Category Archives: la dolce vita

Upping Your Status With The Right Drink

During last week’s brouhaha about the Yale SWUG article, the discussion at Dalrock’s place veered towards the poor taste in alcohol among college kids. Leap of a Beta opened it up with this:

Gotta h/t both Badger and Vox on the wine tip originally. Tried it for awhile after they pointed out beer being a drink of the peasants. I find I get more attention and don’t feel as sluggish without the carbs, which is worth a few extra dollars a drink. Depending on mood I now alternate between a red wine and johnny walker black on the rocks. I enjoy both and get comments almost every time I order.

He is referencing these posts by me (on avoiding the brotastic beer shield) and Vox Day (where he refers to beer drinkers as “peasants“), and he’s following up on an excellent point: in America at least, there’s a class distinction communicated by the alcohol you drink. Thus, you can quickly and easily raise your apparent social status by ordering better stuff.

Put simply, the social status ranking goes like this: light-colored beers < dark-colored beers < stiff cocktails < red wine.

Straw-colored beers are, as Vox says, a peasant drink, that communicate “I got the cheapest thing on the menu” or “I don’t want any flavor in my beer” or worse yet “I let corporate beer ads on network TV tell me what to drink.” (In some cases they’ve tried to turn the status-basement marker into a positive; the relatively swilly Pabst Blue Ribbon has been adopted by the hipsters of Portland and Washington DC as a symbol of retro cachet. I suppose they are retaking the word “swill” a la another recent movement.)

A few things you should just avoid: white wine has a fastidious connotation unless paired with food, flamboyant cocktails (brightly-colored or served in the conical martini-style glass) lack a certain strength and at least should be ordered in a low glass, and shots or shooters say “college douchebag” in big bright letters.

I expect to get some comments on this post along the lines of “dude this is so stupid, something as superficial as what I’m drinking at the bar isn’t going to affect whether women are attracted to me,” a criticism I pre-emptively cited in the Beer Shield post. First, if your game sucks, you need to make progress on a whole bunch of incremental factors, and drinking better (as well as holding the drink better) is a zero-behavior-cost move helps internalize a higher-value frame and stokes the confidence and aloof mastery that makes things work. Second, it belittles women to call these things “superficial.” Surely, men aren’t going to make a big deal judging each other for their drinks. But just as surely, women notice and value a host of factors that men dismiss amongst themselves. That’s in fact one of the fundamental lessons of game, that being successful with women is largely a different arena than earning the respect of other men.

(Incidentally, and this is always worth talking about, what women say they value as attractive in men is very frequently at odds with what truly turns them on, for a large number of reasons including subconsciously-programmed mating strategy protection. Thus, the men who have tried to reject the boorish advice of their mates and substitute that of women have often found themselves simply getting more emotive, not more attractive. The advice they get from most other men is simply outside the arena of what women value, while the advice they get from a woman is the output of a game of telephone from her hindbrain through the rationalization hamster and maybe through a few magazine or book editors as well. There are ways to become more interesting and emotionally in tune with women without becoming girly and unvirile in the female’s eyes; I’ve covered it before in this post.)

In addition to the class marker that is the drink in your hand, drinking the right thing provides a great opportunity for the type of storytelling that is the hallmark of the accomplished gamesman. Anything from “this is the drink that got us through prohibition” (anything with gin) to “this drink is the object of much national pride in Bermuda” (dark and stormy) to “this is a modern version of the first cocktail in history” (mojito), the opportunities to light up a woman’s mind with fascinating discussion of the drinks, their regionalities, and their histories are manifold.

So with all of that said, how does a man become better at expressing social value through his drinks? On the same Dalrock thread, longtime Manosphere commenter Anonymous Reader chimed in with some detailed commentary.

