Sunday, September 5, 2010

You're cooler than you think

I told you I would post again.

Negative thoughts about my ability to relate to other people have been a constant thorn in my side for my whole life. Over the past 2 years or so, a confluence of factors, including learning about the particular brand of social self-help pitched by the seduction community, moving to a new city where it happens to be easier to meet people from a conservative Christian background and thus who have at least something culturally in common with me, my increased status resulting from being a medical student (yes, it does exist, even if it's not enough to win a girl over by itself,) and the phenomenon of just being more comfortable in one's own skin that does happen as you enter your thirties, have given me reason to be more optimistic about this. I still become frustrated once in a while, but one thing I have learned is just how much your own self-perception influences others' perception of you.

I live directly across the street from a small supermarket, one that happens to be the closest full-scale grocery store to the university, and is therefore frequently patronized by students undergraduate, graduate, and professional. One evening a couple of weeks ago, on one my frequent saunters over there to pick up a few foodstuffs, three sorority chicks, to the best of my recollection a 6, a 7, and a 9, were wandering around the produce section chattering ditzily as they undertook the intellectually challenging task of selecting produce. I witnessed the following exchange:

Sorority chick: What kind of lettuce are you supposed to put on tacos?

Random passing undergrad dude: The shredded kind.

SC: (Oh, aren't you funny, blah blah blah, I don't really remember what she said) Want to come to our taco party?

RPUG: Sure.

Now RPUG looked like a pretty average guy. He wasn't a rock star. He didn't come across as super-alpha. It struck me that in the course of about 5 seconds, with one smart-ass comment, this guy had gotten himself invited to a sorority taco party.

My first reaction in situations like this has long been--and this time was no different--"Why can't I be that kind of guy? Why doesn't anything like that ever happen to me?" Maybe those thoughts come from the devil on one shoulder, because this time, another voice inside my head, call it the angel on my other shoulder, said "you are that kind of guy. Stuff like that does happen to you all the time, or at least it used to when you got out more." It occurred to me that I had always thought of myself as a low-social status nerd who is perceived by hot girls (and cool guys) as a low social-status nerd and is incapable of rolling with them. But something made me stop, do a reality check, and realize: when I was in undergrad, hot girls and cool guys invited me to parties all the time. I just always turned them down. "I can't go to parties where people drink and dance and listen to loud, currently popular music," I thought. "I'm not cool enough." But they didn't think I was a low-social-status nerd who couldn't roll with them. I created that persona in my own mind by acting that way.

The same thing happened when I started medical school. When everyone was new to everyone else and eager to make friends, I got invited to parties galore. But since I never went, figuring my social time was better spent at church where I was sure to meet a wife, I assume I soon developed a reputation as someone who just isn't interested in socializing and I stopped getting invited.

It's an uphill battle when you're fighting 33 years of negative thought patterns, but one thing I have to keep reminding myself of is that a decent appearance is actually easy to put on. In the past couple of years, I've learned to dress a bit more stylishly for social occasions, gotten contact lenses, and learned to use a bit of product in my hair, but even long before all that I could never have been mistaken for a Magic: The Gathering player. My freshman year of college, directly across the hall from me lived two of the biggest stoners I have ever met in my life. I'll never forget the time, early on in the year, when one of them, having somehow surmised that I didn't go out Friday night, said to me, perplexed and genuinely curious, "dude, did you just, like, hang out here?" Well, of course, I thought, don't you know I'm a nerd? But to him, I obviously looked like a regular guy, the kind who would be found at a frat party on a Friday night doing a keg stand or bumping and grinding with some drunk chick just like the rest of 'em. He didn't think I was a nerd. I did. It's actually easy to look like a socially mainstream person, and from there it's a choice to act the part.

As I said, it's not easy to change these thought patterns when they've been so deeply ingrained over so many years. But the evidence has long been right in front of my eyes--I simply chose to ignore it--that if I simply muster the cojones to blurt out the word "shredded" to some strange girls, I could find myself at a taco party.

It's all in your head.