Sometimes you’re just another butterfly.
I don’t want to be just like everyone else, I want to stand out. Sure, I want to “fit in”, but there are points where I don’t want to go with the flow, don’t want to match statistics, don’t want to be the same as the rest of society. I would rather be viewed as a creative and unique individual rather than “just like a man”, or “like every other computer geek”, or “the same as every other wife’s husband” (or some other arbitrary label). This dovetails with another post I wrote about labels.
Too bad reality makes itself known so frequently.
Last night my wife was reading about the meanings of cravings on various pregnancy forums — various women were posting their experiences with cravings, the different things they wanted to eat, etc. At one point my wife quoted something about (the stereotypical) ice-cream sundae with pickles and peanut butter. Then she paused. Then she said, “mm that sounds good”, in complete seriousness.
This morning I woke up thinking it would be a good idea to try the stock market to make more money for my family and our child. This behavior was predicted on page 81 of The Expectant Father, one of our pregnancy books: “Expectant fathers … may become tempted by lottery tickets or get-rich-quick schemes.”. I even remember reading that paragraph a month ago and thinking to myself, “Well that’s not me at all!” I have to confess that I’ve thought about buying lottery tickets, recently.
It’s particularly galling when I inadvertently stereotype myself.
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter. One of the epiphanies I had several years ago was the realization that I’m actually just like everyone else. Actually, the feeling was more, “I’m really not that great a guy after all!”, but I’m not talking shame or depression; I’m talking about knowing without judgement that I’m really no better nor worse than anyone else around me. Truly grokking that I’m not the belle of the ball, I’m just another person. It was humbling and liberating.
All the ways that I may be quicker at something than someone else are offset by all the ways that I am slower at someone than someone else, which is offset by my inconsistency at being faster or slower at those things in the first place. Which is further offset by my experiences and opportunities, and lastly the fact that the things I value are skewed towards who I am or who I want to be. And everyone does this.
Furthermore, I’m going to downplay the negative contrasts and promote the things that make me look good (at least in my own mind) because that’s just what people do. There are two identified cognitive biases for that; these are things that people do by their very nature unless they’re on guard constantly.
Lastly, consider: If I’m comparing myself to Bob the Businessman, all the things I value mean nothing to him unless he wants to be exactly like me. All the things that he values mean nothing to me unless I want to be exactly like him. Even the idea of “better” is meaningless, if (as I presume) everyone can change themselves or learn from their mistakes at some point. Am I better because I’ve never made the mistake, or am I better because I made a mistake, realized it, then changed myself because of the learning?
After all that analysis, I guess I find myself fallen into a demographic of people to whom demographics apply. Which is everyone. In the end, the only option for maintaining a sense of uniqueness is to rebel against the predictions you match. The funny part is, that’s a known cognitive bias as well: Reactance, doing the opposite of something to maintain the illusion of choice. If you are reacting, you are not choosing.
I’m fine with being just like all the other expectant fathers, and I find it wryly amusing that my wife is like all other expectant mothers. As different as we’d like to be from other people, and all the ways we don’t match in our habits and world-views, we are just the same as everyone else.