Re: Guest Post - Three musings about risk aversion

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My pattern seems to be that, while I'm doing something (probably stupid) and for about another day after, I'm thinking, Jesus Christ I'm awesome. Then for about a week I mope around wondering how awful the thing really was and if I burned the remaining bridges in my life. Then I settle on the likelihood that nobody gives a shit what I do, and if they do, they're probably assholes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 9:46 AM
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Contrary to the OP, NickS and I are apparently the same person. Or near enough.

I'm much, much more likely to feel bad about things that I have done then things that I have not done. I think in terms of human beings this tends to be a minority personality trait, so I absolutely believe people who tell me that "You'll always regret the things you didn't do!" For them, it's probably true.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 10:53 AM
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I think people say "You regret the stuff you didn't do" because it makes them sound like tough, go-getting, action types.

The psychological studies--you know, the ones where they offer people the same choice, but sometimes they phrase it as a chance to win something and sometimes as a chance to lose something--show that nearly everyone is basically risk adverse.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:02 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:07 AM
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"You regret the stuff you didn't do"

has the drawback that it creates a near infinite list of things to regret.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:29 AM
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The psychological studies--you know, the ones where they offer people the same choice, but sometimes they phrase it as a chance to win something and sometimes as a chance to lose something--show that nearly everyone is basically risk adverse.

I probably shouldn't be starting a discussion when I'm about to be away from the computer, but I am very curious to know what kinds of studies have been done on people's behavior in real life as compared to how they say they will behave in a study setting.

I'm somewhat agnostic on this particular question -- I could pretty easily be convinced that the sample of friends and family who have spent long hours rehashing and mourning past decisions is not representative -- but in general I'm pretty skeptical that how people say they will act when presented with a survey question is how they actually will act.

If for no other reason than survey questions are often framed in generalities ("If you were hurrying to class and someone seemed to be lying on the ground, would you stop and help?") rather than the way people actually encounter them in real life.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:30 AM
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It strikes me that there are two contexts in which the musings in the OP might operate: on the one hand, there's "should I fly across the country to meet someone I've never met but whom I think I'll really like?" On the other hand, there's "I wouldn't mind quitting this job, but the economy is really bad and I really don't have a boatload of money to float me while I search for another job."

In the first sort of case, you might find yourself to be an adventurous type, while in the second you might not. The stakes are crucial. Since Nick refers to goals and to things like school and work, he sounds like he's talking about higher-stakes decisions; while Heebie refers to stakes that "weren't really that high," so she might be talking about the former type of risk.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:36 AM
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The framing effect is the name for the sort of research I was thinking of. The classic survey is about different scenarios for stopping a disease, with the variation coming from whether you talk about lives lost or lives saved.

The scenario is different than either Heebie's "I think I'll fly across the country to see a new person" or Nick's "I'm going to quit my shit job during a recession," because you are not making decisions just for yourself, but I think it is still representative.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:44 AM
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Actually, that research doesn't say what I want it to say. The result of those studies is simply that putting things in positive terms makes people more risk adverse. It doesn't say anything about baseline levels of risk aversion.

I still think Americans like to present themselves as more risk seeking than they really are.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:49 AM
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Since Nick refers to goals and to things like school and work, he sounds like he's talking about higher-stakes decisions; while Heebie refers to stakes that "weren't really that high," so she might be talking about the former type of risk.

I mean both. To give an example, last Sunday I went up to Vancouver with friends and spent the day hanging out. It was fun, but it was a long day with a bunch of driving and all of the mild social efforts of coordinating small group activities in a city (do we stay here longer, do we move on to the next thing, where should we park) so it was busier than what I would normally do on a Sunday.

Me being who I am, and my work being what it is, I was very much aware that I was a step slow mentally on Monday. That was fine, but it was part of my calculation -- I knew that I could get away with being a step slow without getting too far behind. If this week had been as busy as some in the month, than I wouldn't have gone. The trade-off between having fun with friends and playing catch-up at work wouldn't have been worth it.

Now, that isn't just an example of risk aversion, that's also me being an introvert and finding the social effort mentioned about more draining than some people would, but it's very much the sort of trade-off that I think of when thinking about "things I haven't done."

Something has to be awfully tempting to get me to do it if I predict that doing it will lead me to feel like I am neglecting responsibilities -- even in a relatively small way.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:55 AM
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10 feels like it may be more about my own personal flavor of crazy than I want but, to me, the issues in the OP apply to small as well as large decisions.

