excerpted from caro's journal: topic: boy meets girl

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2001_09_18:04: Intermission

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I've had the news on all evening, and now the very weird "Rendez View" dating show is on. Commentators watch a video tape of a blind date and make predictions and assessments. I'm especially disturbed by the interpretations of the woman's mannerisms and gestures. Here are the thoughts the show inspired:

  1. What does it mean when a woman licks her lips? (It means that her lips are dry, she has a nervous habit, she's checking her lip color, or she's making sure there is no food stuck on her lips or teeth. Does it mean she wants to have sex? Get real. Is that what you mean, when you lick your lips?)
  2. What does it mean when a woman "tosses" her hair? (It means that her hair is in her way, in her face, itching her neck, or otherwise bothering her; or that she has a nervous habit; or that she's just trying make sure that her hair is neat and organized. Women with long hair do this. Women with short hair do not. Make sense now?)
  3. What does it mean when a woman's hand brushes a man's thigh, apparently by accident? (It means that it was an accident. You're familiar with the concept, yes?)
  4. What does it mean when a woman laughs at a man's joke? (It means she thinks it's funny; or she's being polite; or she's nervous. Does it mean she's hot for you? Please. Is that why you laugh at jokes?)
  5. But what if it's a dirty joke? (See previous answer.)
  6. What if you tell a dirty joke and the woman doesn't laugh? (It means she didn't think it was funny. If you try another dirty joke and she still doesn't laugh, you're already boring her. Knock it off.)
  7. What does it mean when a woman touches her chest? (It means she's adjusting her bra, or making sure nothing is showing, or something itched or felt uncomfortable, or it's a mannerism. Does it mean she's trying to tell you to have sex with her tonight? Good grief. Is that what you mean when you touch your chest?)
  8. What does it mean when a woman tells you she'd like to have sex with you? (It means she'd like to have sex with you. Does it mean, like, right now? Not necessarily. What's the context?)
  9. What if you can see her nipples standing out through her clothing? (It probably means they're cold or uncomfortable. Does it mean she's ready for sex? No. It's not like a penile erection; experiment with your own nipples to understand this important fact.)
What should you do if you think you're getting mixed signals? Very simple. Stop reading "signals". Talk to the woman. A few sentences of conversations are worth a million "signals".

Never, ever, ever, ever ask another man what any particular behavior or mysterious phrase means: he will not know, but he will feel compelled to make something up to seem knowledgeable about women. You're better off staring into your tea leaves or getting a tarot reading. Don't listen to men's unsolicited advice about or assessments of women, either. I don't think I've ever heard a man say anything sensible about what women want or need or know or feel, other than the few who have conjectured that they are probably quite similar to men in virtue of being human. Instead of consulting a man on such matters, ask a woman. Ask her what it means when she flips her hair or licks her lips. You will almost certainly learn that there is nothing mysterious about what she's doing or saying, and that she is very much like you.

If, on the other hand, you find that what she tells you is still confusing and mysterious and alien, ask several other women to develop a balanced perspective.
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2001_09_21:17: Body Language

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I am unyielding, severe, judgmental. I.e., I am adamantly committed to the truth and to doing the right thing. This makes a lot of people afraid of me.

It used to strike me as incongruent, then, that people, often strangers, singled me out for immediately personal, confidential disclosures, sometimes breaking down into tears before my eyes. Friends who know me are usually more cautious, generally protecting me from the knowledge of their wrongdoing, having an implicit sense of how unsympathetic, unyielding, judgmental, and intolerant of such things I can be. Less close friends hide all manner of things from me, I learn from other people, that I have no problem with, just to be safe, because they are incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

A person like me can only listen to so many confessions of depravity. So a few years ago my friend Liz and I spent some time trying to figure out why people find me so approachable, even at times when I'm not feeling the least bit approachable. Our guiding principle in the investigations was to find out what kinds of behaviors or statements were coming from me, and make them stop. We were reading all sorts of pop psychology books and magazines at the time, and tried various solutions. It wasn't good enough to say that people knew that I have high standards, think deeply, say things that make sense, because I was receiving confessions from people who didn't have time to draw on that information. Liz, on the other hand, was not. I envied her deeply. Upon interviewing friends and acquaintances, it turned out that I knew more about the reprehensible behavior of people than almost anyone I knew, and not because I made any effort to find out. This intelligence was brought to my door, laid in my lap, and cried over.

The hurdle for me is that despite the above self-descriptions, I'm not a mean person. I try to be kind and civil to everyone. Thus, even when I was not making any sympathetic noises, I didn't necessarily bite the person's head off. This failure to lash out was apparently taken as encouragement, and, in many cases, as a declaration of my love and sexual interest.

