Sun sea sand

Sun sea sand

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Give The Lab Rat Some Cheese

I’m pretty much a straightforward kind of gal. I don’t like to lie, and I don’t take well to people lying to me. I often tell people what I think, or if I don’t want to do that, I’ll say nothing. Yes, I’m guilty of small white lies, like telling a boss "I’m sick, oh poor me" when I’m just slightly under the weather. That’s more exaggeration with a touch of self pity.
Yes, I do get in trouble for shooting my mouth off, and I may not get everything I want because I don’t know my diplomatic speak (I’ve read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, but have not learnt from it), but I’ll most likely tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
I mean what I say, and I say what I mean – a principle I generally live by. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind – that’s a woman’s prerogative – but at the moment I promise something, or say that I would do something, I mean it.
And I get so annoyed with people who say things like, yeah I’ll call you when I’m next going climbing or playing badminton without having any intention to do so. Why lie? Just tell me straight that you can’t be bothered. I probably won’t be your friend for long, but isn’t that what you’re after anyway, since you don’t want my company?

At least this is not as bad as a guy I once knew who lived in a parallel universe. That would be the only explanation of how he could tell others that he had seen things which no one else did. Case in point, he told his friends that while we were out, on a pedestrian bridge in Brickfields, I had argued with him and in a fit of pique, had thrown my umbrella over the side and into the river.
That so did not happen. Yes, we argued, but I did not fling my brolly over. That was among other things that he told his friends happened. So I was really curious. Was he, really, in a different universe, where in truth I did chuck my brolly – with him truly seeing it flip end over end in the air, and then with a splash hit the water to be swallowed up whole by Sungai Gombak, never to be seen again?
That would merit scientific experimentation, but I didn’t bother, and just dumped the Loser. Because it would be bad enough if he were lying to me, but worse that he was lying to others about me.

However, that’s all just straighforward lying (or being insane).
The more complicated part of life, I’ve just found, is when people practise lying to suss out who you are.

Recently, a friend related to me a conversation he had had with his wife about me. At the time, I said nothing as it didn’t strike me as particularly noteworthy. Later, though, after ruminating on it, I felt that his conversation with his wife had ended on a nasty note, with one party being judgemental, and wholly unjustified about it.
When I told him that, he admitted that no such conversation had taken place, and he had made up the whole thing to see how I would react. He said it was done in the spirit of conducting an experiment, of sorts, him being a bit of an amateur psychologist and all.

What am I, a lab rat?
More importantly, now that I know he likes to fabricate things, how can I ever believe whatever else he has said before and what he will say in the future? Is it all a test?
And worse, now that I know that he can, and probably will, in future, lie to me, should I be overthinking everything I say and do? If I know that any given input would or could be fabricated, would that cause me to alter my reactions? Would I have to mull over what a particular comment, say, could mean, and then weigh up my answer to fit? Or not to fit, whichever I thought would suit my purposes better?

That would be tiring. Imagine, if you will, that he said my hair looked lovely today.
I’d have to think – is he sincerely complimenting me or is he trying to push my buttons to see how I would react? And then, if I chose one over the other, would I just say "thank you, I had my hair done at the salon" and cause him to think I am frivolous both in vanity and financials? Or to say "oh this old thing, it’s just get up and go" and have him, if he were not sincerely praising my hair in the first place, to think that I am completely lazy and go out with a whole rat’s nest on my head?
You’d never really win, and anyway, it would be completely exhausting.
This is also why I’m crap at chess, or checkers, or card games where you have to weigh other people’s (possible) hands before making a move. Or gambling.
Even in the world of conversations and making judgements about people, there are several million permutations on the "why did he say what he did" and "what should I respond" scenario.

This would also cause havoc in the world of empirical studies: If lab rats had mental consciousness (like humans), and they found out that scientists were manipulating their world in order to get results, would they, too, be driven to overthink their instinctive actions?
Just to make it easier to understand what I’m on about, let me give you this example of lab rats and a maze:

Straightforward lab rat (Me):
Day 1: Yumm, cheese!
Day 2: Yumm, cheese!
Day 3: Cheese? [Run around a couple of corners] Yumm, cheese!
Day 4: Run around the same corners. Yumm, cheese!