I definitely feel like we shape our lives with both the big decisions (what job do I want, where do I live, who do I spend time with?) and also the patterns and frameworks that we build up for making day-to-day decisions.

One could also say, of course, that one's particular personality shapes what would be considered a major decision.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:04 PM
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Two unoriginal points:

"No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office." There's one hell of an assumption about class, there. Plenty of people work because they need every penny.

On Jordan, a paradox: at his peak, for any game he played, he could reasonably expect that he would win; but he could not reasonably "expect to win every game", that is, go 82-0 for the year.


Posted by: DonBoy | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:07 PM
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10: Thanks. Put that way, I am similar to you. It's not particularly neglect of responsibilities that I'm concerned to avoid, but if I know that something is going to result in a difficult time the following day (or days), either for lack of sleep or emotional upheaval or what-have-you, I'm likely to weigh that fairly heavily.

I will say that this has increased as I've gotten older, simply because I'm more tired and creaky than I had been. Used to be I'd run around all over the place 'til any hour .... It's also the case that my life arrangements allowed for more of that (the student life is more flexible, and I had a VW bus that I did indeed wind up sleeping in on occasion, which had supplies in it, and I miss that).

Putting it all in terms of the narrowness of one's comfort zone, as you did, is right on. My comfort zone has narrowed as I've gotten older.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:08 PM
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11: Sorry to serially comment, but comfort zone (stability?) does apply to larger-scale decisions to an extent, sure. For example, one of the myriad reasons I finally left grad school was that I was sick and tired of a transient lifestyle. I wanted to be able to have a garden, and furniture with more heft than a collection of milk crates.

So I'd not put this, for myself, anyway, in terms of risk aversion so much as a soft spot for (not an obsession with) stability and predictability. I've certainly heard complaints that I'm not spontaneous enough, to which I can only reply: dude, why do you think I'd want to take off for the weekend at 7:30 Friday night after I just got home from work, when this is the first I've heard of it, and I have things to do this weekend? All you had to do was mention it on Wednesday! Or Tuesday even.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:21 PM
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"should I fly across the country to meet someone I've never met but whom I think I'll really like?"

Well, duh. Let me know when your plane arrives, parsie, and I'll pick you up at the airport.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:31 PM
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this paper talks about regrets of action and inaction

http://www.fz-juelich.de/inb/inb-mut/innsbruck/sommer06/pdf/unterlagen/experience.pdf

There is apparently a shift where in the short term actions are more regretable but in the long term inactions are more regretable. The long term inaction regrets are not really "carpe diem" stuff; not finishing college, not working harder at your career rank highly.

Here is a study that seems to indicate that regret associated with not partying increases over time

http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2006/06/study_in_the_lo.php.


http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2006/06/study_in_the_lo.php


Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:36 PM
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Here is a study that seems to indicate that regret associated with not partying increases over time

Sounds about right. I sort of wish I had been a bit wilder in college.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:41 PM
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Huh. It appears that I am NickS. (A musically illiterate NickS.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:47 PM
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15: No kidding, I've done that crazy thing twice in the last few years. I have no objection! Next time I'm arranged for a cross-country trip, Portland has a gold star on it. I love it over there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 12:50 PM
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I don't regret breaking out the chainsaw to cut branches into manageable logs. But dear god, my hands are swollen.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:05 PM
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One thing I learned from being a weird kid is that people who make fun of you or reject you will do that whether you talk or not, whether you ask to play with them or not, whether you do what you want or not. In high school, I was still pretty repressed, but I spoke up a lot more, got involved in things I liked, and found friends.

It started to seem like not doing/saying what I wanted always had negative consequences, and doing/saying what I wanted at least occasionally had positive outcomes, so there wasn't any point in not doing things I wanted to do.

The problem is that, as I get older, there is just less I want to do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:27 PM
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Well, duh. Let me know when your plane arrives, parsie, and I'll pick you up at the airport.

I'd be careful. He seems like the type who might try to ply you with wine . . .

There is apparently a shift where in the short term actions are more regretable but in the long term inactions are more regretable. . . . regret associated with not partying increases over time.

Both of those seem like they could be explained by the fact that, as the decisions recede in time, it becomes harder to the trade-offs as they existed at the time. It's always easier to wish that you had been more decisive when you no longer remember the confounding factors.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:40 PM
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He seems like the type who might try to ply you with wine . .

