The Private Man

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Archive for the day “September 24, 2012”

This Story Must Be Read… It’s Long, Too.

Fellow Manosphere blogger Ian Ironwood wrote a long and thoughtful post (link below) about the nature of female solipsism. He was motivated by Susan Walsh and her deep skepticism about the concept of female solipsism (link below). To me, it’s all a semantic issue and I won’t get involved with the exception of copying this truly eye-opening story that Ian wrote. Read and enjoy because the tale he tells bespeaks volumes on the nature of dames.  You’re welcome.

About 18 years ago I was working in a medical office with 13 women as a temp, and we were all destined to slave away for weeks on digitizing old records.  While we weren’t being paid based on how much we did, the fact was that there were 15,000 files to get through, a monumental job by anyone’s estimation.  I was the only dude (again!), the rest were women ranging in age from 21 to 58.  The FSM with a Southern accent.

15,000 files among 14 people gives you about a thousand per person.  We could each do about a hundred a week, if we worked steady.  By the end of the first week, I’d made my quota and then some . . . but it became clear that not everyone was being as dilligent.  I posted a list of employees along with how many completed files they had for the week, just to show everyone where we were and how much we had ahead of us.  I thought it was pretty innocuous — wasn’t that the point, getting the job done?

Apparently not.  Within two days my list disappeared and I was called into my supervisor’s office.  The list was on her desk.

“What exactly are you trying to accomplish here, Mr. Ironwood?” she said, reprovingly.

“Uh . . . digitizing medical files?”  I really didn’t understand what the problem was.

“Of course you’re digitizing medical files!” she said, exasperated.  “And I can’t help but notice that you did more than everyone else.”

“Thirty-five more,” I said, proudly.  “I figure I can get another five done a day, if I press myself.”

“Stop it.”

“Huh?”  WTF?  Wasn’t I here to do a job?

“I said stop it, Ironwood.  Stop posting this list — it’s bad for morale.  Did you see Betty in the break room?” Betty was in her 50s, on her third career, and was slow as January molasses when it came to processing files.  I could get five done in the time it took her to do one, and she hated the computers and the computer system.  She didn’t even really understand what “digitize” meant, but she made cookies and always was the center of conversation, a kind of matronly figure for the other women.  “She was close to tears, after she saw herself at the bottom of the list.  And you have Angie and Courtney at each others throats, because they’re running neck and neck and Angie is convinced she’s better than everyone else.”

“But . . . I did more than twice what Betty did!” I protested.  This was crazy.  We had a job to do, a quota to fill, a definite metric of progress . . . and I was getting yelled at for paying attention.  To object to my work because I was “hurting someone’s feelings” implied that a) emotional feelings were important to getting the job done, of which I was unconvinced, and b) I was somehow responsible for my co-workers feelings to begin with.  Shit.  I was just grinding mindlessly at data entry.

“That’s my point!” she said with a disgusted sigh.  “You’re trying to make everyone else on the team feel bad about the job they’re doing.”

“Uh, shouldn’t they?  I mean, you could fire Betty and let me grind through her stuff and probably save–”

“MR. IRONWOOD!” she bellowed.  “The only one in danger of losing their job is you.  I will not have a disruptive influence on my team.  You trying to promote yourself over everyone else, clearly, and you’re trying to sow dissension among your teammates.  What are people supposed to do when they see this list?”

“Uh, work harder?”

“They’re going to start getting competitive.  They’re going to start to stress out that they aren’t keeping up.  They’re going to start to blame each other for falling behind, and then every lunch hour will turn into a big bitch fest about who isn’t doing their part.”

I shrugged.  “Doesn’t bother me — I work through my lunch.”

“You WHAT?”

“I work through my lunch,” I said, slowly and deliberately.  “Because I’ve got a thousand and change of these things to get through, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here doing it.”

“You know you don’t get paid for that!” she said, her nostrils flaring.  “I don’t want to see that on your time card!”

“Oh, no problem.  I’m just trying to get the work done.”

“You’re just trying to sabotage my team,” she said, eyes narrowing.  “No more working unpaid during lunch. No more posting stupid lists to start fights.  Got it?”

