Dear Conformity Police

Human societies hanker towards conformity.  This is the result of us being a social ape species.  Whether you think we were created out of the “clay” of Earth or you think we just growed, that’s the basis we’re built on.  If you’re a believer, it affords all kinds of cool commentary and speculation on the difference between fleshy self and divine ideal, and if you are a Christian more speculation can be added on the fall and Eden. None of it will be new, but it passes the time.  It’s useful when you’re all dead tired and want to talk to stay awake.

A comment in passing on the last post about how most of us Odds have been bullied as kids, and about how I like science fiction cons because I can be my own weird self was misinterpreted by a commenter (and incidentally, that commenter’s name comes up again and again in regard to White Supremacist, Holocaust revisionist sites.  Might be just a coincidence, but he/she/it bears watching.)  He decided I want to go to SF cons and be as outré as possible, and that you know, all of science fiction fandom is like that, and also that all of us should just have sucked it up and made ourselves normal.

I daresay most of did, in adolescence, or at least most of us probably can fit in daily conversation as grown human beings, with no issues; most of us have jobs; most of us have kids and managed them through school.

There is a difference between fitting in externally and breaking yourself to fit in.  This is why I compared it to being gay in the old bad days.  Most people could pass in public, but from what I understand from friends, it was good to have a place you could go and just talk normally without watching every word – even if the place wasn’t about sex (And yes, a lot of them were but a lot of them weren’t.  What Card missed about the gay community, possibly because he knew it best when he was young and so were his friends, is that a stunning lot of it is not about sex, but about acceptance.)

Science fiction and fantasy fans tend to be the same.  I’ll leave it as an exercise for the practical psychologist with time on his hands to determine whether we’re attracted to the genre because we’re odd, or if we’re odd because we’re attracted to the genre.  What I mean is, most writers and readers of science fiction are – to my knowledge “outliers.”  We do tend to be more creative – not a brag, for a lot of the fans and even some authors it’s largely undirected creativity — and more bookish/studious/interested than most “normal” people.  We also tend to be strange in another way.  People call it “spectrum” meaning autism spectrum, but I’ve found the correlation less than 100%.  My affect is not at all autistic or aspergers, and neither is my kids’ or my husband.  (Of course, for SF/F we’re almost scarily social, across all types of people including non-fans.)  What we are is people who are, as I indicated in my other post, likely to think about stuff no one else bothers with because it’s “normal” or “everyone knows.”  We will go “Okay, so everyone wears hats on their heads and shoes on their feet.  Why not the other way around?”  Now nine times out of ten the answer is immediately obvious and the fan over the age of 10 will get over it.  But sometimes there REALLY is no good reason.

My husband accidentally once found himself working in a group of all sf/fantasy fans.  The manager who didn’t read the genre once speculated that might be why they were the most creative and out of the box group he’d ever managed.  (They still couldn’t convince him to read it.)

What I mean is we consider and study stuff that other people would think is insane.

I’ve had moments of inducing sheer terror in total strangers while just hanging out with the kids.  Like the time Robert and I were discussing – purely in the b*llshooting mode, whether Neanderthals could be responsible for the legends of elves.  We were stuck somewhere for two hours, had to keep awake, and yep, the conversation went from theology and legends through biology, to anthropology and the latest archeological finds and back again.

Showing off?  Oh, heck no.  Most of it was qualified with “I haven’t kept up this year, but—”  We were JUST talking.  I noticed the couple stuck in the room with us looked first alarmed and then hostile.  (I’ll point out we weren’t being loud but neither were we whispering.)  Robert didn’t notice it until we were about to leave and the lady shrunk away from us, as though we were contaminated.  Then he asked me why and I explained.  A) they thought we were showing off.  B) they thought it was for their benefit.  C) they might have thought we wanted to intimidate them.

Robert’s reaction to it was “WHY WOULD WE.  THEY’RE STRANGERS.”  I pointed out to him that was why I’d let it go on, and not stopped it.  They’re strangers.  Their opinion doesn’t matter (due to circumstances, the chances of us ever meeting them are zero, just about.)  BUT learn to be aware most normal people have that reaction to our chit chat and avoid it when you want to avoid hostility from people you’re likely to meet again.  This too flabbergasted the young one “But mom, we weren’t even serious or deep or anything.  I mean, we couldn’t be without references.”  Then I had to explain his “odd meter” is calibrated wrong.