Leap, the wine/beer bifurcation is old as the hills but still works. A few minutes with Wiki, or a copy of “Wine Spectator” once in a while and you’re good to go to talk with almost anyone in a bar, and a lot of people in a restaurant. When dining with a woman don’t even let her see the wine list, it’s your property and she should not trouble her head about it. One way to provide a bit of entertainment: ponder the list with furrowed brow, and then choose the least expensive red by the glass. But for bonus points, ponder and then pick something unusual by the glass. If it’s good, then just bask in your success. If it’s crummy plonk, then dismiss the error as an experiment, a bad year, a bad bottle… For the record, the Argentinian Malbec wines have become very good in the last few years, as have the wines from Chile, most of which come from the Maipo valley. Some places sell these by the glass at cost comparable to California CabSav’s, but you get the mystery of South American wine vs. Napa valley.

The storytelling potential of the wine list should whet the appetite of any fledgling gamester.

Another dodge is “gin and ginger ale” if you are not making a statement, because after one or two you can switch to “ginger ale” but your glass looks the same as before. Nobody knows what you are drinking. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King…

I have to say I’ve never had the need to feign that I’m drinking alcohol when I’m not. I simply stop drinking and don’t apologize for it, and it’s been an important screening test to find women who can have one or two drinks without having to go any further. A surprisingly number of young people are still hung over from college and haven’t learned to drink in moderation.

Drinking stuff straight up or on the rocks can make a pretty good point, depending on what’s en vogue. Drinking something that isn’t what everyone else is slamming can be a real DHV, if played properly. Seems like everyone is hitting some flavored vodka or other nowadays, so something else is in order. A real-deal Martini can be good stuff, if good gin is used (and if you like gin…), but you have to play with the drink rather than slam it down, in a social setting. Mojito’s used to be fun to drink before they became the new frozen dacqueri. The only place I drink them now is if I”m in Arizona or south Texas or some other hot place where they make sense.

Especially with Mad Men being so popular, there’s a lot of cachet to a classic mixed cocktail. If you’re drinking hard alcohol, I recommend you avoid gin-and-tonics and something-and-cokes as they are pedestrian and “safe” and don’t really lend a man a distinctive look.

If you are used to drinking wine, then here’s another angle: cognac. First of all, it’s not that common, and it still has a bit of a cache’. Just ordering it can be a bit of a DHV. Second, you can nurse a snifter of cognac for up to an hour and most barmaids/waitresses/bartenders won’t hassle you. During that same time, everyone else has slammed down three beers or whatevers… Third, you can from time to time put on a bit of a show about having it warmed up for you, to some proper temperature or other. Bonus: if the cigar scene is still around in some cities, that’s one of the standard drinks to go with the stogie, and that helps you to fit in. Know the diff between VS and VSOP, and you are way ahead of most bar crowds.

Cognac is brandy produced in southwestern France (it has to be from that region to be labeled Cognac, pronounced CONE-yack); brandy itself is distilled wine. Cognac is a bit like whiskey but it is much smoother and softer in flavor. If you listen to Tupac Shakur, Hennessy is a type of cognac (although I personally prefer Courvoisier).

VS and VSOP are age/flavor grades of cognac; VSOP is older and higher-quality than VS, with XO (“extra old”) being the highest grade.

Also don’t forget about cognac’s French-native cousin armagnac, which tends to be more rustic and provincial in character. As AR mentions cigars, remember also that most nice restaurants will have a cognac flight in their dessert drinks menu. It can go down a lot easier than a sweetened dessert wine.

Finally, AR gets into the meat of the issue:

Really interesting mixed drinks exist, such as the sidecar, the French 75, Sazerac, and many others that can be found in older bar books, or on the web… but few bartenders know how to mix them outside of really big cities anymore. Even the plain old Manhattan cocktail is often just bourbon on the rocks with a dash of bitters and a tiny coloration of vermouth – that’s a bourbon “Mantini”, not a Manhattan. So know your bartender’s limits in mixology, unless you are personally willing to teach them how to pour and mix for you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you can work that into a routine if you wish, that enables you to DHV in a genteel way.

Sadly, I’ve found what he says is true: lots of bartenders are just waiters behind the bar, and don’t know how to make many (if any) standard cocktails. Many times I’ve had a bartender try to bluff me away from a drink he doesn’t know how to make with a face-saving maneuver like “we don’t have any bitters;” if I tell him that’s fine and to make the drink without it, I get a disastrous suicide cocktail without fail.

