Thursday, June 16, 2011

When It's Okay to Change

When I first got my driver's license, I was very cautious on the road.  I drove about below the speed limit and never took a right turn on red.  I had no problem taking my time when I was going to a fun event, but the following summer, when I started working, I realized that my slow driving meant getting up earlier in the morning to get to work on time. That's how I started going the speed limit, taking right turns on red, and driving like everybody else.  I don't do things like learn to drive on the highway because it's what people do - I do things when I want to or have a reason to.

I was used to think that people changed when they entered a relationship, and I knew that I would never do that.  But I realize now that there is a difference between changing for someone and changing because of them. Changing for someone means that you're purposely altering yourself to please them.  Changing because of someone can mean that the person is your reason for doing something, the same way that sleeping later in the morning is a reason to drive the speed limit to work.  I've been wearing more fun outfits since I've had a boyfriend, but I've always liked clothes and putting outfits together.  It's just that in recent years, I haven't had anyplace to go and wear fun outfits (I'm not going to dress for a beach party just to sit in a boring class).  I haven't changed - I just have a reason to do things that I wanted to do all along.

Like I said in a previous entry, when it comes to acting differently in a relationship, you need to think about how you normally act in other situations.  If your behavior varies from situation to situation, if you do things because you have a specific reason, then changing because of another person is no different than learning to drive because you have someplace to go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Children's Media Discourages Introversion

In many children's stories and TV shows, a kid will get into a fight with their friends, storm off, and then try to play catch, tether ball, checkers or some other game that requires a partner by themself to show that a person can't have fun alone.  As a child, I used to hate having the message pushed on me that you can't have fun by yourself.  I loved playing by myself as a kid, and I still love doing things alone now.  Why play catch by yourself when there are so many activities that are actually more fun to do alone?

Children's media is primarily aimed at extroverted children and it confuses friendship with the false idea that you need other people to have fun. I love my friends and really miss them when I can't see them, but I miss them as individuals, rather than missing the "hanging out with friends" experience. Missing my friends doesn't mean that I have nothing fun to do by myself. When the media shows kids playing catch by themselves, they confuse the idea of missing an individual with the idea that it is impossible to have fun on your own. If a story is about a fight between friends, the friends could still miss each other, but not act like they have nothing else to do.

If a bunch of kids are playing a game that one kid doesn't want to play, the story shows the kid's failed attempts at trying to have fun alone, and ends by indicating that it's more fun to play a game you don't like with your friends than to be by yourself.  But that's just not true for everyone - maybe it is for some kids who are really extroverted and just can't have fun alone, but those of us who enjoy playing alone in the first place can actually have a lot more fun doing something we love alone than doing something we don't like with someone else.  If you want to address the friendship issue, the kids could take turns deciding what to play, or they could decide that in this particular instance, spending time with friends is more important than the activity.  There are many different ways to get a lesson or message across, and there is no reason to diminish the value of having fun alone in order to prove the value of friendship.  There's no reason to play catch alone.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Tell Me I'm Not Alone

As time passes, I often find simpler explanations for things I had trouble getting across before. Let's say my college serves lemonade that almost everybody loves.  There's also a subculture of students who don't like the lemonade because they think it's way too sweet.  So I take a sip of the lemonade and think it's horrible because it's not sweet enough - I would need to add at least ten cups of sugar before I would want to drink it.  And when I tell people about this problem, they tell me that I'm not alone and I should go and bond with the other kids who don't like the lemonade - the kids who would make the lemonade even less sweet if they were in charge.

That's my college experience in a nutshell.  So please don't tell me that I wasn't alone, that there were plenty of other people who didn't like the lemonade.  Would you gravitate towards people who were fighting for less sugar when you were fighting for more?  Then don't tell me that's what I should have done.  I know plenty of people who were unhappy with the way things were, but not a single person who wants their lemonade as sweet as I do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Being Yourself in an Impression-Management World

I always said that I would never let things like work or job interviews influence personal choices such as streaking my hair bright colors, getting a tattoo, or using whatever I want as an email address.  I have done things a little differently than I imagined I would, but that's because of what works better for me.

I used to think that using your real name as your email address was boring, but now I understand why a lot of people do it, and it turned out to be the perfect fit for me.  For my first email address, I used the name fhsdramaqueen199. FHS was my high school and 199 was the chorus room number.  But once I'd been out of chorus for a year, the "199" was no longer significant to me. And I knew once I graduated high school that I wouldn't necessarily want the "fhs" in my name. I realize that any email address I come up with will have the same issues of feeling temporary - anything except for my real name. My real name is the only thing that will always feels right.

Regarding tattoos, I used to think I might like one because my friends all talked about getting them, but the truth is that I can't think of anything that I would still want on my body a year from now, let alone the rest of my life. My style and interests have changed in ways that I could not have predicted.  The tattoos I would have liked in middle school wouldn't have fit me in high school, the things I would have liked in high school wouldn't have fit me in college, and so on. There are things that will always matter to me, but whether or not I want those things on my body has more to do with my style than with their importance. And my style is temperamental. It's based on how I feel. So no matter what tattoo I get, there will be days when I just won't want it on my body.  Not getting a tattoo is really the right choice for me.

And regarding the hair streaking, I got some fake hair pieces that I can put in and take out whenever.  I never liked the idea of having to permanently streak my hair and wait for the color to grow out - I much prefer choosing when I want to wear streaks. Again, this makes it easier to dress the way I feel at a given moment.

The point is that, even though I imagined myself having a tattoo and real hair streaks and an email address like "broadwaydivastar"or "anitcollegeemogirl," I made different choices not because I'm giving into any pressure to act mature or appropriate, but because of what is right for me.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Relationships and Compatibility Tests

Most compatibility tests suggest that the more similar you and your partner are, the more compatible you are.  I took the Big Five personality test on Facebook, which also calculates a similarity score between you and all of your friends who have taken the test. My similarity scores with everyone ranged from about 60 to 90 percent alike, and my closest friends and I are in the 60s to low 70s range.  The test considers us to be opposites (although it's hard to know whether 70 percent is actually a low score, given that my lowest similarity score was 58 percent) The results got me curious and inspired me to propose study on personality compatibility for a psych class.  But knowing that my friends and I had opposite personalities didn't threaten the stability of our friendship - I was really curious about why we were attracted to each other, but I never wondered about whether we would last as friends.  I just assumed that we would.

So why do compatibility tests have such authority when it comes to romantic relationships?  I understand that it's more serious and that you're spending a lot more time with the person, but I have to wonder...is what you look for in a partner so much different from what you look for in a friend?  Most of us will tolerate more or less from our friends, but if you think about what you ideally want in a friendship, isn't it very close to what you would want in a relationship?

In the beginning, I was concerned about the fact that my boyfriend and I are only 72 percent alike, and when I compared his scores to my other friends, it turned out that he is more like all of my other friends than he is like me.  In the beginning, I wondered if this meant we weren't compatible.  But when you think about it, if my friends and I are all about 70 percent alike, then it makes perfect sense that I would also attract and be attracted to a boyfriend whom I am 70 percent like.  Whatever the reason, those are the people I get along best with and who get along best with me, so why should it be any different in a relationship than a friendship?

As fascinated as I am by personality quizzes, the best advice I can give on compatibility tests is to just have fun with them if you can do so without worrying, and put real life first.  Friendship is at the core of a relationship; you wouldn't wonder about compatibility if you answered differently than a close friend, so don't give compatibility tests authority over your relationship.