January 18th, 2010
I recently have acquired a significant sum of money. Now everyone is asking me to share or help them out. I really don’t want to. What do I do?
Easy: you don’t do it.
As is stereotypical with this sort of thing, whenever you suddenly find yourself having a lot more money than you did before (and especially when it’s noticeable- such as if you win the lottery or inherit well-known riches), people tend to come out of the woodwork and ask for money for anything and everything- from requests to pay off their loans to simply requests for raw cash.
In a sense, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the wealth with people you like and want to share with- that’s something you probably already know. If you’ve really come into a significant amount of money, it doesn’t hurt to purchase a family member a gift or something- but only if you want to. You are not, in any sense, obligated to give anyone money for any reason merely because you happen to have more than you had before.
As for avoiding conversations on the topic, I recommend doing two things: avoiding the topic and obfuscating information. For the former, just avoid mentioning anything about the money, especially pertaining to how much you have now or what you’ve done with the money, as the less you mention, the less it is in the mind of those whom you know. As for the latter, try to avoid being too direct with the money or allowing people to know who-got-what or what you used the money for: neither are appropriate topics. If someone directly asks you, use a phrase like “a good amount” or “just enough”. If they keep pushing, directly refuse to answer. Never share information about whom you gave money and/or gifts to. Just avoid the topic.
With that being said, just be prepared for a lot of questions and requests- it’s almost expected with money. Just learn to politely refuse people.
January 4th, 2010
I’m not a very good talker. When I’m online, I’m good and can chat a ton. But in real life, I always get stuck with talking to people who talk over me. On my last date, the girl talked about herself all the time. What do I do in that situation?
Well, this is actually two issues- part of it lies in your own conversational skill, but it probably also relies heavily on your date.
As for your own conversational skill, there is nothing that beats real, actual practice. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons your typical internet user has trouble conversationally and socially is that they don’t get practice in real world conversations- rather, they tend to get used to a special sort of talking, one often either too formal or too specialized for casual use. Much like one would do when learning a new language, the best way to beat sucking at casual conversation is to simply talk to people as much as possible. Talk to people in your classes, your work, even at stores- anything to “level up” conversationally, for lack of a better term.
Regarding the date situation, some girls just incessantly talk. It’s not entirely the most fun thing in the world- trust me, I’ve experienced it a huge amount of times (especially with girls ranting about personal issues I’d never wanted to learn about). In a date situation, there’s often a lot of pressure to impress and “perform”- and that may give the girl pressure to talk a lot and ramble- but sometimes it’s merely a personality thing. Either way, if you truly cannot wrest control of the situation and find it irritating, it may just be best to find someone whom you can have better conversations with.
So basically, go out, practice speaking, and preferably not with that girl.
September 13th, 2009
“The Frisky”, a Turner-run equivalent to this site for women, has recently posted an article simply entitled “10 Things Women Don’t Understand About Men“, in which they ask some really ridiculous questions about men’s behavior. That being said, obviously, such an opportunity will not go ignored here- so here are the answers for The Frisky’s “10 Things Women Don’t Understand About Men“.
1. What is so hard about asking for directions?
It’s all ego and a little bit of wanderlust. The predominant theme, of course, is the ego- and in a general sense, the desire to fix something for oneself. Men typically are acculturated (at least in the west) to be as little interdependent as possible, which is precisely why the problem of “we’re lost” is generally fixed by the thought of “I’ll find a way out by myself”. As well, most guys have a kind of passive desire to discover things for themselves, as opposed to following directions- meaning, in essence, that it’s more “fun” to see the inner mechanisms yourself than to have someone explain it to you in detail.
2. Why do you need a gadget to unlock your car door?
I’m not sure why (stereotypical) women pretend like they don’t have their own gadgetry to fool around with- like vibrating mascara brushes (yes, that does sound dirty) and the like. In general, men like gadgets because they represent the new and the strange- and a lot of guys like the status bonus of having the latest and greatest stuff. As ironic as it may be, this is the exact reason why many self-important “businessmen” once ran around with pagers strapped to their belts- it had nothing to do with convenience as much as it had to do with the ambiance it perceptibly gave them.