A bartender who can make at least a basic set of cocktails can be a real ally in the game; the DHV of ordering a special drink and watching it get theatrically made for you, and then being able to wax poetic on the on the contents of the drink and its history and its mood and vibe – that stuff is chick crack. If your bar guy can’t make you a Manhattan worth a damn, just order a red wine and spin a story about the region from which it came. You’ll be miles ahead of the regular bros sucking on the necks of their Bud Lights.

Happy drinking.

31 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita

Don’t Get Jealous, Part II: Everyone Feels Unsatisfied About Something

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that there’s a tendency to get envious of other people’s love lives without really knowing the full story, and to compare ourselves to others based on a false and distorted perception of their partners. In particular, this can be a real killer to a man fresh into the game, as he’ll be constantly discouraged thinking everyone else around him is slaying poon like a hair-metal musician, OR that everyone else is landing perfect relationship partners with ease, and that anxiety will cause bad game to leak out.

I just came across a Mark Manson post that that develops this idea, using the environment of a Rio beach’s cross-section of people:

On the boardwalk at Ipanema Beach, it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro. Skateboarders, rollerbladers, joggers, surfers, bikers, juicers, tanners, vacationers, staffers — they all pass by, skin shiny and mildly naked. Sand and salt and vanity fill the air.

And the man with the four hot girls with him is annoyed at how loud and obnoxious his sisters and their friends are and wishes he could hang out with his guy friends instead. Not far away, a man at the beach with his guy friends ignores their games and jokes and looks longingly at the girls laying out tanning topless and wonders how one would go about meeting them.

And the girl laying out tanning wishes her boyfriend were around so the men would stop staring at her. And her boyfriend, wading into the water alone for hours on end, wishes his girlfriend would stop crowding him and demanding his attention all the time. He envies the single men who are able to roam free and do what they want whenever they’d like.

The skinny girls wish they had hips and the girls with hips want to be skinnier. The brunettes dye their hair blond and the blond girls wish they were darker like the brunettes. The men playing volleyball wish they could surf and the surfers wish they had the time and money to buy drinks and a nice umbrella to sit under and the men with drinks and the nice umbrellas wish they were young and healthy and playing volleyball again.

Read the whole thing, it’s really good.

A bit of dissatisfaction is not a bad thing; it keeps us striving for more. But when dissatisfaction means cursing your lot for not having this or that, and thinking that someone else who does has got it made, you’re on the first step to an endless cycle of chasing “happiness” or “contentment” like it was something you could catch, clean and mount on the wall.

To add a personal note to this, before I got into the game field I was working hard on honing my happiness and my acceptance of the regular yet unpredictable changes that were evolving my life from high school to college through grad school and then the working world. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to roll with it and successfully accommodate job changes, cross-country moves, and single and coupled periods. My work on that composure has paid off quite well, and it’s the key to my sense of groundedness and outcome-independent demeanor, which in turn has obviously enhanced my game.

 

12 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita

Things You Can Do To Up Your Game+Lifestyle Value Right Now

There’s a good number of seemingly small things a guy can do almost at the snap of a finger, or at least in a one-shot outlay of a few minutes’ or hours’ time, to up his value in the sexual marketplace. I’ve put the ideas of game and lifestyle together because they really do go together – you need to have a good product (an interesting dynamic lifestyle), and an effective way to market it (vibe and tactics).

These are not specific moves for tactical attraction or logistics, nor are they large personal projects that require a gameplan and long-term dedication, but simple items to build your strategic value, to lay a better groundwork for the core product that you will market with your game skills.

Some of these things will make you more attractive, others will make you feel better about yourself and others will clear your mind so you can be more focused and deliberate in your life’s work. For some of them, doing them won’t make you attractive as not doing them will make you unattractive. Sure, there are schlubby, unkempt guys doing well with women. Are you one of them? If not, don’t stand in your own way by ignoring easy speedbumps.