One explanation that we hit upon was the way my eyes look. They are deep-set, which means that they are more shielded from the light, and that means that my pupils are more likely to dilate. Add to that my posture: I tend to hold my body very erect, but I also tend to hold my head slightly down, so that I'm looking out from under my eyebrows. "Like a bull about to charge," my sister once said to me, who warned me that the look was off-putting. I wish.

The dilation of pupils is apparently used by human beings subconsciously, as an indicator of friendliness. And I seemed to be cursed with a permanently warm, friendly, welcoming look. Come, tell me thy sins, my children, and I will annoint thee. Sort of like a trap-door spider lying in wait for evil.

Liz is an optometrist. She'd often comment, in the midst of conversation, on how enormous my pupils were. We experimented. Just a slight raising of my head contracted them to more normal size; but in my normal posture, they were the biggest, blackest holes she'd ever seen in books, in clinic, or anywhere else. My Achilles's heel. We devised a plan of action, with which she would help me via surreptitious signals, such that when I wanted someone to beat it, I'd lift my head a bit and cut those terrible welcoming pupils down to size. I have absolutely no data on this point to analyze, because I didn't collect any. I merely feel like things have gotten better for me in this area.

Now, the point of all this, in "boy meets girl" is to address some comments I just got in response to my last scathing entry on body language. (Sort on the topic "boy meets girl"). In it, I gave the impression that I think there is nothing to body language. I didn't mean to give that impression, but then again it's not a scientific, exhaustive treatment so that's gonna happen.

I don't think that there is nothing to communication via body language. My aim is to chip away, bit by bit, at the ridiculous and debilitating theories that only serve to make horny yet deprived men hornier by causing them to continue to suffer from deprivation. There are worse things than a horny man who thinks that you're interested in him because of something he thinks he read in your body language, but in peace time it's hard to think of many.

What does the dilation of Carolyn's pupils mean? Does it mean she's hot for you? No. It means that there isn't enough light getting to her eyes to contract them. Ask her to tilt her head back a tiny bit.

I'm not the only person in the world with deep-set eyes who might be mistaken for a hot prospect. It could happen to you, especially if you are intellectualizing it the way the sex manuals instruct you to do.

Another thing that more people than my sister have remarked upon is how intensely I look into people's eyes. "Trying to stare a hole through me" is a common remark I hear. Perhaps I am. When I am conscious of it, I am conscious of looking for explanations and answers that are not forthcoming in the person's statements. The more interesting the conversation, the more intently I stare. Liz, on the other hand, has strong cultural and familial restrictions on staring, and tends to look very mildly upon people, when she looks at all, even when she's standing in front of a man she's wild about.

And my point here is that the sex manuals tell you to take a person's meeting your gaze as an indication of sexual interest. Have I blown this one out of the water yet? Oh, those big black pupils, staring so intently at me, whilst we haggle about the interpretation of the Abelardian thesis....

OK, seriously, there is some meaning to eye contact. True, when my focus is on how a man looks, and I like what I see, I will look longer. But if my focus is not on how he looks, but on our conversation, then I can stare for hours at the ugliest wretches on the planet without wavering, and have done so many many times, let me tell you!

Also true, as a starer, I've noticed that when people begin to lie or provide justifications for actions that they are sure are wrong but don't want to admit are wrong (recall that I am the great confessor, so I get this a lot), they look away. The more honest a person is, the more she tends to be able to keep eye contact. People are very superstitious about their eyes. They believe somewhere deep inside that their eyes really are a window into their souls, and that if they continue to allow me to have a straight shot their true motives will be revealed unto me. It isn't true, of course; I discern almost no information from eye contact, however subconsciously superstitious about it I might be. I wish I could see in because I'd really like some explanations of things I've heard and seen, but I can't so you can relax. Mwuhaha.

But people don't always break eye contact because they are lying or basically dishonest. In the case of some of my friends, I know that they are unpracticed and uncomfortable with extended eye contact. Some of them think it is rude, so they avoid people's eyes in the same way that animals avoid staring unless they are looking for a fight. I break eye contact often if the person is doing something gross or annoying; before my lips start to curl in disgust, I turn away.

How about blushing? I blush for all kinds of reasons: because I am embarrassed, angry, confused, offended, scared shitless, or just plain excited about life. I don't know if I ever blush because I'm interested in a man, but the variety of reasons that human beings blush ought to give one pause in interpreting sudden color in the face.

