On Emotions I Don’t Endorse

Epistemic Status: I’m bored at the airport, and this is what’s been rattling around my mind.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to say that an emotional state can be “rational” or “irrational”. #allfeelingsarevalid . But for example, if someone changes the channel and you get filled with a seething, burning hatred, you probably consider that an outsized reaction. Ditto if someone cancels a date and you break down in immense sorrow. So these can all be considered emotions I don’t endorse.

Outward Emotional Displays

This category doesn’t fit as well with the others, as these are times when my body shows just the physical display of emotion without the internal experience (e.g. smiling when you aren’t feeling happy). By this I don’t mean faking emotion, as it isn’t under my conscious control.

There is really only one way in which I experience this effect, and it may or may not involve illicit substances (which I don’t use for reasons you will soon understand). Examples include: laughing at a tv show while thinking it was stupid and boring and not feeling at all amused. Also, being told that I look like I’m really enjoying myself and my answer being “No, I am actually really frustrated and annoyed right now, because my face is smiling, and I can’t make it stop.”


Felt Emotions

That Was Ages Ago!

Sometimes I notice myself experiencing a negative emotion and I don’t know why. I’ll trace it back and realize that it is usually a residual feeling of something that happened hours before. Maybe something annoying or bad happened. Particularly if it was my fault, I feel negatively for a very long time. (I suppose it makes sense for your brain to dwell on things that it did wrong so it’s less likely to happen again). Occasionally I am anxious about something in the future, where the anxiety isn’t actually helping me accomplish anything.

In either case, I first notice myself feeling the negative affect, before realizing what’s causing it, and figuring it out does NOT make the feeling go away.

I Recognize My Own Irrationality

These are times when you are in the throes of a strong emotion, while realizing that this isn’t a “rational” emotion to have (see above disclaimer). An example:

I was arguing with a partner, and was extremely angry, while recognizing that I didn’t endorse my own anger. I told my partner “Yes, I recognize that I shouldn’t be angry right now, but I am!”

Amusingly, he thought that me recognizing this meant that the problem was solved and I could instantly stop being angry. Of course, in reality, I had to wait for my emotions to run their course and let all the adrenaline or whatever is the angry-neurotransmitter clear out before we could calmly have whatever discussion we were having.

I am at the point where I can recognize when I’m not necesarily acting in a way I’d endorse given an outside view, and the best solution I’ve come up with is to get an outside opinion on whether I am over reacting, but of course that requires there being people whose opinions you trust at least as strongly as your own. When I am angry, I might trust an average friend or even acquaintance over my own current point of view.

Mirror Neurons Are A Thing

An example: I think weddings are silly. But there are a bunch of people getting emotional and crying and therefore my brain decides I must get emotional and cry.

Mirror neurons are strong.





In Which I Attempt to Reconcile Relationship Anarchy with Relationship Needs

(Written without editing, and I didn’t re-read before posting, so…)

I consider myself a relationship anarchist, which in short means that I don’t want to force a relationship into a pre-set box. I want relationships to be what they are, while acknowledging various options and ways they can go. I have romantic relationships that don’t involve sex. I have friendships that do. I’ll cuddle with just about anyone I know and trust.

That said, I spend most of my dating efforts filtering out people who don’t want the sort of relationship I want.

What’s with that?

I think you can be RA, and still have specific things that you either absolutely do or don’t  want. Maybe you just aren’t interested in romantic relationships with same-gender people. Maybe you only want to date same-gender people. Maybe you really need to have a power exchange dynamic. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing in the world.

Being RA doesn’t mean that you can’t have preferences about your relationships.

I think where it gets confusing is that my preferences for capital-R Relationships do lean more towards the traditional relationship escalator, although I am fine stopping on a lower step.

I’m reminded on a Facebook thread recently (sorry for lack of attribution, I don’t remember where it was) where people were discussing a problem with Air BnB. Some guests were obviously not used to any sort of co-housing/roomie situation, and so would expect absolute silence and cleanliness. But if you explicitly mention “Hey, four of us live here, so there might occasionally be dishes out or noise”, then people assume you must be a crazy party house, even if you are a super quiet and clean group that just wants to make sure that guest’s expectations aren’t that you are a hotel with maid service.

If I say “Hey folks, I am looking for actual capital-R Relationships, and assume we will be seeing each other a minimum of once a week, and expect you to put in at least 40% of the effort towards scheduling dates, etc” (I’ll initiate, but I’m not at all willing to chase down and badger guys (it’s never girls with this problem) to put me on their calendar), then the assumption is that I’m a clingy, needy, crazy-lady, even though I would consider myself a pretty far outlier of openness and independence. Also, then my inbox would be filled with guys complaining about my standards and arguing that I should totally make an exception for them, but at least they’d be easier to filter out 😛

If I say that I am non-monogamous and a relationship anarchist, then people assume that I must be interested in casual threesomes, and FWB, etc. This is exacerbated by the fact that (gender politics aside) there are WAY MORE men looking for casual relationships than there are women. So as a woman that is more open than most, I get flooded with men who are out of town all the time, over committed (trying to see more people than the can reasonably manage), working at startups, etc, and who are looking for a “relationship” where you see each other occasionally, as time permits, hopefully with minimal effort on their part.

