Is Honesty The Best Policy?

opinions“Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all of the time.” – Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

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As a society, we have an overwhelming need to share every thought we have whenever we can. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all of us in every moment, but more often than not, we find ourselves in the midst of heartfelt (if not too detailed) confessions of opinions and feelings that sometimes have no business being expressed out loud.

It sounds silly and completely un-American, but I truly believe that some things are better left unsaid, that some disclosures aren’t worth the risk of hurt feelings or lost friendships. In fact, our world would completely fall apart as we know it if we were to share every negative feeling we experience or every little thing that bothers us.

Perhaps our desire to overshare these feelings stems from pop culture. As products of the romantic comedy genre, we know that our favorite characters are rewarded for their honest, emotional outbursts. We also witness honesty at its worst when watching reality television, as cast members “stop being polite and start getting real.”

I would never encourage people to bury their feelings or keep quiet in every situation, but I would suggest that we learn to choose our battles wisely. Let’s learn to speak up when it really means something, and not when our words are only going to make the situation worse.

The Struggle To Conduct Ourselves

“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth

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Rarely do I write about the decay of our social niceties, but more and more I’m noticing that the world seems to be breaking the rules of etiquette that were ingrained in our heads as children. In 2011, we’ve come a long way –we can connect with people all around the world, we use science for the good of our communities, and we have become a lot more kindhearted and accepting of those different from us (although we still could stand to improve in that arena!).

However, perhaps in our mad rush to do as much as we can in as little time as possible, we have sacrificed some of the laws of proper decorum. Sometimes it hurts to see how much we lose in exchange for efficiency.

I’m not asking everyone to enroll in finishing school or sign up for Cotillion, but if we could each take a step back, maybe we could learn to conduct ourselves in a better way. Next time you’re out somewhere: say please and thank you. Hold the door open for someone. Clean up after yourself. Pay genuine compliments. Be gracious when you receive a compliment. Make time to be polite and friendly, especially to those serving you. Don’t mumble (unless you are talking to your parents and trying to annoy them). When a guest in someone’s home, offer to help your hostess in the kitchen; even if she insists that you should just sit down and make yourself comfortable, she will appreciate the gesture. Don’t leave unwanted clothes in the fitting room. Try to learn the other person’s name and say it when appropriate (as Dale Carnegie once said, the most beautiful sound is the sound of your own name). Remember the easily-forgotten tidbits about your friends and pull them out every so often, like a favorite sweater that you would hate to wear out. Come prepared and organized when you attend interviews, meetings and other professional events. Smile like you mean it.

The little things really do mean the most, as my friend Kalehli so elegantly puts it on her blog, and so in our quests for world domination, let’s try our best to keep the world of conscientiousness and kindness alive. 🙂

The Friday Five: Ways To Be Creepy On A First Date

In the world of dating, we are often encouraged to follow The Rules. Some of The Rules have been passed down to us by older siblings and friends, while others are encoded in our monthly Bible, better known as Cosmo. These Rules dictate what we should wear, how long we should wait to call, where we should go and how we should conduct ourselves. While at times The Rules make sense and are even helpful, others can be a little extreme.

This week, we are going to stop taking The Rules (and ourselves!) so seriously. Instead of going into great detail about what color clothing makes you desirable and how to properly flirt with someone you met in a bar, I want to discuss some of the ways to misbehave on a first date. I should also add that none of these non-Rules stem from my personal experiences, although I would encourage readers to share their own unfortunate first date stories in the comments section below. 🙂 WARNING: None of these tips will likely land you a second date. If they do, you may want to rethink the relationship as a whole!

The Friday Five: Ways To Be Creepy On A First Date

1. When emailing or texting your date beforehand, use only the winking-face emoticons.
Everyone knows that the winking face, or ” 😉 ,” can add a degree of awkwardness to any text-based conversation. Unlike the traditional smiley face, the winking face often implies that what you said was meant to be suggestive. Examples: “I’ve heard so much about you 😉 ” “I can’t wait to see you tonight 😉 ” “I’ve always had memorable experiences at Olive Garden 😉 “. Using this emoticon before the big night is essential because it lets your date know right away that there’s something just a little bit off about you. 😉

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2. Bring pictures of what your wedding and children would look like.
Even if your date does plan to get married and have children with someone someday, chances are he or she will be slightly alarmed if you suggest such things on the first date. If you have a photo of this person prior to the date, plug it into this site along with your own picture, and soon enough you will see what your child will supposedly look like. (Of course, this website isn’t the most accurate – when I combined a picture of my blonde sister with a picture of my light brown and white dog, the result was a baby who looked like Mr. T.) Have them printed as wallet-sized and encourage your date to carry them around for good luck.

