Monthly Archives: March 2012

Having Low Standards for Attractiveness is Not a Bad Thing

Wes here again.  Today I want to talk about standards.  Specifically, I want to talk about standards for physical attractiveness.

Many people have expressed to be something along the lines of “I have high standards when it comes to women/men,” meaning that they don’t find many people sexually attractive.  Often, people consider this a point of pride.  I can sort of see their point.  I think it goes something like this:

only attractive people can afford to have high standards
I have high standards                                            
I am attractive

The fact that this is (obviously) a fallacious argument isn’t really the point.  The point is that having high standards makes people feel good about themselves.

I feel that having high standards in this context is a bad thing.  More than that, I consider it an unfortunate fact of life that we feel attraction on a purely physical level at all.  While this almost certainly had evolutionary advantages, these have largely evaporated in modern-day society.  Today, there is seemingly no (non-socially enforced) benefit to discriminating in our choice of romantic partner based on physical characteristics.  How a person looks has very little bearing on the things that I consider important in a relationship.

Attraction is important, but only in a circular way.  Physical attraction is only important in a relationship because people feel for each other on a physical level.  Dating someone to whom you’re not physically attracted is a bad idea because that’s a vital part of a relationship.  But it has no value in other contexts.  Physical attraction does not add value to any other part of a relationship.  To put it a different way, if one were attracted to everyone, one’s relationships would not suffer for it.

When it comes to physical characteristics, I have low standards, although they are higher than I’d like.  I wish that I was equally attracted on a physical level to everyone.  If that were the case, I would be free to make choices about romantic & sexual partners based on things that add value to a relationship, such as intelligence, kindness, emotional IQ, shared interests, and other factors which directly relate to compatibility.  These things certainly make a person more attractive to me (even on a physical level), but I still respond much more to a person’s appearance.  I consider it unfortunate that a person’s physical appearance matters to me at all, but such is life.

Physical attraction is largely biological, so I don’t know what we can do about this, but I think most agree that there is at least a component that is socially created.  If we were able to realign society’s values somehow so that physical appearance was less important, it would probably have a significant effect on this sort of thing.  Maybe?  And while I’m dreaming, I’d like a pony….*

*first one in the comments to identify the reference gets a prize

Atheists, Polyamorists, and Skeptics…OH MY! Also, Bartenders.

A few years ago while hanging out with a friend on a lazy afternoon, I suggested that we go off to visit another friend who was at work at a local coffee shop.  She looked at me in a somewhat horrified fashion. 

“You want to bother someone at work?”

I thought this was a strange way to look at it.  When I worked in a coffee shop in the beginning of college, I really enjoyed when people came to visit me.  Not only did I get to give people a discount, but I had a nice distraction.  In addition, I liked people seeing what I did when I wasn’t in class or whatever.  I am generally proud of what I do to make a living.  Over the years, I have often wished that people could visit me in my chemistry world to see what I do all day (when I’m not blogging of course).  I like to show off the technology I work with and geek out about why it’s “cool”.  I like guiding tours in the facility and I like demonstrating stuff.  It would be fun for me to be able to do that for my friends and family, but it isn’t generally done.  There’s lots of security and safety stuff that you have to consider, so it wouldn’t be a habit you want anyone to develop.  In addition, I work out in the relative “boonies” so dropping in is unlikely.

The thing is that I also love watching people do their jobs.  As an example, my sister has been bartending for 20 years.  I think that some might find it hard to take something like that seriously as a career if only because we’re told from a young age that unless you own the restaurant, it isn’t a “real career”.  This is, of course, preposterous.  People don’t talk about mechanics that way.  Bartending is a highly skilled trade just like that, but because you’re slinging booze and not lugnuts, it somehow gets less respect as a “whole life” kind of thing.  I also might be wrong about that as a general opinion.  It’s just one I have encountered.  Regardless, I have sat down at the bar while she works and have been transfixed by the sight.  There’s just something exciting about watching a seasoned professional work.  I have so much respect for the skills she has acquired over the years.   I would say that she makes it look easy, but she doesn’t actually.  I know watching her that I couldn’t be as good at taking care of a room like that tomorrow or in a year.

I also just enjoy seeing people in other parts of their lives.  We all have a “home self” and a “work self”.  Some would say that the big difference between these two selves is simply what you have to hide, but I think the professionalism that most people have to display at work is the more entertaining and interesting part of it.  I am always amused at my phone etiquette at work.  I have a “phone voice” that is apparently somehow soothing, friendly and authoritative all at once.  I also display a level of confidence in my professional life that is very different from my out of work personality.  I feel confident about coatings because I have a lot of knowledge.  I have been doing this for years and I know what I’m talking about.  I bring that to every meeting, every customer visit and I’m pretty proud of it.  People trust me with their chemicals and that is something that takes years to garner (and not something you learn in school, by the way).  I like seeing these things in everyone while they do their jobs.