You say this like it's a bad thing.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:45 PM
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21.last: But wouldn't you love to do this?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:55 PM
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That looks stressful.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 1:57 PM
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It would be challenging, that's true. A bit athletic. You'd have to be pretty sharp-eyed and have good control. I don't know, it seems like a thrilling combination of physical being-there and letting go. I absolutely love it. It's gorgeous.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 2:03 PM
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either Heebie's "I think I'll fly across the country to see a new person" or Nick's "I'm going to quit my shit job during a recession," because you are not making decisions just for yourself, but I think it is still representative.

Right, flying across the country is the type of decision where I'm apt to frame it as "Fuck it! I'm curious and it'll at least be an experience!"

For "quit my shit job during a recession", I'm definitely not an impulsive person, but I still wouldn't frame it in terms of regret. It would be - as in LizSpigot's ATM - determine what my gut instinct is, and then launch into the careful planning to make it a reality.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 8:24 PM
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"If you're just an ordinary person, however, [being driven by fear of failure/hatred of losing] seems like it would lead to paralysis ..."

This basically sums up my life in one sentence.


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 10:02 PM
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determine what my gut instinct is, and then launch into the careful planning to make it a reality.

If you ever hear that Pittsburgh police are seeking a white male of average build for questioning in the theft of 6 cases of port, a dozen cartons of American Spirit blues, and a Nissan Leaf, you'll know your advice has touched one life.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 10:04 PM
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I'm with NickS. I turned down all kinds of crazy experiences between ages 17 and 19 because not for one second would the thought "Um, who's going to drive me home, and when?" leave my mind. After that the opportunities for crazy experiences dried up.x


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 10:26 PM
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29: Are you planning on leaving a calling card of some kind or is there some fabulous store where you can steal all of those things in one location. (Despite my cold, I'm having an "I miss American Spirit Blues" moment.)


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 10:52 PM
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American Spirits burn way too long. Let it go. Camel Lights Blue for the win cancer!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:21 PM
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As a friend and I discovered the other night while jonesing for smokes (on account of the smoke bone being connected to the drink bone), the American Spirit perique blend in the black box is pretty good. Not a perfect substitute for Shermans, but closer than anything else I've come across.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:33 PM
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You know, you can always put them out. Besides, I'm over it and back to being happy I don't smoke anymore now. And Camel Blues remind me of my ex-girlfriend at Christmas time.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 10-10-10 11:36 PM
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On questions that have real consequences, like money, housing and employment, i'm extremely risk averse. But where the outcome doesn't actually have the potential to destroy my life I find it impossible to make decisions at all, because I genuinely don't give a fuck. This annoys the hell out of Mrs y who is given to claiming that she always has to make all the decisions about what we do (this isn't in fact true, because she has the same approach, so usually we end up going with whatever the default is.)

I'm thinking of designating a magic penny and tossing the bugger every time I'm asked to make a choice.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 12:46 AM
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I suppose I'm quite risk averse, although I have completely changed careers and lives a couple of times. They didn't seem especially risky choices at the time, though.

On the other hand, I think my graduate-school-induced crypto-Asperger's dorkiness has made me much less spontaneous than I used to be about trivial, fun things.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 3:59 AM
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Well yeah, I completely changed "career" once. This is how risky it was: I handed in my notice at my old job where the site director was so unpredictable that people tried not to be alone in a room with him; I took up a place I had already been offered on a free training course in a field where at the time there was a huge skill shortage; three weeks after I finished the course I was offered a job as a raw trainee on half as much again as I'd been making previously.

I still reckon I'm risk averse.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 4:27 AM
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Yeha, my career changes were mostly swapping shitty jobs in one no-hope line of employment for other shitty jobs in marginally less-no-hope lines of employment. And then spending the best part of a decade getting a doctorate, and teaching experience, only to find shit all luck at finding a job, and reverting back to an earlier career.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 4:42 AM
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That's a bit of a sod. Are you still trying to find a match for your expertise or do you see that as another change of direction, for better or worse? Maybe you should submit some dumbed down bits of your thesis articles to CiF and see if you can elbow your way into the Graun's little "scienceblogger" group. I think you'd be quite good at it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 4:50 AM
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I am much more risk-averse now than I was in the past. it's different if you give a shit.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 5:03 AM
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re: 39

I was speaking to a friend the other day who is very widely published [in a related but more science-orientated field] and she had some useful tips for getting some of my work out there that might be more productive/useful for me in finding alternative/related modes of employment than just strip mining my thesis for papers and submitting to journals. She's involved with publishers [as a reviewer/editor type] and so has some fairly concrete advice on getting things done.

