Yesterday, I was hiding from the rain, standing under an airplane, probably one of UPS\’s MD-11\’s or 757\’s. I waved hi to a coworker, and—over the noise of an idling airplane (or whatever the technical word for it is when an airplane is hooked up to generators on the runway and makes a lot of noise, but the turbofans aren\’t running to avoid sucking in FOD or union employees)—I said, \”Melodie, right?\”
She nodded yes with big starry eyes that were framed by good-looking, yet obviously fake, eyelashes. We stood relatively close to each other for a while without really looking at eachother or talking. I realized that (and how) I enjoyed her mere presence, something I wouldn\’t have noticed, oh say, a year or two ago. I also noticed that Phil, a 40 year old truck driver who wants to become a pilot and also my favorite coworker, noticed me waving hi to Melodie; he nodded his head, to himself with a kind of, \”huh, okay then,\” as if to acknowledge that a part of my personality is flirtation. —And then May, who has been exceptionally friendly to me, walked past the three of us. She looked angry, jealous even.
I stood under that jet for ten minutes and stared out into the air ramp for ten minutes, processing what had just happened, thinking about how I would be here, writing this.
Granted, it is entirely possible that I am projecting all of the drama I have described here. Even if that is the case, this is still the drama that I am (perhaps only semi-consciously) living. This is the game that I am playing whether I choose to acknowledge it or not. —Not that I want to play this particular game. We all play social games. A Jungian analyst would say that we\’re all living various myths and that it is in our best interest to understand the myths we\’re living because sometimes those myths are not in our best interest, which is what I\’m trying to do here.
Standing under the jet, I realized a game that I play—or perhaps a strategy, or a modus operandi. It\’s a bit devious. When I go into a new place, I turn on my charm and I lightly flirt. This flirtation isn\’t explicitly sexual. It is possible to flirt with people\’s various interests. In this non-sexual sense, flirtation is non-committal socialization; or perhaps that is what charm is. Anyway, I \”flirt\”, promising more social-attention than I care to give. This is attractive to some people. However, I merely continue to flirt; that\’s all they get—shallow, friendly greetings and small talk. I am not really able to move beyond this stage and really get to know the person because that would ruin the charm, and they would see that I cannot live up to the expectations set by my charm.
The end result of excessive charm ends in one of two extreme cases: (1) enthrallment or (2) disenchantment/disappointment.
If someone is enthralled, they worship someone in the way that movie stars are beloved by their fans. The result of this is a cruel power dynamic, but it may also be fairly inconsequential. Disenchantment may also work in my favor; the person may realize that they cannot have me, and I relish their misery because it proves my superiority (false superiority that is). Whereas when I elicit disappointment, it hurts my pride and vanity.
On a bigger scale, I think I am driven to this \”charming/flirtatious behavior\” by my need to feel special. I enjoy feeling like a celebrity when I walk into work. I don\’t want to be merely greeted by people; I want their adoration. The worst part of this is that I think many people have recognized this behavior in me. I don\’t imagine that they always had the words for it, much less a reason to call me out on it, since confronting me wouldn\’t do them any good.
I would do better to earn respect, not adoration. I suspect that is a very important distinction for me to make when I try to gather people\’s attention, especially in the work place.
I\’ve been reading The Listening Society at work during my downtime between planes, oftentimes huddled over my phone in an attempt to keep the screen dry from rain. There is one main argument in this book which I find simple, yet profound: the reason for much of the suffering in this world is that many people have failed to (psychologically) develop themselves across a sufficient number of domains. The author then also describes the process of development in a way that I agree with; moreover, this process unfolds in the individual and within a group/culture/society (scalefree). This parallels \”my\” ideas on sophistication as a virtue and our human tendency to a particular type of universality.
Reading this book has been uncomfortable in the way that reading Nietzsche was uncomfortable. But, at least, it is more hopeful.