It probably has something to do with having really high caliber people around me.  I don’t worry about showing up to someone’s workplace and seeing them be mediocre.  No one I would visit at work is.  When I walk into the candy shop, Jessie beams in her period costume and even though she knows me well, she still answers all my candy-related questions professionally and with great enthusiasm (and then she usually lets me taste stuff because she’s a really smart saleslady…and then I buy things…so many things).  I got the chance to sit in Wes’ office the other day while he was being all lawyery and it was fun to see him so professional, especially since we spend so much of our time being silly and ridiculous at home.  I got to see Ginny teach a class at Gymboree once and I was highly entertained to watch her explain that the kids had a choice between a big ball and a little ball and that each ball only fit in one tube.  The kids were fascinated.  I haven’t gotten to see Shaun at his day job, but I think I would be really amused since he regularly sends me pictures of dinosaurs with koosh balls for bodies and Star Wars figurines sitting on toy boats.  Based on how he entertains and confuses our dog, I just think watching him with kids would hilarious.

In all these cases, every job seems like a potential career because anything can be a career that you are good at and passionate about.  Sure, not all the people I just mentioned are ridiculously passionate about their day jobs, but seeing someone do their job well makes the job itself seem all the more legitimate and real.

This is similar to how I feel about being out and open about being poly and being an atheist.  It’s easy for people to judge you poorly when they are not directly seeing you live your life.  People will make assumptions based on their own limited filter on the world and then go write a diatribe against you on the internet.  But when we are all out and about a lot as a group and when people find out that we are poly, they often have a lot of questions (which we welcome!).  People want to know how it works and why we chose to live this way.  I find that the response to people talking to us about it in person, when they can see us all functioning in our relationships just like they do, is pretty positive.  Sure, we might not be converting anyone, but at this point acceptance is just as good.  Much in the same way, when people see that I’m an atheist who is smiling and who has managed not to murder everyone around me due to apparent lack of a moral code, it’s harder to think of atheists in the same evil light.

It should be obvious, but it should be said that it is important to actually observe the reality of things before making vast assumptions.  For instance, many atheists are pretty learned in religious texts and theory.  They judge them based on not only the words but also how concepts are carried out in people’s lives and in churches.  If you talk to one, you might find yourself in an interesting theological discussion and you might also find that atheist is not synonymous with depressed godless douchebag.  If you talk to polyamorous people before assuming that the only defining characteristic of them is sluttiness, you might find that the whole thing seems quite logical.  If you spend a day working with an old and wizened carnie, you might be impressed by the amount of knowledge being good at something like that requires.

Or you might get really creeped out.  Rumor has it carnies eat the heads of chickens or something.

I think when people hear the word skeptic, they assume you are skeptical (which, well, they should).  But I think that people equate being skeptical with being a naysayer who just wants ruin everyone’s fun.  But all it means is that you want to see it before you believe it.  It’s easy to make grand statements about how a job or lifestyle is stupid or wrong, but it’s harder to do that once you actually see it.  It comes down to whatever benefit you get from remaining ignorant and I for one never feel that the benefit of ignorance is worth it. 

Some Thoughts While I’m Waiting in Line for Overpriced Wine

It’s 11pm and I’m feeling content and comfortable.  After standing in rainy conditions from 9:30am to 5:00pm, we here at Polyskeptic.com decided to head back to the hotel to dry off and get our brains in order.  Then we headed to Bethesda for an after party sponsored by American Atheists and here we are.

Last month, Wes, Jessie, and I went to Wicked Faire in Somerset, NJ.  It was a wonderful weekend for various reasons (not the least of which was getting to walk around as Lock, Shock and Barrel again).  One of the things that was appealing at the time was the massive amount of acceptance for all lifestyles and interests.  At Wicked Faire, you could be who you want to be, whatever that may be.  That felt like a vacation for me for a weekend because it was really nice to not have to particularly explain polyamory for once.  We could just introduce ourselves and our relationship and people were cool with it (we didn’t even get weird looks about it).  So that’s nice.  But the acceptance was one I couldn’t fully trust and give in to, because, well, when you are with people who accept everything regardless of any thought at all, the acceptance is…um…kind of bullshit.  If you don’t think about it and just accept, sure, you don’t fight…but you’re also not asking questions or getting a real opinion.  It’s nice for a weekend, but not for a life.

