Archive | Advice RSS feed for this section

Advice: The Impostor Effect

8 Dec

I’m a 29-year-old Ph.D. student finishing up my degree in a social science field. A few years ago, I audited a social psychology class on a lark, and the professor explained something she called the Impostor Effect: the feeling that you’ve tricked everyone else into thinking you’re smarter than you are, and you don’t really belong there. She said that a lot of Ph.D. students feel this at first, but then gradually realize they do in fact belong.

I’ve never gotten over this. I have made it through a program that’s notorious for failing people out, and people seem to like my research, and from the outside it looks like everything is going pretty well. But I still feel like I’ve only tricked people into thinking that I’m a lot smarter than I am, and at a certain point everyone is going to get wise to me. As a result, I’m reluctant to ask for help on my work or ask people to explain themselves, because I don’t want to “tip my hand” as a secretly not-so-smart person. But then, not being able to ask clarifying questions only worsens the feeling that I’m not smart enough to be here. And whenever I experience setbacks with my research (which I acknowledge are inevitable for everyone), my first thought is always “This is it. The gig is up, and people are finally going to realize that you’re not nearly as smart as they thought.” I am in all other respects a laid-back and positive person, except when it comes to my work.

Other than the crippling self-doubt, I really, really love what I do. So what do you think? Should I risk letting people know I’m not as smart as they thought (and potentially lose the ability to get a job doing what I really want to do)? Or do I keep it on lock, and try to convince myself that everyone else is putting up a front of knowing everything and that I’m not any more of an impostor than anybody else? [x]

I’ve felt like this pretty much my entire life.  I’m a terrible essay writer (no matter how many times teachers explained to me the concept of an outline [and how much logical sense it makes to me] I could never quite make it work) and I was so embarrassed about being caught at being stupid that it took me until senior year of college to ask anyone to edit my writing and even then it had to be my best friend and came with a huge amount of anxiety.

I will say that the only thing that made it better was asking for help.  When my friends edited my essays they helped me see that my ideas were good it was just my formatting that was bad.

Even better than that was asking for the definitions of words, or at work I even ask people to model an action once so I can be sure to do it right.  It’s gotten to the point where if I don’t ask the questions then I feel like I’m not doing my job or living up to my potential.

And the most amazing thing happened.  When I ask people ‘I don’t know that word.  What do you mean by that?’ I can feel myself growing in their esteem.  They think I’m smarter and more mature.  It’s an outcome that would have seemed so counter intuitive once upon a time but it’s true.

You Deserve Better

15 Sep

A friend of mine is dating this guy.

Scratch that, a friend of mine thinks this guy is cute and heard a rumor that he thought she was cute too, so she ovary-ed up and asked him out and he said yes (though we’re both pretty sure that he didn’t understand that it was meant to be a date-date) and then they went to a movie or something and it was horribly awkward and then she met up with me for some Jameson and told me this story.

Clear as mud?  Good, cause you don’t really need to know any of that stuff anyway.

The point is that the sorry excuse for a date was miserable and though he is (seriously, and if there is such a thing, objectively) beautiful there was no spark.  The way she described it was that they sat drinking milkshakes and talking for an hour and the entire time she felt as though her (massive) tits didn’t even exist.   For their whole date she was entirely sexless.

After two drinks and quite a bit of candy corn she got to the crux of her problem with this.  She asked for me to give her permission to not want him anymore.

Her inner dialogue was full of lizard stuff.  The stuff that tells you to do the ‘safe’ thing.

The lizard is your friend, but a little scary, too. She lurks deep within, operating on millennia of aggregated evolutionary knowledge, so she remembers a lot. Like how for thousands of generations, women required strong relationships with strong men in order to simply survive. How, without someone to protect them, our foremothers were vulnerable in every way. How dearly so many of them suffered for it.

So when a liberated modern gal such as yourself contemplates leaving a romantic relationship, even a middling-to-shitty one, the lizard feels she is honor-bound to make you stop, to get right up in your face and scream stuff like you’ll never do better and you’re not getting any younger and you’re lucky to have anyone at all and any man is better than no man and THESE ARE FACTS DAMMIT!

Now, given what she’s seen, her reaction is completely understandable. But it screws up your life, too! Because she ensures that even here in the future that is now, and even when you know you’d be far better off on your own, it still feels like the act of breaking up might actually kill you. [x]

So if you’re doing something you know is bad for you and you’re looking for a friend to give you permission to change careers or leave your lover or move to Asia, this is it.  Look that Lizard brain right in it’s scaly little face and say “NO.  I’m doing this for me and you can throw a fit if you want but I’m right and you’re wrong so get on board or get out of my way” and then enjoy living your life.