This is further exacerbated by being in NYC where nothing is serious until you live together. Too many shiny things competing for everyone’s attention. The fucking coastals make me feel like I’m insane for thinking that any sort of actual Relationship requires a minimum of once a week. (Sorry, but I REALLY dislike coastal dating patterns. That said, I have also considered the possibility that the female-heavy NYC gender ratio has effectively pushed me out of the Relationship market, while leaving me in the “fine for casual relationships” category.)

In Ohio, I was more okay with the occasional casual relationship, because it wasn’t the only thing people were ever offering me (in fact, it was pretty rare). I’d still turn it down way more often than not, though. By Ohio standards, I’m pretty much as far out into crazy non-monogamy land as you get before you get to hookups and casual sex, and that is so obviously a different set of things that you don’t really interact with those people. They’re on different websites, and meeting at different places, etc.

In Portland I was de facto monogamous. Contrary to popular belief, RA doesn’t mean explicitly casual. It just means the relationship goes to wherever it goes. We still would have been fine with our partners going out and developing relationships with other people (I couldn’t be happy in a relationship where that wasn’t the case), but in practice I went on zero dates outside of my wonderful partner and didn’t really feel a desire to. I assume if I had stayed in Portland and we had stayed together that we would have eventually started also seeing other people. That person is now in the Most Adorable Relationship In The World, and I would have wanted that to happen.


Erica’s Weird Ways of Filtering For R-Relationships That Apparently Don’t Work

  • Nope to gross age ranges (self-explanatory)
  • Take away points for looking too put-together in their photos. Expensive clothes and hair, professional photo…. that person is probably casually dating around (also, I just don’t want to date someone who spends more on his outfit than I earn in a week). Yes to the guy in the hoodie or t-shirt, with a regular (but nice) photo. Some dressed up photos are fine, but if they’re all that way then high-maintenance and superficial.
  • Extra point to people who are new to the city and haven’t yet been corrupted by Coastal Dating Patterns. (note: there aren’t actually any points 😛 )
  • Extra point to guys where their SMV (sorry for being gross) is lowered by things I don’t give a fuck about. Don’t make a lot of money at your non-profit? Totally irrelevant to me, I don’t want you to buy me shit anyways. Short? Fuck, I love short guys! Have weird-ass geeky hobbies? Well, so do I!
  • Take away a half point for guys who live with their partners. I’m theoretically fine with this, but in NYC it usually translates to “all my R-Relationship slot(s) are full, and I’m just looking for casual relationships on the side”. I still give these guys a chance though, if everything else is fine (actually have a date with one on Saturday)
  • I answered enough questions about it that “More Romantic” is my fourth biggest personality bar thing
  • I went ahead and recently added the following to my profile. It runs the risk of coming off as needy (and thus attracting guys who want to date needy girls), but we’ll see what happens: “I used to have Relationship Anarchy mentioned, but found that people focused more on the “anarchy” than the “relationship” portion of that. So if you could describe what you’re looking for using words like “casual” and “fun”, please move along.”


In Which a Facebook Comment Becomes A Post

Epistemic Status: Interesting model I’ve been tossing about for a while and too lazy to write down. Brienne was looking for blog ideas, and I realized that the comment I left was, while not well-written, complete enough to share.

When someone talks about a person being “good”there seems to be two separate ideas they could be referring to, which often get conflated. Let’s call them System 1 and System 2 morality. System 2 morality is when you are given a large formalized issue and have time to think about it. Examples include Effective Altruism or political issues (eg abortion).

System 1 morality is the day to day interactions that generally consist either of following politeness heuristics or running models of other people in your head. By “politeness” I don’t necessarily mean saying “please” and “thank you”, but more important and basic things. For example, if you’re dropping off an item at your friend’s house and are running two hours late, you should text to let them know.

In Parfit’s Hitchhiker, System 1 moralists pay the driver because that’s the not-asshole thing to do. System 2 moralists invent Timeless Decision Theory. You want lots of System 2 moralists to exist in the world. You want lots of System 1 moralists to exist in your social circles.

Rationalists are often very good at System 2, but not so great at System 1. A problem arises IMO when they decide to drop politeness heuristics for “tell culture” WITHOUT particular skill or care for running models of other people. How this plays out for me is that I’m constantly needing to either set new boundaries (which should be obvious to anyone running even a shitty model), or be okay with my boundaries always being broken. Usually the transgressions are so obvious that I don’t think I have to say anything until it’s already been transgressed. (Like, I shouldn’t have to say “btw, if you happen to be running two hours late you should text me so that I know that.”)