So, that’s our people.  I’m making no mention of weird costume (I dress appropriately to the occasion.  At steampunk cons that involves as close to Victorian attire as I can get without making a whole new costume.  Street clothes stick out.), Odd makeup (that’s mostly the young kids, unless it’s for a costume show), Odder piercings (the new normal in my kids’ age group), or bizarre tattoos (ditto.)  Some people decide if they’re not going to be accepted, they’ll go the other way, but most of us remain normal enough to hold jobs and look decent.

What I meant was that at a con, I get to say “Well, you know, I wonder how this or that would change if we went to the stars” and no one looks at me like I’ve just grown a second head.

Also, most of us were REALLY bullied in childhood.  I might be the exception.  I was outsized for a Portuguese kid of my generation and because my parents had a policy of “no tale bearing.  Deal with it yourself” I learned early to fight back.  This meant that people DID try to make me fall in line by shaming/beating/stealing, etc and got it right back with interest.  (And btw, as a kid my oddities that led to attempted bullying were as follows: I was too big.  I didn’t have pierced ears.  And I wore pants (I was very sickly and mother thought I was better in pants than in the skirts all other little girls wore.)  So, as you see, my weirdness DID indeed need to be curbed – rolls eyes.)

The commenter was right this is in fact “normal.”  When an ape cub is too different, the others kill it – and that’s if the parents don’t do it first.

What he fails to explain is how this is desirable, other than maintaining genetic cohesion.  He/she/it also fails to note that in fact had this not slipped now and then, there would be no humans, only apes.  Perhaps he thinks that’s better.  I mean, apes are more normal, after all.

To those who try to make SF fans fall in line with the rest of the world because it’s “normal” as well as to the new arrival making vague accusations and trying to shame me to fall in with the rest of science fiction  (Check out, what?  I’m not going to spend the day googling.  I’m not an aut’eur.  I work  for a living and I have books and stories to finish.)  my answer is the same it was to the bullies in school: you’re insecure and small and therefore try to control the thoughts and behaviors of others.  You can’t.  You can only control your own.  DO try it, for a while.  It will be healthier for all concerned.

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him. – Robert A. Heinlein.

That goes double with sugar on top for any fandom (even when referring to other author’s blogs) and any enforcer of normalcy in or out of it.  You can’t win here, and we will not back down.

190 thoughts on “Dear Conformity Police

  1. Did I miss a chew toy? Yesterday for me was bad, bad, baaaddd. Too much change in atmospheric pressure or something, and my back just was nasty to me. I did note quite a few NEW commenters yesterday. Hoyt’s Hoard is beginning to attract attention. That’s a Good Thing.

    1. Not so much chew toy as just annoyance. Of course, like so many chew toys, they came by, told us how wrong Sarah and the rest of us are and then ran away. Oh, and didn’t have the guts to post under their real name or active link.

      1. I can understand the desire for a pseudonym. There have been enough witch-hunting mobs out of Reddit that some folk have taken to posting pseudonymously on most sites. I’m more aware of left-leaning (or left-fallen-over) witch-hunts than conservative ones, it’s true. But if someone frequents those sites for the amusement value (/r/aww has an endless supply of cute puppy / kitten / cuttlefish / koala etc. pictures) they might well leave with the impression that using your real name within a mile of a political discussion is a recipe for getting harassing phone calls at all hours of the night and morning … or worse.

        1. Susan, I understand that. I just have little tolerance for those who do drive-by posting and condemnations/whinings/”let me show you how much smarter I am than you” and then never return to either try to support their position or, gasp, admit they might be wrong.

        2. Arguably, I post under a pseudonym, one comprised of my actual initials. The reasons for this are long and hardly matter at this blog*, but I will note that I use — to the fullest extent possible — the same pseudonym in every venue where I post.

          I hardly think it merits assertion that I do not run from counter-arguments, nor decline to support mine own.

          *They are, however, available on request for the price of a drink at any con I attend.

  2. I am still hopeful that some of SF fans’ other virtues — in this case a strong respect for fairness and a strong disrespect for arbitrary and irrational authority — will overcome the efforts of would-be conformity police within the subculture. Basically I’m hoping the Kiplingites win out over the Wellsians.

    1. The Kiplingites are certain to win out in the long run; they’ve read “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” and “Jubal and Tubal Cain” among others as cautionary tales rather than instruction manuals.

    1. Looks like the embed code didn’t work, so there’s no preview. For those too busy to click the link, it’s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “I Won’t Back Down”. I’m finding that song playing a lot in my head lately.

      1. To embed a Youtube clip, all you have to do is paste the URL ( slash watch questionmark v equals 11-letter-code) on a line by itself, and WordPress will automatically turn that into the appropriate embedding code. Discovered that one myself by accident once.

