Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are who we are

It's been enough time between entries that I figure it's time to discuss something new. The problem is, I'm having trouble picking a topic. I mean, there's so much to discuss. I could talk about my constant battle with my weight. Or my inability at getting a job. Or the inexplicable ability of the women in my class TO get a job. (I'm not saying that retaining women in the law firm isn't an issue that needs to be addressed. I just think throwing more and more new women associates at the problem isn't going to fix it.)

The problem is that I hate coming off as whiny or pissy or any other word that ends in 'y' and means I'm not acting manly enough. (Sexual stereotypes exist for both sexes, of course. It's just unmanly to talk about stereotypes against men.... Ironic.)

Anyway, this dilemma leaves me in a bit of a bind. What can I talk about, if I can't complain?

One interesting topic, at least in passing, is my recent realization that practically no one in law school was "cool" in high school. This is surprising for any number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that an awful lot of these people are INCREDIBLY athletic now. They've got the looks, the stature, the physique. How is it, I am left to wonder, that they were in the unpopular crowd at one time?

Ultimately, I am forced to conclude that, once we've recast ourselves, we can be whoever we want to be. Easily the nerdiest guy in our class, the guy who anxiously awaited the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the guy who spends his off time play World of Warcraft and other ultra-geeky activities, this guy probably the most ripped dude I know.

Another guy who swears to having been a bookworm in high school spent the summer going from hippy festival to hippy festival.

Cute girls have degrees in hard science. Even cuter girls have spent time heavily involved in local and national politics.

EVERYONE unabashedly discusses Harry Potter.

This is law school. Hell, this is adulthood. Popularity is no longer measured by the loudest, or the scariest, or the meanest. It isn't measured by sports, but by the earning potential that comes out of sports.

As far as I can tell, adulthood popularity revolves around three major traits:

1. Attractiveness
2. Ability to Earn (and current earnings)[Perhaps Ability to Provide would be more accurate]
3. Ability to Connect [or possibly Get Along. This last one needs some tweeking]

I think that's it. Everything else is really an offshoot from these three categories. Some might argue Confidence as a major factor, but I really think confidence is just a contruct created to define a person who fulfills all three major traits.

Consider: From the perspective of a 3rd party (because who else is measuring popularity?), there is no way to know who is and is not confident. As such, it is necessary to look at the clues. I think it is a natural presumption for people to assume that attractive people are more likely to be confident. Furthermore, we assume that those people who have no trouble talking to everyone around them must be confident. And, lastly, don't we naturally feel more comfortable, perhaps more provided for, by those who are confident (or who we assume are confident)?

In response you might say, "But NJ! Sure, those three traits are all good indicators of confidence, so why don't we just ASSUME that the trait that leads to popularity IS confidence, rather than those three traits?"

That's a great question, You. The reason I would be hesitant to equate confidence with popularity is two-fold.

First, popularity does not result magically from a state of mind. As much as we would all like to pretend to have telepathy, we don't. What we do have is our own automatic reactions to the behavior of other people. And popularity, if nothing else, is not so much a measure of the person who is popular, as it is a measure of the way people around that person behave and respond to specific traits exhibited by the person.

To analogize: if the brightness of reflections of the sun were like popularity, then the explosions of the sun would be one component, but the light that came out of those explosions would be the much more major component.

To put it another way, it's all about what is being measured.

The second reason I hesitate to equate popularity and confidence has to do with the idea that maybe they don't fit together. It's entirely possible (and even likely) that women who are not confident at all exhibit all of the traits listed and are very popular; meanwhile women who are confident would not see the point of exhibiting these traits and would, consequently, be characterized as unpopular.

Ditto, but less confidently so, on men.

Anyway, bringing this all the way back around to the beginning, I am forced to conclude that many people took a hold of their own destinies after high school and made their lives as they would have them be. Fat kids became thin. Nerdy girls got cute. The unathletic kids got big-ass muscles. Steve became less of an asshole, and Jay, who was voted most-likely to become a child rapist, went on to lead a Fortune 500 company.

And then was convicted of child rape, because some things never change.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're right on many levels, but it's worth noting few people actually think they're in the cool group in high school.

I bet if we took the 90 kids (25% of the school, in any one year) that we thought were the "coolest" kids in our high school, only about 30 of them would admit to it.

That doesn't change your overall idea, but it does adjust it a little.

-- Joel

Kathleen said...

I have no confidence and was not popular. So I wouldn't equate the two either. I think it's sort of a vicious circle. To be popular, in most cases, I think you need confidence. But to have confidence takes some type of popularity.

Anonymous said...

Katie, did you even read or understand what he wrote?