Basically, your lizard wants you to sit tight and shut up, which is good advice if your goal in life is simply “don’t die” but bad advice if you actually want to live. [x]

So You Think You Can Blog

21 Aug

Those of you who know me or read regularly probably already know how much I love writing this blog.  One of my wonderful friend/readers sent me this the other day

 

Feministing.com is having a contest to find a new contributor and I want to give it a shot!

The way the contest works is that all contestants submit two posts and… well, I guess they see if people like them.  So help me out.  If you’re reading this and you’ve read FemaleGazing before then please send me your top picks for favorite post.  You can send them to me on facebook or twitter or in the comments.  Even something like “I like the one about consent, with the picture at the bottom” is helpful.

Thanks!

Advice – 19 And Counting

12 Jun

Dear Cary,

I’m a freshman in college, I just turned 19, and I’ve never been kissed or even had a serious boyfriend. I was totally fine with this in high school — I went to a very small school  and so the guys in my grade felt too much like brothers to go out with. In ninth grade, I went out on a few dates with a junior, but I was shy and he was much more experienced and we stopped dating a little awkwardly. The next year, we randomly ended up interning at the same company and I started to like him a lot, but he was leaving for college and he didn’t seem interested. Junior year, I found out that he was, and we reconnected briefly over winter break but decided not to date long-distance. There were other guy friends of mine who expressed interest, but I didn’t connect in that way with any of them. There weren’t significant relationships by any means but there was enough of that teenage intrigue to occupy my time and make me feel wanted. I had my own crushes. I was on student council and the honor roll and I had an inseparable best friend and a great group of larger friends. I’m very close with my family. Sometimes I felt impatient and wondered when I would meet a guy that things might stick with, but overall I was happy. I’ve always been confident in my looks – I love clothes and makeup. I’m an athlete. I even did a little modeling in high school. I always was fine with waiting and trusted that good things would happen in college.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been true. I’m from the West Coast going to school on the East Coast, and I’ve experienced significant culture shock. It’s been hard to make friends, especially guy friends since I live on an all-girls hall. I have a great gay friend and three really close girlfriends, but it’s been a struggle to find a larger group. I don’t drink or do drugs, not for any religious/moral reason, just because I don’t like their effect on me. Since I’m an introvert, I don’t do as well in big group settings. But I really am good at close relationships – they’re incredibly important to me. I’m fiercely supportive of and loyal to my friends and family. I’m a good listener and I love taking care of people. I think I would make a great girlfriend, but I haven’t had a single guy express interest in me this year. There’s been the typical “so-and-so thinks you’re cute,” but I don’t trust people who like girls based purely on looks and rely on middle-school tactics like that. I’m usually pretty laid-back, but I’m starting to freak out about this a little bit. I can’t talk about it with my friends here because most people just assume I’m more experienced than I am and I’m too embarrassed to tell the truth. This embarrassment is new to me but the label “19-and-never-been-kissed” seems so awful.

I worry that it will never happen. I worry that my shyness is more off-putting than I realize, and that I don’t know how to get over my introversion. I worry that I come across as too old-fashioned and formal: I wear mainly vintage dresses and I love domestic things. I worry that I come across as prudish because I don’t swear or take part in the college party scene. I worry because having a family one day is incredibly important to me, and falling in love is part of that. I worry because this is not under my control. I can’t make it happen, and yet lately I can’t seem to let it go. It’s more than embarrassment, it’s sadness. Love and lust and all related things seem like such an integral part of the human experience, but I have no personal understanding of them yet. How can I grow up if I’ve never kissed a boy or been in love? How do these things start happening? Should I be worried? Should I keep waiting for somebody important or should I just go for guys to get past this awkwardness?

I feel like I have to put in the obligatory disclaimer here that I’m a feminist and I have big goals for myself, academically and career-wise, but this is an area I need help in.

Thanks!

19

This question was emailed to me by my lovely friend LillianLemoning who seems to always know what I need even when I don’t have a clue.

Oh, 19.

I myself was (am) a bit of a late bloomer.  I thought it meant something terrible about me.  In high school I feared that I would graduate college with little more than a kiss under my belt (not like that, get your mind out of the gutter).

