erratio: (Default)
A condensed version of the post that really started the whole dialogue on emotional labor:
The post that helped crystallize it properly for me:

The idea of emotional labor has gotten a lot of traction lately online, but the main problem I keep seeing is that people have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is, as opposed to being able to point to various anecdotes that they think exemplifies the concept. This in turn leads to confusion, and often a significant subset of people (usually men) who find the anecdotes and the conversation around it to sound too much like "haha men, they suck so much, amirite?" So this is going to be an attempt to lay down a clear definition of emotional labor without the baggage.

Emotional labor is essentially a name for a managerial role in a relationship. This takes on a few different concrete forms.

The first is management of the household, appointments, shopping, and other assorted tasks that are generally shared across couples and/or housemates. Sweeping a floor or cooking dinner is not emotional labor, but being the person who makes sure that those things are accomplished is. It doesn't matter whether you get the floor swept by doing it yourself, asking your partner to do it, firing up a Roomba, or hiring a cleaning service; what matters is that you are taking on responsibility for making sure the task is done. This is why people who say that they would be happy to help with the housework if you would just tell them what needs doing are being a lot less helpful than they think. They're taking the physical labor component of the task but explicitly sticking the other person with the emotional labor component.

The second is taking responsibility for the likes, dislikes, feelings, wants and needs of other people who you are in a relationship with (and to be clear, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship). Stereotypical scenarios that are covered by this kind of emotional labor include: the hysterical girlfriend who demands that her boyfriend drop everything he's doing to comfort her, the husband who comes home tense and moody after a long day at the office and wants to be asked how his day went and listened to and have validating noises made at him, noticing that the other person in a conversation is uncomfortable and steering the conversation to a more pleasant topic without having to be asked, helping a confused friend talk through their feelings about a potential or former partner, reminding your spouse that it's so-and-so's birthday and that so-and-so would appreciate being contacted, remembering birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and contacting people and saying or doing the right things on each of those dates,

Notice that that last emotional one crosses over into material relationship management again. I'm pretty sure that this is why the confusion is so rampant over what exactly emotional labor is, because other people see the cards and the cooking and whatnot and assume that those things are the emotional labor. They're really not. The emotional labor is the responsibility/management aspect. They're also the part that's invisible and easy to take for granted, particularly since management of other people's feelings is usually assumed to include not letting the other person feel bad about their lack of emotional labor skills.
erratio: (Default)
You know what really gets me? It's the way people are so damn stupid when it comes to being attracted to others. See, there's a mistake that almost everyone makes at least once. If they're unlucky or stupid then they'll repeat the mistake many many times, and if they're particularly moronic, it's a mistake they'll never stop making.

The mistake is this: If a person isn't attracted to you in the first place, then no amount of being a really good friend and hanging around them all the time is going to magically cause them to become attracted to you.*

It's something I've been guilty of myself in the past. When I was a young lass straight out of high school and out in the wide world of university, I developed a massive crush on this guy. Over the next year or so I did my best to be the perfect friend to him. I'd provide company if he was bored, anything he found interesting I would also be interested in, I'd go out of my way to visit him, I even attended a couple of his lectures with him. I never actually asked him out or admitted my feelings to him, but he made it fairly clear he wasn't interested in me, even going so far one day as to ask me for tips about this girl he was kind of interested in. I helped him of course. I couldn't help myself. And then he got a girlfriend(not the same girl as the pervious sentence) and I spent the next few days wanting to die, because despite knowing we wouldn't be together there'd still been that chance while he was single. And then after those few days, because I still liked him so much, and because I considered his happiness to be more important than mine, it was back to being the perfect friend. Back to offering advice and being there all the time and basically just giving myself up to whatever abuse or friendship he cared to heap on me, knowing there was no chance but unable to ignore the irrational part of me that screamed that if I was just good enough to him then maybe one day he would see my devotion and return it. He never did of course. He never even had an inkling of my attraction to him until much later when I was over him and told him about it. These days we're still good friends, but I don't think we would be if we hadn't had enough other friends in common to carry us through our fights, and if I hadn't been able to be his friend even while he was with this other girl.

This leads to the corollary: If you know (in your mind, not your heart) that there's no chance, then you shouldn't be hanging around in the vain hope that they'll one day see the light and realise that you're their one true love. By this I don't mean that it's impossible to be friends with someone you're attracted to. But you do need to be honest with yourself. If the primary reason you have for hanging around is because you're attracted to them, then you need to reconsider your position.

A simple test to see whether you're hanging around for attraction's sake:
1) Do you spend a much larger amount of time thinking about this person and how to be a good friend to them than you would for your other friends? Especially compared to your friends of the gender you are not attracted to, since there's absolutely no chance of getting attraction confused with friendship in their case
2) Do you put up with whatever this person does to you/wants from you? ie If they're having a bad day do you act as their stress dummy, if they need things done do you act as their personal slave, if they're sad you act like a clown for them, etc.
3) If they got into a relationship with someone else would you be predominantly happy for them or jealous/angry/miserable? Honestly

If your answer for the first two questions were 'yes', and your answer to the last was closer to jealous angry misery than bittersweet happiness, then telling yourself and others that you're happy with being 'just friends' is a lie, and you need to think about whether you're comfortable living it, and what's going to happen when the other person inevitably drifts away or finds someone they're attracted to.