I answered in my best Blue Pill Beta ass-kissing tone, and then went back to work.  I was so angry that I redoubled my efforts — the male ability to work through problems through work was in full bore.  I got nearly two hundred done that second week, but the following Monday morning found me once again in my supervisor’s office.  Her nostrils were flaring already, and I knew I was in trouble.

“What the hell is this, Ironwood?” she demanded.  “I thought we had a word last week!”

“We did!” I said, confused.  “I didn’t post anything.  I’m not working through my lunch.  I’m not claiming anything extra on my time card!”

“Yet you still finished almost three times as many files as Betty did.”  She said it like I had walked up to the old biddy and slapped her.  “She was in here this morning, crying her eyes out, because she’s worried I’m going to let her go.”

“And that’s my fault?”

“You’re creating an environment that’s hostile to her,” she said, falling back into Personneleese.  “You are deliberately trying to turn her co-workers against her.”

“How?” I demanded.  “All I’ve done is sit at my desk and enter data!”

“Oh, I think you know very well how,” she said, eyes narrowing.  “And I won’t put up with it!”

“I’m still in the dark,” I shrugged.  “Unless you can elaborate further.  Can I go now?”

“One more thing,” she said.  “About lunch…”

“I told you, I didn’t put my lunch on my timecard.  Consider last week a gift.”

“It’s not that.  You’re the only one who doesn’t eat lunch in the employees lounge.”

I shrugged again.  “So?”  Honestly, it was the last place I wanted to spend the precious half-hour that divided my day.  I didn’t eat lunch at all most days, I just went out to my car and smoked cigarettes and read.

“So I want to remind you that company policy says that the only place where you may eat is in the Employee Lounge.”

“I’m not eating,” I shrugged.  I did a lot of that on that job.  I figured that would handle it.  It didn’t — my boss looked at me like I just spit on her.

“You don’t eat?” she asked in disbelief.  Lunch was the sacred birthright of every clerical worker.  My co-workers started discussing when lunch was, what they brought or ordered that day, and the glories of lunches past nearly every morning like daily prayer.

“Not lunch.  Why, am I required to?”  I admit, I was a little sarcastic at that point.

“No,” she said, slowly.  “But the rest of your co-workers would appreciate it if you would join them.”

“Why?” I was really confused about this — I was getting the definite impression that my co-workers were forming a Consensus against me.  “I don’t eat, I just read.  They’re too loud to read in there.”

“Nevertheless, I want you in the lounge at lunch time,” she insisted.  “And I recommend you eat something.  You’re making your co-workers uncomfortable by not participating.”

“In lunch?” I asked in disbelief.

“Courtney and I talked last Friday, and she mentioned that it was strange that you didn’t sit in with everyone else.  In fact, you have apparently become the topic of some speculation, Ironwood.  You disappear for the entire lunch period, then come back and barely say a word to anyone.”

“I . . . I’m just working,” I said, even more confused.  “I’m just sitting in my car reading.”

Her eyes narrowed again with suspicion.  “Are you really, Mr. Ironwood?  Because that’s not what your co-workers think.”

I waited.  I didn’t say anything.  I was getting pissed.  She waited for me to defend myself, or to give a good excuse for my behavior, or something.  But I wasn’t playing.  Even back then I recognized her baiting tone as a shit test.  And even back then I knew how to deal with an obvious shit test.  That’s one difference between men and women in the workplace: when a dude has had it, that’s it. She wanted me to ask “so what do my co-workers think?” with some level of concern, and I wasn’t biting.

“Your co-workers think you’re flirting with the receptionist across the hall.”  She said it as if I’d bent the poor girl over and ravaged her.  She was attractive — but I’d only spoken to her twice, she was engaged, and at the most I’d smile at her through the glass doors of her office as I went in and out of the building.

“Well, I have a girlfriend,” I protested (yes, this was when Mrs. I and I were shacking up, albeit seriously at that point, and at the time I resented the implication.).  “I’m not flirting with anyone!  I’m reading a book in my car!”

“You aren’t where they can see you,” she emphasized.  “That’s a problem.”

I just stared at her blankly.  “Why . . . is where and how I choose to spend my lunch time . . . of any possible concern to anyone other than myself?”  I tried to be diplomatic and logical.