Whatever happens, I expect some sort of change of direction will be on the cards, but I'm not 100% sure yet exactly what. The academic job market doesn't look like it's going to work out, and, tbh, I'm not sure I look a great candidate on paper anyway;* which given the number of genuinely excellent candidates** out there chasing a very very small number of jobs does seem to mitigate against having any success in that area.

But, I may pursue something related, if I can. And yeah, the CiF sort of route is something I've considered.

* I think I'm pretty good at what I do, but I don't think my CV really reflects that, and it's hardly fair to expect prospective employers to just miraculously read between the lines.

** and the shitty ones who are able to draw on contacts and bullshit, of course.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 5:09 AM
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My life framework is guided by the negative/positive approaches "Will I be bored?"/"I'm curious to see what will happen if I try this." I generally consider a bad outcome to be preferable to inaction

The baby-flinging makes much more sense now.

(And 40 seconded)


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 5:10 AM
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I can relate to this (from 35):But where the outcome doesn't actually have the potential to destroy my life I find it impossible to make decisions at all, because I genuinely don't give a fuck.

Arranging the furniture in my apartment simply paralyzes me with indecision. I managed to mitigate it it by deciding I hated my couch more than thermonuclear war and getting rid of it. Doesn't completely solve the problem, but it does simplify things a bit. Now the chairs are beginning to annoy me...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 6:40 AM
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||

Now here's a thing! Apparently the British Treasury owned the trading name for a hundred years and then fllogged it back to the private sector.

I trust the Boston commentariat stands ready to do the necessary in case this outfit decides to try and offload some cheap tea (Earl Grey, naturally) in their fine city.

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 6:41 AM
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Chris: ironically, rather than owning India, it's now owned by an Indian.

I'm rather happy that the Hudson's Bay Company, which once owned about a tenth of the world's land area, is still around, albeit in slightly reduced circumstances as a department store chain.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 6:58 AM
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I think I'm pretty good at what I do, but I don't think my CV really reflects that, and it's hardly fair to expect prospective employers to just miraculously read between the lines.

Maybe it is because Americans are prudes, but I would be very careful about putting a penis picture into my CV.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 7:01 AM
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I spent most of my life being solely motivated by fear of negative outcomes (I think this is referred to as avoidant motivation? but I can't remember it's opposite), and it made me absolutely miserable. Then I decided that I'd rather be motivated by positive goals, and...I still haven't quite worked out how to be productive that way. Seems I'm still better at running away from bad things rather than running towards good things, though, if only for my own peace of mind and productivity, I'd really like to get better at the latter. Preferably quickly.

Anyone made the switch successfully? Got tips? Please share.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 9:29 AM
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Anyone made the switch successfully?

I wasn't ever completely fear-based, but it was one of my therapist's favorite things to call me out on. "That sounds like you're operating out of fear instead of hope. What's up?" That retrained me pretty thoroughly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 9:31 AM
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I wasn't ever completely fear-based, but it was one of my therapist's favorite things to call me out on. "That sounds like you're operating out of fear instead of hope. What's up?"

That would drive me crazy very quickly. I have enough of a tendency to feel defensive; I suspect that would exacerbate it.

I am curious, HG, you're one of the few people on the internet unfogged who identifies as an extrovert, and you're also one of the few people on this thread who claims to be risk-tolerant (I wanted something other than risk-seeking), do you feel like there's a connection between (self-reporting) those two traits?

I would say that being strongly introverted makes me more likely to think of myself as cautious (in addition to my generally cautious nature).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 10:19 AM
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No time to read; possibly of interest.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 10:25 AM
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47.1 to 46.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 10:28 AM
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46: but I would be very careful about putting a penis picture into my CV.

It works best as a watermark.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 5:27 PM
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HG, you're one of the few people on the internet unfogged who identifies as an extrovert, and you're also one of the few people on this thread who claims to be risk-tolerant (I wanted something other than risk-seeking), do you feel like there's a connection between (self-reporting) those two traits?

Yeah, probably. I'm not extremely extroverted - probably really somewhere in the middle - but I like social situations where I feel like I hit my stride and get some adrenaline going from drawing people into fun banter.

At any rate. Probably most of the low-stakes fly-across the country type risks are heavily social, I bet. So yes, I bet this is flip sides of the same trait.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 6:17 PM
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||

I was thinking about e-mailing this in as an "Ask the Mineshaft, Psychological Edition."