In no particular order:

Practice and adopt the chin-up move (the Iguana): Private Man posted on a move he called The Iguana as a non-verbal opener, which involves a man flitting his head upward when making eye contact rather than downward as is normally seen as polite. Eric Barker also posted on research showing that men with chin-up behaviors were seen as more dominant, a study linked to by Roissy in a post I can’t hope to find right now.

Get clothes that fit: When it comes to clothes and fashion, you can go with any number of looks, but whichever one you choose will look 100% better if it fits properly. The grunge days are over, so forget the baggy look. Really shop around for jeans and slacks that fit right; get higher-end clothes tailored if you have to. Unless you work or socialize in a circle where top dress is sine qua non, you’ll do better getting a modest wardrobe that fits than blowing a wad on pricey stuff that looks like you’re a supernumerary in a Hammer video.

Get all the soft drinks and shitty snack food out of your house: Added sugars and boxed, processed foods are not just bad for you, they are pernicious in finding their way into your mouth if they are in your vicinity. Avoid the temptation by not having to resist it at all.

Start taking Omega-3 fish oil: Originally on the advice of Athol Kay, I’ve been taking between 2000 and 3000 mg per day for about the last 18 months. I don’t know how or why it works, but it’s made a tremendous difference not just in my physical condition but in my mental composure. I feel more decisive/”executive,” I worry less about things I can’t control, I’m less perturbed by irrelevant emotions and by criticism, I enjoy myself more when I’m doing the things I want to do, I’m more risk-tolerant and calmer when I do take risks – I’m more alpha, if you will.

Tidy your dwelling: Hat tip to Haley for this one. Having a clean apartment/house might not get you laid, but having a messy one sure can keep you from getting laid. Messiness will give most women the creeps. Put everything in its place and toss out shit you don’t need.

Put grooming in your daily schedule: I’m guessing most readers are brushing and/or flossing on the daily, but you should make shaving, skin care and cologne a regular habit as well. Clip your nails regularly too.

Start working out with weights: Lifting weights raises your testosterone, that’s the long and the short of it. Get over that cardio fetish, and don’t be one of those people who humps it on the elliptical for an hour and then undoes the whole thing by drinking a Gatorade. Inspired by Frost’s 15-minute workout plans, I went to a focused, fast, weights-heavy workout plan that served to build general muscle tone and get me exhausted. The result has been good feelings, quick fitness, and the best health I’ve had since I was playing football.

Stand up straight: The first of three distinct body-language items, standing up straight took me a long time to learn. As a tall man, I’m used to towering over most people and so felt I needed to slouch so as to meet people at their level. At some points in my schooling I was even taught to be ashamed of my size, as several teachers took the time to warn me, the gentlest kid in the class, to be extra careful not to hurt anybody. (Such are the ways that school teach young men to be positively non-attractive.)

It wasn’t until my first wisps of game that I came to grok that my height was a strong and un-fakeable attraction marker. And as I developed a better frame, I stood up straighter and got the full advantage of my height. Dating a tall woman helped, as she made sure that I knew it was important I was taller than her, and she was sure to respond when I showed good posture to boot.

Take up more space: Whatever your height is, you can exert positive body language by widening your feet, opening your knees, not putting your hands in your pockets, and putting your thumbs in your belt loops. When I’m at a bar or a cafe, I tend to throw one arm over the back of the adjacent chair, whether someone is sitting there or not. (Interestingly my father, a strong but introverted and non-dominant man, has always done this, whether it’s in the car, at a restaurant or a sporting event. It’s like one of his arms must always be in the extended position.)

Last year I was on a train with my right arm draped across the empty seat next to me. Coming off the platform, a young female French tourist sat down in the seat without a blink and was immediately friendly when I opened her. It was as if my inviting posture had made her more comfortable. Taking up space says a lot of things – it says dominance and power, but it also says comfort and calmness, stable and non-threatening.

Do everything slower: My own post on this is here, but suffice it to say that slowing your physical movements and speech patterns will result in a more competent, confident vibe. You’ll notice that if you’re standing straight up and taking up a lot of space, it’s pretty difficult to be manic in your movements, which further enhances the bold power of your body language.