Underlying all of this is my deep concern, due to my own experiences with men and due to what I hear people say, that there is a persistent attitude among some men, and even some women, that women are alien beings; my deeper concern is that they are spreading this attitude via their advice books, and instead of making the relationships between men and women easier and better as we become a more scientific species they are making them harder and worse. The bottom line is that it isn't what a woman thinks, but what some man thinks he reads in her body language or other cues, that counts. After all, she's unaware of the behaviors that she's engaged in and she needs a perceptive male to relay this information to her so that she can be educated as to her true feelings. Or else, she needs to have her body language overhauled to suit his interpretations of it. Both of these ideas are ridiculous, and I aim to combat them by providing another point of view, from a real live woman. Consider this: I am the ultimate arbiter in here. I don't care if every cell in my body appears to be saying "yes". If I, who am greater than the sum of my cells, say "no", it's no. Thus even if body language says a lot about my animal attraction, you still can't infer anything about my human interest.

My mantra: talk, talk, talk. Conversation is the vehicle of thought. A few sentences are worth a thousand blushes and stares and flips of the hair. I've flipped my hair probably ten times since I sat down at my computer today, and there's no one here to see it but the hummingbirds, who tend to find it off-putting and distinctly unsexy.

Now, there is some body language and verbal language that requires no interpretation. I encounter this language all the time, and I don't care what it means in the mind of the man who does it. I only care what it means to me. Do any of the following say to a woman, "I want to have sex with you:" Nose-picking, teeth-picking, ear-digging, zit-popping, spitting, talking about other women's breasts, describing the kind of look that drives you nuts when the woman you're with doesn't look like that, telling dirty jokes that ridicule women, joking to other men about women in front of the woman, speaking about women as though they are second-class citizens or stupid or have certain duties or don't belong in certain places due to their anatomical differences from men, telling women that their body language is revealing something that is closer to the truth than their verbal language, declaring that you've never been a slave to the shower, asserting that you don't care about your level of fitness or how you eat, and making fun of a woman for looking in a mirror and dressing nicely instead of doing the same thing yourself. I see and hear all of this on a regular basis, and all of it says "I'm not the least bit interested in having sex with you." More importantly, they excite in my own mind the conviction that I wouldn't have sex with this man if he were the last mammal on earth.

Do men have any clue whatever how often and how devastatingly they shoot themselves in the foot, with stuff like this? You could perfect every sexy technique printed in every sex tract ever written, but if you combine it with any of the above you're sunk.
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2001_07_20:18: Social Considerations

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New topic: Here's where I'll keep notes for rational human social interactions, which I'll turn into a little book eventually.

I keep hearing this rumor that women and men are hugely different in some natural, intrinsic way. And I keep hearing this other rumor that women are mysterious and incomprehensible to men. I think that this is a crock.

Observation: boys who try to meet girls for the purpose of having sex with them get unbearably embarrassed when she rejects him.

Observation: boys who try to meet girls for the purpose of having sex with them are much more nervous and freaky during the encounter than boys who just talk to other people.

Example: Had a phone conversation with a male friend recently. He had called because he'd just missed his last opportunity to hook up with some woman who was taking a class with him, and now he'd never see her again. He was very proud of himself for having gotten up the nerve to talk to her at this last possible moment, something he'd geared up for but been too scared to do the whole term. When I asked him why he'd be interested, he said that she was the best writer in the class, he always enjoyed listening to it, and she looked like a model.

I asked what happened at their last meeting, which was their first meeting as well. He'd walked her to her car, trying desperately to think of a way to not let her get away. But he knows a thing or two about women, says he, and he knows it's easy to threaten them and make them feel invaded, so he couldn't possibly ask her for her phone number or for a date or anything! She'd have driven away without looking back. So he did nothing. They said goodbye and she drove away without looking back.

I guessed that the reason that he hadn't been able to keep the connection was that he'd been focused on how he could get into her pants, how long that would take, and and whether she'd reject him sexually or not. He readily admitted that that was the case. And I pointed out that that was exactly the problem. He wouldn't have had any trouble getting together with this person, had she been a man; he'd just suggest that they do something together, or exchange phone numbers. He said that was true too, and that that hadn't really occurred to him at the time--but he couldn't possibly just have asked for her phone number, because that would make her afraid that he was hitting on her! I pointed out that he was, in fact, hitting on her, which was why he could only think in terms of hitting on her.

He got very defensive when I accused him of not thinking of the woman as a human being but rather as a potential sex-toy, but admitted in the end that that was exactly what was interfering with his thinking.

He returned to complaining that there was nothing non-threatening he could have said to her--you know how women are "these days". And I retorted that, given how things are "these days," there were a million things that he could have said, if only he were focusing on her as a human being. He challenged me to give him just one. OK.