I recently realized that I'm kind of afraid of strong women in authority, that is, I don't assert myself in front of them, whereas I have no problem standing up to a man. This sort of horrifies me.

There's a specialist I saw recently who's kind of gruff, and she spent a lot of time talking about the women's movement, television and why I shouldn't let other doctors prescribe CIPRO (there was something in my chart about tendonitis), but she didn't spend much time talking about her area of expertise or going over my sleep test results. I think that if she had been a man, I would have done more to take charge of the situation.

There's a woman I work with who runs one of our group homes who is strongly opinionated, and I don't advocate for my clients as strongly with her as I would with the male consulting psychiatrist (though I only see him monthly).

I don't flirt with these men. At least, I hope not, but it does feel more like a game somehow. I can't help thinking the Cary Grant movie, His Girl Friday, and that clearly did have a romantic, sexual component.

Is this *just* my own neurosis or do other Mineshaft women have similar issues?

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 6:51 PM
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Well, do you imagine them in their underwear?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 7:35 PM
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HA!


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 7:37 PM
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I have to have a meeting tomorrow with a female supervisor who has complete freakouts whenever I'm in the room--like full-on screaming, banging-the-table fits, in front of everyone--and then emails me about how she really wants to be my friend and help me do my job better, if only I would let her, and she "doesn't understand what is wrong with [me]." I learned in our first interaction two years ago to say nothing around her except what I think she wants to hear (when she asks for my expertise or opinion, apparently, that is most definitely not what she is interested in--lesson learned), but still the freakouts. I do not want to have this meeting, but my continued employment depends on it.

I think my problem is that I don't really recognize authority in any form, male or female (wasn't raised to), and in academia, people of higher station are usually pretty used to being tested or challenged. But this woman reacts like some cops do around me. (I don't deal well with cops sometimes either.)

I'll trade you your deferential skillz for tomorrow, BG!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 7:48 PM
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I'm a boy and I've had good and bad supervisors, men and women, but I think on average I find it a bit easier to deal with nonsense from female supervisors than male ones. On my part, I think I default to a bit more pointless ground-standing around men.

Interestingly, and contra BGs dynamic, my dissertation advisor, a woman, seems to have much better relationships on average with her male students than her female ones. She wants you to assert yourself, but also requires a real component of deference. I can't tell whether that's been harder for many of her female students or whether she's more combative with them.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 10-11-10 9:47 PM
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I didn't mean actual supervisors. And it isn't just people in authority. I find it's generally easier to argue/ fight with men in a playful way than with women.

It isn't conscious deference.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:03 AM
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I basically flirt with anyone who I want to put at ease. Male or female.

I guess I should say, anyone horizontal or above me in power. I wouldn't say that I flirt with students.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:07 AM
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Flirting with people who are horizontal might get misinterpreted.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:11 AM
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Who said they're misinterpreting?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:12 AM
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My (small and non-rigorous set of) work observations say that women tend to have more difficult working relationships with female supervisors than with male supervisors, and that it gets worse when there's an age difference of 10 years or more in either direction.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:14 AM
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horizontal or above me

Anyone horizontal *and* above you is well past the flirting stage anyhow.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:15 AM
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63. Agreed.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:17 AM
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63: Huh, well I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:17 AM
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63: That has also been what I have seen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:18 AM
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66: There's always gender reassignment surgery.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:20 AM
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68: That would require a very accommodating supervisor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:23 AM
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My current supervisor is a woman who is pretty chill and lets us do our own thing, so I don't have much trouble with her.

And there isn't a ton of competition. There's not much of a career track, and people are fairly open about not wanting to stay forever. A social worker just out of school benefits by getting required supervision in their first couple of years out of school, but once that's over s/he'll probably go out and get a slightly more lucrative job at an agency doing straight-up psychotherapy and then move into private practice.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:23 AM
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Though I suppose if BG got the surgery instead of her supervisor, it would be less of a hassle for the supervisor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:28 AM
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And it would demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile for workplace comity that could only help come evaluation time.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:30 AM
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At a former job, I once suggested that giving everybody else thorazine was a reasonable accommodation for my disability. It turns out not wanting alert coworkers isn't a "disability" as far as the ADA goes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:33 AM
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73: I think this merits further explication.

Were you an air traffic controller, perhaps?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:41 AM
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Cage fighter.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:43 AM
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It took forever to get the best parking place once they learned that if my hands were not visible, I had the TASER ready.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 9:45 AM
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Huh, well I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it.