The level of explicitness for each possible boundary is draining. For example, let’s say I have a fancy coffee table and someone puts a cold drink on it without a coaster. No big deal. I ask them to use a coaster to protect the table and they agree. But if one minute later they put their muddy boots on that same table, this is a failure on their part. Likewise, no one wants to list out every potential failure mode. “Don’t wake me if I’m sleeping, especially if I have work the next day. Don’t publicly share my private information. Leave a respectable tip, even if you’re never coming back to the restaurant” And so on.

In Which I Ramble About Something That Is Completely Obvious In Retrospect (that you should like the things you do)

[CW: Introspection, Boo Rationality!, Bad Writing]

Re: Bad Writing- This is totally “Sophie Rambles at Her Computer”, NOT “Sophie Crafts a Well-Reasoned/Amusing Blog Post”. I should probably just make this an official “bad writing” blog, because I never get around to writing or finishing anything that I try to make well-reasoned or amusing, and I’d rather have a rambly bad writing blog that I actually post to than a good writing blog that I ignore.

I noticed a while back that my notion of “Events I Should Go To” did not align with the reality of “Event I Actually Enjoyed While I Was There.” Particularly, I found myself continuing to sphexishly go to NYC LW meetups even though I never ended up enjoying myself while I was there. It was like some part of me refused to change the idea of “This is A Thing I Enjoy”, even though that belief was formed in a completely different environment. So I committed myself to a rule of Not Going to Rationality Events in NY, Except Solstice. After some thought, I think it makes since to generalize this rule to something like:

Notice how much you are actually enjoying an activity while you are participating in it. Make an effort to go more frequently to the activities you enjoy, and to avoid those you do not enjoy. Exceptions can be made for activities that are advancing some goal besides enjoyment.


-SCA events: Here is somewhere I’m always happy to be. Particularly A&S Nights at the Solar, and schola/class-focused events. I have a high motivation to go to these, but they can require a bit of planning/prep work such as getting rides, packing, etc.

-Blues: I always enjoy myself a whole lot when I go blues dancing. Unfortunately I have very low motivation to attend. It’s very active when I want to be lazy, I don’t know people there, and I haven’t made specific plans with anyone to be there. Which all means that when Friday night rolls around, my feeling is that I’d rather stay home and veg, than go out and expend a lot of energy.

Note: I’ve noticed about myself before that it’s really hard to motivate myself to do any last-minute plans. If I precommit to something in advance (for example, by making plans with someone), it forces me to go and I can end up enjoying myself. But if I’m already home, or planning to go home, if someone asks “Do you want to….”, my answer is inevitably “No.”

-Going to new places/ Trying new things: Of course, I don’t ALWAYS end up enjoying whatever new thing I’ve tried Math Museum and Tenement Museum= YES, but live music event with blaring speakers= NO), but I find that my life feels fuller and more enjoyable when I explore the city’s attractions or try something new.

-Talking with my roomies: I always have better conversations when I’m hanging out and talking with my roommates than when I try to go to rationality events. Realizing this made it really easy to decide not to go to LW events, because I can get my “interesting conversation” quota filled here, in the comfort of my own home.

-Cleaning/Organizing/Accomplishing Things: Really high initiation costs on these activities, but once I get going, I really enjoy myself. 🙂

Do Not Enjoy:

-Rationality Events in NYC: My reasons are completely different from those posited by Slate Star about the Bay Area group. Briefly, instead of having a small group of committed people who come all the time you have a large group where everyone goes a couple times and so a) most the people are beginners who are at their first or second meetup, and b) it’s not a close-knit group. It’s not just the rationality community. It’s a generic Why-I-Hate-NYC thing. It’s also such a big city, that instead of having a diverse group, you get a bunch of clones, because there are 100s of people exactly like Standard Model. Also, too many people show up to actually have a conversation that everyone can participate in (when Cbus got above 10ish people, we started using a discussion method, where you held up 1 or 2 fingers if you had something you wanted to say, and we would keep track of who got to talk next so you didn’t have to keep your finger up, and it worked really well). So pretty much, instead of getting to participate in an interesting discussion, I get to passively listen to Intro Rationality 101. And then eventually people start talking about math and programming. And it’s a very Not Diverse group of people who are very much Not Like Me. And I end up sitting there thinking how long I have to wait til it’s no longer impolite to leave.

-Alcohol: I don’t drink a lot, but even a small amount of alcohol (less than one drink worth) can sometimes trigger a multi-day headache. I don’t know what exactly the combo is that leads to headaches (Is it a specfic type of alcohol? Is it how hydrated I am? Am I imagining a causal factor that’s not actually there? It’s DEFINITELY not the amount!). I’m not willing to go teetotaler for the rest of my life, but it is something I should be more cognizant about.