3. What is it about “Star Wars”?
“Star Wars” is famous because it is generally accepted to be a really good genre-defining movie. “Star Wars” isn’t what we would consider some sort of tear-jerking masterpiece of writing, but what it does is evokes a sense of fun that only the Sci-Fi genre can. Similarly, movie series like the “Indiana Jones” series do this well not because of the complexity of the story, but because, in a kind of “Flash Gordon” sort of way, we get a kick out of the simplicity and action. Many guys will argue there’s a lot of depth to “Star Wars”- that may or may not be true, but it seems to mainly boil back down to the idea of the genre being fun for the sake of fun.
4. And the “bro hug”? Hug it out or don’t hug it out, you know?
As I’ll also note below, men do not like to touch each other, mainly because inter-male affection is frowned upon in most Western societies. In India and many other countries, this is very different- but you get what your culture has borne, and in this case, it’s a strong sense of personal space between members of the male sex. Would you much rather have us holding hands and hugging affectionately (as happens in the streets of India much more than it does between members of the opposite sex)? I think not.
5. When you keep one seat between you and your buddy at the movies, are you saving room for the holy spirit or what?
See the above. It also happens to give us more leg room and more arm room, which is ultimately more comfortable. If you ever take the time to look, most men sit fairly spread out, which is often cited as an attempt to be dominant and mark space. Females, trained to be relatively compact (both possibly as a sign of submission and also as a way to prevent showing panties in a skirt), do not do this.
6. Why are you so hung up on the bitchy girls?
Why are you so hung up on bitchy guys? The answer is simple: no-one likes problematic people, regardless of gender.
7. If you want to break up with us, why don’t you say so?
I’m not entirely sure where this question comes from (smacks of some angry female author making an article about an ex-boyfriend or something), but the general answer to this is just as complex as with girls: a lot of reasons. Some guys like the sex. Some don’t know how to safely break it off. Some don’t know if they want to break it off themselves. It’s always different and very hard to describe, and very dependent on the situation at hand.
8. Forget about putting the seat down, why don’t you ever change the toilet paper roll?
What kind of silly question is this? Guys are different. I have a good few male friends who actually get so semantic that they debate which way the toilet paper should be hung. If we’re making grandiose stereotypes, allow me to continue with them: we do it because the ever-present debate of toilet paper hanging has yet to be remedied.
9. Why do you ask for our number if you have no intention of calling?
There’s an insane amount of stigma attached to calling a girl, which some guys balk at. Additionally, some guys (myself included, at times) do not understand the proper protocol for certain number-givings. Merely deciding to call is hard enough- if you were vague in any way (or made appearances of being reluctant to give the number), often a guy will read that as a subtle sign and merely not call. In other cases, if you gave the number in a casual situation (i.e. in the sense of a club or meeting or business sort of thing), many guys will not call because they think it falls into the “box” of the aforementioned group, and that it would be rude to call. Even if they do decide to call and want to call, there is something rather intimidating about calling out of the blue for a date- try cold calling a male friend sometime.
10. Seriously, do you not smell that?
There’s actually some validity to the idea that men smell differently than women- but hey, let’s presume that we both do in a similar way. Pending that everything else is equal, everyone (regardless of gender, age, etc) has a very hard time smelling their own body odors after a while, mainly because they acclimate to the smell. Because of that, you too probably smell in some respects, no matter how much cleanser and perfume you may be wearing.
August 3rd, 2009
Following up on my “7 Reasons your Workout Sucks” article, it occurred to me that, through both e-mails and talking with friends, the issue of gym stupidity has not been properly covered on this website. Indeed, we’ve begun to cover what’s important for your own training- but we’ve conspicuously forgotten to cover anything related to gym etiquette. With that being said, after some deliberation (and going to the gym enough to be properly irate), here are the Ten Commandments of going to the Gym.