“The problem, Mr. Ironwood, is that your actions lend to the perception that you are . . .” she trailed off, suddenly at a loss.

“That I am . . . what?  Molesting puppies?  Smoking dope?  Abusing myself?”  When stated in those terms, she started to look silly, and she knew it.  And yes, I actually said ‘abusing puppies’.  I still remember that.

“The perception that you are not a team player.”

“Yet I perform at twice the level of . . . some other co-workers,” I pointed out.  “How is that not being a ‘team player’?  And how is spending lunch by myself . . . or the perceptions of my co-workers . . . relevant to my job performance?  By every objective metric I’ve been an ideal employee.  I’d be happy to review my performance with my agency, if you’d like.”  The threat was implicit — if this kind of thing continued, I’d get the temp agency involved.  While that wasn’t the end of the world, it would call attention to the matter, and my boss was in the same social circle as the owner of the temp agency.  I knew that.  I might not be in the FSM, but I know how to use it.

“Just . . . conform to the company policies as they are explained to you, Mr. Ironwood.  That is all,” she dismissed.

While I was seriously resentful, I also needed the job.  Cushy temp work in the air-conditioning paid a lot better than construction or waiting tables.  Beside, I was still enough of a Puerarch to want to subvert the whole operation just to spite her.  So I appeared to knuckle under and concede.  I started spending my lunches in the employee lounge where I was subjected to all sorts of inane feminine chatter.  My one concession to eating was bringing in a single, phallic banana every day, carrying it around with me wherever I went, and then devouring it in seconds at the start of lunch.  After that . . . well, I can’t read when thirteen women are comparing their weekends and jockeying for matrix position over microwavable pasta.  There’s just too much distraction.

But I can write.  I’m a writer, everyone knew that.  I had a book and everything.  It was easily the most interesting thing about me.  I started bringing a notebook to lunch with me, and I would sit over in the corner and write stuff down.  Sometimes I doodled.  No big whup.

Enter Female Solipsism: the practice had an immediate and intriguing effect.  Suddenly, everyone in the building was extremely interested in just what I was writing.  And it became A Thing.

Because every woman there was convinced — utterly convinced — that I was writing stuff about her.  Specifically, stuff that was unflattering to her.  She was sure of it, be she 21 or 51.

If that isn’t solipsism, I don’t know what is.

It only dawned on me that this had become A Thing when Courtney, mid-20s, came to me after lunch and actually flirted with me for the first time.  Courtney was office hot, definitely doable, but she clearly had a higher opinion of herself than I did.  Still, I was polite, if laconic.

“So,” she said, after meaningless bullshit.  “Whatcha writin’ about?”

It took me by surprise.  “Oh, just character sketches and stuff.  Notes.  I’m working on a new book.”  I didn’t mean anything by it at the time — I’m a writer.  I’ve been “working on a new book” since I started writing.  It’s a stock answer.

Courtney, however, took it to mean (rather solipsistically) that I was writing a new book . . . about her.  Or the someone in the group.  She asked me more probing questions, and as I figured out what she was trying to do, my answers became more and more vague and mysterious and she got more and more agitated.  I hadn’t given her one single piece of concrete data, yet by the end of the day ‘everyone knew’ that I was writing a book about Courtney.  Or someone in the group, but Courtney was pretty sure it was about Courtney, otherwise I wouldn’t have been so mysterious.  In FSM terms, Courtney had used the episode to “push” herself up in position, because a dude writing a book about you is incredible attention, the coin of the realm in the Matrix.

The next day, four women approached me before lunch with meaningless reasons, and all four managed to mention my writing somehow.  I didn’t take the bait.  My notebook remained on the corner of my desk until lunch.  At lunch, now that I was aware of the interest in my book, I began to take notes with more purpose.  In fact, most of the stuff I was writing down had nothing to do with anything or anyone in the office.  But it was the way I wrote it that perpetuated the myth.  I waited until there was a break in the conversation, for instance, and then scribbled something down furiously while everyone in the room watched and tried to keep from looking like they were watching. Then I’d stop, the conversation would resume, and I’d wait for another break.

