Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wonderments, or: why can't everybody be more like me?

Squadratomagico created a new meme based on the "eight random facts" model, and in tagging me she commented that she knows I don't like memes. This isn't strictly true, but they do inspire some anxiety; as much as I enjoy reading others' responses, I'm always convinced that my own are totally boring and self-indulgent. And yet memes seem fun, and I'm flattered to be tagged. But there's so much pressure! And so, as often as not, I don't follow through. And then I feel like a bad member of the blogosphere. So, really, everyone should remember this: I'm more socially awkward than I seem (either on-blog or in real life), so you should always assume that anything that might seem like a slight isn't, and that I've probably already overworried and overthought it anyway.

*AHEM.* All that is a way of saying that although I think this is an excellent meme, I apparently don't wonder about very many things very much, because as I started compiling a list of things that I wonder about, I realized that the subtext of almost all of my wonderments is, "why doesn't the rest of the world behave the way I do?"

1. Why do people seem to believe that those who get up early are more virtuous and more efficient than those who get up late?

2. What exactly is it that I'm supposed to find interesting about science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism? Because I don't. Find them interesting.

3. What do most Christians find appealing about Jesus? I find it relatively easy to believe in a monotheistic deity, but Jesus has never really struck a chord with me. I mean, I get the appeal of the wise man who teaches people to lead a better life, but plenty of non-divine individuals (prophets, saints, Ralph Nader) have already got that ground covered. Even my best attempts to understand the point of Jesus and to see him as a meaningful part of the godhead are intellectual rather than affective, and probably heretical.

4. Why are some people so clueless about how they come across? How can anyone be unaware that others generally find him/her to be abrasive, self-important, unfunny, and so on?

5. Relatedly: am I abrasive, self-important, and unfunny?

6. Flip-flops. What makes people claim that they're comfortable? Sneakers are comfortable. Flats are comfortable. But lemme tell you: I can walk faster and more comfortably in three-inch heels than I can in flip-flops.

7. Relatedly: why do people insist that anything that isn't "natural" or "comfortable" is somehow false, oppressive, and objectionable (e.g., high heels, not emoting all over the place, any level of discipline in the home or classroom)?

8. Are there broad generalizations that we can make about the temperaments or personalities of people who work in certain fields or on certain subjects (e.g., Medievalists, Romanticists, Victorianists)? I certainly have my own theories and prejudices on this score, but I wonder whether they have a broader basis in fact or are just the result of my limited experiences and acquaintances.

(In the interests of neither pressuring anyone nor excluding anyone, I tag them that wants to be tagged, whoever and wherever they may be.)


Hilaire said...

Ooh, Flavia, would love to hear more of your throughts on #8!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Re: 2 - I'm always shocked to find a medievalist who isn't into fantasy (esp. Tolkien). I guess you're okay here, not being a medievalist. ;-) But I have to say that my love of fantasy lit (less so sci-fi) is one of those shameful things I feel compelled to hide in sophisticated company! So my wonderment: why does liking such stuff automatically qualify one as a geek??

Re: 4 & 5 - oh yeah, I worry this! Do I have ANY idea how I look to others?

6 - flip flops are soooooo comfy. But I can tell you why they are for me: I have bunions/wide feet, so anything with straps across the width of my foot is pure agony to wear. In the summer, flip flops are a godsend because they don't stretch across my poor benighted feet, and let my bunions roam freely, so to speak. (In fact, if I didn't wear flip flops, I don't think I'd be able to find ANY summer shoes that fit me.) I kind of prefer to think of them as thong sandals, though, since flip-flops suggests those cheap plastic things you wear in the shower. ;-)

They are a little weird to walk longer distances in, but you get used to it.

Okay, this is probably much more than you needed to know...!

Professor B said...

Well, I'll agree with #1. I have a colleague who is literally up and at the office before dawn, often parking in the surface lot because the garage isn't open yet (it opens at 5:30 AM!), and claiming that morning is the best time to get work done. I usually saunter in by 9 AM, and by noon she's already put in an 8 hour day almost.

I always get the vague feeling (self-imposed guilt?) that she is somehow annoyed that people don't behave in the same way as her, and that somehow we're all less devoted to our work and profession because we aren't in everyday before sun-up and aren't leaving at 10 PM.

I generally stop feeling bad about this when I realize that she has no real life outside of work, no real friends other than work acquaintances, and generally seems to be a rather unhappy person underneath a smiling fa├žade.

But still, it pisses me off that the general assumption is that she is somehow more productive because she is a morning person. She's really not.

Anyway, end of rant.

medieval woman said...

Very cool wonderments, Flavia-flave! I'm completely with you on #1. I just woke up and ate waffles at 1:20 in the afternoon. That's stretching it, though - even for me!

And one of my medieval pals hates all fantasy and sci-fi! Her worst nightmare would be a course where she had to teach Tolkien.

And you're absolutely no un-funny (or abrasive or self-important!)!

Flavia said...

Hilaire: I'd like to say more, but since some of my thoughts about certain groups are mildly negative (not rising to the level of actual dislike, just "people who work on X never seem to be my sort of people"), I probably shouldn't. I will say that I've virtually never met a Medievalist whom I disliked, and the perception of them as generous/convivial folk seems to me to be largely true.

NK: I'd make an exception for thong sandals with some kind of arch support (and with something other than cheap, painful straps). It's the appeal of the cheap ones that I don't understand. And don't even get me started on the inappropriate clothes with which they're so often paired!

life_of_a_fool said...

