Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake, the most powerful in recorded US history, which caused immense destruction in Southcentral Alaska and permanently reshaped the economic geography of the region along with its geology. Two years ago I wrote a post about the quake and earlier ones in prehistoric Alaska that may have had comparable effects, so I won’t go into the details now. It was an important event and this is an important anniversary, however, so I figured I should at least note it.
March 27, 2014
February 27, 2014
Not a whole lot to report lately except that I’ve been very busy. Some recent developments at work have increased my workload, and figuring out how to deal with that has taken up a lot of my time lately. I think I’ve recently figured out how to deal with it effectively, so it shouldn’t be as frustrating going forward as it has been at times. There have been some potentially positive developments in my social life too, but it’s too early to tell how well all that’s going to work out. So yeah, I’ve been busy.
January 6, 2014
This comic strikes a chord with me, and not just because I’m often not sure I like having fun. From time to time people say things to me like “women aren’t magical creatures whose motives can’t be figured out by mortal man” and “if you think a girl is into you, you’re probably right,” and, fair enough, I’m sure those are true as generalizations. With respect to the second in particular, though, my experience has been that I’m actually a terrible judge of whether a girl likes me or not. The thing is, while it’s certainly true that a girl who likes a guy is likely to try to give signals to that effect, it’s also true that women are socialized to be nice to guys in general, and it can be really difficult (for me) to tell the difference. It’s also true that some people flirt just for fun without meaning to imply any actual attraction, so even obvious flirting isn’t a surefire sign that someone is interested.
The upshot of all this is that when a girl is friendly and flirtatious toward me I am not at all confident that she’s actually into me sexually. The only way to find out, of course, is to make an explicit move myself, but when I’ve done that in the past the result has usually been that it turns out she’s not actually interested and was just being friendly or whatever. The most depressing examples of this dynamic were in college, where I would get this sort of rejection from girls that I wasn’t actually all that into myself and was only pursuing because I was so lonely. This happened several times, and it was a major blow to my confidence and disincentive to trying to hit on girls from then on. Putting your arm around someone and having her recoil in horror is an awful experience and it makes you not want to end up in that situation ever again. In retrospect there have been several very clear opportunities since then that I’ve foolishly passed up because of that lack of confidence.
The problem really began for me in high school, but it was in college that it manifested as a clear and consistent pattern. One obvious inference from this is that I didn’t go to the right college for me in social terms, but it’s hard to imagine how I would have been able to figure what would have been the right one given the information I had available when I was making the choice.
Ultimately I think this can all be classified under “patriarchy hurts men too.” The expectation that the man will make the first move means that the only thing a woman can do if she likes a guy is send whatever subtle signals she can, but to a lot of socially awkward guys those signals are indistinguishable from the routine signals women send to ingratiate men in general. If women weren’t required to send those ingratiating signals, and if they were able to make the first move themselves if they were inclined to, this would be much less of a problem. (Online dating does remove a lot of these problems, but it adds some additional difficulties and frustrations of its own, so while it’s better on net, it’s still kind of a pain.)
December 31, 2013
For the past few years I’ve been doing New Year’s Eve posts listing all the cities I’ve visited during the year, where “visited” means having spent at least one night and “cities” is interpreted very broadly. Here’s the 2013 edition. Cities are listed in the order I visited them, without duplication (so cities I visited more than once are only listed for the first time).
- Anchorage, AK
- Tok, AK
- Philadelphia, PA
- Fairbanks, AK
- Washington, DC
- Albuquerque, NM
- Manley Hot Springs, AK
- Nome, AK
- Houston, TX
As before, this doesn’t include day trips, which most of my trips to rural Alaska for work have been. Still, it’s a pretty representative list.
November 19, 2013
Albuquerque voters rejected the proposed ban on late-term abortions that was on the ballot in today’s election. Amanda Marcotte explained why this is important: this is the first attempt to ban these abortions at the municipal level, which could potentially be very effective because there are so few clinics left that do them, one of which happens to be in Albuquerque.
