Here is another essay that I wrote a while ago. This is a very different style from the Jon Stewart essay. Once again, comments are appreciated. Enjoy.
“Who so ever follows in my footsteps, groupies will follow in his.”
I have no nightclub game whatsoever. Everyone has their bitter pill to swallow; that’s mine. My dancing looks like Frankenstein during an epileptic seizure. But I don’t mean just that I can’t dance, but I’m talking about the broader disappointment that I don’t do well amidst a throng. I will never be one of those damn beautiful people no matter what I do. And I hate excepting my limitations. In the eighties, Fame made lots of money off of showing us how some people have it, and some people don’t. But that’s not just in acting or dancing. In life, in the subtle art of human interaction, some people have it and some people don’t. Talent. Wit. Charm. Charisma.
I’ve coached public speaking students for a few years now, and to a certain extent, if you come to me for help I can improve your abilities. You would be (in my opinion at least), better at public speaking after you work with me than you were before. Either that, or I’m charging people way too much. This is just like when I went to an undergraduate theatre program. They did their best with what they had to work with, and in the end I could act a little better than I could before. So we know that in performance situations like speaking or acting that rely so much on natural talent, there is still some teachable skill involved. Now no educational institution can mint Oliviers, although some come pretty close. They do this by only accepting the most talented people to begin with, which, come to think of it, makes you wonder with all that talent if they really end up teaching anything at all. Wow, that’s a little moment of Zen right there.
My point is, I’m wondering to what extent someone can pull their charisma up by their bootstraps. It’s what I call the “Pygmalion” factor. Sure it worked for Audrey Hepburn in the movies, except that we need to remember that it was Audrey Hepburn for God’s sake! They didn’t cast Carrot-Top and then shape him to look like Pierce Brosnan. They started with someone who was gorgeous, made her talk cockney for the first act, and then at the end…Surprise! She’s gorgeous! Now my problem is, if you taught me the right talk, the right walk, if you dressed me in the best threads on the market and subjected me to the most skilled plastic surgery in Beverly Hills, if you improved me in every thinkable way…you would get Carrot-Top.
I think we’ve all wondered at one time or another if interpersonal charisma is a teachable quality, and if so, who gives the best lessons. How to Win Friends and Influence People still brings in cash for Barnes and Noble. If I ever find out the answer to this, I will open up The James Bond School of Incomparable Charm and retire with enough money to mop all my floors with Bill Gates turned upside-down. As far as I can tell, and bear in mind that the bulk of my expertise comes from pondering this way too long, charisma seems to be associated with looks, money, power, and affability. That’s not necessarily in order.
Looks seem to be the most decisive factor; unless you have ESP, looks are the first thing you ever have to go on when you meet someone. I saw this book in the bookstore called How to Make Anybody Fall in Love With You. I was intrigued, because that’s one hell of a promise. This must have been a very wise and intellectual author, to be so versed in both psychology and sociology as to be able to teach us knowledge that has eluded us for centuries. How could one person have so much success with amour as to instruct the masses in the art of infallible seduction? I flipped to her picture on the back cover, and she was hot. Go figure.
Now, if you ask anyone who knows me what I think of my own appearance, they would probably respond that I think I’m pretty hot stuff. That of course has no bearing on actual truth, merely my own perception of truth. On the other hand, if I were truly hot stuff, I wouldn’t be pondering the elusiveness of charisma in a book. I said before that I have no nightclub game, and now that I think about it, nightclubs are a great litmus test for looks…if you’re a guy. If you’re a girl in a nightclub, you’d have to be Janet Reno to not get approached. For guys, the test is very simple: if you’re dancing and cute girls move toward you, you’re hot. If they stay where they are and wait for you to come to them, you’re sort of hot. If they dance away from you, go directly to the circle of losers standing at the edge of the dance floor and stay there. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Your game is over. I spend my life in that loser circle. Twenty years from now, I’ll be the one scary old guy who’s still there.