        1. You make it way too complicated, I wouldn’t understand what you are saying, except I think that is exactly what I do. Just click on the address at the top of your screen (it should highlight automatically) right click and hit ‘copy’, then simply hit ‘paste’ in your reply box. Tip: if there isn’t a space between the address you paste and other words or letters sometimes it doesn’t embed right.

        2. Off topic, but some time ago you suggested the book How Huge The Night. Read it this past week, enjoyed it greatly. Thank you.

  3. I recently took a drive to visit a couple of friends who I mostly interact with via internet. I called it the “Autism spectrum convention” ( but not the face of one of my friends, given he actually has a son who is a fairly severe case and a trial for him and his wife).

    But these guys I was with for two days were exactly as fascinating a set of odds as you can imagine. One an astrophysicist, another with varying amounts of geology, paleontology, egyptology education and a lot of job experience in a wide variety of fields, some computer programming spread amongst all of us (we played Four Yorkshireman with how old and primitive a “first” computer we’d each had, Set won with the Healthkit H8). We went rockhounding and visited a huge caldera formation in the region (with “recent” volcanic activity according to some studies, ie., 10,000 years ago). The conversation bounced around exactly as you discussed yours with Robert.

      1. Yep, currently a “National Preserve” soon to be a National Monument. Quite spectacular geologically although it may not be impressive to those who don’t appreciate what they see. Astounding volume of volcanic ash deposits in the surrounding region. We found some interesting obsidian too, although not the pure smooth classic obsidian.

        1. Neat! I’ve done most of the day trails at Bandalier, and passed by Valle Grande last time I was through there but couldn’t get a hike (tours were full).

          Maybe if I get done early with my research in Santa Fe next week [bloody likely – Ed.], I can swing by there.

  4. Oddly enough, or perhaps not so, there are many parallels between SF con goers and Mensa folk. Lots of people take the test, qualify, join for a year so they can claim membership on resumes or for simple bragging rights. The ones that stay in are the “odds” who have never quite fit in, been ostracized by their peers for acting or speaking “funny,” and as a result are poorly socialized.
    Regional gatherings are the Mensa equivalent of cons, often with similar structure and agenda, and more often than not with very similar subject matter in the panels and lectures.
    Personally, I don’t go much any more because the libs have taken over with the usual tactics of ridicule and PC correctness for the conservative viewpoint. Sadly, high IQ does not guarantee any number of likable qualities I insist on those I choose to surround myself with.
    As for that Heinlein quote, yep, and when you do any of those things to a free individual you are very likely to first of all piss them off. And when the conflict escalates to the killing phase it’s a tossup who will be killing who. That’s something I fear our current administration has yet to realize; pinning their hopes of control on indoctrination and disarmament, which are irritating, offensive, but can be dealt with and overcome by clever and rational folk.

    1. “… you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him…”

      That’s a wonderful sentiment, but it’s demonstrably false, as numerous prisoners of war, concentration camp victims, victims of prolonged torture, and people controlled by threats of harm to their loved ones have attested. It reminds me of “give me liberty or give me death.” My response: is there a third option?

      “Lots of people take the [Mensa] test, qualify, join for a year so they can claim membership on resumes”

      I don’t know of any employer who cares whether an applicant is a Mensa member. If I were screening applications for a high-level position, I would be leery of someone making that statement. Such a resume entry shows insecurity, not ability.

      1. Bruno Bettelheim has a bad odor because of his conclusions on autism (which were execrable), but he also wrote about surviving the concentration camps. I remember the main conclusion being, “I cannot control another person’s actions or opinions, I can only control my responses to them.”
        Sometimes you do not have the choice of this or a better thing, sometimes all your options are drek. Sometimes you are going head-first down a stairwell and the only thing you can deterime is how you will hit. This is not a reason to surrender or give up. You may be able to get back up again, and you should try.
        Thank you, though, you remind me why I need to get back up and start swinging agian.

      2. Not demonstrably false so much as it is tautological. A man who has been conquered is no true Scotsman.

  5. Conformity is for those with no imagination. I’m fine with it, as long as the conformity has no malignant effects on my thought or expression. Otherwise, rage, defianc and disobedience.

          1. Actually… I just checked and there are 10 Kim du Toits on LinkdIn, and I don’t think any of them are our Kim du Toit. Hmmm…

        1. Actually, there are a few. One is a professional photographer (weddings etc), one is a tour guide — and both are in the Cape (S African version), where the place is lousy with Du Toits (it’s where we Huguenots settled in the 1690s). Both are also women, and I’m not (but I’m willing to learn). As far as I’m aware, I don’t have a LinkedIn account–I canceled mine about seven years ago–although I’m not sure you CAN cancel a LinkedIn account.