Stop watching live TV: Putting aside the lack of quality programming on the American tube today, the dreck aired in commercial slots today is appalling. There’s no end to the unalloyed misandry and anti-male snark used to hock products to homemakers and strongindependentwomen, and the themes of marketeering appeal to our basest senses of novelty-seeking, spendthrift and perpetual dissatisfaction.

A couple years ago I stopped watching TV almost entirely. On occasion I would turn it on to see a show or a special I had been tipped off to, and I was quite surprised to realize that watching ads makes me want to buy the products and eat the foods. When in waiting rooms today, I marvel at how quickly I find myself hypnotized by the bright flashes on the screen.

DVR your shows, and get rerun programming on demand or on DVD. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say you’ll be a richer, more focused and less consumptive person if you quit watching live TV.

Start reading a good book: Despite the above, I’m not one who says TV is an evil instrument of cultural hegemony. Nonetheless, one does well to have a good book or two going at any time. Preferably a classic work that has earned a reputation and will expand your mind rather than simply fill it.

Buy some classics to familiarize yourself with the primary sources of our cultural tapestry, be it the Aeneid (an audacious piece of premodern imperial propaganda), Cyrano de Bergerac, Band of Brothers, Rip Van Winkle, the Bonfire of the Vanities – pick up something you want to read and sink into its world.

Sign up for an activity of interest that involves people (yoga, running club, pistol shooting, a sports league): If part of your game problems is not meeting enough new people and not seeing them enough, you can solve this on the Internet in under 30 minutes through meetup.com, craigslist or your local adult education catalog. Pick something you want to do and go do it. And then socialize with those people – don’t try to game anybody, just spend time with a new social circle as a springboard to higher value.

Go to bed early tonight: There have been ruts and dry spells for me that were cured by nothing more than an extra hour of sleep for a few days straight. It’s my contention that Generation Y is constantly underslept. I don’t think I know anyone who was/is doing interesting things with his life who doesn’t have at least itinerant sleep patterns. But it really hurts your body, brain and personality. Shoot for those seven/eight hours a night, and try to get up at the same time every day as consistency in sleep counts for a lot.

Spend less time on the Internet today: Funny for a blogger to say, I know, but often that extra late-night hour reading forums or commenting is just not worth it. Make sure you’re getting out in the fresh air with real people and doing other things you want to do. Also consider leaving your smartphone at home, or activating airplane mode to keep the signals away. I find it quite liberating to unplug for a while, and when I come back there’s always a stack of things to check on so I get an extra surge of novelty anyway.

33 Comments

Filed under beta guide, la dolce vita, living a good life, living young

The Irish Breakfast, Redux

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. In honor of the holiday, a reprint of a post last year:

I was in Boston a week or so ago and after getting accosted by Occupy Boston I stopped into one of the many Boylston Street brunch joints for an Irish Breakfast and (what else for breakfast?) a Manhattan. I snagged a seat at a window table where I could blog and also people-watch and camped for two hours.

It appears the meal is a triumph of expert-testimony marketing:

“The full breakfast traditionally comprises several fried foods, usually including bacon and eggs, and is popular throughout the British Isles and other parts of the English-speaking world. The name “bacon and eggs” was popularised by Edward Bernays in the 1920s. To promote sales of bacon, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendations that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty breakfast.”

I doubly recommend the breakfast Manhattan. If you are a bruncher as is common among American SWPLs, it will stand out as manly and distinctive amongst the Mimosa and Bellini drinkers.

1 Comment

Filed under la dolce vita

The Manosphere Cooking Axis

Two interesting developments of recent note.

First, game/lifestyle blogger Chad Daring (singlewhitemale) has decided to reframe his blogging activity to his other great love, cooking. He’s launched Chef In Jeans and is planning a book on the topic. Well done.

Second, it was only a matter of time before the Ron Jeremy of food porn got involved. Dannyfrom504 will be guest posting, and has already contributed with “how to make a roux.” (In the spirit of Mardi Gras, I suppose he’ll soon be dubbed the Chef in Fishnets.)

Cooking is a good mark of a quality lifestyle and a key element of both single and married game, a combination of alpha performance and beta nourishment that can blow the panties off in one fell swoop really impress a woman.