Sunday Assembly is on the list of things I only moderately enjoy, but that I very much want to succeed, and so I’ll continue to go. There are some things I really support there, and I think the community is more community-ish.

In Which My OKC Test Has Boring Results But I Write About it Anyways to Avoid Publication Bias

There was an article making its way around my friends’ Facebook feeds about how a woman replied to unasked-for compliments on OKC with some sort of affirmative statement like “Yes, I know.” The men responded by taking back the compliment. However the article didn’t at all mention the rates of negative responses, and instead just highlighted a few negative ones. So I offered to do something similar on my OKC and post about it afterwards.

I turned out to have a pretty boring result, but in the case for publishing boring results to avoid publication (bloggation?) bias, here goes:

There was a lot of discussion about how polite it is to acknowledge a compliment with some sort of “I know” statement, so instead of going that route, I decided to reply to the first five guys in my inbox that I came across that were definite NOs with:

   “Thanks for the message, but I’m not interested.”

It’s not super-polite, but it’s not super-rude. And a lot of guys rant about how horrible it is that women don’t even respond with a “No, thank you” to their messages, so I figured it would be a good thing to test.

The Responses:
(Sorry, you’re not getting screen shots cuz I’m lazy and blacking out ID info takes time :P)

1. The annoyingest response was from a guy in his mid-40s whose age range includes women in their 20s, but NOT women the same age as him:

   “Thanks for the message, but in all honesty, no message would have been preferable to this frosty response. Good luck.”

2. The nicest response was surprisingly from a “dom” whose handle contained the word “Master” and wanted me to come stay with him at his farm in the middle-of-nowhere (Note that I don’t at all mention any D/s stuff in my profile):

   “Thank you for your response.

3. From a guy who messaged me from France, and sure does cuss a lot (in a rather condescending way) for how badly he Englishes:

   “Ok no problem. Cya”

4. Nothing hugely wrong with this guy, but pretty skewed age range and seems to be looking more towards looks:

   “Hmmm most people wouldn’t even respond….but thanks? Lol”

5. No response from obvious PUA/ Game guy

So there you go. No problem with any of the responses. Probable selection effect that I have a very intellectual and self-assured profile (aka “snobby”) so a decent amount of assholes filter themselves out. I still get my share of douchebags, but in this sample of n=5, all was well.

I’ll try to post something more interesting next time 😛

In Which I Notice an Inconsistency in my Professed Beliefs and Real Life Reactions and Get to Refine my Mental Model

CN: foul language, body image, dating, salary negotiations, metaphors, Too Much Capitalization

I think it is totally Hip and With-It when people level up their looks or social skills in order to have better luck with potential romantic partners. Look at how awesome people are being with setting goals and then figuring out appropriate sub-goals and achieving shit! You go, girl (or guy, or pronoun-of-choice)!

In the same vein, I think it’s… sub-optimal… when people who have a professed goal of getting into a relationship(s) refuse to make simple changes to their general presentation because (in a whiny voice) “I want people to like me for meeeeee!”. That’s all well and good, but perhaps upping your personal grooming regimen might make getting to know you a little easier. Perhaps not mentioning sex in every section of your OKC profile might scare away less people.

And then a friend helpfully suggested to me that I should lose weight in order to be more attractive to my preferred dating pool.

Which I had exactly two responses to. Firstly, I thought they were Kind Of A Jackass. And secondly my Inner Sophie was screaming “But I want guys to like me for meeeeee”.  Inner Sophie is a whiny ass bitch. So I thought about this Inconsistency Conundrum, and it boils down to this:

Everyone knows that employers need to offer a high enough salary to attract good employees. A potential employee that would be super passionate about Job X, still probably won’t take it if it only pays $10k. But it’s not-quite-as-obvious that employees also shouldn’t offer TOO high of a salary. A potential employee who really isn’t interested or passionate about Job X at all would still probably accept it for a salary of $200k. You want to offer a salary that your employees are very happy with, but isn’t so high as to attract non-compatibles.*

Or, to de-metaphorize for you, it’s best to have relationships with people who think you’re a really Awesome Person AND are happy with your General Looks. If you over-optimize your General Looks/Social Abilities then you’ll attract people are mainly interested in you for that factor and not-that-into-you as an Awesome Person. If you under-optimize your General Looks/Social Abilities then even if people think you’re an Awesome Person, you might have trouble finding equally awesome dates.

*Obligatory Source Attribution: The introspection that lead to these thoughts are mine, but the salary metaphor is totally my roomie’s. I was explaining my ideas on the topic and he was like “Oh! You mean like salary offers!” and I was like “OMG YES!” (after he explained what he meant)