Wear a Life of Brian-style false beard? "No, uh, Bostoniangirl left. I'm her replacement, SOUTHIEMAN."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:06 AM
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I picked up an issue of Harper's that I assume is current that had this big essay by a woman who's name I can't remember (obviously) on the Elektra dynamic in American feminism. It was less painful to read than that makes it sound, but basically the point was: we're all raised to hate our mothers.

Or something.

I dunno, it made a lot of big points about intergenerational female nastiness. Which, it must be sad, is definitely a thing. Her point is that it wasn't always a thing, but who knows.

It is certainly...odd. And completely crazy-making. The lady in 57 sounds batshit insane. Do you have a flip camera? Those are easily concealed. My problem is I tend to ask, out loud, things like, "what is wrong with you?" I'm going to go ahead and assume Crazy Lady wouldn't take that well.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:20 AM
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Susan Faludi.
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/10/0083140


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:22 AM
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77: "What ah you, queeah? I'm leaving all a you in my reah view! Go Sawx!"


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:23 AM
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Thank you, Apo. In retrospect, I probably coulda done that.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:25 AM
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we're all raised to hate our mothers.

And for the crones to hate the nubiles. See: Althouse, Ann


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:43 AM
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Who exemplifies feminism and all its nuances.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:53 AM
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Which I can kind of understand, if as an old crone you still find yourself in a position where you have to look to men for power (which, really, almost unavoidable), and men visibly care about what you have to say less as you age or become otherwise less attractive.

Which happens. Like many women, I have a wide range of hotness. The difference in how men - even the "good" ones - treat me, depending on hotness level, is really, truly discouraging.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:54 AM
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Of course, doesn't excuse the whole blame the victim aspect of it all, just saying...I can see why. Understandable, but not acceptable.

Apparently the sisterhood has been in trouble for a while.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:56 AM
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Submit photo to flickr pool for verification


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:56 AM
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That Ann Althouse is not a feminist?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:57 AM
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Ha. Use of the word "acceptable" by arrogant young turkettes is *exactly* the kind of thing that's going to infuriate me when I'm older.

Also: wiiiiiiide range of hotness.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 10:58 AM
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wiiiiiiide range of hotness

You forgot "laydeez".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:02 AM
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women tend to have more difficult working relationships with female supervisors than with male supervisors

...a phenomenon related to one of my favorite German words.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:04 AM
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I've never noticed having a harder time with female bosses, or noticed the older woman/younger woman hostility people talk about in person. I probably have some moderately sexist differences in my reactions to men than to women (I think I tend to attribute ghastly behavior from male bosses to malice or poor character, and ghastly behavior from female bosses as lunacy or a defense mechanism covering incompetence). But never any "I hate you because you're young and beautiful" stuff.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:06 AM
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That was me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:06 AM
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God, the Germans are great with building honesty into language. Does it exist? Name it. Who cares if it's awkward. Awesome.

Stutenbissig. It's probably pronounced all mean-like too.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:07 AM
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Which, not to say that the dynamic doesn't exist ever, but I don't think it's anything like universal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:11 AM
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I hate LB because she's young and beautiful.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:13 AM
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Don't worry, her breath smells like lizards.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:15 AM
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I personally blame my lack of success on discrimination against the blindingly handsome.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:17 AM
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It's funny -- back in the gender-wars era of this blog, I talked a fair amount about being kind of butch, and not all that successful at navigating standard femininity. I'd think I'd get along better with men. But as it turns out, I feel much safer and more comfortable working with women: if something goes wrong in the working relationship with another woman, I've got a good shot of knowing what's going on and being able to come to some sort of accomodation. Men, on the other hand, while I've had some perfectly fine male bosses and co-workers, I've often ended up with a screwy, avoidant work relationship where I can't successfully communicate anything or work effectively with them, and I don't know what's wrong or how to fix it. I like men generally fine, but working for them makes me nervous until I'm sure it's going to work out okay.

But this is my individual dysfunction, and probably doesn't apply to anyone else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:20 AM
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96: UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:21 AM
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Where's Stanley?


Posted by: Kobe | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:23 AM
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99: I was flipping through the Bible the other day, trying to find the bit where Jael the wife of Heber hammers a nail through Sisera's head (a friend of a friend is dating a woman called Jael, and the mutual friend hates her, so I thought I'd provide some scriptural fodder for the hatred.) And I found this. Anyone have any idea what it's talking about?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:24 AM
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A lot of people have trouble working with the chair of my department, and I can't really figure out why - he's incredibly easy-going. His whole motivation as a character is to create as little work as possible. It's fantastic.