Here’s the magical part.  From the day that I feared no guy would want to kiss me ever until the day after I had the best kiss I could ever have dreamed of, I didn’t have to change a thing.  It wasn’t like it took a hollywood makeover or a class in how to flirt so that someone could find me attractive.  All I did was ask someone to hang out and kiss me.  Then I started paying attention to the way guys treated girls they liked and started noticing that behavior being aimed at me.

You’re a freshman in college.  I know that seems so old to you because it’s the oldest you’ve ever been but when I was a never-been-kissed 14-year-old I thought that was old maid material too.  It took until a year after I graduated from a tiny private school surrounded by ‘brothers’ for me to figure out how to interact with guys too.  Don’t feel left behind, you’re right on track.

Other than that, if you aren’t into drinking (which is fine, but it might eliminate potential mate-meeting events) you’ll just have to meet people in other places.  I know it sounds so cliche but join clubs and teams.  Make friends with the girls on your floor and grab lunch with her and her co-ed buddies from bio.  Also, you don’t have to drink at parties.  Bring a soda bottle and don’t tell anyone what’s in it (you won’t be the only one pulling that trick).  Who knows, maybe there’s some awesome designated driver there praying someone awesome and sober is around to talk to.

Go places, meet people, look them in the eyes and notice when they like you.  That’s basically the important stuff.

Other than that I’ll tell you this story that makes me feel better when I think I’m going to die alone surrounded by cats (which would suck because I hate cats.  When I become an aging spinster I’m going to have an awesome aquarium!):

My friend *Sari got married a few years ago.  Sari is the kind of girl who has been dating for almost her entire life.  She kissed some boy in middle school and hasn’t been ‘single’ for more than a few months at a time since then.  When she was a kid she was best friends with the only other girl she’s ever met named Sari.  Other Sari never dated ever (yes seriously this is a true story).  Other Sari lost her virginity to some guy in college who she didn’t care about too much and broke up with a few months later.  Original Sari did it with one of her many boyfriends somewhere between high school and college.   Original Recipe Sari technically hit all the benchmarks earlier.  First kiss, first boyfriend, love, virginity, you name it.  Other Sari was understandably bummed most of their schooling years.  A few years ago Other Sari got married (a little after Original Recipe Sari) to someone great.  Apparently Other Sari met him and just knew.  She didn’t need first hand experiences with other guys to know what was going on with this one.

You’ll be fine.  Just keep on trucking and saying hello to strangers.  Doesn’t matter which kind of Sari you are, they all end up happy in the end.

Advice – Say Hello

27 May

So, as a man, should I holler at a girl if I like her? Even if she’s a stranger on the beach? At a club? At a family reunion? Because if I’m talking to a girl I’ve never been introduced to, you better believe her physical attractiveness plays into that decision, just as it presumably played into your friend’s desire to get to know the wakeboarder. Is your advice equally applicable to men, or is this meant as a counterpoint to Cosmo, a magazine whose cultural reach is (in my opinion) exaggerated. Should men be afraid that by addressing a stranger she will assume that instead of her beauty being a pre-screen (I would like to get to know her better because she physically resembles women I have had meaningful interactions with in the past), the man is instead thinking “now that I have determined her waist-to-hip ratio, all interactions from my end are attempts to convince her to surrender to my advances”? I can’t just take a picture with my phone and have her Facebook page pop up, HIMYM-style. That leaves me with saying “hi” and risking traumatizing her with my gaze or ignoring the urge to learn more about her. Is there a third way?

Here’s my opinion on ‘hollering.’  I do not want to be ‘hollered at’ ever.  It sounds terrifying.  I imagine you standing 6 inches from my face and reciting rap lyrics through a megaphone.  If you are a person who uses the word ‘holler’ to describe an activity you take part in sans-irony (thank you hipsterverse for providing me the perfect word) then I do not want to meet you ever.

I do not, however, mind being approached and engaged in lively conversation.

Here’s the thing.  If you start said lively conversation with someone who isn’t interested then you are a creeper.  If you start the same conversation with someone who is interested, then game on.  Thusly, the question becomes how to tell if the person you want to engage is interested or creeped.

Fortunately we human beings have these things called bodies which we use to indicate such information.  Please do not confuse this with the cosmo point-your-bellybutton tips.

How to tell if someone wants you to engage them in conversation (pick two):

  • When you look over they smile.
  • When you look over they wave.
  • When you look over they say hi.
  • They introduce themselves.
  • They look directly at you and then smile/curtsey/blush.

If they do none of these things or intentionally turn away from you DO NOT assume they didn’t see you or that they secretly want you to come say hi but are bashful.  When a grown up wants to be approached they make it clear.

