Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Disgruntle" should be a prizewinning hog

Had an interesting and disgruntling experience eating lunch this morning. The waiter came over to our table shortly after my lunch compatriot and I had put down our menus, and paused. He glanced at me, then looked over at her. I looked up and started to order, but then diverted course when I realized he was paying no attention to me at all.

Eli: "Yes, I'll have the....uh, after you..." (gestures across the table)
Waiter, to me, not turning: "I knew you had some manners."

So she ordered, and then I did, and then he left the table and I was left fuming, for reasons that I'm now trying to fully unpack. I realize that it is convention for women to order first, and it is my instinct to defer to that convention. I almost always do. However, I recognize that such gendered convention (and its counterparts, like the check being handed to me, etc) can be frustrating for my dining compatriots, and it is a rather classic example of binary gender norms just begging to be deconstructed. So sometimes, like this morning, I try to break it down just a bit and order first, or wave the check towards someone else, or something. That was myfirst reason for stepping up like that. Though, to be fair, also playing into it was the fact that I was real hungry, and I wasn't sure if my compatriot had quite decided what she was ordering, and there was a brief pause in which no one was speaking, so I jumped in.

I think the reason that I felt so disgruntled is that I was unhappy that my attempt to be radical was so neatly deflated, and also I was defensive about being questioned about my manners...which is an especially loaded feeling for me, since so much of my masculine identity is tied up in being a chivalrous gentleman. I know that a gentleman is supposed to defer to the ladies at the table. I also know that "lady" is the last word that should be used to describe my lunch companion.

But I was feeling just shaky enough (I knew that I was jumping in, and I'm not used to it) to be stopped in my tracks when he called me out. And he was insulting my manliness (what kind of guy are you, that doesn't let her order first?) and he knew it, and I knew it, and I had a moment of whiny defensiveness when I wanted to say "Hey, I know that! I'm a gentleman usually! It's just that I was being radical!"

And then I was frustrated with myself for getting defensive, and letting it get under my skin like that. Because then I was second-guessing my motivations (Maybe I was just being rude?) because claiming that I was busting down the binary gender system is no excuse for rudeness. But hey, I don't want to be shamed out of my (admitedly small scale) revolution, either.

So yeah. Plus, I was again a bit taken aback by the intensity of my disgruntlement. This ties in to what I was talking about the other day, with my newly T-shortened temper, and how I'm still noticing it, and I'm nervous about it, and I'm not sure yet how to respond to it. I'm starting to recognize how it works, and there are interesting parallels to the changes in my sex drive.

Just like my sex drive, it's primarily not a quantity thing. I maybe think about sex more than I used to, but I've always thought about it a lot. Likewise, I get annoyed or disgruntled about things more than I used to, but I still don't very often, because I never did very much. Instead, it seems to be mostly about intensity and persistence. It's much harder to ignore sexual thoughts, or stop thinking about them, or put them to the back of my mind. They're more persistent, and intense. Likewise, it's much harder to just let go of little annoyances- something that might not have even been a significant blip on my rader can make me huff and puff a little under my breath. It's harder to let things go, and I get annoyed/frustrated much more quickly and intently.

Weird, huh?

In therapy this morning Amy and I talked about developing a new skill set to deal with these emotions, should they start to settle in for good. She said something about isn't it funny how our selves turn out to be chemically based, and I remembered that yes. This is better living through chemistry, and it's powerful stuff I'm working with here. These emotions and feelings are real, and they aren't going to just go away- I'm sure everything is going to keep settling in while my hormone levels are newly fluctuated- but I'm going to have to learn how to exist with a slightly different temperment.

She suggested a regimen of, essentially, Feel. Breathe. React. In other words, when I start to feel something, take a couple of deep breaths for a moment or two and really try to understand what I'm feeling, why I'm feeling it, what might be the factors, what are my (new) instincts about reacting, and what does my sensible self think about reacting. Then, once I've figured it out for a second, carry on as normal.

Seems kinda silly when I write it out, this very elementary self-control excercise. I think it's going to help, though, because I've already recognized that the best way for me

It has worked- this morning, it helped me deflate my disgruntlement with the waiter by breathing until the moment passed, discussing something else for a second, and then not getting into it while it was still stinging with this disgruntlement. Now, clearly, I can take my time to pick apart the situation and understand what was happening, and I feel fine about it. A little bit of lingering disgruntlement, maybe, but I'm mostly interested in it now as an anecdote. So let's hear it for measured thinking, and deliberate distance.

Actually, if I do it right, I think this necessity for reigning in any flares of temper is going to be good for me. It's going to make me more mindful of what it means to be even-tempered and calm, by making me work for it a little more, so I think I'll have a more thoughtful perspective on things. Also, there have been times when my default amiable nature has not worked in my favor....I wouldn't, as some have, ever use the word pushover to describe myself, but hey, it's been said. Maybe if I'm instinctually a little more aggressive, I will be more likely to stand up for myself?


In other news, I can't stop touching my face. So fuzzy! I haven't shaved since Monday morning, and it's now thursday evening, and I am one scruffy, stubbly dude. I wish I could take pictures of it and post on here to brag, but I think it's probably a good thing that I can't. Y'all don't need to see close-ups of my pores and my proudly patchy facial scruff. It's still nothing to be proud of...can't even think of growing it out yet. I really should've been shaving this week, but I was busy, and then not at my house, etc. Anyway, I've got stubble on my face, and I really like running my hand over it. Plus, it's still soft right now! It's too new and fine to be anywhere near sandpapery yet. Awesome.

I'm getting my 6th shot tomorrow, so maybe I'll give another T-diary style rundown of changes soon. I can't tell if I'm trying to make assessments too frequently- maybe I should give it longer between rundowns, so there will be more to report. At the same time, I've never been one to skimp on the self-analysis. Why start now?


CaptLex said...

I've been struggling with a short fuse myself lately. Funny thing is, I used to have a bad temper as a kid, but I learned to deal with it. Now it seems like I have to learn it all over again. I may try your method and see if it helps.

Julian's Mom said...

I think this is part of you deciding what kind of man you want to be. I have a strange relationship with feminism, and I tend to think that women have bigger picture problems to worry about than middle class issues like getting pissed about a guy trying to pick up the check. I once went out with a young man who fancied himself a feminist, and was very vocal about splitting the check, demanding that the waiter place the check in the middle of the table, ordering before me, etc. Needless to say, he was not rewarded with a second date. I guess I'm just saying, tread carefully, young man! You are too much of a gentleman by nature to let that go to waste--most chicks dig it. Let a girl know that you're holding the door for her because you think she's lovely, not because you think she's weak. Pay for her because you want to, not because you assume she can't make her own money, etc. As long as you both know the difference, and that not everything is political, everything will be peachy. Sometimes she will hold the door for you and pay for you, and that's completely fine, too.

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