Then when you want to do something that creates work - like revise the curriculum or something - you just have to wait while he explores all the ways for it not to happen, and then you say you want to do it anyway. Then he shrugs and says OK, because he really doesn't mind too much. He just doesn't generally want to do extra work.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:24 AM
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91: I was thinking something similar, but then realized that a big part of my perception is attributable to the fact that there just plain aren't very many women in positions of authority over me in my workplace.


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:25 AM
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101: Fortune-tellers and sleight-of-hand magicians.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:28 AM
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I've got three layers of women above me here: my boss, her sorta-peer-but-one-level-above-her, and the big boss. And while everyone's imperfect, by the standards of bosses I've had in the past, this isn't bad at all. Admittedly, this is the only time in my legal career I've had female bosses: for another example I have to go back to before law school when I was doing admin work at Time Inc. for a year, when I had four female bosses, all of whom were fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:29 AM
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104: Sounds reasonable. I just thought I had a pretty good handle on funny-sounding bits of the bible, and then the pillows and armholes jumped out of nowhere at me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:30 AM
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Or charlatans/tricksters generally.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:31 AM
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Yeah, it's a weird line, but I think that sewing a pillowcase to an armhole makes a hidden pocket to magically produce doves or whatever.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:32 AM
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It looks like some interpret it more figuratively. I read it as part of , "Don't listen to her. She's a witch!"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:39 AM
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109: Brought to you by the mostly sane guy running for the Senate in Delaware.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:49 AM
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This translation, while interprative and not very literal, can help to make sense out of passages that seem to make no sense at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:50 AM
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I sometimes say sarcastic things about how we have an Organization for Women in Science and a Graduate Women in Science Association here at a place where about 70% of the students and employees are women, but I feel bad about it since of course most of the people in charge are still men. None of the powerful women are in any of these women's organizations though, the organizations are drawn from the under-30 crowd of whom there are far more women than men.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 11:58 AM
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but I feel bad about it since of course most of the people in charge are still men.

My last firm was like that: associates were 70/30 women, but partners were 90/10 men. Place felt really weird.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 12:04 PM
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90: that really is a fantastic word.


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 12:15 PM
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the pillows and armholes jumped out of nowhere at me

This conjures up quite an image.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 12:21 PM
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101: I think that the sermon Cotton Mather preached about Emerson's auntie* was subtitled, "The Story of a Modern Jael."

*One of them. He preached the other's execution sermon.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 12:28 PM
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78: The meeting today, which I've been sleeplessly dreading for a month, went fine. The key phrases I've learned are, "Thank you! That's a really useful way of looking at things," or "I will use that advice next time, for sure."

Part of what she's reacting to is my resistance to being required to do extra "training" for a job I've been doing for 12 years. Theoretically, the department is trying to get everyone to teach the foundation course the same way (the same assignments, the same instructions for the assignments, the same due dates, the same grade percentages, the same method of response to students, the same teaching method, etc.), and the tenured and TT profs decided they weren't interested in being told how to do their job. So they told her she could be in charge of re-training the adjuncts, and they would teach the course as they please.

I have no problem with wanting to standardize some aspects of the curriculum, but when it's only being standardized for those who have no job security or benefits or living wage, it doesn't seem fair or useful. I'm *not* being paid to be a full-time member of the department, so why am I required to do hours and hours of extra meetings?

I think her immediate frustration with me is that I tend to ask why she thinks one method of teaching is more effective than another, and she's already sick of hearing those questions from her colleagues. She can't yell at them.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 12:54 PM
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Your frustration sounds reasonable, AWB.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:20 PM
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She can't yell at them.

She could if she had a TASER and a half pint of gin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:21 PM
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119: I'm starting to get a little worried about you, Moby.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:23 PM
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Women are often small. They shouldn't go drinking gin by the pint.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:26 PM
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If it was the TASER thing that worries you, some guy with the police department said they are totally safe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:27 PM
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Where's Stanley?

Hi!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:48 PM
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Went to the convience store for Gin and a TASER?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 1:58 PM
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Then he shrugs and says OK, because he really doesn't mind too much. He just doesn't generally want to do extra work.