At the Reason Rally, I feel a similar kind of acceptance but I feel like it’s one I can trust.  The Reason Rally has been a gathering of like minded people, just like any convention…but here’s the difference: we accept because we know that anything we disagree with can and will be challenged.  It is an acceptance based on truth and a commitment to critical thinking.  Just like asking why we were waiting in a long line before getting into it themselves, meetings here are done with an important understanding.  The understanding is that we know that we may not agree on, well, anything…but we do agree that we should find out exactly what people are about before accepting or rejecting them, much like ideas and beliefs.

This is the essence of reason.  This is why we are here, in DC and, frankly, in life.

Maybe it’s the wine talking, but I’m feeling motivated and excited about this movement and the kind of people who join it.  I am not alone.

And just in case you thought this wasn’t a real rally, there was totally a woman dancing with hula hoops on the dance floor a minute ago.  The drum circle will begin shortly…most likely.  I missed a chance to take a picture of hula hoop girl because I was blogging.

I should, um, maybe stop blogging for a minute…maybe.

PZ Myers and His Rightous Hat

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So, PZ Myers showed up today with a 10 gallon…nay, a 20 gallon hat and it is glorious.  I think it fitting that he be wearing an impressive, kind of silly hat as some would possibly consider him a pope-like figure for the movement.  Or at least a Cardinal.

Of course, by pope, he is simply a dynamic leader urging us to stop accepting lies and ridiculousness as part of our national dialogue.  This should seem obvious, but seeing as we have to have a rally about reason, these things need to be said.

Apparently, Eddie Izzard is coming on next.  ZOMG.

Jesus Riding A Dinosaur

The Reason Rally is the greatest place on Earth.

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That’s right.  You know you’re jealous.

Also, I don’t know if I should consider this proof of humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time, but seeing as I’m losing brain power by the minute, let’s not ask any questions and assume that it is.

Skepticism!

Also, we shall bow to our dinosaur overlords.

Brain power!

Richard Dawkins: Need I Say More?

It is a fact of my own life that scientists will always offer the most persuasive arguments to me for logic and reason.  But it is also true that they offer the most compelling arguments for the beauty of our world.  Listening to Dawkins speak about “this rock, near a mediocre star on the edge of a typical galaxy” and how despite the ordinary nature of the conditions in this particular pocket of the universe, something as extraordinary as our planet and the life on it managed to occur fills me with a sense of awe.  To accept that the beauty we see in our short, insignificant lives can be attributed to chance, the entropic reality of the universe is a gift.  To attribute to anything else cheapens it.  It is a beautiful world without spirituality.  It is more beautiful to me because of that.

Science is practical magic.

As such, I enjoy that my camera phone makes all the pictures of the video screen look like promotional posters or cartoons.

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Protest

When I was thinking about what the rally would be like, I expected there to be a lot hostility around, both within the rally (a lot of arrogant atheists saying things about how stupid Christians are and feeling really superior about it) and from religious protestors.  Much to my amazement, there has been very little hostility of any kind.

The rally itself has had a very positive feel overall.  The messages of most of the speakers have been inspiring and while they exclude those who have religion as a decision making force in their lives, the messages have been inclusive to all types of atheism/agnostitism and the general idea has been to band together to be a force of change and good in the world.  The message has not been “we’re better than everyone else” (no matter how many of us might think that, har har).

In addition, the protestors have been really peaceful.

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For every one protestor with a generic “Jesus Loves You” sign, there are 10 secularists crowded around them engaging in intelligent conversation.  There’s not a lot of yelling or “you’re going to hell” or “you’re all fools” or any of that.  I am impressed.

Not to say that punches are being pulled.  People are saying lots of true things to a lot of supportive people.  The speakers are making the point that critical thinking and reason should be the norm and that religion hinders the progress of that in children and adults.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Greta Christina is Amazing

True kudos to the organizers of the Reason Rally for a really fabulous lineup, specifically the great representation of women here (not just speakers but discussion of misogyny and all of the important women’s issues happening now…as they have been for an incredibly long time).  Greta Christina (freethoughtblogs.com/gretachristina) is speaking now and is the first speaker to really gety us riled up talking about the important question, “why are atheists angry?”  And it’s because, “maybe we have legitimate things to be angry about.”  Yep.

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Alright, Yes, I’m a Nerd…

But, seriously, it’s Adam Savage from Mythbusters.  Yes, I want him to blow something up in the name of science…but what kind of chemist would I be if that weren’t the case?

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Atheist, Polyamorous, Skeptic Rocketship Cracker!

In case I’m not really selling the tshirts, or Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Space Crackers enough (clearly I want them to sponsor us…and they totes should. Pepperidge Farm remembers, yo!), here’s a nice shot of not only one of the versions of the tshirts you can get, but also a rocketship cracker that looks like the website symbol.  AMAZING!

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