12 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita

Sexy Move: Use The Minty Body Wash

I got as a gift a bottle of Bigelow mint body wash, with peppermint oil and a bit of some kind of silica abrasive. It’s fantastic stuff. The feeling of tension-relieving chill is like coming out of a sauna. I especially like it after I’ve worked out, when my muscles are rippling from the stress of the weights and I need the sensation of cooling off.

You can buy some here. One bottle is $12 and will last you three months or more.

Good grooming is one of Mystery’s six characteristics of an alpha male (note that it’s more of a beta trait a strong alpha needs in his toolbox), and using good grooming products gets you in a mindset that you’re taking good care of your body, which itself will make you carry yourself better and build nonverbal attraction. Forget about the scent, you won’t get laid with stuff that comes out of a bottle anyway. Actually, don’t worry about whether it will help you with girls – do it for YOU.

Take a cue from women. Women love exfoliating cleansers, fragrances, massages, pedicures, steam rooms – things that enhance the sensual pleasure of grooming and health. It doesn’t make you gay or unmasucline to be well-groomed and to enjoy the process, any more than it compromises your manhood to pay attention to the fit, style and quality of your suits and casual clothes.

Unless you’re getting cucumber facials and having your nails painted, it pays off with women to look, feel and smell good.

 

15 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita, Uncategorized

Irish Breakfast

I was in Boston a week or so ago and after getting accosted by Occupy Boston I stopped into one of the many Boylston Street brunch joints for an Irish Breakfast and (what else for breakfast?) a Manhattan. I snagged a seat at a window table where I could blog and also people-watch and camped for two hours.

It appears the meal is a triumph of expert-testimony marketing:

“The full breakfast traditionally comprises several fried foods, usually including bacon and eggs, and is popular throughout the British Isles and other parts of the English-speaking world. The name “bacon and eggs” was popularised by Edward Bernays in the 1920s. To promote sales of bacon, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendations that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty breakfast.”

21 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita

A Badger Hut Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers (you Canadians have it both ways, you had your Thanksgiving last month and can sneak across the border for some November turkey).

My family has always been quick to invite various acquaintances to the Thanksgiving meal, people who couldn’t get to their own families, which combined with the potlucking of dishes has always given the holiday a spirit of friendliness and generosity. While I try to get back to the family home, as long as that spirit is present I’m not that concerned about whom I spend the holiday with.

Of course, there are peripheral benefits to holiday travel.

The Coney Dog, a heavenly treat

The airport restaurant told me they are no longer serving Vernor’s. Bitch please.

10 Comments

Filed under la dolce vita

Pressure-Free Fun, Received Boomerism and the Fear of Failure

Susan Walsh posted last week about the frozen margaritas she would make in her younger years, and how they complemented Friday nights with Mr HUS:

“we got in the habit of collapsing after a long work week with a pitcher of frozen margaritas and reggae on the stereo…We’d slurp our drinks and dance, and I always wanted to lead, but Mr. HUS would just stand still with his arms crossed until I stopped misbehaving.”

This is so charming and simple, and for some reason it feels so foreign and strange. I’m telling you, among the educated class in the Millenial generation there is so much damn pressure to be working and learning and growing and – here’s the kicker – being “cool,” that it’s almost bizarre to think a young couple would just drink and dance in their own house and enjoy it.

It’s like a cultural rat race pressing down on my generation. There’s this nonjudgmentalism fetish around the culture, but at the same time there’s so much pressure to not be a fuddy duddy. It even slips down to booze – instead of just drinking, we feel like we need to be drinking fine bourbon or top wine. There’s cultural cachet to watching heady HBO dramas or reading culturally-approved modern pop literature instead of enjoying classics.

Hipsters, of all people, have tried to make valor out of the pedestrian, and it’s not just about their clothes, it’s about their skinny-fit and intentionally-mismatched clothes, their consumption of offbeat culture and music and even their smoking, an intentionally self-destructive behavior that belies their epicurean subculture (it recalls one of Roissy’s later maxims that expendability is a DHV). All the hipsters I’ve met have been pretty nice guys, but on a macro level they are cultural badboys.