Yes, yes, yes to #1.
I disagree about the flip flops (not the cheap ones though, which are often uncomfortable). When it's hot, my feet sweat and swell, but they are so happy in flip flops -- maximum air exposure.
And yes again to 4 and 5. I also wonder about #8 and would love to hear your theories (though understand why you wouldn't want to broadcast them).

Anonymous said...

1. No clue. But let me tell you, I got up REALLY early both days this weekend, and it sucked. None of my coworkers really show up before 10, so I guess we're all on the same page. Which is to say, too tired from working at home till midnight-ish.

2. No clue. Makes me feel like a total failure as a geek. While I love technology and all other things nerdy, I dislike sci-fi, comics, RPGs, etc. Why must they have all these made-up weird names and magical powers and crap? But then, I know you also generally dislike movies set in the past OR future, as I do.

6. Also no clue. I have a decent pair of Reefs, but they're just annoying. If you wear them much, your feet start to dry out and crack. If you wear them at all, your feet get dirty and gross and need to be washed before wearing socks again. Socks and quasi-mesh athletic shoes are MORE than cool enough for the summer months, up to 100 or so.


Flavia said...

Bro: I should so work in high-tech; it's totally natural for me to work until midnight or 1 or 2 a.m., but that means I don't necessarily *start* working until dinnertime. And I hate feeling defensive when someone calls me at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and asks what I've been up to, and I'm all, "um. . . well, nothing, yet. It's still early!"

And I should add that I *do* enjoy movies set in the past, although I tend to have a high bar for them. I'm not excited just by horses and big houses and fancy costumes, and I tend to get irritated with historical inaccuracies. But the moment a preview for something set in outer space, or the future, or in some alternate world comes on, I groan loudly and totally tune out.

Rosy said...

Flip Flops have only authentic Austrian Swarovski Crystals and is a genuine Havaianas Flip Flop. Each pair of crystal flip flops has "Xilion Rose" Swarovski Crystals hand-placed and exhibit an elegant finish.

Scrivener said...

I do pretty much the same thing with memes--where I either don't trust that I'm saying anything or just that I put it off for a while until I get an idea and then time passes, so I feel like I had better write a great meme post, so I never write the post, then I worry that I've hurt the tagger's feelings.

I totally agree with you about flip flops, which I abhor.

cc prof said...

After spending much of my adult life reading history and nonfiction, I've really gotten into science Fiction. Specifically "space opera" and hard science fiction (SF based on actual science or physics). I find it refreshing, fun, and mind-expanding. It makes you think and it takes you away in a nice escape-y way. Good SF writers have a "voice" of their own that really makes for good reading. Allen Steele and Elizabeth Moon are two whom I highly recommend. I've tried fantasy but I find much of it is very badly written IMHO.

squadratomagico said...

I am so with you on #7. There is nothing worse than a comfort snob... except maybe an "I'm-too-intellectual-to-care-about-appearance" snob."

Number 8 is also quite interesting. I never thought about this before, but I assume that there must be some relationship between field and temperament. I'll be thinking about this in next years' department meetings.

Thanks for playing!

k8 said...

1. I'm a night person. I, too, find these people annoying. Does it really matter when the work gets done as long as it is done on time?

2. I say, don't worry about it. There are books and genres for everyone. Read what makes you happy. If we all liked the same things life would be pretty boring.

6. Flip-flops - I hate them! They always dig into my foot. I think I might have short toes.

7. This gets me too. Particularly when it is coming from people who want to convince me to use an herbal medicine (b/c it is natural) even though I try to tell them that I am allergic to that 'natural' ingredient. I should probably note that my idea of the perfect camping trip would involve a 5 star hotel.

8. I've wondered about this, in addition to wondering if it is my imagination that certain genders seem to gravitate to these different sub-field. I could be very wrong about this, though.

Susan said...

Flavia, I'm so with you on #2. I'd add I wonder why reading mysteries and sci-fi is considered intellectually respectable pleasure reading where romance is not.

As for #7 and comfort: the whole point of civilization is to tame nature. And that's the point of discipline. (When I'm really cross I point out the conjunction between the word "discipline" for our fields and what we need to do to our minds and feelings and other behaviors. But sorry, I can twist my ankle in sneakers; high heels are a disaster...

As for #8, I suspect there is more of a personality for certain types of scholars than periods: I sometimes think that's it's been a bit of an accident that I landed in the period I did, but not that I work in the way I do.

trillwing said...

I suspect we in no small part have Ben Franklin to blame for #1. It's been years since I've had to read his autobiography, but waking early strikes me as one of those self-improvement tips Franklin passed down to us (and probably tongue-in-cheek, the bastard).

As to #7: The big exception to this is childbirth, where people assume that it's only "natural" for a woman to suffer, and that it's "unnatural" to rely on the best pharmaceuticals Western medicine has to offer. As someone with a low pain threshold, this drives me batty.

I don't get flip-flops either.

Re: Jesus. In the hands of the clergy, he's such a mutable figure that he can be all things to anyone. Personally, I don't get the appeal of the second-coming, vengeful Jesus I've seen preached about in some Baptist churches. And I don't understand why those same Baptist parishioners would follow someone who, to me at least, was so clearly the first hippie. I think a lot about this because my MIL is a born-again (in her church's terms "Bible-believing") Christian.