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3. Excessively reference information from his or her Facebook page.
Let’s face it: girls and guys are both guilty of Facebook stalking every once in a while. In fact, it’s sort of impossible not to, when you think of the effects that social media has on us. Nevertheless, a good Facebook stalker will make the most of his or her resources by studying his or her date’s interests, observing the date’s online interactions from the past three years and rooting through the 900 photos that the date has been tagged in. After you’ve done your homework, apply what you’ve learned to your conversation on the first date. Below is just one example, but feel free to make it your own!

Not Creepy: “I see you like a lot of indie music. Any good bands you’ve been listening to lately?”
Creepy: “I saw in your pictures that you went to the Death Cab For Cutie concert in 2006. Who was that girl next to you, anyway… was that your girlfriend or just someone you met at the concert? I noticed that you never tagged her on Facebook, but she kind of looks like the girl in some of your other pictures. I’m just curious.”

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4. Break into random accents and voices.
It doesn’t matter if you have mastered the accent or not (in fact, it’s probably better if you haven’t), so long as you change it up mid-sentence every so often. Not only will this make your date question your acting abilities, but it will also make him or her wonder whether or not they are on a date with one person or five different people. The only thing that your date will know for sure is that all five of those characters you’re trying to impersonate are clearly just as weird as you are.

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5. Bring up as many awkward topics as possible.
The first date is often littered with cliched small-talk, so make yourself memorable by bringing up the topics that no one is willing to talk about in the getting-to-know-you stage. As you sip away at your drink, think about the most embarrassing ailment you’ve ever had and then share all of the gory details. When the waiter brings your salads, talk about how many — or how few — sexual encounters you’ve had. Tell your date about your latest prostate exam (bonus points if you don’t have a prostate). Ask a lot of questions along the way, and if your date seems quiet, just pry the information out of him or her.

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If your date isn’t completely creeped out by the end of the night (or responds well to the above advances), then congratulations: you have found someone who may be even weirder than you are!

The Anti-Prince Charming Takes The Stage

Regardless of how cynical we claim to be, most of us want to find that one person who can sweep us off our feet. We might consider ourselves too old to believe in fairy tales, but we can’t deny that once upon a time, we dreamed of a happily ever after with our Prince Charming. By Disney’s standards (especially the early films), he was actually kind of perfect in every way — handsome, kindhearted and adventurous (if not a little bit superficial, sheltered and one-dimensional, but that’s another post altogether!).

However, there came a point in our history when we began to steer away from the traditional Prince Charming and instead gravitate toward his questionably-intentioned brother, the black sheep of the family. We no longer wanted that nearly effortless love story, but rather something darker, something with more depth. Compatibility and contentedness took a backseat to passion (often a euphemism for “nonstop arguing”) and extreme ups and downs. We now asserted that the perfect relationship required a lot of struggling in order to really be the right relationship… if you weren’t constantly questioning yourself, then you were obviously doing something wrong.

The Anti-Prince Charming has his own charm, but it doesn’t come in the form of carriage rides and the acquisition of glass slippers. The source of his allure can be a bit harder to place, but he has us convinced right away that if we aren’t in love with him now, we will be soon. The struggle throughout the relationship makes it even more exciting for us.

More than ever, we can attribute a lot of this to pop culture and what we’ve learned about relationships from an entertainment standpoint. Just look at this season of Gossip Girl — powerful queen bee Blair Waldorf has just gotten out of a relationship with the dangerous hotel heir Chuck Bass and is trying to regain some happiness through her work at a fashion magazine and through strengthening her presence on the Upper East Side. Healing from the breakup, she finds potential in two other young men: Dan Humphrey, the sarcastic and funny outsider from Brooklyn with whom she shares far more interests than she realizes, and Louis, a handsome prince from Monaco, whom she is also overwhelmingly compatible with and who has asked her to marry him.

Maybe I’m just partial because of my love for the Monaguese royalty (marry me, Pierre Casiraghi!), but when Blair considers leaving Prince Louis for Chuck, my heart just sank. When Chuck, of all people, tells her she deserves to be happy, she replies, “Chuck, that’s not the most important thing. People don’t write sonnets about being compatible or novels about shared life goals and stimulating conversation. The great loves are the crazy ones. L’amour fou.”

While I agree that compatibility isn’t the only ingredient to guaranteeing a happy relationship, I can’t support a relationship built on instability and games, even if that relationship is fictional. I’m all for working through the challenges and growing because of them, but when a relationship is based on only a chase and a few grand gestures, it’s time to end it. You can’t argue that it only hurts because you love the person so much, because anyone who actually has that power over you and is worth the time would never continue to hurt you.

I’m not saying you should forgo all conflicts and ignore someone who has flaws (because, let’s face it, we’re all flawed in some way), but maybe we should reconsider the Prince Charming we deserved all along… or at least, the more humanized version of him. Don’t pursue someone with the mere hope of rescuing or changing that person. Find someone who makes you happy most of the time and brings out the light from within you. Tweet this!

