The Nine Faces of Dave
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2003-10-28 07:14:27 (UTC)

ladder theory is unstable

I probably shouldn't be taking the time to post, but this is
really the only chance I'll have to do anything about it for
the next few days.

As you might expect, there's another busy week looming over
the horizon. Scratch that, it's here now. Now the majority
of the hassle could have been avoided if I'd had information
in advance on what was going to happen, because the weekend
could have become hardcore study time. Here's the story.

The website for my AI class is apparently never going to be
updated for advance weeks. For the longest time, we had no
assignment listed for this week. That would have made a lot
of sense, because we have a book review due next week. The
problem? Today in class we received our assignment. So now
I've a paper to write in addition to reading some damn book
for next week AND doing my project for my other CS course.

Needless to say, the week's shaping up to be a bastard and a
half. There's an assload of work, and to make things worse,
now that we've gone off Daylight Time, it gets dark at 5:00
in the afternoon. So not only do I have lots to do, but it
all has to be done without the benefit of sunlight. Somehow
it's extremely demotivating when you can't actually see any
difference between 6:00 and 11:00 at night.

Other than that, things are going all right. The situation
with my roommate is improving, though he's still planning to
leave; apparently I'm talking in my sleep even more. That's
fine by me, because he's far enough down the list that if he
does get another place, I'm likely to have this space all to
myself. So it's a win-win situation: I get my privacy back,
he doesn't have to deal with my sleeping habits, and we each
get our own place. This is assuming, of course, that it all
pans out with the housing office. But that's another story.

No social advancement to speak of, but no backsliding that I
know of either. Things are pretty much the same as they've
been all semester, which I guess I can deal with. Granted,
it's still a bit discouraging when your neighbors won't even
acknowledge you in the hall, but fuck 'em, it's their loss.

My roommate and a number of his friends are major proponents
of something called Ladder Theory, which is supposed to be a
representation of the interaction between men and women, and
how people assess whether they are sexually attracted to an
individual and all that jazz. It would be interesting, but
unfortunately the discussion of it on the website turns into
a whole lot of bitterness, which leaves a bad taste in your
mouth and casts the rest of it in a negative light.

Now the real interesting thing about it was the description
of how most women assess a man's standing with them. Major
factors are money/power (50%), attraction (40%), and "things
women say they care about but don't (10%)." Attraction gets
broken down into: Looks, Competition, Novelty, and "Other."

Here's what really kills Ladder Theory for me: as near as I
can tell, I'm doing everything right according to the given
criteria. I don't come from a rich family, but considering
that I'm at college on scholarship and loans, I have a very
substantial sum of money, all of which I control. There are
lots of people here from wealthier families, but almost none
of them have the same monetary power that I do. So much for
money and power.

I've got the puny 10%, being sense of humor and all that, at
least according to what people tell me. Now the hard part:
that whole "attraction" category. Here's my take on it.

"Looks" is straightforward. And while I've never considered
myself a very good-looking fellow, nobody whose opinion will
ever matter has said I'm ugly. And strange as it may sound,
my women friends have told me I'm handsome. Of course, that
sampling might be a bit skewed, but it's the only testimony
I have to go on.

"Competition" is apparently based on how much effort they'd
have to put forth for the man's attention, and the higher it
is, the better. Well, I've got a lot going on, and I'm much
more devoted to academics, my exercise, and pinball than to
pursuing a relationship, at least right now. I'm not going
to count this session.

"Novelty" is easy. Just take a look at my interests and my
hobbies, and you'll see some pretty out-of-the-ordinary shit
going on. How many guys are hell-bent on making it onto the
high score list on a pinball machine? How many CS majors do
you know who read comics and play classical guitar?

The point is, depending on how you interpret ladder theory,
I'm either totally fucked or doing everything right. Now if
it just said "You have to be a biker and/or rich to get any
action," then it would have been easier to take. I wouldn't
necessarily agree with it, but at least it would have been a
lot more straightforward. And I refuse to believe that I'm
totally at a loss; my luck may have been shitty so far, but
that doesn't mean it can't turn around. And I know at least
one woman I'd have a chance with, if we were ever single at
the same time.

So that leaves the possibility that I'm doing everything as
I should be. So what accounts for my shitty luck? Clearly,
the only feasible explanation is that I'm such a paragon of
masculinity that women are incredibly intimidated and can't
muster the courage to approach me. Much as I like that idea
(and as much as my beard is evidence), I just don't think it
to be the case. The intimidation part, that is; I'm clearly
a shining example of manliness.

Why should I, as a single male, discredit Ladder Theory? It
provides a refuge, and an excuse for my shitty luck, so why
should I say it's bullshit? Mainly because in providing the
refuge, it also destroys all hope, because it maintains that
things are a certain way, and they aren't going to change.

The real problem is that it assumes people to make decisions
about who they date/sleep with/whatever on some well-defined
and rational basis. And the fact is, people are irrational
creatures when it comes to that sort of thing. We may have
an idea of what we're looking for in a mate, but when it all
comes down to the wire, we can't say what drew us to whoever
we ended up with. They may hold some or all of those traits
we sought, but in the end some poorly-defined abstract thing
is what set them apart.

And I guess that's part of my problem. In my field, and in
my life, I'm used to dealing with things on a logical, very
rational basis. Algorithms work the same every time; input
x always yields output y, regardless of how many trials you
run or where you place the routine in a larger system. And
humans just aren't that way. You can ask someone a question
and get a different response every time, depending on their
mood, the time of day, the weather, sunspots, whatever. The
same applies to dating and relationships.

I'd like to think of myself as mellower and more cool-headed
and rational than most people, and even I can't explain some
of my actions in terms that make sense. I can't explain why
I love pinball, or why writing helps me deal with stuff that
happens in my life. And I sure as hell can't explain why I
find myself attracted to some women and not others. I can't
even explain why I got so screwed up over that girl from my
high school, and I used to think I understood that situation
pretty well. But looking back on it, none of it makes much
sense, especially not my reaction to what happened.

I guess the thing to keep in mind is that the reason I don't
know the rules of the game is that there are no damn rules.
Everybody's just making the game up as they go, writing down
their playbook and trying to figure out everyone else's. Of
course, there's no ref, everyone is part of the crowd,

So until somebody comes up with a way to analytically model
irrational behavior, nobody's going to really know how this
actually works. That includes you, me, your aunt Gladys in
Hoboken, the remaining Beatles, and the guy who works at the
7-11 on the corner of Main and 5th. We're all flying blind
and hoping we get someplace good before we run out of gas.

Frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is Dave, signing off.