I can’t think of a comparable litmus test for girls, since guys are hornier than a Bison stampede instigated by bugles and trumpets, and therefore girls only really have to step out of their front doors get hit on. Nowadays, with Internet Weirdos, women can get propositioned by drooling dweebs and fifty-something perverts right in the comfort of their own home. If anything, a girl could probably rely of the freak-factor of her suitors as a potential guide. Girls know all about freak-factor. It’s a character judgment based on a combination of a man’s vibe and hairstyle. Clothes factor in too, but are less reliable. Girls hope generally for a clean-shaven man with short, Brad Pitt hair and high Brad Pitt cheekbones and soft, boyish Brad Pitt dimples who glances over briefly, almost shyly. A little shyness is often regarded as “cute,” or so I understand. Oh, don’t forget the winning smile. It’s a smile that says, “I’m socially successful, and therefore have no need to stalk you later.” This is what girls hope for.
Now, this is almost never available, so girls start living with a little freakiness in the guys who come up and buy them drinks. Screwy hair, scary goatees, eyes that stick to parts of their body for way, way too long… you shake their hands to be pleasant, but then you feel like wiping it off on your jeans right after. Sure, he offers to buy you the same amount of alcohol as a cuter guy would, but then he’s gonna be right next to you all night because you accepted his drink and so by a priori inference, honey, you owe him. The only recourse is to find a bigger freak (i.e. physically bigger, not freakier) to dissuade this little freak from trying to extract repayment for that drink he got you.
The amount of freak-factor in the guys who gravitate toward you, girls, is the only way I can think for you to tell where you stand, if you don’t already know. It’s a lot harder for girls to test their true mettle in a world of pants-around-their-ankles guys. But the trade-off is that I think most girls have a fairly realistic idea of where they stand on relative looks. You aren’t nearly as delusional as us guys. Guys are so delusional, we invented the comb-over. And we still think that it fools people.
It’s depressing how little control we have over our looks – dieting, exercise, and good hair judgment aside. We have a long, upward battle against genetics, unrealistic expectations from the opposite gender, unrealistic expectations from our own gender, bad hair days, and “I’m With Stupid (Arrow Pointing to Significant Other)” T-shirts. And we have precious little more control over money and power in our lives. But ask yourself, how important is it really to have authoritative control over the money and power in your life? I’d rather control the money and power in Bill Gate’s life.
The most pivotal moment in your relationship with the money-power continuum is when you choose your college, but more importantly your major. Your have to be smarter than your impulses to follow a fulfilling and spiritually unique career path and study finance, biomedicine, or computer technology. I studied drama, which is the career equivalent of buying on impulse the People magazine in the checkout line. There’s nothing in it that’s quantifiably beneficial to society, but you’re transfixed but the self-deluding allure of celebrity and lots of hot women. But if you think through your momentary impulse, you’ll opt for the boring-yet-sensible Wall Street Journal in a dispenser just a few steps across the street.
Basically, after that, you’re on your own. Sure, there’re Master’s Degrees and investment portfolios, but I think we’re now smart enough to realize that the days of making fast killings on IPO’s and tech stocks are over for a while. Plus, I might add, whatever money you’re taking in now is only effective as long as you’re single. My dad, bless his heart, told me once, “love comes in, and money goes out.” Word.
So the point is, only a small percentage of us will ever have enough money. “Enough” meaning zillions more than we know what to do with. That leaves affability, or your ability to cope well with your lack of looks, money, and power. Affability is an interesting characteristic because it can live independently of all other charisma-related manifestations. I have met otherwise homely men and women of towering, magnetizing temperament.
Please don’t confuse affability with gab. I am using it as a catchall equivalent of social prowess. Talk to anyone who knows me, and the first thing they’ll acknowledge about me is that sheer quantity of speech, or the relative volume thereof, is no guarantee of charisma. But if raw friendliness were truly the ticket, the charisma market would be totally cornered by those sons-of-bitches who talk to you through the whole flight about their fascinating careers in the chalk industry. You figure it out.