10. Thou shalt not intimidate.
This happens more than it seems it may. Just because you know your way around the gym does not give you the right to, intentionally or not, intimidate other people. Do not try to one-up those around you. Do not intentionally show off the speed you run, the amount of weight you lift, nor the size of your muscles: everything, no matter how much you may think otherwise, is relative to your body shape, size, and many other factors. Some of the best lifters I’ve ever known were the most courteous because they understood this very fact- it’s amazing to see a guy deadlifting 500lbs in the corner of the room to not bother anyone where guidos try to spread out to show off their “curling technique” to anyone who will glance at them.
9. Thou shalt spot and save when necessary.
Sometimes, muscles and machines fail. It happens to everyone, and it’s entirely normal- you can easily be pumping away with a bench press when the weight slams down on you because of a bad grip, or you can accidentally get yourself caught up on a cardio machine. No matter what, if you’re around and anything like that happens, help out. If you can’t lift the weight or manage the stuff, get someone else to help you. No, the person isn’t an “idiot”, nor are they bad lifters/runners/whatever- again, it happens to everyone- and you might need their help another day if you get yourself in a similar jam. It goes without saying that, if someone asks you to spot or help them out, within reason, you should help.
8. Thou shalt use good form.
Under no circumstances should you swing your weights maniacally, drop dumbbells, throw equipment, or any other manner of dangerous techniques. For some reason, many lifters (no doubt seeing videos of power lifter competitions) think they should throw their weights down after they are done, either to immediately release the strain from their muscles or for some kind of “manly” effect- either way, it is dangerous. At minimum, you could easily damage the equipment (see below), at worse, you could break a foot.
7. Thou shalt not preen, flex, or pose.
You are not Mr. Olympia (Dexter Jackson is, at least since last year). The gym is not a place to look good and show off, no matter how many times (other) dating websites may encourage you to pick up people: gyms are for exercise, and that’s just about it. That being said, looking at yourself in a mirror for a reason other than checking form is incredibly vain, especially if you do things like flex at yourself. I, and many of those whom I hit the gym with, have actually seen people lift up their shirts and try to show off their abs to themselves- trust me, it’s far from attractive. If you must be a budding Narcissus, do it at home.
6. Thou shalt not hog, nor shall thou hover.
Invariably, unless you are at some sort of mega-gym, there will be a scant amount of resources so far as machines go. Machines (or any kind of finite equipment- squat racks, olympic barbells, treadmills, etc etc) are incredibly expensive, which means that your average gym will have a scant few- so don’t hog them. In between sets, allow others to use the machine. Do not sit on the machine for extended periods of time. Do not tinker with the machine for hours on end. When you are done with the machine, remove the plates, clean up yourself, and then let someone else use it. However, the opposite applies as well- if someone is hogging a machine, no matter how irritating they may be, don’t hover and harass them. Feel free to ask them once, but beyond that, do not bug them. Be polite.
5. Thou shalt not damage equipment.
This is a no-brainer: use the equipment as it was meant to be used. Treat even the heaviest duty machines with care- no matter how much of a gym rat you may be, check the instructions and follow them. Especially for cord machines and other complex MC Escher-sort of equipment, you can often break a machine through improper use incredibly easily. Do not jostle a machine, try to “alter” it in any way, or otherwise attempt to do anything than what the little instruction sticker/guide/poster says.
4. Thou shalt keep to yourself.
The gym is not a place for mass socialization. It’s entirely fine to talk to someone in the lobby or even exchange a few words, but it is not a party locale, nor is it a place for you to do business, meet people, or the like. Feel free to be social- but remember, the gym is not a party, it is a location to work yourself to exhaustion and leave. If you do want to talk (or hit on someone), keep it somewhere relatively off the beaten path, and always defer to those actually exercising. Needless to say, you have no need to have a cell phone in the gym: do your business elsewhere. If you can easily talk and exercise at the same time, you are probably not exercising hard enough.