As an experiment, I decided to pace my notes based on which woman was speaking.  I picked Margaret, one of the older women, for no real reason.  Every time Margaret opened her mouth, I was writing.  It took a few times before she was aware of it, and then she got uncomfortable.  Then some of the other women clued into it, and were immediately abuzz.  Margaret started blushing, and ended up excusing herself to the ladies’ room.

I hadn’t said a word.  It was fucking hysterical.  In the literal sense.

By the end of the day, everyone was certain the book was about Margaret.

The next day, I focused on Lisa, and wrote down stuff mostly after she was talking.  Lisa got flustered, too, but instead of running and blushing, she started paying a lot more attention to her diction and word choice.  Half-way through lunch, I switched and did the same thing with Courtney again.  After lunch, Margaret approached me as I was heading back to my desk.

“You know, Ian, I really don’t appreciate that!” she said.

“What?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“You writing about me in that notebook,” she accused.  I almost smiled.  Instead I affected a confused expression.

“What do you mean?  Who said I was writing things about you?”

“Everyone knows– look, I’m just a very private person, and if you want to know anything I would appreciate it if you would come to me, personally, and not rely on other people.  Okay?”

“Uh . . . okay,” I agreed.  Not only had she assumed that I was writing about her, she was absolutely convinced that I was talking to other women in the office about her.

Every day that week I ground away at the pile of files and then amused myself with the luncheon Solipsism Floor Show.  It became a game for me: how little could I say and do and still inspire wild speculation about my “book”?  Just how much of a tizzy could I through these ladies into . . . without doing a damn thing but my job?

If women weren’t solipsistic, then it wouldn’t have worked.  As it was, it worked spectacularly well.

Wednesday it was a divided room, as I wrote only after the younger women (less than thirty) spoke, and ignored the older women.  Thursday, Janet — who hadn’t spoken two words to me the entire time I’d been there — started pumping me for information about my life and my book over in the corner.  I gave her as little as possible, and gave her no false information, and figured I was just frustrating her.  Only I didn’t realize what she’d done — with our little private conference, she’d made it appear to the Matrix that she had the inside scoop, and she used that leverage brutally in the free-for-all that followed.

That afternoon, when I was coming back from the Men’s Room (the Fortress of Solitude, I called it), I caught that old biddy Betty trying to slyly leaf through the notebook.

“Excuse me?” I said, coming up from behind her and slamming my hand down on it.  “Is there a problem?”

“Oh, I was just looking for some staples,” she said, airily.

“There are none in my notebook.  Check the supply closet.  That’s where I’d put them.”

She shuffled away guiltily.  And it became a trend.  Suddenly I was getting called away from my desk every ten minutes or so, and when I went to get more files one of the girls stalled me.  I’d set my telephone on top of my notebook, which frustrated them because I made a point to pay attention to how the cord was arrayed.  When I got back, it hadn’t moved, and I got a lot of frustrated glances.

Thursday, it was almost mayhem.  I was having a hell of a good time watching these ladies push each other off of the swing set — it was more fun than doing it yourself.  I still hadn’t admitted anything.  I hadn’t done anything.  I’d just written some notes down in a spiral notebook and quietly ate my banana.  But the inclination to assume, automatically, that the unknown words in my book were clearly about them — whichever ‘them’ it was who was assuming — drove these women to distraction.  Thursday was a shit day, production wise, and a dozen little arguments broke out over stupid stuff.  I kept to myself and jammed.  I was doing about 50 files a week above quota, and the more I was exposed to this toxic estrogen environment, the more I wanted to be done.

Lunch was a lot of fun — that day, I wrote according to boob size.  The bigger the boobs, the more “attention” they got from my pencil.  They didn’t know my criteria, of course, but the result was fun to watch. Another woman, call her Melissa, came up to me after lunch on Thursday, too.

“Margaret’s pretty pissed at you,” she said, with a lot more concern than one usually accords a temporary co-worker.

“Yeah, so? What did I do?”

“I don’t know — but she’s pissed off at you.  Something you said, I guess, or maybe something you wrote.”