I think part of the reason the situation crops up so much is because of the company I keep. We have good nerdy boys attracted to nice nerdy girls, neither of whom have that much experience with the whole dating thing. So the guy makes his feelings known, either directly or indirectly, and gets knocked back. But then the girl can't help but feel sorry for the guy, because he's put his heart on the line and she's just not into him, so she compensates for the guilt by treating him a little nicer, letting him be the friend he so obviously wants to be. In turn, the guy sees this softening and can't help thinking that he's in with a chance, if he can just get close enough to her and is always there and available for her then maybe she'll turn to him when she's ready. This is where the 'nice guy' myth comes from, and the reason why there are so many bitter men ranting on the Internet about how girls say they want a nice trustworthy guy who can be a good friend to them but then they ignore their nice guy friends who are attracted to them to go have sex with outlaw bikers instead. It's not that girls don't want a nice guy. But once they've made up their mind about whether a guy is attractive to them or not, then no amount of being friends and demonstrating 'nice guy' qualities is going to lead to attraction*.

*Massive addendum: It IS possible to create attraction where there wasn't really any before. But it requires a particular and deliberate way of acting and a lot of luck (there has to be a spark for it to work on, some people are immune to the tactics, and all sorts of other factors). And unless that way of acting is the way you normally act, or very close to it, then it's back to considering whether you're comfortable living a lie**

**A guy recently offered to change himself for me. I was horrified and tried to explain that if a girl ever takes him up on that offer then he should run in the opposite direction very quickly.
erratio: (Default)
i've been thinking about it a lot lately and also discussing it lately with several people.

In my mind there are several distinct types of love. Actually, not just in my mind. The ancient Greeks also recognised more than one type of love. They had eros, agape, and philia, or in order, physical love, love between friends and love between family*.

* EDIT: I've since discovered that these terms are imprecise. For example, agape has been used in the same context as eros. So who knows.

Love between family: I've already written more extensively on this in my post about siblings. To summarise, family love is the love that lets you do anything short of kill and still be able to love one another. Its the love of people who drive you absolutely bloody crazy but at the same time you wouldn't lose them for anything, and if it was really important you would put aside your petty squabbling to help them out.

Love between friends: I originally didn't think this existed, that all love could be considered a lesser or greater form of sibling love or a disguised form of physical love. But now that i think about it, i do have friends who i wouldn't take the shit from that i can and do take from siblings, but at the same time i am not remotely physically attracted to. To me, friends are the people who i care deeply enough about that i would (and have in the past) drop whatever i was doing if they were in need. The extent to which i would do this depends on how close they were, but in general anyone close enough to me who i would call my friend is someone who i would happily lose sleep for if it meant i could help them solve/talk through a problem of theirs.

Partner love: Here i am most likely completely misinterpreting ancient history, but i believe that by eros the Greeks meant more than just lust. Ideally, the love you feel for a partner should be the good parts of both sibling love and family love, magnified and with an extra dimension added. To plagiarise from a friend, "solid and always there but at the same time moving and makes you want to frolic in it". I believe that its impossible to have a good boyfriend/girlfriend type relationship without it being laid on a very solid bed of friendship. As in, if there was a problem you would most likely run to your partner first than to your closest school friends, because your partner *is* your best friend. I think that people who get into relationships just because they have physical chemistry, or because they're lonely are missing out on so much. It seems like you could get a far better, deeper, and long-lasting relationship by picking a friend, who by default already has something in common with you ( or else why are you friends?) and who you've already rubbed shoulders with so that you both know enough about eachother's personality that it won't be doomed from the beginning. And if you weren't good friends before you got together, a good question to ask would be whether you would want to be friends with or hang around the person if you weren't going out with them.

OK, now for a few thoughts on breaking up and dealing with problems in relationships. One of my friends takes the "no blame" approach. It entails a belief in fate, that if you're in a relationship with someone and it doesn't work out, its not because either of you are to blame but rather because it wasn't fated to work out at the time. This doesn't mean you can't get back together in future because you may both be different people by then, but it all comes down to whether something is fated to be or not.
It has the benefit that you don't agonise so much over what you could have or should have done to make it work, and you also don't spend the next three months blaming your ex for being a horrible boyfriend/girlfriend. To me it seems horribly fatalistic. When i talk about blame or guilt, i think of it in terms of responsibilities. As in, if someone is laying blame on you or making you feel guilty its because there were responsibilities that you didn't carry out or that the person laying the blame felt you failed to carry out. So laying blame is a way of recognising what went wrong, which in turn allows both parties to consciously make an attempt to fix those things that they came under fire for. I'm not saying that either partner should hold a grudge at the other one for having failed in these things unless they did it on purpose, because everyone makes mistakes etc, just that in an honest discussion both parties should be able to state those things that they felt the other could have done better, so that they can use it as a learning experience and not end up apart six months later wondering what the hell went wrong.
Of course the other side of the "no blame" approach would be the "all blame" approach.. where both sides spend way too time trying to work out who caused what, who started which fight, and so forth. Ultimately it gets you nowhere unless you can move on and leave the bitterness far behind you

And in a somewhat-but-not-entirely-related link, here is the words to say "i love you" in many laguages :p


Aug. 21st, 2005 01:07 am
erratio: (Default)
What is it about guys that makes us girls go funny?
Its been however many years since the feminist revolution that taught us that its safe to be ourselves, that we don't have to measure ourselves by how many guys look at our legs/bust/ass, that we can be proud just to be ourselves and to live our own independent lives.

This would all be fine and good except that the majority of us born in this time of freedom and equality don't particularly want to be liberated. Oh sure, we are happy to take the legacy the feminists left us and go forge our own careers and be money-earners in our own rights. But at the end of it, we still want guys to look at us covetously and to find us physically attractive. Why must we feel this way? I still haven't found any satisfactory answer as to why i can have a dozen friends who have proven in countless ways how much they care for me, yet if i don't feel like my bf is pining after me i feel like i have somehow failed. And i have seen it in other people's relationships around me too, even in an otherwise happy stable relationship, if the girl doesn't feel like she is physically wanted she will not be completely happy.

Damn these female hormones of ours is all i can say. Damn them to hell


erratio: (Default)

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