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On Winning: Magazine Quizzes, Self-Knowledge and Being Bossy

29 Nov

While I was holed up over the Thanksgiving holiday (it is a family tradition to barricade ourselves in a tastefully decorated bunker designed to withstand 9 out of 10 potential apocalypse scenarios for several days while testing the limits of our sanity), I flipped through pages and pages of O, the Oprah Magazine. My mom stashed them under the guest bed so that I’d have some light reading to pass the time after my daily gavage.

Me, on a good day.

In one of the O’s, I found a little magazine quizzie. Amazingly, it was not designed to help you determine your flirting style, or choose which thigh is the fattest. It was supposed to tell you what your passion is, or your life’s purpose, or some such equally ridiculous thing. It starts off innocuously enough, asking you what you wanted to be when you grew up, and then requires you to recruit a friend to figure out your strengths, etc. Naturally, as I was alone in the dark in a room, I skipped all that and went straight to the “what motivates you?” part, where it became immediately apparent that I am insanely competitive.*

Now, this may surprise you, gentle readers, as I seem pretty laid-back, right?** I despise team sports, which are normally a refuge and an outlet for the hypercompetitive. I don’t work on Wall Street or in sales, but nevertheless, my motivate-y quiz’s results don’t lie: my main motivator is not, as previously suspected, forging deep friendships or amassing huge quantities of money, it is Accomplishing Impressive Things and Kicking the Asses of Others. Perhaps it’s tied to my misanthropy. Who knows. I do suspect there is a grain of truth in there, though I am a titch disappointed my results didn’t show that my main motivator is a quest for Truth with a capital T.

In any case, since I’ve been thinking about my List of Doom and motivation in general, I’m now stuck with the task of finding worthy competitive opponents for My Life. Thing is, I can’t compete with just anyone. There needs to be moderate enmity. It’s most effective when tucked behind a façade of friendship. In short, my relationship with my Competitrix needs to be a little… twisted.

Little-known fact: I am obsessed with LiLo.

Example: Back in school, one of my friends and I had a falling out. Before we patched things up, we were in a math class together. I aced the class, in large part due to the fact that I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me fall behind. Twisted, right? Whatever. This is the internet. Judge if you want, but you’re the one sitting alone in a dark room reading this.

Anyway. I don’t have fights of that caliber with a lot of people – and therefore suffer a dearth of worthy foes. This is probably a good thing, but barring participation in the classic competitive arenas of team sports, sales, high school or foot races, I really have no idea how to compete. There is always the whole “competing with yourself” idea, which seems to have worked out well enough for my burgeoning running habit, but it so far has failed to deliver any brag-worthy achievements – no marathons, no relay races, no real visible notches other than a pretty damn efficient cardiovascular system.

Barring claws-concealed competition with frenemies, one motivator I’ve found no shortage of over the years is The Naysayer: people telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do something. Nothing like proving an a**hole wrong to make you feel alive, am I right? Examples and their results:

     Challenge: “You can’t be a vegetarian in Southern Oregon.”
     Results: Was veg for 10+ years.

     Challenge: “You’re a girl. You can’t run alone on the streets. Especially not when it’s dark out. You will definitely be raped and killed.”
     Results: Ran 8 miles a day at O’Dark-Thirty with no incident for years. Then got a gym membership to continue doing same, but near a heater.

     Challenge: “You can’t get into an Ivy League school.”
     Results: Done.

Some recent/pending challenges:

  • “You’re not built for upper-body strength, and will never do a pull-up.”
  • “Ballet is an impractical skill.” “You’ll never catch up to people who took lessons in childhood.”
  • “Your meetup groups are stupid and laughable.”
  • “You can’t take an aerial class because of your back injury.”

What kinds of things have people told you you couldn’t do over the years? Did it motivate you to do them anyway? Who do you compete against or with?

*Actually, the results were “you are highly motivated by Influence and Accomplishment.” Translation: I’m bossy and I like to win. Duh.
**More likely: I like to think I’m laid back, but in actuality am not laid back at all. Case in point: I once had some roommates that redecorated the living room without consulting me first. I had to be carefully talked down from throttling them with the full force of my lack of upper-body strength.

Mean friends: Vignettes d’troi

7 Jun

Sophomore year of college. Upstairs apartment. Blue carpet. Slatted blinds. Beanbag chairs and grandstanding:

“Oh my god that is totally such an unexpected thing for you to say. I mean, it’s just a really good insight. You know, smart-sounding. You sound smart. And profound. And it just took me by surprise, you know? Because you just don’t come off as that kind of person. I mean, you’re just normally not that way. Smart I mean.”

Last summer, over lunch and $12 cocktails. Outdoor seating. Heat and heavy traffic:

“Ohmigod I love your sunglasses! They’re so cute and pink. I totally have a pair just like them. Except mine are Ray-Bans. I mean, those are cute and all too. No yeah they’re cute. I mean I think they’re a little crooked though. Oh wait no I think that’s your face! Ha! Anyway, where did you get them? Target or something? Oh I hate going there. I mean, everything is just so… sweatshoppy and cheap. Actually I’ve never been there. It’s kind of like, this moral stand I’m taking. Anyway those are super-cute from far away. I mean up-close they’re scratched but for Target sunglasses they’re totes adorbs.”

Senior year of college, standing on my front porch overlooking the city. Late-night fluorescence:

“It’s totally weird how you study. I mean, I just don’t understand it. Like, when I was in college I did mountains of cocaine. I know, I know. But I still graduated at the top of my class! It just was never that hard for me. Like it is for you. No. Yeah. No. No, I just mean… You know what I mean, right? Hahahaha! I totally just don’t get it.”

… this post inspired by the book “The Underminer: The Best Friend that Casually Destroys Your Life.”

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