About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Friday, November 28, 2014

To other dudes in dating

There is always a distinct danger of preaching to the choir on blogs like this, but it never helps to spread the word, I suppose. In this particular post, I'd like to address my fellow (hetero) men who, like me, are users of online dating sites. I'm sure that we can commiserate on a few aspects that affect men the most on these sites: low response rates, lame responses in general, and people suddenly ghosting you for no real reason. It sucks and can be a blow to the morale. Online dating is not the easy way to Sexville or Lovetown that it purports to be.

With that out of the way, however, one reason why online dating can suck so much for guys, is a reason we owe wholly to ourselves: women get bombarded with messages every day. Guys seem to be locked in an invisible arms race to send out as many messages as possible, hoping something will stick. Until we break out of this pattern, that's an unfortunate fact we'll have to deal with. But it's not just the shotgun approach that hurts our chances, it's also the nature of the messages. Here's a handy list of things to keep in mind:

> If it isn't appropriate to say something to a stranger in public, it isn't going to be appropriate online, either. You don't strike up conversation with a woman you don't know at a bar by immediately asking if she's down to fuck. You don't whip out your cock. You don't start talking about a bizarre fetish.

> If you get no response to your message, leave it be. If you must, you could send a second message after some time, but after that, it's game over. Sending more is just being pushy and reeks of desperation or entitlement.

> If you get rejected, remain polite or say nothing. Guys sometimes complain that women can be very ambiguous in sending rejection signals, but that's because outright rejection turns some guys into aggressive douchebags who belittle women ("I wasn't interested in you anyway, you fat cow!") out of a sense of hurt pride. If you can't handle rejection, get your ass of the Internet and work on yourself.

I'm not a dating coach (and dating coaches are lame-ass guys who revel in intidimation, harassment and a good dose of awful gender essentialism, anyway) and I certainly wouldn't say I have a success formula down for getting awesome dates, because I'm a normal human being just like you, with assets and downsides. However, because I don't always want to couch any advice I give in negatives, here's a few positive pointers that will increase your response rates or at least set you up for a lucky strike:

> Have at least one clear picture of your face and one that more or less shows your figure. It's better to own up to who you are rather than hide your insecurities. A good picture can go a long way - don't settle for crappy bathroom selfies or photos under mega-harsh light.

> More about pictures: you don't need to showboat about the fact that you know other women, and use goofy poses or faces at your own risk. Also avoid the death stare straight in the lens. Vacation pictures and pet pictures seem to be perennial, and are rather safe, but certainly okay.

> Keep your communication short and to the point. Like I said, women have to wade through dozens of messages every day. If you write a position paper on how great of a guy you are, it's likely to go unread.

> Get a bit of a feel on the conversation to see when it's appropriate to ask her out. Some women may be willing to arrange a date after a single chat conversation or three messages back and forth, some are a bit less forthcoming.

> Don't state you are funny or intelligent: prove it. Make a good joke on your profile, or share your opinion on an amazing book you've read. Otherwise you're just filling in a D&D character sheet.

> Don't rely on stupid oneliners or template messages and indicate you've at least read her profile by referring to a common interest or something. In case the profile is bare-bones and just some data and pictures, I get that this is a lot harder, but it's worth a try.

> Keep your own profile not longer than 1.5 screen lengths. Much longer than that and you're going to come off crazy or overly convoluted. Very short may work if you're good at that. If not, about a screen length is ideal.

> Be interested and interesting. There's no harm in giving a nice and considerate compliment, and it's always good to have some interesting tidbit of knowledge or an interesting question up your sleeve.

> The point is not to pretend to be someone else, but own up to who you are and be the "best you". This isn't a job interview where you have to resort to some little white lies.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letter to my past self

I honestly have no idea who reads this blog. I know it's being read because I see the numbers and figures, but I don't know who you are. Since I always stress that personal growth is a process and that you're not born armed and ready with all the knowledge about the world and how it works, I decided to think about what I would tell my past self, in the not-so-secret (but perhaps misguided) hopes it might ring true for some readers.

Dear 16-year-old me,

I'm writing to you from the future. It's the year 2014, and we still do not have flying cars, but the world hasn't ended either. In many unremarkable ways, it's similar to the world you're living in right now. In some ways, it's remarkably different. But I'm not here to entertain you with a vision of your future self's present.

I wanted to impart some advice on you that I could have used back then.

Don't listen to people who tell you you should let go of your anger and accept things the way they are, but make sure your anger is focused on the right culprits. Don't lash out at people who don't deserve it. It is seductive to make fun of people who occupy lower rungs on the social totem pole, but by mocking them, you become complicit in the structures you'd like to change.

Don't hold on to grudges and don't hold on to self-flagellation: the former is, as someone once said, drinking poison in hopes the other guy will die, and the latter is cutting off your nose to spite your own face.

Don't listen to people who claim to speak with common sense, but develop some of your own by experiencing things. Don't be afraid to try new things. You'll miss 100% of the shots you'll never take. If you fear embarassment and being made fun of because you're a sensitive person, you diminish yourself. Own up to who you are. It's okay to be a little awkward sometimes. In 15 years from now nobody's going to remember except you.

Although you can't see it right now in the cutthroat jungle that is secondary school, you are an incredibly privileged person - and one with the capacity for change. Not everyone is given that quality, but don't be too hard on yourself if you fail a personal goal. Your time is a limited resource, and so is your bodily constitution and your mental health. Don't lose track of that. You might be stronger than you give yourself credit for, but you'll never be as strong as you'd like to be.

You can't change the world, but you can bring about subtle shifts in your own happiness and the happiness of people you care for, which may influence wider society at large in the end. Some people will remain assholes for the rest of their life, but remember that the best revenge is to live happy, not to dedicate resources to make them even shittier people than they already are. Tone down on your impatience - that is really your very worst trait.

Life will get better. You'll unfortunately suffer through terrible relationships, but you'll also know what it feels like to be loved pretty much unconditionally. Don't set yourself up as a saviour for other people. Focus on sorting out yourself and drawing boundaries. Don't let people syphon away your good cheer and take advantage of your good nature because you like to feel validated.

Love and sex are not a race. People around you are just as confused as you are. You're not entitled to someone's affection for being nice or whatever. Girls are individuals and don't belong to a hivemind - society is constantly trying to pull wool over your eyes in this regard, but make no mistake, while they sometimes seem to like "assholes", in fact they feel drawn to self-confidence.

You'll never be everyone's taste, but there will be plenty of girls and women who will think you are good looking. Take advantage of the fact that in ten years from now, you'll be at your physical peak, and don't let insomnia or bad dietary habits ruin the fact that nature saw fit to give you a mostly able body.

Also you have asthma. That's the reason why you can never keep up in long-distance running and always end just in front of the fat guys and the ectoplasmic skeletons. Get it tested and get medication for it, instead of accidentally finding out you have it when you're 24.

Keep sticking up for people who have it worse than you do. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep being curious. Keep a budget. Don't play too many video games. They're nice entertainment and build some skill sets, but they're also a time sink where the investment isn't worth the eventual reward.

If you must take drugs, always make absolutely sure you're doing the right dosage.

Do your best a little more in French class. Resist the urge to pick at scabs, as you get older they will heal more and more imperfectly. Learn to relax. Trust your instincts. As time passes, they will get honed ever more sharply, and they will mostly turn out to be 100% on the money.

With lots of love,
your older self