“Really?” I asked.  Time to throw the sharks a puppy.  “Something I wrote?  That’s strange . . . I’ve only shown it to one person, and I don’t think she would have told anyone what was really in my notebook.”  I left for the Fortress of Solitude post haste.  Melissa looked both horrified and gleeful: the Swing Set had a potential infiltrator!

The crowd went wild.  Suddenly, every woman in the office suspected every other woman in the office of being my “secret” friend as news that I’d shown the thing to someone — one of them — spread.  Someone knew what was in the notebook . . . and everyone denied that it was them, and accused everyone else.  Despite not having a shred of actual evidence, every woman in the place was convinced of conspiracy against her.  Paranoia is a common side-effect of solipsism, I’ve observed.

Friday was fun.  The women had abandoned subterfuge and were approaching me outright.  “So, what’s in the book?” Courtney asked, once again.  Time to show a little of my irritation.

“Would you believe that it’s none of your business?” I asked.

“Of course it’s my business!  You’re writing it at work, about me!”

“Please explain the logic underlying that conclusion,” I said, patiently.

That took her by surprise.  She expected either a denial or a confession, not a challenge to her reasoning.

“I . . . everyone knows . . . I . . . Margaret and Melissa said . . . Ian, just tell me what’s in it, okay?” she pleaded.

“So you don’t have any idea what I’m writing about,” I stated, flatly.

“Well, if you would just tell me–”

“None of your business,” I repeated, and walked away.

There were more attempts to pester me and more attempts to sneak a look.  Margaret approached me just before lunch, on my way back from the file room.

“So, I saw you and Courtney talking earlier,” she said, tentatively.  “Is she the one you let see your writing?”

“Does it matter?” I asked, blandly.  “In fact, does it matter at all what I write in that book?”  I sounded annoyed enough so she backed down a bit, and re-approached the subject from a less-confrontational perspective.

“You’ve got a lot of people very curious,” she offered.

“Not something I set out to do,” I lied.  “It’s my personal time, it’s my personal notebook.  My business,” I repeated.  That just seemed to confirm her suspicions.  She lowered her voice and glanced around.

“Look, you little shit, if you write anything about me ever, I’ll gut you, understood?”

“Gosh, that sounds like a threat of workplace violence.  This is becoming a hostile work environment,” I mocked, walking away.  Inside, I was busting a gut.

At lunch on Friday, for once there was very little said.  I’d decided to give a preference to brunettes over blondes that day.  I’ve always had trust issues with blondes.  Courtney was blonde.  Margaret and Lisa were brunettes.  Hilarity ensued.  I still just gobbled my banana and kept to myself, silently scribbling (notes about siege warfare, if I remember correctly). They got to talking about a birthday party one of the women (forget her name, call her Becky) was having over the weekend, to which all of us had been invited and most of us had agreed to attend.  I had not.  Lunch was over a lot more quickly than usual, and I got some daggers stared at me for the traditional No Good Reason, and I banged out another couple of hundred files before quitting time.  Then I got the hell out of there and went home to forget them for the weekend.

Monday morning, I was let go.

Not technically — technically, the company and my immediate superior were “re-allocating resources due to the differences in planning and execution”, or some bullshit like that.  My temp boss (one of the most reasonable women I know) told me later that the project had fallen behind, and despite the fact that I was doing huge amounts of work, faster and more efficiently than any of the others, I had been “randomly” selected to be retired instead of being included on the “adjusted schedule”.

My boss at the office told me that morning, and she was not happy.  She gruffly mentioned that there was going to be an organizational change, and I was going to be re-assigned.  I would be paid for half a day, end of story.  That’s both the advantage and disadvantage of temp work: it can come or go without notice.

And then the subject of the notebook came up.

“It’s come to my attention that some employees have been making unauthorized notes, possibly about patient files,” she said, carefully.  In case you hadn’t picked up on it, she didn’t like me, I didn’t like her.  “That is strictly against policy, and in violation of the NDA you all signed when you came to work here.”

I just waited — if you noticed, she hadn’t accused me of anything, and until she did, I didn’t have anything to say.

“It has been noted that you frequently write in a notebook.”

“In my own time, off company time,” I shrugged, for the last time.  “And it’s my private work.  I never wrote down any patient information.”  This was before HIPA, so Non-Disclosure Agreements were pretty standard in medical offices.