October 29, 2013
So a lot has changed since I was complaining about a lack of confidence a few weeks ago. I went to an event that the young professionals group at the synagogue put on and enjoyed it, and there’s another event coming up that I’m planning on attending as well. I’m still not sure if this social group is going to end up being a good fit for me, but it’s a start. I’ve been continuing to take advantage of the access to academic databases I have from taking my Yup’ik class, and I’m also enjoying the class itself. I still haven’t gotten back into the swing of blogging, but I’m feeling more into the idea than I was for a while.
Most importantly, though, my work is going great. I’ve just been promoted to a new position that was basically created especially for me, and I’m very excited about it. I liked my previous job, but I always felt like it was better for me than I was for it. I did fine at it, I think, but many of the core functions were somewhat outside my comfort zone. Having to do those things was good for me in making me more comfortable with them, but overall it would really be better to have someone in that job who was already comfortable with those functions and had a personality more compatible with the job than mine. The new job is a better fit for my skills and interests.
So yeah, things are going well.
September 29, 2013
So apparently the birthday when the age you turn matches the day of the month of your birthday is known as your “golden birthday.” I turn 29 today, so this is mine. It’s been a good day, and I’m feeling pretty good about the upcoming year. Things have improved a lot in the past few weeks and I’ve regained a lot of confidence. I tried to make Yom Kippur a clean break with the past year, which was pretty difficult in some ways (though very good in others). So far it seems to be working well.
September 10, 2013
I’ve continued to feel kind of sad and introspective lately, for a number of reasons. My life is going fine overall, but I’m still very lonely and frustrated socially, and my job can also be pretty frustrating at times. The weather in Anchorage has also been gray and rainy off and on for several weeks now, which doesn’t help. I also just kind of hate this time of year in general, mostly because of the High Holy Days. I went to Rosh Hashanah services at the Reform synagogue here, like I did last year, and I do like the services there, but the whole focus on repentance and atonement has never been very comfortable for me, and is particularly so this year. To top it all off, I’ve got a terrible cold (or something) that started on Friday, so I’ve been coughing and generally uncomfortable for a few days now and presumably will be for a few days more. I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to fast on Yom Kippur. If I keep feeling this bad I probably won’t. I’m hoping I can make this New Year season the start of a new, happier time of my life, but it’s not looking promising so far. (I did learn that the synagogue has a new group for young professionals that puts on events, so I’ll try that out and see if it helps me to meet people and develop more of a social life.)
Anyway, in the course of all this, I’ve realized that one of the main things underlying my current funk is that I’ve suffered a major loss of confidence since moving to Alaska. Back when I was at Chaco, and even in grad school, I felt pretty confident about my place and my knowledge of whatever it was I had to know. Coming up here, though, has meant learning a huge amount of new stuff, in the company of lots of people who already know it, and that’s just not a very comfortable place for me. I want to be the expert, not the novice. I’ve been learning as much as I can, and I’ve been quite successful at that, but I still have a long way to go, and some of my ways of showing that knowledge seem to be rubbing some other people (mostly at work) the wrong way. It’s totally understandable, of course, that these very experienced, highly skilled people who grew up in Alaska (in many cases) are not very thrilled with some upstart young Ivy-Leaguer acting like a know-it-all about their own areas of expertise. I’ve tried to not step on people’s toes, but recently I’ve been realizing that I haven’t been totally successful at that, and a co-worker gave me an unexpected tongue-lashing today that was pretty unpleasant, though totally accurate in that all the criticisms of me she made were totally true.
I think this lack of confidence, reinforced by other events, has contributed to my social problems as well, in combination with my usually shyness and reticence. I just don’t have it in me right now to put a big effort into contacting people I meet and trying to develop more substantial friendships. This is one of those problems that I think I could overcome if I were able to muster the confidence, but right now I can’t. Hopefully I’ll develop more confidence as I get more comfortable here, and I’ll be able to take care of this kind of problem.