          But I think I’m the only Kim du Toit in the U.S.A.

          1. Actually I went to college (late ’70’s / early ’80’s) with a “Kim Du Toit” who was actually from South Africa as you mention, but was not you.

          2. Well, Kim, at least it’s consistent: first your wife was Imaginary, and now you…. 😎

  6. Back when I was an impressionable teen, I first heard the fable of the pink monkey. (Dunno if it’s apocryphal or not.) Researcher dyed a monkey pink and threw it in with “normals.” The brown monkeys tore the poor little bastard apart.

    I took to that meme like a trope to a ficton. Started thinking of myself as a pink monkey and militantly so. Not a violent sort, but given to hulking about and glowering a lot. People don’t mess with me.

    I’m not a social sort. (My wife asserts I’m a hermit.) But when I do get out, I try to find other pink monkeys, their company being more comfortable than the other sorts.


    1. I used to here this in regards to white wolves, they are different and stick out, so the other wolves will attack them, they are either killed, ran out of the pack and become loners, or are tougher and meaner than the rest of the wolves and become pack leaders. Wolves don’t generally have access to Clairol, so they can’t blend in, Odds can, but if they let their roots start showing they tend to get attacked.

  7. Somewhat off-topic, but relevant in some ways by theme…. Sarah – your permission to post a poetry link? I’ve resumed the weekly posts…

  8. So, I went back and looked. I don’t know what that particular comment was actually about but I *think* it came down to “let SF and SF fandom burn” but from the point of view opposed to the hyper “tolerant” witch hunts that SF is currently plagued with. I *think* that the bits about how everything is called bullying even when it’s not and that social pressure and conformity have a purpose might also be from opposition to the hyper “tolerant” witch hunts and bizarre focus on “making safe” that comes up with, for example, Wiscon.

    OR it was the exact opposite. I honestly couldn’t tell.

      1. It wasn’t the most coherent comment and two of the people who look over the blog while I sleep said that this name had links to white supremacist anti-Jewish sites, but not conclusive.

        IF the name is indeed the person in those sites, boy did they step into the wrong place.

        1. Vox Day has connections to white supremacist sites and I don’t see anyone complaining about that.

          1. I also don’t see Vox Day coming here, making incoherent comments, and insulting the hostess and the regulars and preaching that conformity should be enforced through violence.

            1. That, too.

              I try to take people for what they say. I even try to take them for what they say *right now*. I do my utmost not to listen to gossip or pre-judge on information other than what is actually said… and then I try my utmost to avoid being subject to my own expectations by giving someone the benefit of the doubt and by viewing what they’ve said with the concept of “charity” as described in a critical thinking class I had. And what that is, is… how *else* can what is said be interpreted and can it be interpreted in a better or more forgiving way.

              There is way too much leaping to judgement and condemnation all done in the name of “tolerance”. No one seems to want to be the last person to condemn a bad idea or offensive statement.

          2. Well, Alauda, speaking only for myself… I’ve seen too many other times where someone’s “connections” are a mere failure to scream incoherently in abject horror at the monsters for me to particularly care when it’s someone I don’t have any contact with in any case. I also don’t think that the process of determining moral virtue in others for the sake of then shunning and shamming them is healthy. How much of a back-ground check is necessary and how recursive is the sin of fail-to-shun supposed to be? If Vox fails-to-shun someone who fails-to-shun someone and then I fail-to-shun Vox because I don’t really give a shit… I guess we’ve got a witch hunt on our hands, hm?

            We’ve got to somehow get over this *need* to silence ideas we don’t like and shun people who are unlovely. What is the goal involved there? Is the goal to insulate myself from all distasteful persons and ideas in order to present myself pure and acceptable to my exclusionary peer group? And even if it’s not that, do I personally profit from shutting myself off from those declared anathema who might, on some subjects be incisive? Can I really not hold my own against ideas with which I disagree unless I’ve insulated myself from exposure to those ideas? Or is this about protecting those *other* people from bad ideas?

            Frankly, if I have to chose between giving in to people who are, for my own good, trying to protect me from bad ideas because I can’t be trusted myself… or being exposed to bad ideas…

            I chose being exposed to bad ideas.

