Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Women should go for the bookish introverts, not the smooth talkers

Not long ago I read a fascinating novel by someone I used to know back in my undergraduate days. Anthony Uhlmann’s novel ‘Saint Antony in His Desert’ has as a protagonist a young man who comes with a friend to Sydney from Canberra, where he grew up. During the trip, they visit a radio studio to show the staff there some new songs from back home. But they also meet up with some other young men who are in a band that plays in Sydney. One of them has a girlfriend named Louve who works at the radio station. During the evening that occupies the span of the novel, Louve and Frederick, the book’s hero, go off in Louve’s car to deliver an asthma inhaler to someone at a house in Redfern but on the way there they run out of petrol on Abercrombie Street and seek assistance in the office of a non-profit that agitates for workers’ rights.

The man who works there, whose name is Monte, is a plausible type of guy who seems willing to help the two out but when he finally offers them the petrol het puts his hand on Louve’s leg and suggests that he should get something in return for the fuel. Frederick stands up to challenge Monte, but Monte grabs Frederick by the neck and punches him efficiently in the face, breaking his nose.

This is not where the novel ends but it’s a crisis point that anchors much of what has gone before, and much of what will come after. Frederick is introduced at the beginning of the book as a man unable to perform small-talk but he comes across as an intelligent person with high ideals and lofty goals. The book is set in 1981 and there is something about Frederick that embodies what it was to be young in that era. One of the other characters, Kheiron, who is Louve’s boyfriend and who plays synth in a band, seems equally intoxicated by knowledge but his inane patter demonstrates that he hasn’t really understood what he’s been reading. The patina of cool that characterises him is embellished by a veneer of learning, and there were many people like him at the time.

That generation was not the first to move itself bodily to the inner-city of Sydney, the process had been happening since the 1960s and it had transformed working-class Paddington into a kind of antipodean Left Bank, but it continued the process so that now you have hundreds of restaurants in Newtown and Glebe and Darlinghurst that cater to the upwardly-mobile middle-class people who are the beneficiaries of te economic reforms introduced in the same era by the Hawke government. The flat white was invented at this time, and foreign restaurants became regular resorts on Friday and Saturday nights.

The problem with society is not so much the presence of boofheads like Kheiron but rather the ubiquity of feral types who resemble Monte and who possess a strong line in small-talk that can charm the leg off a goat, but who turn out to abuse their wives and rape the women they go out on dates with. People like this who can keep up the smooth banter get used to concealing their true natures behind a fa├žade of sociability and they are the ones to watch out for, not the bookish types who prefer their own company to going out with friends at the pub.

But women go for a kind of plausible rogue because he makes them feel comfortable and he makes them laugh, and women like to have fun. Which is something that poor Frederick is signally unable to deliver. However, society needs more men like Frederick, who are willing to risk exclusion from it because they follow their passions and say exactly what they mean. They’re not the type to just paper over the cracks in conversation with jokes and neat phrases, which are things that are often mere subterfuges designed to delude because they allow their users to control women.

Women are among the many who publicly call for men to be more open and express their problems. Women themselves tend to talk out things that trouble them, and thus mainly avoid the severe life crises that impel many men to take their own lives. But this apparent aspiration to offset through conversation some of the more toxic elements of masculinity is actually false because still women tend to go for the guys who hide their problems behind a veneer of sociability. Men learn that they should lie about their feelings if they want to attract desirable women. They have to be strong and reliable and considerate, but some of these things can be easily faked in the absence of actual experience of how someone behaves in different situations. As a result, many women are deceived into complacency by controlling men.

But the ability to lie and conceal your true ambition is prized by large organisations as well, so men who can do this are rewarded with material wealth. Managers have to be able to develop working relationships with their colleagues while at the same time engineer situations so that they themselves get more of the resources that are available to spend in order to further the aims of the business, the government department, the not-for-profit, or the university. To do this they have to have what are called in common parlance “high-level communication skills”, which are just weasel words that means a person has the ability to companionably deceive others about his or her true motives.

The inevitable correlate of this sort of personality of course is the passive-aggressive narcissist who neglects to have a contretemps during a meeting but who later on goes behind your back and engineers some form of revenge on the quiet that impacts on your career. This kind of psychopath rises fast in organisations because he or she instils fear in his or her colleagues while on the surface maintaining working relationships with them.

When in fact the only place where lying should be tolerated is in art, where it is central to the project. When writing a book, an author will flatter the reader with select tropes, phrases and gimmicks in order to elicit a certain reaction from him or her at specific points in the narrative. This is legitimate because the end result is to entertain and inform, and the two things are best done when they are done together. This kind of flattery is completely legitimate but it must always stay on the page or in the podcast or in the MPEG file. Once it breaks out into the real world, the trouble starts.

1 comment:

Murfomurf said...

I totally agree that women should go for the bookish introverts and they've paid off in the end for me! However, there are some caveats. First, some of the quiet introverts may have a touch of Asperger's Syndrome and turn out NOT to display any sign of affection or caring once in a relationship. It can be the level of Asperger's that is only seen inside an intimate relationship and won't be apparent to most women- who then get depressed and feel unwanted. The second sort of quiet introvert I have met is the extremely bookish type who is really a terrible narcissist and becomes very aggressive if any of their facade is questioned. Then their rages are verbal, or emerge as long periods of just not communicating at all, while maintaining a friendly front to all other people in their circle. Apart from these "types" I have encountered the quiet ones definitely win, especially for bookish girls/women.