Mind-game lab rat:
Day 1: Yumm, cheese!
Day 2: Yumm, cheese!
Day 3: Cheese? [Run around a couple of corners] Yumm, cheese!
Day 4: Wait a minute. The scientist could be messing with my mind by putting the cheese around several corners. His action can be constituted as X, therefore, expecting my reaction to be Y, thus achieving result Z.
However, if Y[complex mathematical equation] = I am, therefore I eat cheese / X[more complex mathematical theorum], then I therefore should react by just sitting here and pretending I don't know Who Moved My Cheese, and give the scientist a skewered result. Yes!

I guess I’m not a rat and I have the consciousness to weigh what I say and do, but to have to overthink everything in case people are lying, or being diplomatic, is just such a waste of time. I take people at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are good people and sincere in everything they do. And I want them to see me in that way too.

And as for the liars, I take everything they say from then on with a pinch of salt. And when push comes to shove, I’d rather they shove off from my life. Because, truthfully, I don’t want to play that game.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

How Interesting. Tell Me More.

Silence is golden, as they say. And in a conversation, silence can create a vacuum which you feel necessary to fill – sometimes with inane facts and sometimes with snippets of your life, or even all of it.

I’ve been noticing this fact with several men I’ve met recently. I wasn’t deliberately baiting them with being mysterious and cryptic, although this is a pretty good game in itself, but rather that was how events played out – they were more than willing to talk all about themselves, and I let them.

In Brunei, I went out with a guy who picked me up in his SLK200. Good start, if he were trying to impress me. Better if he were rich and still humble. But, over one course of dinner (no starters or dessert), I found out practically everything about him. His days of glory as a national footballer who helped his team win the Malaysia Cup in the late 1990s, his marriage and subsequent divorce (blamed on his wife’s supposed infidelity), the family business he’s running (and how successful it is) and the contracts they got, his education, his (various) cars, his (expensive) hobbies, his family… Seriously, practically everything. Since I got a meal out of it and a ride in a convertible, which he drove round a bit top-down, it was not such a hardship to plant an interested look on my face and urge him on and on.
After that I mocked him mercilessly to some of my friends, of course. But for him, it was a great date! Why wouldn’t it be? Here was a girl hanging on to his every word. Oh joy.

Then there was the guy I met up with in KL who expounded on the theory of a winning form in bowling, and his own expertise, naturally.
And another who confessed part of his past, about which he had never even told his wife.

And just yesterday, I met a guy, who sat down at my table because we had shared a chuckle over the fact that his Harley had set off a car alarm. In just an hour or so, I had learned all this about him, without much prompting necessary, just some silence: Where he’s from, where he’s working now, why he is working where he is working now, what he does in his job, how much he gets paid as this product manager of a hypermarket, how much he gets paid extra because his boss wanted to uproot him from JB to KL, where he is staying, how he gets to work, his special-edition Harley and how much people are offering for it, where he went on his Harley rallies, his Harley ring, T-shirt, jacket etc, his other car, his biking history (Kawasaki Ninja to the high-handlebar Harley to this one), his ex-wife, his daughter and how his daughter often complains that Mum doesn’t take her out “jalan-jalan” because she’s so busy going out with Uncle S. That is a lot to take in, from a perfect stranger, no less!

I let them talk, sometimes because I’m not in the mood to share everything about my life. But most times, it’s because they don’t ask.

The guy I met yesterday only asked where I’m staying and what I do, in general. He wasn’t even interested in the answer. And the bowling expert? He didn’t even ask if I had ever bowled before, so I pretended to know nothing about curve balls or wrist flicks, and let him wow me with his knowledge.

This is a bit of a double-edged artform. On one hand, I played the game with this one person I wanted to get to know. Sitting back and listening to him talk with someone else, I noticed how this woman jumped in to cut him off mid-story with her own anecdotes, and he’d patiently wait till she’s done, then continue with his story, which had not reached its conclusion and point by the interruption. So when I had the chance, I asked him questions, and let him tell his story to its conclusion, without butting in. But that’s because I sincerely wanted to know. And I wanted to impress him with my listening skills.

As for the others, letting them talk negated the need for me to share my life story. And, at the same time, suss them out for who they really are. Men who are very proud of themselves, and want you, the little woman, to know all about it.

And by the time they are finished, there is no point, really, in telling them anything about yourself. They don’t really want to know. They might not be able to handle the fact that you're more successful or more interesting than they are.

They just want you to be impressed. And fall all over them. Not a chance.