            1. Thank you,Synova. Note also the scary being spread:rape, white supremacy, etc. No links or quotes. Also, this unlovely lady defines herself in her Twitter account as -tea-bagger. Since I presume she doesn’t’ t transsexual practices, she’s voluntarily associating herself with filthy Marxists whose micromanage killed 100 million. Some Dunhill to crow victory from

            2. I don’t mind disagreeing with someone’s position, and even arguing with them about it. So long as I’m accorded the same right to express my opinion.
              A good argument can illuminate things faster than a simple discussion. If, that is, people argue with an open mind.
              I once argument with a woman who claimed she was very pro-choice; I of course, claimed to be pro-life. After about a half hour of vigorous discussion we resolved that she was pro-choice because she believed that a woman reserved the right to abort her child if her life were endangered. She brought up tubal pregnancy as an example.
              I resolved that life should be preserved unless it was a situation where attempting to save an unborn would result in a double death – I also cited tubal pregnancies.
              She was pro-choice; I am pro-life. Don’t see mych difference except in the way it’s expressed.
              The point is, we were both willing to argue our points passionately but without venom.
              And I thoroughly enjoyed whetting my blade against a worthy foe.

                  1. Ohhh…a drumming out. We can rip off their flag pin, cut their ties, break their gavels, and then march them out with the youngest voter kicking them in the ass on the way out.

            1. Oi! I’M from West Byrdginia. Left the state as soon as legally practical but I still dislike wearing shoes and have one leg longer than the other. I never voted fer that Tar Heeled immigrant and wasn’t about to move back to that state just so’s I could vote agin him.

          3. Do you have any, I dunno, evidence for that claim or are you just pulling allegations outta yore butt?

            What is your opinion on the subject of Libel?

            1. Lessee?

              Vox Day is a human being, white supremacists are human beings, and therefore they obviously have a connection.

        2. OK, anyone else get the joke? I mean, a white possible supremacist arguing for others to conform to the norms of our present society?

  9. A large part of the reason I enjoy going to cons is to spend some time with folks who like to “think outside the box” so to speak. I have spent many an enjoyable hour discussing things with folks who have a different world view.
    My wife just walked through the room and asked what I was reading.
    After I explained, she response was “B*llsh*t, the only beliefs you should have to conform to are your own”. This from a woman who is a social worker who belongs to the NRA.

  10. 🙂

    That/This is the danger/trap inherent in all groups; that, when group identity is given priority over then individuals bad things happen.

    There’s a reason I no longer comment as much on the blog. I don’t want to set off the natives.

              1. Actually, I do have a hairclip that I can’t take on a plane. It has four fake shotgun-shells on it. It come from Orvis about 25 years ago. No, I don’t know where you can get them now. No, I’m not selling it.

    1. What’s wrong with setting off the natives? In fact that can be great fun. Well maybe not if they are Māori.

      1. I found myself on the verge of moderating my thoughts as to be accepted by the group, of putting on a false face.

        If I did that, I would be a fraud, so I stepped back outside the group to continue looking in.

        Oh, well.

        Fun? I have no desire to push my beliefs on anyone.

        1. In reality I don’t intend to push my beliefs, but to explain or state them when appropriate. However, stating my beliefs could lead to discussion, which hopefully be informative. In this Forum, I think there will normally be intelligent discussion. Trolls? Well they may dart in and out.

  11. Vox Day has connections to white supremacist sites and I don’t see anyone complaining about that.

    No, he doesn’t. But he has no problem with white supremacists, black supremacists, or yellow supremacists. As it happens, he is an Esquimaux supremacist and seeks to live up to the superior example set by those noble people of the north.

    I’m a libertarian, Alauda/Clamps/Yamathespacefish. That means I don’t attempt to dictate what other people do, think, or say. It’s neither my business nor my concern.

    1. Really? I’m a Martian Supremacist — Mars UBER Alas. Convert or die! (Libertarian here too. I have a conspiracy in place to take over the world and leave people ruthlessly alone!)

        1. Depends if your mother or your father was the Martian. One side confers regalness, while the other means you’re just another day laborer. 😀

          1. The problem is that this does not constitute a threat. We here like your writing, even in the raw

      1. I am a Constipitarian. That means I don’t much give a crap what you think or do so long as you don’t attempt to make me participate.

  12. I suspect that the conformity police are a buch of vigilantes doing internet searches for postings they can attack and intimidate the authors enough to shut up. How happy I am to see such things done in the name of tolerance, since tolerance is so important.
    Sarcasm aside, my favorite treatment of trolls and such was on an old usenet writers’ chat room. The members would do a literary criticism of the trolls’ choice of words, repitition, grammar, suggest alternate spellings and ask for revisions with emphasis on subject or at least coherency. Funniest thing in the world. Never saw a troll post more than twice.