3. Thou shalt exercise.
No, seriously. See the above. Not only should you not be socializing in a gym, but you should also be actually exercising- not sleeping, resting, watching movies on your iPod, tinkering with your cell phone, or otherwise making an annoyance of yourself. Though it probably does not apply to you, the gym is not a miniature daycare: do not sit your child on a machine and make them wait for you later. Ideally, your time spent at the gym should be spent doing exactly what you are there to do, and nothing more.
2. Thou shalt not place yourself or others in danger.
This is one of the biggest rules you can follow, and it easily challenges the #1 spot: DO NOT PUT OTHERS OR YOURSELF IN DANGER. Do not, under any circumstances, do anything that could possibly endanger another lifter. Do not do situps under a moving weight. Do not stretch around someone squatting/deadlifting. Do not manhandle machines, tip things over, or swing your weights precariously. Do not mess around others using a treadmill, elliptical, or a machine with moving parts. Similarly, you should protect yourself: do not do an exercise you cannot do to completion. Do not do any kind of movement that could injure yourself. Despite how much of a perfectionist you may be, if you feel unsafe doing free weights, stick to plate machines or other much safer machines. If you feel woozy when running, stop running. No matter what, your safety takes precedence over your exercise.
1. Thou shalt clean up after yourself.
This is certainly the biggest rule: Clean up. If you are using plates, put the plates away when you are done- and put them in the right location. Clean up after yourself if you use chalk. Return machines to their default (or safest) position. Clean up any liquid spills or sweat, no matter how insignificant. Throw away used paper towels, place washable towels in the appropriate bin/box, and generally try to reduce any impact you make on the gym. If you can, actually, clean up where you can- even if you’re cleaning up after someone else. Gym managers have it harder than you think.
December 6th, 2008
Being in line to get a drink for McDonalds at rush hour (a time and a place one would not ever recommend for one’s time management/sanity/health), I realized something. Looking around at all the disgruntled employees working their rears off for close to minimum wage, I realized that there was something beautiful about the operation- that everything was organized so well that, about two seconds after I ordered a Diet Coke, a little machine picked it up, filled it with soda, placed it right next to an employee, and that employee immediately slapped a lid on it and handed it to me. Time elapsed: 0:10.
There’s something incredibly interesting about that. McDonalds has the art of effortless quality down- that is to say, despite the disgusting nature of their food, they are so ridiculously efficient that they can pump out virtually anything you ask for- a drink, a burger, fries, that sort of thing- in seconds. While the employees are working their rears off for piss poor wages, it doesn’t feel like that for the consumer- like one of those clever little Rube Goldberg machines, all I have to do is say “Soda” and it comes to me through some intricate process I don’t have to understand. This isn’t just McDonalds, of course- plenty of companies exist like this- from Amazon.com to Zappos to Netflix to even Starbucks. They all “get it”- the idea of corporate efficiency, insane perfection to the point where the “down time” between a request and fulfillment is so small that it’s almost meaningless.
What does this have to do with manners? Everything.
First off, allow me to explain the truth about manners. Manners are, for all intents and purposes, a way in which to divide society with (very arbitrary) standards that allow people to classify proper and improper behavior. Fundamentally, it does not matter if the actions are very logical or not- some are, some are not- but the entire purpose of these rules (generally codified by word of mouth, or more “recently”, by the genius of Emily Post and Judith Martin). These rules, developed through a long history of trial-and-error and flecked with different standards based on different periods of society, provide a kind of rubric for everyone to judge everyone else.
That sounds very cruel, so let me make it more simple. Manners are the simplified way to be nice and make life easy. Instead of wondering endlessly on how to properly greet someone in a business interview, you know that shaking their hand is appropriate. Instead of dry humping the leg of your date to get the point across, you take her on a date and balance physical interaction with comfortable distance.
Manners have always been around in some form or fashion- don’t believe those whom tell you they were invented some time in the Victorian era. Many cultures- Western cultures with Feudal systems, Chinese culture with the development of Confucianism (which is hybridized Manners + Ritual + Religion, but I digress), and it’s always revolved around the same old need to be able to know what to do in certain situations. Face it- the human race desperately clings to algorithms.