“It’s me and the moon,” she says…

For the past few days, I’ve been listening to a lot of Something Corporate in honor of their upcoming concert in Orlando (tomorrow!) that I will be unable to attend. As I mentioned in a previous post, Something Corporate was a staple of my life from about eighth grade to my early high school years, when I felt I had completely over-exhausted their North album. Anyway, I’ve been a SoCo enthusiast for years, but most recently while listening to their song Me and the Moon, one line really caught my attention.

You marry a role and you give up your soul till you break down.

The line really brings me back to the whole idea of a paper girl and the paper town where she takes form. For those unfamiliar with the song’s lyrics, Me and the Moon tells the story of a suburban housewife who kills her husband as an escape from the unfulfilled life she’s been living. Morbid, yes, but the song dives kind of deep into the woman’s innermost thoughts, and some of them are eerily relatable.

The way I see it, the woman becomes so invested in this one persona because that is exactly what is expected of her. And in turn, each of us has a role to fill — the star basketball player, the dedicated student, the wild child, the pageant queen — to the point at which people expect us to be those same two-dimensional paper versions of ourselves. With each role comes the pressure to embody a specific image of that role, and society will only pay attention to those labels and expectations. When we follow our hearts and the process leads us slightly astray of the the roads expected of us, other people don’t know how to react. It scares them.

But when we don’t follow our hearts because we’ve married a role, what do we have to lose? According to Something Corporate — everything. Become too focused on perfectly portraying that one impossible image, and in the process you will risk losing the essence of who you really are. The pressure can become too much to bear, and while hopefully you won’t do anything as extreme as the woman in the song, there is the chance that you will sabotage yourself.

In the end, the most important thing is to not become eclipsed by an image and revert to a mere shadow of your true self. Listen to what your mind is telling you, regardless of how consistent it is with what others think of you, and base your decisions on what is going to make you happy. In turn, please try not to judge a book by its cover. Others are just as complicated, multi-faceted, unique, intricate, and worthwhile as you… and no one deserves to be placed in a box.

Where We Stand: Conceptualizing a Relationship

Gone are the days of “going steady” with the person you like. Welcome to 2010, the age of ambiguity in both relationships and non-relationships! When I talk to friends and peers, I find that many of us can’t seem to agree on what defines a relationship, or how to know for certain that you’re in one.

The debate on this subject reminds me of a discussion we had in my communication research methods class. Our professor explained that before you could really begin any experiment, you had to define your variables into tangible terms so that people knew exactly what you were referring to. When we used “relationship satisfaction” as an example of something that each of us might perceive differently, I realized that relationships themselves could be a tricky subject to deal with when studying our particular age group. After all, before you start your research, you must know what you’re trying to measure, and so it is important to define those variables in as concrete a fashion as possible (and using a dictionary, of course, only leads to more ambiguity in your topic).

The difficulty is that many of us seem to have varying opinions on what qualifies as a relationship, as well as how to define some of the terminology that has to do with relationships. For example, does “dating” imply that two people are together, or that they quite literally have been going on dates? Do relationships form because one person says “Will you be my ___?” or do they just happen gradually, without so much as a word? The first image that comes to mind is from the film Donnie Darko, a scene in which, after Donnie has walked the new girl Gretchen home, he asks, “Do you wanna go with me?” and she replies, “Go where?”

Our generation seems to have forgotten what it means to go on dates and meet new people in that sense, rather than hook up with someone at a party and then decide whether or not to text them the next day. (Even the term hook up has different connotations for different people.) Those who choose to keep “talking” to the person (which, again, has different meanings) may differ in when they decide to call these exchanges a “relationship.”

Obviously there are couples who agree that they are in a relationship, so there has to be a definition out there somewhere. But then there are these one-sided flings in which one person thinks that their tryst means a lot more than the other one does. People disagree on their relationship statuses all the time, and many don’t even know where they stand with their potential significant others. While communication is obviously key, it’s kind of sad that in this day and age, so many people are sexually intimate without even knowing much about how their partners feel about them.

Having said all this, are labels even important? Social media certainly enforces that notion — we list ourselves as “Single” or “In a Relationship” but there are so many undefined statuses that will never fit into Facebook’s little box. Even “It’s Complicated” extends out to “____ is in a relationship and it’s complicated,” on one’s News Feed, but what if the major complication is that the two do not consider themselves to be fully in a relationship? Also, those who are not exclusive with their partners are not likely to list themselves as being in an open relationship, since generally one of those two people does want something more serious out of it.

So, my lovely readers, you tell me. Does our society place too much emphasis on finding a label for your relationship status, or not enough?Tweet this!