      1. Back in the 90’s I was participant in a group that would present particularly gifted trolls with an award we called the Carville Cup. Awards typically included wine-tasting type descriptions of how the troll had earned this recognition, although on occasion we would also simply post scores — 8.6, 9.2, 3.1 (that was the East German judge) — and (possibly) cite a degree of difficulty score.

        We found it an effective mode of mockery that alleviated the tediousness of responding to posters incapable of or unwilling to actually make a real argument — you know: a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

  13. Off topic, I just tried to subscribe, but it will only let me have the monthly option, I click on yearly, but when I get to the paypal site it is back to monthly.

    1. You know, it only does this for half the people. I”m going to rattle the cup monthly, so if you just want to do a donation and tell me it’s for a yearly subscription, I’ll give you the privileges, such as they are, and you can do equal donation next year, with note it’s for a year subscription. I don’t know why they’re doing this.

      1. Done, only I hit the wrong button and paypal took from an account that doesn’t have money in it, so I have to remember to call the bank in the morning and transfer money 😦

  14. Much Madness is divinest Sense –
    To a discerning Eye –
    Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
    ’Tis the Majority
    In this, as all, prevail –
    Assent – and you are sane –
    Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
    And handled with a Chain –

    –Emily Dickenson

  15. My own SF bizarreness is why I describe myself as an introverted extrovert – I wait until I’m comfortable to wade in. But if/when I discover I’m among fellow SF dorks, I’m hard to shut up.

        1. No, I’m a full-blown introvert. I am only extroverted around close friends and hubby. Only a few of my family realize that I can talk. 😉

    1. Makes sense to me.

      Figure out the boundaries, and then you play on the field.

      Supposedly, the new dividing line between introvert and extrovert is how dealing with fairly large (more than a handful) groups changes you– if it drains you, you’re an introvert, if it energizes you, you’re an extrovert.

      By that measure, I’m very introvert.

      1. Hmmm… When I was doing software design training, I often spoke of “putting on my instructor suit”. This wasn’t a suit of clothes, it was a mental thing: I felt like I was putting on an outer shell that was larger, more outgoing, and more connected with the students. Honestly I never noticed when I “put it on”; but at the end of the day when I got back to the hotel, I almost literally felt the instructor suit “falling off”. I felt like something sloughed away, and suddenly I was myself again.

        Another thing I noticed was that with practice, it got easier and easier. When I started training, I was exhausted at the end of my first day, and I had no idea how I would survive to the end of a three-day class. Three years later, I taught classes three weeks in a row; and I STARTED to feel tired near the end of the third week.

        My mental image is that I’m an incredible introvert; but everyone who knows me tells me I’m a nearly extreme extrovert. I wonder which is the real me.

        1. My mom explained the “mask” tactic when I was a kid– the thing is, for it to work, you have to put part of yourself into it. So I couldn’t use it to “fit in” and “make friends,” not really, but it’s a great smoother in low-level socialization.

          The biggest thing is to give people some aspect of yourself to respond to, safely; I find myself doing an absent-minded-professor-as-a-mother routine, when I’m not doing “ranch kid;” even among friends, it can be comforting to play a roll– “group mom” is my main one, because that’s a big part of who I am. Giving folks something to count on is important. Doesn’t mean I’m never random, just means that I try to guide it in situations where I know it’s not appreciated.

          Manners, sort of– or professionalism.

          I don’t think introvert or extrovert is a “real you” thing; the real you is someone that values doing a good job enough to work hard and get really good at doing something that is tough on you.

          1. Make-up, certain clothes and accessories, it is both the process of putting it all on and the fact you are wearing them. The process helps you prepare for and get your mind into the role you have to play and the fact you are in this particular uniform, as such, will remind you that you are in that specific role.

            Of course, who am I to speak? From what feedback I have heard I am woefully bad at carrying this off. But at least I know the theory, for all the good it does me. I have never figured out how to put on a different brain.

      2. Introvert– is when you get your energy by yourself through imagination or thinking. I like quiet places best (in nature, watching the birds, squirrels and the occasionally shy deer).

  16. I’ve had moments of inducing sheer terror in total strangers while just hanging out with the kids. Like the time Robert and I were discussing – purely in the b*llshooting mode, whether Neanderthals could be responsible for the legends of elves. We were stuck somewhere for two hours, had to keep awake, and yep, the conversation went from theology and legends through biology, to anthropology and the latest archeological finds and back again.

    Oooh, that works pretty well, really…. I hadn’t applied it to mythology, yet.

