vesta_aurelia: Fangirl your Armor (bujold -- choose to be)
[personal profile] vesta_aurelia

I've known Rotrude since she was, oh, 8 or 10 years old. She's definitely her mother's daughter, especially in body type. And she's being having some odd conversations where people remark on her slenderness (though she calls it "skinny" which sounds more pejorative). I've noticed this stuff before.

It's actually a formal pattern of female-to-female conversation. I call it Social Grease. Because I have no social radar to pick up these things organically, I had to learn this "mainstream communication pattern" by rote--and it's quite fascinating.

This doesn't work all that well with Geeky/Nerdy Women. But many of them get soaked in the same pattern solution as the Mainstream Women that the shadow of the dance is cast on them, too. I've found it's especially effective with female newcomers to the SCA, especially mundane visitors who aren't Geeks themselves.

Social meeting of Two or More Women
After the initial "hello"s are over, there's the Casual Conversation Mode. This is where most conversation is Rote or Canned, in prefabricated decision trees. People have a few Mainstream Options:

1) She's carrying a baby. If there's a baby, all other conversation starters are secondary. Ask about the baby. Let her talk as much as she wants about the baby. Then talk about baby weight, if she brings it up or wants to go on about it.

1b) Unless she's carrying a pet. If there's a pet, then ask about the pet. Let her talk as much as she wants about the baby.

1c) If she definitely wants to talk about something NotBaby (some women have talked about Baby enough today, thank you), revert to 2. Let her lead to a topic.


2) She's carrying a book or shopping bag. "What'd you get at __________(name of store, if seen)?" There will be some dismissive talk where she frequently undermines her own enthusiasm for her purchase. This is a request for Opinion Bolstering "Oh, I totally see why you picked that up. It's adorable/really brings out your eyes/totally matches your nails/etc."

Ask about the book (or Kindle). If it's one you've read, discussion follows. If not, it's question and answer time: What d'you like about it, etc.


3) Physical commentary--Comments about weight, hair, clothing, jewelry, etc. This is where women frequently coo over each other's shoes. It doesn't mean anything--they may or may not be enchanted by the shoes. It's just part of the pattern. There's also "love your hair," or "you look great" (implying weight loss, if they haven't see each other for a while).

This one can be tricky, but people think it's easy. I don't recommend that guys use it at all, even if he's gay. It's safest to comment on shoes, bags and other accessories. This also offers Shopping Discussion and Opinion Bolstering, in case you have to stay engaged in talk for a while.

4) Conversations can dwindle off here or--if there's a true exchange, they can flourish. You can end the conversation by commenting that you've gotta run (or she might do the same). Frequently, that's true. It can end with an exchange of emails/phone numbers if the convo is picking up but you genuinely don't have time for them.

It sounds so horrible, doesn't it? But it *works* for me, 98% of the time, while having a female-to-female convo in mainstream society. I've sat at enough tables alone, watching women greet their friends, and seen the dance over and over. I've tried these things out on my coworkers, especially the ones from other departments where I don't work with them all the time, and it's functional with people you're not spending a lot of time with.

The key to all of this, for me, was to believe what I was saying while I was saying it. Some people can be more facile, and sound sincere while they're not, but I've never been able to master that. :P


Lest the gentlemen snicker up their sleeves, let me say Mainstream Guys have similar conversations. Only, rather than cooing, there's chestpuffing. When guys haven't seen each other for a while, they engage in similar Social Grease. I'm not capable of having a male-to-male conversation (my gender and social sex is too obvious), but I've navigated the very Male World of SCA heavy fighting. This is what I've observed.

After the Strength Test handshake, Manly Backpounding or Chin Thrust of Acknowledgement...

1) There's the status jockeying via Prowess. This is usually physical, but physical can also include (among geeky types) video gaming like World of Warcraft. This measures where each one is on the totem pole between/among the group of guys. The highest status guy controls the conversation. He is free to interrupt everyone else and be heard.

Often the Highest Status Guy is acknowledged by the other guys at this point. So is the Lowest Status Guy. If Lowest Status Guy is the comedic type, he is also free to interrupt conversations...in order to make jokes, often at his own expense.

2) If none are invested in Prowess, the conversation can turn to (or be turned by someone with Low Prowess) to Status. A guy can display his own Status (vice president of marketing), or if he's affiliated with a High Status (have you met Duke Guy, my Knight?), he'll raise his own by affiliation. This can change the totem pole positions among the second to second-last guys.

2a) If he's affiliated or follows a team, he will likely turn the conversation to sports in order to converse about the latest game and the success of his team. Especially if he's wearing a jersey or team cap. This can be fascinating if one guy follows football and the other baseball. Watching them talk past each other is like a slo-mo train wreck.