Your job is to listen closely enough to hear it.  That is the magical third way.  If you come say hi because you find me attractive, then that isn’t offensive or going to traumatize me.  If you approach me I’m going to assume it’s informed by the fact that you’re attracted to me.

If you ‘holler’ at me about how ‘bangin my body is’ then yeah, I might be a bit traumatized.  If you take a picture of me on your phone before saying hi that also might do some psychological harm.  If you approach me and my every word/signal says ‘get lost’ AND YOU IGNORE IT then I will be likewise upset.

Pay attention to whether or not the object of your affections truly wants to be approached and then approach keeping an eye out for clues this person wants to be left alone.  Then, if they seem to want out of the conversation, let them go.

Following these easy steps will ensure you are never a creeper.  Following these steps says that you are interested and attentive.  It shows that your partners desires are as important to you as your own and it’s what my friends and I look for in partners.

Advice – Hold The Door!

23 May

I got accused of being sexist again today because I open doors for girls. Some girl got really upset with me for opening a door for her. I’ve heard this view before, they say they just want to be treated equally. I don’t think a difference in manners for men and woman is always a difference in equal treatment. I like manners and such and I like helping all people. I don’t think the way toward harmony among people, whether race or gender is pretending we’re all the same – I think its about respecting and loving one another for our differences. Is it rude for me to open the door for a girl, walk on the street side of the sidewalk, always let her go first? I was raised in a very old fashioned area of the country, so these are all second nature, my Mother always insists I do it, and notices every time I don’t. I want to be respectful, but I also think they are being a bit overly sensitive of a small thing. I dunno, my main priority is I just want to be nice to people. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Here’s my opinion on the holding of doors.

I enjoy having a door held open for me because I’m a human being.  I also like holding doors open for other human beings because I’m a kind person who likes to do nice things.

I had a male friend who liked to hold doors open for me.  I like to repay that kindness by doing it in return.  This friend would see me hold the next door for him and rip it from my hand so I would walk through first.  He found it demeaning to have a lady hold a door for him.  This is when it offends me.

As you like to hold doors open for PEOPLE not WOMEN.  I like to hold doors open for PEOPLE not WOMEN.  If you would let me hold the door open for you then I don’t mind if you hold it open for me.  If you are ashamed at the idea of a woman holding the door open for you then you need to assess the reason why you find that so shameful and you’ll see why the situation can feel very uncomfortable for the person receiving that ‘kindness’ sometimes.

This feels like the right closing image to me but probably not to anyone else.  Oh, well.  It’s my blog suckas!

Advice – Consent Is Hot

5 May

So I have this friend who’s a very sweet dude. We’ve lived together for two non-consecutive years, and over that time we’ve had a fair amount of back-and-forth about feminism in the modern age: he’s very much a novice at feminism, but his heart is in completely the right place. His is exactly the kind of “I don’t know this material, please teach me!” attitude towards learning about rape culture, institutional misogyny, and Treating Ladies Right that we need from dudes all over.

But I’ve been having a bunch of conversations with him lately where he tells me that he doesn’t like to, while mackin’ on a date, ask the lady if she wants to have sex with him.
It’s not what you think; he’s not forcing himself on a lady because he doesn’t want to “ruin the moment” by asking for consent. In fact, he does the exact opposite. He stays so far away from bringing it up that the ladies he goes out with are always the ones to initiate. His reasoning is that if he asks whether she wants to have sex, he joins the culture of men who pressure women into having sex: even asking if she wants to have sex is thrown into the category of manipulative and vile behavior. Women don’t want to be asked if they want to have sex, he says, because they are pure beings who are repulsed by the very thought until somehow convinced that sex is awesome, like, somewhere down the line, and can’t they have a nice time without some douchebag asking politely if they would like to take this into the bedroom?

How can I explain to him that a) putting women on that kind of pedestal is a different kind of sexism, and b) that being asked nicely for consent in the context of a date isn’t, in fact, a form of harassment?

I’m putting ‘consent’ on the list of things that I could talk about forever.

First of all I want to say that this is a great example of how when you teach your children that all sex is evil, they don’t have less sex, just less good sex.

First question first:

I don’t care what Cosmo or Disney or Michael Bay told you.  Women are just as likely or unlikely to want sex as a man.  Want to know the secret reason why men don’t know how much women like sex (and my definition of sex is not strictly PIV btw)?  Because men have made damn sure that if a lady expresses desire for sex then bad stuff is going to happen to her.  If you let anyone know you use contraceptives, Rush Limbaugh and half the country call you a slut.  If you get raped, it’s your fault.  If your boyfriend threatens to release a sex tape you made against your will, suck it up.  So us ladies need to be careful about who we share this information with.  And do you know the easiest way to become someone I want to share that information with?  You guessed it!  Show me you respect my desires and boundaries, ask for my permission, ask me what I want to do/done to me, USE YOUR WORDS!  (seriously, dudes, words.  They are magic.  I freaking love words).