    1. Honest… every single time I read that comment, I read Netherlands. Every. Time.

      I didn’t know why Sarah and Robert were picking on the Netherlands, but I figured… why not?

      1. I know that depending on the culture, there’s not a lot of difference between “elves” and “dwarves;” I hadn’t thought on it, but I’d wager money that there are some essays on how the Hidden Others symbolize power, and our modern “look” of elves is more of a political sort of power– tall, fit, healthy, elegant. Hm, possibly some on the two aspects of power we recognize, since dwarves are very physically powerful. Could support it with Elves being tied up in archaic laws and customs and “balance of power” BS, while dwarves tend to be able to cut across human social customs (how many times have they been called “blunt” or “plain spoken”?) and are routinely highly skilled at brute-force-with-crazy-skill stuff like smithing.

  17. No, the Neanderthals are not the source of Elves.


    Dwarves: Short; hairy; disappear when humans are around; males and females indistinguishable from one another; build stuff.

    Beavers: Short; hairy; disappear when humans are around; males and females indistinguishable from one another; build stuff.

    Do. The. Math. >;)

    1. Michael Scott Rohan in his “Winter Of The World” series had Neanderthals as the basis for Dwarves. Mind you, his female Dwarves didn’t look like male Dwarves.

      Oh he did have beings that were the basis of Elves.

    2. I always thought of the Neanderthals as the source of elves, and the early English (Makers of Stonehenge) as the source of elves. In Tolkien, I associated the dwarves with the Germans and the elves with the French. But now I’m sure that’s not right.

      1. That was a popular Victorian belief. Unfortunately, much of the plausibility sprang from their belief that things in folklore were set in concrete, and something would be transmitted without difficulty from the Stone Age to modern day with little variation.

  18. I actually think the neanderthals may have been responsible for the legends on trolls, rather than elves.

    I read sf/f because, yes I’m odd I suppose, but I can find any genre of fiction within it’s confines. If I want military nstories they’re there. If I want mystery, it’s there. If I want romance, it’s there, etc.. The thing I really like about all of sf/f is that it nearly always involves the fight between good and evil asnd that conflict is clear and fairly black and white. The other nice thing about it is that it encourages thinking about lots of interesting (and odd) things I enjoy thinking about. Just my thing I guess.

    1. Some academics think the Scandinavian trolls were the old gods. Although Christianity became the official religion, some people still revered/feared the older deities. Over time they became the trolls, especially in regions where the trolls remained powerful forces, as opposed to the domesticated versions.

  19. I am compelled to point out OGH, no doubt unintentional, double entendre when she wrote “And I wore pants” . To an english person of a certain age “pants” as clothing means underwear. So does that mean “normal” Portugese girls didn’t? Teenage Portugese boys must have been very distracted. And the combination of a vivid imagination, OGH , and “pants” brings forth visions that are entirely unsuitable for a family blog like this. So I’ll just go and lie down for a while.

    1. Yes, I can recall running into that definition in books before. I think the first time I ran into it some woman came home and removed her dress, and was standing there in just her pants and bra, when someone came bursting through the door. I recall thinking, ‘she wore pants under her dress? Why, was it that cold out?’

        1. Is this like the vest=undershirt thing?
          There was advice to UK wives about making sure their husbands didn’t stray on business trips, something like, “make sure you pack him extra vests, no-one looks alluring lounging around in a vest” and I couldn’t help but think if you are going to lounge around in a vest you should probably smoke a pipe as well.

          1. It took me YEARS to figure out what a waistcoat was — it’s a vest. I had NO clue. I saw sort of a VERY WIDE belt worn under the clothes. (Because in Sense and Sensibility it was implied old men wore flannel waist coats.)

              1. I ‘ve known that for a while. It also took me a long time to realize that the word pronounced “weskit” was the same as “waistcoat”. Likewise, “blaggard” was the same as “blackguard”.

                On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                > ** > Martin L. Shoemaker commented: “Apparently it took me 50 years, since I > never knew before now.” >

                1. I am still struggling to come to terms with the knowledge that victuals is pronounced “vittles.”

                  I can understand how you get from Worcester to Wooster, and from Saint James to Sinjen, but the idea that Jed Clampett’s pronunciation was more correct than Mrs. Drysdale’s is a hard thorn to grasp.

                  1. American English is more conservative than British, and the Appalachians have some of the most conservative English in America.

                    Which is to say, Shakespeare would have sounded like a hillbilly.

                    1. I have read that the dialect used by certain natives of the South Carolina barrier islands are the most “true” to Shakespeare’s language as is possible. I s’pose they could boost tourism by establishing a regional Shakespeare repertory theatre.