3) Wife-and-kids. (As a female, I've always tapped this topic first. It helped cut down on flirting, which I wasn't comfortable with, but was also a socially safe topic.) This lets guys showcase their families' accomplishments. This can reflect well on the guy, increasing his Respect rate.

4) Conversations can dwindle off here or--if there's a true exchange, they can flourish. The guys can end the conversation by blaming the Little Lady "Hey, my wife wants to get home" or by doing the "I gotta split, seeya later man" and there's a fist bump and a parting. These things can even be true. Guys will more often say "I'm on Facebook, look me up" rather than exchanging addresses.

I'm sure there's more nuance in the male-to-male communication that I'm just not privy to. This is what I've observed. This is the Primer I made for myself in order to ease through the mundane mainstream world. It doesn't always work. But it frequently works.

Date: 2013-11-05 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aesa.livejournal.com
*nods* Yep, that's pretty much true!

Another that I have noticed is the News Tidbit. One guy will mention 'Oh hey, did you hear about such-and-such' and go from there. Sometimes a political slant will get worked into it ("Obama's up to such-and-such now"), always with the assumption that the other guy will agree with him, though why you would instantly assume that some other stranger shares the exact same beliefs with you about everything is beyond me.

The News Tidbit happens a lot in M/M convos, though it does slip into F/Fs sometimes. The Political Add-On seems to be almost exclusively a Male option -- they will spring it on a Female partner, too, but it's notable for the fact that they *always* expect to hear affirmation of it.

Media also pops up a lot. ("Do you watch X, did you see that episode of Y, have you heard about that new game Z that's coming out") This can be inspired by Panning and Scanning -- you see something in the environment that reminds you of it, and work it into the conversation. Though a lot of Males use it, I would classify it as Unisex. I use this one a LOT. (Usually as I am desperately casting about for Something Polite to say.) Of course I'm sure that falls under a lot of Geeky convos, but I see Non-Geeks using it a lot, too.

Granted, my environments tend to consist of a lot of Props which would pique these. That's the one good thing about living in retail, I guess! I tend to be eternally-grateful for Props...

Date: 2013-11-06 02:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
they will spring it on a Female partner, too, but it's notable for the fact that they *always* expect to hear affirmation of it.

Funny that. :P

You make a number of great points--I like what you say about Panning and Scanning. I haven't thought about it that way, but it's certainly applicable. I think it's a more advanced skill, requiring on-the-fly input and processing.

Date: 2013-11-05 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perkyandproud.livejournal.com
Okay, this makes so much sense now. You should teach a class, seriously. Or like a panel at a convention!

*hugs you*

Date: 2013-11-06 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
Only if we get Elise's sister back! I'll be on a panel with her!

Date: 2013-11-06 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perkyandproud.livejournal.com
If I am to suggest this to Programming, I might need just a TAD bit more information than "Elise's sister." LOL!

Date: 2013-11-06 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
See replies below about Karyn Ashburne

ayup

Date: 2013-11-05 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kargashina.livejournal.com
Tracks with Conversations in the Marine Corps tm. Its interesting to me that the male coworkers who know my husband stays home with the kids tend to track on the Guys version..(after we jockey about whose sales numbers are better, of course) I think i need to follow a sports team for work purposes.

Re: ayup

Date: 2013-11-05 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corvideye.livejournal.com
Try saying "How 'bout them [Ducks/Beavers/Wombats]" and they will enthusiastically fill in the rest, while you continue to nod and occasionally say "yeah!"

Re: ayup

Date: 2013-11-05 05:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kargashina.livejournal.com
i have started with the ducks in self defense.. but that only covers foot ball :(

Re: ayup

Date: 2013-11-06 02:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
It's better to pick an obscure team that other people either a) don't know, or b) don't care about.

On Mondays, google the team name. highlights will be covered in discussions. Pick a viewpoint and you can skate over the rest of the topic. :P

I use the Packers.

Date: 2013-11-05 05:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fjorlief.livejournal.com
You are brilliant... or at very least your brain works in very different ways than mine, which already is far out there on some bell curve or another... I want to memorise this- I have so much difficulty ever talking to people that I have yet to be able to even observe patterns, my pattern recognition ability goes to an entirely different mode than that (I am a good thingmaker instead, which is nice in the workroom but terrible at parties).