In addition, I’ve recently begun thinking more seriously about writing a book about Chaco, but as I’ve begun to write some stuff and think carefully about the book I want to write I’m realizing that that’s going to be really a lot of work, and I probably can’t do it in the spare time I have while I’m working this job. I mean, I haven’t even been able to blog consistently about Chaco, let alone write a book about it. I have recently begun reading stuff about Chaco again after a long hiatus, and i started taking a class at UAA (in Yup’ik), which has given me access to academic databases again, so I’m in a better position to start working seriously on a project like this than I’ve ever been before. I just don’t feel very confident right now that I’ll be able to put in that time and effort given the other circumstances of my life. This problem will probably be easier to overcome than the social one; I guess I’ll just see what happens in the next few months.
So yeah, that’s more or less where I am now. I’m still pretty sad, but writing all this out has been helpful in clarifying what I’ve been thinking lately about my life, and at least identifying these problems more specifically will hopefully make it easier to start solving them.
August 25, 2013
I agree entirely with this. I can’t stand the whole idea of sex-as-conquest that is so prevalent in our society, and I absolutely refuse to play along with it. If someone acts like she doesn’t want me, I assume that’s the case and give up on pursuing her. This probably has cost me some romantic opportunities, but so be it. Some things are more important.
August 17, 2013
I’m feeling kind of mopey right now. There are a variety of reasons for this; work has been kind of stressful lately, and the social prospects that I thought were developing a few weeks ago seem to have not really developed at all. My life is pretty good overall, and I have no doubt that with enough patience I’ll eventually be able to overcome even my formidable social problems, but it may take a while. In the mean time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I got to this point, and I think I’ve figured at least a few things out.
I guess what I’ve always wanted most of all is to have sex with women who want to have sex with me, but not in the context of a series of random one-time encounters with people I have nothing in common with, or in the context of a long-term relationship so serious that everyone assumes it will end in marriage. The problem, though, is that for a long time I sort of implicitly assumed those were the only two options. Back in college, when I was a frustrated virgin, I knew I didn’t want the former, so I assumed what I needed to find was the latter (and to eventually break it off before it got too serious, but that was a problem for later). I was aware of the concept of “friends with benefits” and so forth, but I didn’t really understand how it differed from a serious relationship. And, to be honest, I’m not totally sure I understand the distinction even now. The idea that I could be friends with someone, and have sex with her a lot but without any expectation of anything more, was something that just didn’t really occur to me.
So I spent my college years unsuccessfully chasing a serious relationship, which is what I thought I wanted. This involved a lot of poor judgment in who to ask out, and a lot of rejection as a result. After college, when I finally met someone I liked who liked me too and we managed to have sex, I rushed into a serious relationship (over her initial skepticism) without thinking it through or understanding what I was doing. And, of course, it eventually ended badly and I realized that, no, a serious relationship wasn’t what I had wanted at all. Not long after that I had a nice fling that was more or less what I had been looking for all along, but we were in different places in our life and it couldn’t really continue. Since then I’ve had three brief sexual encounters in as many years, and that’s all.
Looking back, I really wish I had realized when I was in college that I didn’t have to worry so much about doing this the “right way,” and just taken the opportunities that arose. I also kind of wish I had gone to a different college that was more congenial to my social needs, but that opens so many what-ifs that I try not to think about it too much. Whenever I read stuff about the “hookup culture” on college campuses I think “Yes, that. That’s what I want. Why can’t I find it?” Even in grad school, where I probably could have had the sort of social life I’ve always wanted if I had tried, I made a conscious decision not to, in order to focus on school and not be distracted by girls. I think that was the right decision as far as it went, but in retrospect there were really obvious opportunities I should have taken.
And now I live in a place where I still don’t know many people even after two years, and most of the people I do know have so little in common with me that they aren’t really plausible friends, let alone romantic partners. I know there are people I have more in common with here, and I’ve even met some, but developing social relationships is really hard for me so it’s been slow going. I just start to worry too much, partly because I’m afraid of rejection, but also because I’m really worried about being perceived as a jerk who assumes all women are going to be into him (or whatever). Lately I’ve been realizing that both of these things are inevitable and I need to just take the risk, but I’m very risk-averse so it’s been hard to put that understanding into practice. I’m sure I’ll get it eventually but for now I’m still just generally kind of lonely and sad.