                    2. At one point a study of the language as spoken by the natives on the outer banks of NC (mid-last century) determined that it was nigh on to Elizabethan English as was likely to be found. (The Appalachian mountain language was influenced in large part from the versions brought by the Scots-Irish.)

                  2. The tendency is to drop, elide or modify one of two consonants that appear together.
                    Victuals can modify to vittles, or “VIK-chewels” like they do around here.
                    I can’t tell you which is right, but I can tell you which is considered to by higher status.

                    1. My research (I Googled it) is that vitt-ells is the proper pronunciation. Apparently “VIK-chewels” is a trap set for the pretentious.

              2. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’ve got you beat, though, because I’m only 48.

          2. Lor, tee hee. Language can be a wonderful thing.

            The image which came to mind was of James Garner as Maverick, in his elegant waistcoat. I pondered how in the world could that be assumed to discourage womankind?

      1. So in UK speak you wore trousers. As near as I can figure:
        US Pants = UK Trousers, (but both UK and US understand Jeans and Chinos as types of casual trousers/pants). In UK usage Pants is a generic term for underwear (mens or womens). Is there an equivalent term in the US?

        US Vest = UK waistcoat. But what is the equivalent of a UK Vest. Its a short sleeved or sleeveless plain t-shirt worn as underwear beneath a shirt or sweater. Would that be an undershirt in the US?

        1. Female bottom under-things are “panties,” male are either “boxers” (look like shorts) or “briefs” (look like speedoes.)

          If I understand it right, the “undershirt” type UK vest is the one that doesn’t have sleeves, right? Looks like a tank-top. That’s AKA a “wifebeater” when it’s not just “an undershirt.” The light weight white t-shirt is just called an undershirt, I believe.

          I gotta say, most of the guys I can think of that wear undershirts to lounge around in, didn’t hurt their attractiveness– but it’s probably because they consist of folks who are clean and well-groomed in general, not the folks who caused the slang of “wifebeater” to come into play.

        2. Chinos means pants? I had always heard it as derogatory slang for Chinese, used by other Asians who don’t appreciate being grouped with them. (I have never heard a non-Asian use the term, so possibly it is an accent caused derivative of the more common slur).

              1. lol– oh yea– but my family is interesting… even if they were white with pink polka-dots, they would call them khakis 😉 (I want to use are with family because I have soooooooooooooo many of them–siblings and cousins).

              2. Okay, I had always heard the pants, regardless of color referred to as khakis, if they were a certain color they were khaki colored khakis 😉

                    1. Given time and absence of careful usage, a word for a specific thing often becomes the name for the category. Thus the product name aspirin became the category name, and thus the fight by the owners of the coca~cola trademark to protect their identity.

                    2. Sure it is a color– yep Josh– HOWEVER I was pointing out that an entire group of people (hundred or more in my family–not counting the community) that call it khakis. 😉

                    3. Cyn,

                      I wasn’t trying to despute the common usage of the word as used to day, but point out, all to often, we lose some little bit of our understanding of and history with our loose understanding of the words we use.

                      For a couple of reasons one of my favorite websites I like to peruse is ‘Hot for Words.’ One of them is I find the history of words fascinating and good insite of the times, and the the other is… well… I digress.

                      I just find it interesting that a Hindustani word for dirt color has morphed into a meaning a type of causul dress pants irrespective of color.


                    4. Former presidential speechwriter and long-term NY Times columnist William Safire (he was the house conservative; think George Will with White House experience) used to do a column for the Sunday Magazine. The column’s title, On Language should give you an idea of the subject matter. Columns available at the NYT website [ — the column continued a couple years after his death in 2009] are worth searching out and reading, or you can find bound collections of those language columns from any source of out-of-print & used books at extremely reasonable prices, or plug “william safire on language” into your amazon search, easily reached by clicking on any of Sarah’s book covers at the top of this site.

                      Better, in some ways, than an etymological dictionary.

                    5. You mean slacks.

                      Which brings us all the way around to the question, “who were the San Culottes, and what sort of political group would announce that they didn’t wear underwear?”

                    6. Bob,
                      I always viewed slacks as a little dressier than khakis, rear pockets inside the pants instead of sewed on the outside (on sometimes only one rear pocket, which is highly irritating to a left-hander), tucked seams (sewn on the inside so no thread is visible), etc.

                1. Ain’t any y’all never watched the Crocodile Hunter? Them’s Car Keys, mate!

          1. I think they’re high-waters, peddle pushers, capris, when my aunt uses the term. (She’s about the only person I know who wears them.)

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