Someone at HUS recently mentioned Joan Holloway of Mad Men playing her accordion in an episode. Before the radio, housewives were venerated for their ability to play parlor instruments to entertain the family (creating the market for sheet music that WAS the pre-modern music industry). Today, learning band instruments is another activity of overscheduled kids packing their resumes for college applications.

I notice a lot of poker players in my generation (in a quest for socially-approved expressions of masculinity, with its attendant competitiveness and shit-talking), but also what seems to be a loss of more recreational card games like hearts, cribbage and euchre. My parents love to play cards with us kids and their own parents, it’s just a pastime with no greater meaning. No one laments the loss of time that could have gone into “classier” pursuits. But today card games and board games are seen as geeky and offbeat, a sort of countercultural statement. It’s like mindless fun isn’t OK, you have to put on an expensive wardrobe and buy expensive cocktails and have a soul-crushing night of forced socialization to feel like you’re having socially-approved fun.

I had lunch with a former boss last week, a late Boomer/early Gen X-er with a thoughtful eye towards social trends, and I mentioned what I saw as a pervasive fear of failure among my generation, which I believed was at least partly a fear of letting down our parents – who never let us forget what high hopes they had for us, nor the sense that they were relying on us to carry out and finish the dreams of their youth.

He replied that he had had the exact same discussion several times recently. He added that when he was young, it was understood that young people were going to make mistakes in work and life, that it was part of the growing process – but that today he saw a lot of people defined by their incidental failures with nary a chance to redeem themselves. Which I suppose validates my cohort’s concerns. I shouldn’t have to mention that politics – who know whom – is a big factor in escaping the scarlet letter.

Boomers are alternately lauded and mocked for their idealism, and for the failure of that idealism with divorce, war and economic strife that has followed them in adulthood. What the Boomers passed to my generation was the idealism, but stripped of the knowledge that idealism is messy, that it comes with failure and false starts and with suffering the consequences of your convictions (notice the trend of attachment parenting/helicopter parenting where parents take a direct role in shielding their children from the important lessons that failure and disappointment impart to young people).

Some of my cohortmates have responded to this subtle pressure of expectations with perfectionism, and the eventual neurosis that comes with it – spectacular burnout, depression, bitterness or self-harm.

Some of them, who never even tried to fake the perfectionism in the first place, turn the other way to a sort of primary fatalistic nhilism – a sequence of pornography, promiscuity, junk culture, lack of ambition or a belief that their work can contribute to society, self-medication,  profligacy in pursuit of achievable material comforts against unachievable philosophical ones.

Frost and Ferdinand Bardamu have dubbed the maturing crop of youth “Generation Zero.” Fly Fresh and Young (don’t know what’s with all these F’s) drops all pretense with “Generation Nihilism.”

This modern neurosis, the first-world problem, of being afraid to get your ego bumped around, has to be scrapped to accomplish things. The only way to go from good to great is to destroy your ego and accept failure as a necessary step on the path – otherwise your self-consciousness and self-flattery will hold you back from seeing the dull points that need to be polished. That means giving up the comfort of things being consistently OK.

When I’m out about town and get rejected or blown out of a set, I immediately turn to the next woman and open her. I process the failure and learn from it, but I don’t let it define me except to become part of the knowledge base I use as experience. Same with a screw-up in my career. Did I do that? OK, I wasn’t born with that knowledge, let’s figure out how to do it right next time. In this way, failing actually moves me ahead of where I was before it occurred.

If we’re not ready as a generation to break out of our control-freaking comfort zones, and not as a society to accept some bumps in the road as the price of a building a capable and well-drilled cohort of people to handle the reins for the next quarter-century, then we’ve devolved and are not much better than dogs or horses, emerging from the womb as miniaturized versions of our adult selves – growing quickly into a vapid, animalistic existence driven by little more than our atavistic instincts and the subconscious social-validation layer that sits atop it.

41 Comments

Filed under junk culture, la dolce vita, quarterlife crisis