I asked him if he'd really admired her writing, or if that was just what he was telling me to cover up for mindless horniness. He swore that he really did like it, and described it and said what he liked about it. I asked whether he would have still wanted to be friends with her, if she never had sex with him, and he said he absolutely would. Satisfied, I said, "If it's really true that you liked her writing, then you should have talked to her during one of the class meetings about her essays. But even if you hadn't done that, you could have written your email address on a candy wrapper, and said, 'Too bad the class is over. I'll miss hearing your stuff read in class. Here's my email address--please send me your next story.' Or 'I have a friend who runs a web site, and she might be interested in your work. Send me something and I'll forward it; here's my email address.'"

He screamed inarticulately, then yelled, "THAT'S BRILLIANT! WHY DIDN'T I CALL YOU BEFORE THE CLASS ENDED!" And I said, "It's not brilliant; it's friendly. You didn't think of it because you weren't being friendly; you were acting like a wild animal. You were too busy trying to scheme up a way of manipulating her into wanting to have sex with you." And he again admitted that that was true. And now he'll never see her again, and he will neither get to have sex with her, nor talk to her, nor read her writing, nor see her beautiful face.
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2001_08_25:19: The P.U.R.I.T.Y. pledge

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The P.U.R.I.T.Y. Pledge in progress

inspired by http://www.thinkwow.com/survivingtemptation/take_the_p_u_r_i_t_y__pledge.htm

I pledge:

I will make no promise that I do not fully understand.

I will seek the truth, and I will make my own choices.

I will take full responsibility for my own actions.

I will never allow another to control my sexuality or my perception of it.

I will hold my own informed, intelligent judgment above anyone else's.

I will never disvalue or consider impure my own beautiful body, emotions, or mind.

I will hold my own genuine happiness as my highest moral purpose.

I will end my relationship with anyone who abuses me, my mind, my emotions, or my sexuality.

If I ever begin to see my own natural functions as impure, evil, or the result of the evil actions of monsters such as the christian devil, I will consult self-help books or seek professional therapy.

I will make every reasonable effort to learn the facts about my sexuality.

I will never let any person persuade me to have sex against my own judgment, attraction, or interest.

I will never let any person persuade me to engage in sexual activity without adequate protection against disease and pregnancy, based on what I have independently learned about the risks.

I will love myself, my body, my mind, and my heart.

I will forgive myself for innocent mistakes, strive to understand why I made them, and strive to do better in the future.

I will refuse to accept guilt for my natural interest in and admiration of the human body.

I will never blame fictional creatures for my natural human responses, nor thank them for the good that I have wrought.
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2004_05_03:0: Universal Standards of Beauty

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It's always fun to hear individual persons' evolutionary arguments for this year's (this week's?) standards of feminine beauty. At the risk of being accused of committing a straw man fallacy, I'm going to characterize those arguments this way:
1. Skinny fashion and porn models look like young teenage girls.
2. A young teenage girl, in her youthful vigor, is the picture of health.
3. Her smooth, full lips suggest an abundance of estrogen.
4. Her waist is slender, often narrower than her hips, and this ratio is characteristic of a good breeder.

Therefore, the current prevalence of skinny models with smooth full lips and a 0.7 hips/waist ratio are not the result of any weird, isolated cultural traditions, but rather are the universal hallmarks of a strong, young, virgin breeder, which evolution has trained males to pick out.

I often point to works of art from various places and times (Renoir paintings, Marilyn Monroe films, etc.). But a picture is a worth a thousand verbal examples, especially if you're a man who's been convinced that he is primarly visual because he is male.

I found this picture because I was inspired to do a little web research by the Travel Channel's exploration of the culture of the Surma people of Ethiopia. They were interviewing both men and women of that culture. Some of the younger women were saying that they intended to forego lip-piercing/stretching because the ear-piercing had been painful enough; I mention this to point out that these people do know what an unmutilated woman looks like. But all of the men declared that they wouldn't marry a woman whose lip had not been stretched, that they find it valuable and attractive. The size of the woman's breasts and waist were apparently irrelevant. The woman need not be a virgin either, and might even have given birth to another man's child. Moreover, the men said that they wouldn't marry an ugly woman. The choice of a woman with a large lip plate is an aesthetic decision.

You can't see it in this picture, but the lower lip is just a ring, like the woman's left earlobe. Without the plate, it bunches slightly and hangs flaccidly, framing her chin. The lower teeth are visible, unless they are dislodged from wearing the plate, in which case you see the gap. The above picture was found at http://www.africanconservancy.org/member/bodyart/surmadisk.html, which states
The larger the plate, the more appealing the woman, and indicates the number of cattle required for her dowry. This plate is worth 75 head of cattle.