What a genius. I wish I had that man's job.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 2:17 PM
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113: Yeah, my current firm is like 60/40 in favor of men at the associate level and 90/10 among partners. It really can be disconcerting to go into various meetings and not see any other women.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 2:40 PM
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126 was me.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 2:45 PM
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What got me was starting to think of age as a secondary sexual characteristic -- my old firm had middleaged men running things (and some young male associates), and young women working for them. It felt like Logans Run -- women lawyers hit forty, and the crystal in their hands turned red.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 3:04 PM
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I'm not familiar with Logan's run, but if the red crystal means that 40 is the age when women seem to disappear from the firm almost completely, then it sounds about right.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 3:52 PM
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Logan's Run.

In the world of 2116, a person's maximum age is strictly legislated: twenty-one years, to the day. When people reach this Lastday they report to a Sleepshop in which they are willingly executed. A person's age is revealed by their palm flower crystal embedded in the palm of their right hand that changes color every seven years, then turns black on Lastday.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 3:58 PM
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129: Is 40 designated baby year for lady lawyers? And then they don't come back? What's going on? That really sounds incredibly creepy. Just...poof!


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:11 PM
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Okay, now I'm thinking there should be a dramady called Logan's Law


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:11 PM
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131: It's around the age where you make partner or don't, so if you haven't dropped out by then, and don't make partner, you leave the firm and go work someplace else. Actually, it's a little before forty -- more like thirty-five or so. But the result is that women over forty are rare birds in litigation departments in a lot of firms (I think it's much evener in other departments -- my lawfirm grousing is pretty litigation specific).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:16 PM
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131: And, yes, it is kind of creepy.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:25 PM
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Then when you want to do something that creates work - like revise the curriculum or something - you just have to wait while he explores all the ways for it not to happen, and then you say you want to do it anyway. Then he shrugs and says OK, because he really doesn't mind too much. He just doesn't generally want to do extra work.

Possibly the unreasonable people who don't like your chair are under the strange impression that "extra work" is pretty much the whole point of being chair.

I've got three layers of women above me here

Pictures, please.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:47 PM
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If you remember Mrs Landingham from The West Wing, that's the bureau chief.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:56 PM
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I don't, but perhaps either Standpipe is off today or the fruit wasn't as low-hanging as it looked.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 4:58 PM
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When the fruit hangs low enough, I kind of enjoy failing to notice it. Just to be difficult.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 5:00 PM
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Women lawyers are like that.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 5:02 PM
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136: Aw, Mrs. Landingham was awesome.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 5:09 PM
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54: BG's original question: I recently realized that I'm kind of afraid of strong women in authority, that is, I don't assert myself in front of them, whereas I have no problem standing up to a man.

I can actually think of only one woman I have this sort of problem with: my doctor. She's ... bluff, somewhat aggressive and a bit loud: she projects (to my sensibilities, anyway) an attitude that she's the boss, the expert, so I surely have nothing to add, and I sometimes find myself leaving her office having failed to ask things I should have asked. She doesn't particularly leave space for me to ask questions, rarely asks if I do have questions, though when I do pose them, she's fully informative. I've been seeing her for nigh on 15 years now, and have gotten better about this.

I'd frankly never thought that this had anything to do with her gender and age (roughly 15 years older than me?), but just that I don't respond well to that type of personality. She's not discussing, she's announcing.

So I'm wondering whether BG's reported examples have more to do with the personality type than the gender. I myself haven't had this sort of problem with various other female authority figures.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 5:32 PM
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AWB-- do you get paid extra for the time in training? Cause then it wouldn't be intolerable.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 6:59 PM
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NPH! I was just thinking that we hadn't seen you around these parts.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:00 PM
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parsi, I can't really think of any men like that in my life right now.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:02 PM
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do you get paid extra for the time in training?

HAHAHAHA!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:04 PM
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That is to say: if only academe worked on a per-hour basis.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:05 PM
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It's weird for adjuncts who are paid on a per class basis, though. I can see someone with a full time job accepting that it's supposed to use all the time they have, but if you're not paid full-time...


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:08 PM
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141 is interesting to me in that I have a definite preference for male doctors, though I'm not entirely sure why.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:09 PM
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I have a definite preference for male doctors

Don't despair, fellas. In a pinch she'd go for a male lawyer, engineer, or other high-status professional.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:19 PM
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144: Ah. I've encountered men like that as well, luckily behind me now.

That's not to say that there aren't gender-related issues involved in all of this as well.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-12-10 7:22 PM
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