“Still, I can’t take the chance that you did,” she said, with an air of finality.  “Please go get it for me.”

“Uh, no,” I guffawed.  “That’s my private work.”

“Which you brought onto company property, which makes it subject to search,” she reasoned.

“Unfortunately for you, that notebook is not on company property.  It’s in my car,” I pointed out, getting angry.

“Ironwood, damn it, I want to see what is in that notebook.”

“Why?  I’ve told you it isn’t patient information.  That should be the only thing you’re interested in.  The idea that I actually would be scribbling down patient information is ludicrous.  Or that I could remember anything by lunch time, which is the only time I write.  So . . . no, not until you give me a compelling reason why.”

She looked at me thoughtfully.  She was on thin ice and she knew it.

“People are saying you write things about them in that notebook,” she said, quietly.

“People say a lot of things,” I challenged.  “Which people?  I’d like to hear it from them.”

“I’m not at liberty to say.  It’s a personnel matter,” she said. “But you don’t deny it?”

“I don’t confirm or deny it.  I’m wondering what evidence you base this on.  Or are you going by rumor?”

“If the accusation is serious enough, it has to be investigated,” she rationalized.

“And just what am I being investigated for?”

“I need to see what you wrote in that notebook, then we’ll decide what to do about it.”  She was trying to be forceful and commanding, but she had no legal right to compel me, and we both knew it.  She was trying to brow-beat me into submission, and for the first time I realized that she thought that I had been writing about HER the whole time.

“Unless you can tell me why, and how you came to those suspicions, I think our work is done here.”

Her nostrils flared.  “You bet it is.  You’re not a team player, Ironwood, and that’s sad.  I had high hopes for you.  Margaret says you didn’t even go to Becky’s party on Saturday.” She said it like she was accusing me of buggery.

“It’s my day off.  I barely know Becky.  I’ve spoken to her like five times in three weeks.  We’re not close.”

“Still, if you had gone, maybe we could have worked something out.  As it is, you’re probably going to get a poor performance review from the company.”

“One that points out I did twice as much work as . . . some people?  Because that’s what I say in the detailed response that I’ll include in my file, a copy of which — detailing some other things I’ve observed — will go to your office.”  She paled a little.  Nice effect.

“So, you’re not going to cooperate…” she said, making one last stab at intimidation.  I was done for the day.  I had nothing to lose.  “I want to see what’s in that notebook!”

I snorted.  “You didn’t even say ‘please’, so no, no, no. No you may not.  My private property — and as a writer, a published author whose words have some nominal value, it could be construed by a jury or the Employment Commission as an attempt to unlawfully appropriate my ideas.  Give it up, Lady.  I’m out of here, and so is my notebook . . . and whatever might happen to be in it.”  I walked out, made one last stop at the Fortress of Solitude, stole two rolls of high-quality toilet paper the all-male staff of physicians horded for themselves, slung my backpack over my back and headed out.  I smiled one last time at the pretty receptionist, and just couldn’t resist sticking my head into the cube farm door to say good bye.

“It’s been real, Ladies, but I’ve been re-assigned,” I explained, simply.  Half of them looked at me anxiously, the other half looked away disgustedly.  I had no idea why, but I’m sure it was something terribly, terribly important.  A few of them were kind enough to hug me good-bye, but most gave a half-hearted wave and got back to work.

The lesson of the story is that every single aspect of the response from a group of 14 women (13 co-workers and a boss) was based on a) her solipsistic belief that I was writing about her based solely on the fact that she didn’t know WHAT or WHOM I was writing about  b) her belief in the absence of evidence that my stubborn silence was proof that I was writing about her and c) the belief that every other woman in the group was conspiring against her over the imaginary book for some reason.

I’ll freely admit, there were other dynamics at play here — race, class, ethnicity, education, etc. were all present, as they are in any large office in the South.  But the undeniably solipsistic nature of their response remains to this day in my mind the epitome of demonstrating female solipsism.

It ain’t a peer-reviewed study, Susan . . . but it’s one hell of a raw data set.

The Red Pill Room – The Tangled Chains On The Swing Set of Solipsism

Hooking Up Smart – Sex Differences

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