I was talking to my counselor yesterday about how I had gone to a party this weekend and really talked to no one other than the several folks there who I knew from the household, and if they had not shown up (much to my surprise) I would have spent the entire evening not talking at all. My counselor suggested several simple things I could have done, to talk to unknown people, that I never even thought of... in a similar way to your #2 and #3... Truly sometimes I feel like I came here from another planet or something, that the scripts that folks use to communicate are not in my language

This primer makes so many things make more sense - I know that in theory so much small talk is "social noise" but not knowing "the rules" makes it hard to participate... Thank you for spelling out part of the instruction manual in comprehensible terms!
Edited Date: 2013-11-05 05:43 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-11-06 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
This actually stemmed from a report from MiniCon. You might find it interesting, too. I started watching for this among SCAdians at the same time they made me a team lead at work. Having to speak Geek and Mundane at the same time crystalized things...

> >The best piece of programming I attended at Minicon was a panel, or
> >rather a lecture, by Karyn Ashburn, Elise Mattheson's sister. She is
> >a speech therapist, with lots of initials after her name, who works
> >with adult populations, many of whom are nonverbal or barely verbal,
> >and she isn't a member of fandom. As the sister of a member of
> >fandom, however, she's had an opportunity to observe us in one of our
> >native habitats when meeting Elise at conventions. And as a non-fan
> >and a person passionately interested in speech production, she's
> >noticed some common features in the way fans verbally communicate.
> >
> >We were lucky in that she hadn't shown up for her panel at 5:00 on
> >Saturday, which would have been in a smallish function room and
> >restricted to only an hour. Instead she was rescheduled for after
> >closing ceremonies in the ballroom, so a large fraction of the
> >convention members had a chance to hear her. Because we wouldn't let
> >her leave, her talk ended up being about 2 1/2 hours long, but she
> >still left us with a lot of questions. I recommend her as a speaker
> >to any convention. The bare gist of what she said follows.
> >
> >On those occasions when she showed up at a con to meet Elise, she saw
> >lots of fans in groups talking. To her they seemed angry and rude.
> >To Elise they seemed nothing of the sort. Observing them more
> >closely, she realized that they were using different social cues,
> >different body language, different eye contact, and even different
> >ways of forming vowels than what she jokingly called "my people", or
> >what for convenience sake I'll call mundanes. She hastened to say
> >she doesn't have a theory, or even yet much of a hypothesis for why
> >this may be (or a large enough sample size across populations to
> >prove that this is so), but she does have a lot of questions.
> >
> >She also seemed quite concerned that we would feel offended by what
> >she had to say, but what she told us was so interesting, and often so
> >recognizably true, that I don't think anyone was. Of course
> >everything that I'm about to say is an overgeneralization; different
> >fans possess these traits to greater or lesser degrees.
> >
> >First, the mechanics of actual vocal production, especially vowels.
> >The phonemes in the words "him" and "meet" are produced with the
> >tounge in various positions, and the lips stretched back. The
> >phonemes "uh" and "oh" are produced with rounded lips. This, at any
> >rate, is the case in mundania. Fans, she has noticed, push the
> >vowels forward; rounding the lips somewhat even for "ee" and "ih".
> >We use our lips a lot, but at the same time, we use our cheeks and
> >our chins not as often as would be expected. We stabilize the cheeks
> >and the chin, and we "prolabialize". (When, while sitting at a table,
> >I leaned my chin on my hands while talking to her, she became
> >uncomfortable. She can't do that easily; her chin moves more when
> >she speaks.)
> >
> >Second, fans articulate more than mundanes. She had various of us
> >stand up and say things, and then repeated them in "mundane". When I
> >said the phrase "talk to", she pointed out that I had pronounced the
> >"k" on the end of "talk". Mundanes, she said, wouldn't. We
> >pronounce more of the terminal consonents in a phrase than a typical
> >mundane does. We are more likely than mundanes to pronounce the "h"
> >in "where", and the "l" in "folk". (She seemed to think it was
> >rather charming; that we were preserving old pronounciations, or
> >reinventing them from the way words are spelled.)

tbc below

Date: 2013-11-06 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
continued from above