The short answer is that you should explain to your friend that putting women on the ‘pure’ pedestal is sexist because women are people and people have sex drives that range from Asexual to Sasha Grey.  Putting all women on the ‘pure’ pedestal says that you think women are not people, you think they’re something else.  And that is wrong.

Your friend needs to read some blogs written by women.  AFeministSub is great.  Pervocracy is too.  Check out LitErotica.com and realize that most of it is written by women because-shocking news- women like sex.  33% of internet porn consumers are women now too.

To your second question:

Being asked nicely for consent in the context of a date is not, in fact, a form of harassment because harassment is when you use your body, your words, or whatever else you have at your disposal to tell me that you put your desire for sex over my desire for whatever the hell I’m desiring be that space, food, sleep, a peaceful work environment, a pleasant jog, or even intimacy.  Asking a gal who agreed to go on a date with you and who is presumably kissing you on the couch Pleasantville style whether she would like to have sex tells her that her desires do indeed matter to you.  That context makes a huge difference.

Plus, a man who asks for explicit consent is extremely sexy.  Have you read me?  And here is why: Knowing that a guy is going to respect my boundaries (and there are many ways to prove you’ll respect my boundaries) makes me trust you.  When I trust you I allow myself to be more vulnerable with you, tell you what I really want because I know that you won’t laugh at me, I’m more comfortable about my body which makes me feel more attractive and more interested in getting down, there are some major pluses in it for this dude.

Also, is that a thing?  Do men think that asking for consent ruins the moment?  Seriously?  I’d accept that as an excuse for sexual assault about as readily as I’d accept ‘I can’t feel anything through it’ as an excuse not to wear a condom.  As Dan Savage likes to say ‘The proof that you can feel through a condom is that they break and you don’t notice.’  Yeah.

Some advice on how to ask that question and how to feel comfortable about asking that question:

Ask permission for every little thing.  It’ll become like a game, and who doesn’t like games?  And it’ll build trust, a rapport, giggles, fun!  ‘May I take your shoes off?  May I take your shirt off?  May I pee?  May I kiss your hem?’  Why the hell not?  If you feel silly asking her if she’d like to go to your room then why not make the mood silly?  It can’t hurt, can it?

Another great thing you can do is tug at clothing but in the ‘on’ direction.  Tug her shirt towards you or down and put your hands on her waist rather than trying to pull her shirt up or moving your hands towards her boobs without permission.  This conveys the feeling of ‘why is this damn piece of clothing in the way of your awesome body but it’s not mine to remove’ instead of ‘I want to see you naked and whether you’re into that or not doesn’t really matter to me’ and will most likely result in her taking it off.

Also, there are very sexy ways to ask someone for permission.  Check that out (VERY NSFW).  Around minute 5 stuff starts heating up and if you watch closely you’ll see them whispering and around 7:20 she says ‘I dunno’ and a few seconds later an enthusiastic ‘ok.’  There are sexy ways to ask questions with your words while in bed and James Deen knows them all.

Always remember though that nothing a woman does (short of either grabbing your penis and putting it in her vagina or saying ‘I want to have sex tonight’) means she wants to have sex with you tonight or ever.  Personally there have been plenty of times when I have ‘moved forward’ with a guy knowing full well that I was not going to have intercourse with him that night or ever.  I’m a pretty brazen lady and I tend to act pretty brazenly.  I have thrown guys into my bed and gotten them naked while having no expectation of having PIV sex.

Also, I want to point out that sometimes if I don’t want to have sex with a guy then in my head I’ll be like ‘I guess I shouldn’t get us all naked and make him think that’s going to happen.’ However- If said guy asks the magic question ‘Do you want to have sex?’ and I’m like ‘no’ and he responds maturely with an ‘ok’ and keeps up with the awesome kissing then I can be like ‘well I didn’t say I didn’t want to have any fun’ and then I can engage in other kinds of  clothingless fun that isn’t all PIV and stuff.

Bottom line- using your words leads to more nakedness than there would have been before.  Using your words means that you’ll get closer to the heart of what each of you is looking to get out of this encounter so you’ll be more likely to get those things.