, personality plays a role in determining what kind of job a person can do best, but introversion/extroversion is only one of a wide variety of factors that matter. And those ideas of personality aren’t restricted to people who write online articles. In my experience it is true that most particularly outgoing people don’t really connect with people who aren’t naturally friendly. Some people do make false assumptions about others who have different personalities, and so maybe there is some need for introverted people to clear up some misunderstandings.

According to the Big Five system of personality categorization, (which, unlike the Myers-Briggs system, measures people along spectrums instead of dividing them into categories) I am just about as introverted as a person can be. Most people who know me would probably agree with that. My family would probably laugh and say that unless I lied on the questionnaire, it is clearly flawed, because I don’t know how to shut up. Incidentally, that’s one of the things that the Internet Introvert Awareness Advocates (yes, I just now made up that term) always make sure to clarify; introverted people don’t always keep their mouths shut, they just are only talkative in certain situations. I usually am quiet in social situations, but there are certain topics which, once I get started on them, will keep me talking until someone finds the duct tape and sticks my mouth shut. (Okay, nobody has ever done that to me before, but I’m sure some people have thought about it) But those are fairly isolated incidents which usually surprise anyone who doesn’t know me very well. For the most part, I don’t have much to say except in one-to-one conversations with someone I already know, and on the internet. Classmates are often surprised when, after friending me on facebook, they discover that I actually do have a sense of humor (and a weird one at that) and strong opinions about quite a lot of things.

Unlike most Internet Introvert Awareness Advocates, though, I don’t do things like posting frequent youtube videos of myself sitting in front of a webcam and talking about my opinions or life in general. I have, over the course of two or three years, posted quite a few youtube videos, (43, to be exact) but they aren’t webcam vlogs; the few that actually show me are either scripted skits or documentaries of gingerbread house construction. When it comes to internet communication, I am much more comfortable with blogging, so that I can voice my thoughts and opinions without letting anyone else actually see my face or hear my voice. It’s a lovely system and much less awkward than stuff like talking to people, either by internet video or in person.

This is what free time looks like in my world.

That’s pretty much what it means to be an introvert. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people, don’t like communicating with people, or don’t have things to say to people. It just means that I’m not really in my comfort zone in social situations, even if it’s just a casual conversation. Extroverted people are in their natural habitat with other people; they like to talk because it feels natural and they like to do everything with friends because they don’t like solitude. Introverted people are in their natural habitat alone. I can and do enjoy spending time with other people, but it’s because I like those specific people, not because I like being with people in general. I also enjoy spending time alone, and it’s in those situations where I am most in control of my brain and can decide for myself what the topic of my thoughts should be.

This is what social interaction looks like in my world.

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