Victorian/Edwardian society really brought manners into play because of their spread across the world and strong (if not violently domineering) perspective on class and social structure. Given the nature of manners, you can correctly guess that people then (and even now) used manners as a very powerful way to define those who were “cultured” (i.e. those who were rich) and those who were laymen and the general proletariat, who had no “culture”. Rich, classy, landed people with rich bloodlines had long histories of family with manners who could pass those unwritten, unpublicized manners onto them- those of the lower castes did not, and thus a rift was created. This rift, which some may argue still exists today (and even before the Victorian/Edwardian periods), is still something of a burning thorn in the side of most Western cultures, particularly Americans.
Few guys really understand manners in the formal sense- but they do have an idea of manners, and more than likely, you do as well. Manners do not simply encompass the high brow “what fork to eat with and how many centimeters to place it from the place” crap- they encompass small things you may not even think about- cultural things like looking people in the eye, handshaking, posture, your actions at any form of social function, the way you walk, talk, wear clothing, eat, and even the way you have sex, except I’m fairly sure Emily Post would never have covered that part, classy minx.
The ironic thing about manners is that the rules are entirely arbitrary. There is no real reason (other than tradition) that dictates the proper way to use silverware is from the outside in- it just somewhat works that way (and serves restaurants well in place setting). These also change based on location- some cultures promote the idea of a man holding a door open for a woman (ladies first), some prefer men enter first and escort the lady inside (to verify the safety). Some of these arbitrary rules are slowly but surely phased out (thanks to the advent of deodorant and cologne and daily showers, we no longer are forced to keep our coats on around ladies)- but many stay around just for the sake of existing.
Fundamentally, though, just like McDonalds, the idea of manners and etiquette is to make the world a well oiled machine devoid of any needless hang-ups or issues. The point here is that, by following these little arbitrary social rules, you make life easier- you skip over the needless thoughts and processing in conversation. With manners, we no longer have to have intense debates with oneself over if touching unfamiliar ladies is appropriate- we know the rules, and we will more than likely be slapped if we do not follow them. Basically, even if you try to rebel (say, by grabbing a woman by the chest), you will still be pulled in with the polite response (getting slapped, thrown out, sued, etc).
I should be very careful to say that manners are a very fluid thing. The idea of manners- making this well oiled society- can be construed to mean ridiculous seminars, books, tapes, and the like. Sure, some books are absolutely great on this topic, but the popularity of “manners seminars” and similar workshops that cost $2,000 or more are no more than cash cows for those running them. There comes a point when manners become too invasive to keep the well oiled machine- and paying $2k to a self-proclaimed “manners expert” is generally that point. In the spirit of keeping things easy and short (and to prevent myself from becoming one of those self-proclaimed experts), I’m not going to list off a whole array of good habits and manners in this article- that’s not the point. Sure, I could do so, and I certainly need to do (potentially on our guide)- but that’s only a minor part of manners. If you truly posses the idea of manners and work towards promoting it- that is, helping social interaction be a well oiled machine- you won’t need insanely long guidebooks or rules to live by, even if some are helpful- you will “get” it. Chances are, as I have noted above, you probably already have a good idea of what you should do, depending on your location and culture.
The moral of this story is, to keep it stupidly simple, manners are something that you should understand and use, but simultaneously not be shackled by. The reason companies like McDonalds, Amazon.com and Zappos have rules to be super-efficient is not because of tradition or some arbitrary corporate culture- it’s because it makes money. Manners are to be used in a similar way- as they serve you to make social interactions easier, they should be used precisely for that and no more. The age old rules of manners- looking people in the eye, shaking hands, talking clearly, deferring to women (at least in Western society)- will likely never go old, and serve you incredibly well. The ridiculous stuff- keeping your salad forks so many centimeters away from one another- will rarely, if ever, serve you well in society.
Ditch what doesn’t serve you (or anyone else) well, keep what helps. Making endless rules and regulations about behavior and scrutinizing people based on their adherence? That’s not manners- that’s being a dick. Being understanding and using manners as a vehicle to making life easier for everyone? That’s true manners.
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