> >We also speak in larger word groupings between breaths. This does
> >not necessarily mean that we speak faster; we just pause for a
> >shorter time between words -- except where there is punctuation. She
> >pointed out that when Teresa Nielsen Hayden said she came from Mesa,
> >Arizona, Teresa actually pronounced the comma by putting a slightly
> >longer pause there, while most mundanes would simply run the words
> >together. Mundanes slur a lot of consonents that we pronounce
> >individually. We use punctuation in our spoken utterances.
> >Sometimes we even footnote.
> >
> >What we say in those large word groupings is also different. We tend
> >to use complete sentences, and complex sentence structure. When we
> >pause, or say "uh", it tends to be towards the beginning of a
> >statement, as we formulate the complete thought. The "idea" or
> >"information" portion of a statement is paramount; emotional
> >reassurance, the little social noises (mm-hmm) are reduced or
> >omitted. We get to the heart of what we want to say -- if someone
> >asks us how to do something we tell them, not leading up to it gently
> >with "have you tried doing it this way?"
> >
> >This leads us to body language. Our body language is also different
> >from mundanes. We tend to not use eye contact nearly as often; when
> >we do, it often signifies that it's the other person's turn to speak
> >now. This is opposite of everyone else. In mundania, it's
> >*breaking* eye contact that signals turn-taking, not *making* eye
> >contact. She demonstrated this on DDB; breaking eye contact and
> >turning slightly away, and he felt insulted. On the other hand, his
> >sudden staring at her eyes made her feel like a professor had just
> >said "justify yourself NOW". Mutual "rudeness"; mixed signals.
> >
> >We use our hands when we talk, but don't seem to know what to do with
> >our arms. When thinking how to put something we close our eyes or
> >look to the side and up, while making little "hang on just a second"
> >gestures to show that we're not finished talking. We interrupt each
> >other to finish sentences, and if the interrupter got it right, we
> >know we've communicated and let them speak; if they get it wrong we
> >talk right over them. This is not perceived as rude, or not very
> >rude.
> >
> >We accept corrections on matters of fact and of pronunciation; when I
> >asked her about whether fanspeak might be related to Asperger's
> >Syndrome, and mispronounced "Asperger's", I was corrected in
> >mid-sentence by the man sitting next to me, corrected myself, thanked
> >him, and finished the sentence. One Doesn't Do That in Mundania.
> >Fans understand that mispronouncing words one has only read is very
> >common in fandom, and not mortally embarrassing.
> >
> >When we make a joke, we don't do a little laugh in the middle of a
> >word to signal that it's funny; we inhale and exhale a very fast,
> >short breath at the end of the sentence, rather like a suppressed
> >beginning of a laugh, or a kind of a gasp.
> >
> >She didn't get much into why this is all the case (I think she was
> >surprised at the laughter when she suggested diffidently that we
> >might be a bit under socialized. No, really?? ), and turned
> >away questions about possible pathology. While more comfortable with
> >us now, I suspect she was probably still worried about offending us.
> >She did suggest that many of the common features of fanspeak seem to
> >be related to thinking in "written English".

tbc below

Date: 2013-11-06 03:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
continued from above

> >The day before, while waiting for her sister to show up, Elise had
> >suggested that perhaps the overuse of the lips and underuse of cheeks
> >and chin had come from very small children wanting to communicate
> >complex ideas to grownups; the facial muscles still being
> >underdeveloped, the easiest way to articulate would be to concentrate
> >on the lips, holding the cheeks and chin still as a way to reduce the
> >complexity of word formation.
> >
> >I hope others who were at the panel can expand upon what I've
> >reported, especially the parts I may have ommited. It truly was the
> >most interesting lecture or panel I've ever attended, and I can't
> >recommend her too highly if you can convince her to speak at a
> >convention you're involved with. It would both give her more test
> >subjects and us more cool information .

Date: 2013-11-10 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krazyfiberkat.livejournal.com
That whole thing was awesome. Can I send this to my mother. It might make our conversations easier. She tends to listen like she reads, Evelyn Wood Speed... If you can't say it in 5 seconds or less, you aren't going to get heard. I keep trying to tell her that she just needs to let me get to my point before she goes off on why I am wrong. Now, I know that I just don't talk like normal folks, cuz I don't have these issues at events.

Date: 2013-11-05 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corvideye.livejournal.com
"Guys will more often say "I'm on Facebook, look me up" rather than exchanging addresses."

That makes sense, offering your address could seem too needy. This way the onus is on the other guy to seek him out.

Date: 2013-11-06 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
It's usually an indicator of Status, too. The higher status guy is the one saying it.

Date: 2013-11-06 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katanubis.livejournal.com
Social interaction. Fascinating subject! Interesting analysis (although I suspect you can add to it with time and observation.)

Date: 2013-11-06 03:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vesta-aurelia.livejournal.com
There's definitely more details and refinements, but some of those get rather personalized.

Date: 2013-11-10 06:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krazyfiberkat.livejournal.com
I may need to follow this some time. I may be less likely to offend folks that way ;-)

Date: 2013-11-10 06:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krazyfiberkat.livejournal.com
Now, if we could just get my husband to not act like I am killing him when I want him to call people!

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