So what does this all mean? Can those of us not lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon still carve for ourselves a semi-respectable brass Spork? If we can, I think the pathway toward Marion Barry and away from Marian the Librarian can best be blazed by following the following humble suggestions:
Suggestion 1: If you give off a freaky vibe, at least make it work for you.
John Malkovich makes millions off of freaky vibe. So does William Shatner. Freaky vibe, like sex in a long-term relationship, is what you make of it. It can be okay as long as it’s the kind of freaky that’s in. Star Trek freaky is out. Goth freaky is old. Pervert-freaky is in if you’ve got big pecks. Really, any kind of freaky is in with big pecks. So I guess if you’re freaky, at least get some big pecks.
Suggestion 2: Don’t tuck your shirt in.
Shirt Untucked: Models, Celebrities, Chic Foreigners, and Clubbers (while they still keep them on)
Shirt Tucked: Fat Guys, Librarians, Old People, Prep-School Pussies, Info-Tech Pussies, Middle Management Pussies, and People from Indiana.
Suggestion 3: Look Rich
The bad news is that the opposite sex is after someone who puts a lot of money into their look. The good news is that you don’t have to put a lot of money into your look if you can at least look like you put a lot of money into your look. Follow? Women have mastered this with the “On Sale” principle. This is why they babble ad nauseum about cute-yet-sensible no-buckle pumps that they’ve found for a fraction of the retail price. What seems to us males as mindless gabbing is actually a negotiated intelligence trade between two allied agencies. They realize that if one agent possesses the 411 on a particular discount-themed event, the other agent is obliged by both professional courtesy and moral duty to reciprocate whenever she happens to gather similar valuable intelligence. By this type of inter-agency cooperation, the each girl is mathematically capable of going to bed with a man worth twice as much money as she would have met otherwise. Put simply:
(Cute Clothes Information) x 2 = $ x 2 or: Sale Info = $
If we accept that money is power ($ = P), then by the associative principle woman have successfully proved that knowledge (of sales) equals power. This system can level the socioeconomic playing field, allowing blonde girl A – wearing a $600.00 Diane Cook – equally as likely to get laid by a hot rich guy as blonde girl B – wearing a $19.95 JC Penney knock-off (this assumes that the knock-off is of high quality…women frequently use judgment similar to major drug kingpins vis-à-vis product quality and purity).
However, there’s a caveat. The process for getting laid by a rich guy assumes that the girl can categorize a man’s social station on-sight. This holds true only so long as men without cash (known as shmucks) continue to dress in a relatively ignorant manner. However, if men were even slightly capable of the same sharing of costume-tips as it were, they would be exponentially capable of making women believe they (the schmucks) have more money than they actually have:
(Man’s Ability to Dress Well) = (Perceived $)^2
Obviously, until this axiom is disproved, it means that even the slightest improvement in a man’s ability to help the other members of the species to dress themselves negates the female On Sale principle until such time as the female discovers the male’s true net worth. By that time, hopefully, the man will have gotten her drunk.
Suggestion 4: Hygiene is in!
Sad to say, this one seemed so obvious that I thought I wouldn’t have to go into it at all. That was until I sat next to an eighth-grade student on an airplane recently. For the short time that I inhaled through my nose, I thought I was snorkeling in Marlon Brondo’s septic tank while he was re-tarring his driveway during an L.A. smog index of “run-for-the-fuckin’-hills.” For those of you willing to excuse this lapse because of the age involved, remember that middle school is the cruelest age, and consequently the time when basic image-management matters the most. Whether you’re 13 or 103, bathing with some regularity is picking the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Please remember that the last society to renounce bathing en mass ended up Germany’s bitch. The only offense they could launch was easily nullified when the Panzer Captains clothes-pinned their noses shut.
Suggestion 5: Lose the glasses.
Glasses: Actuaries, Professors, IRS People, Old Engineers, Nuns, Repressive Figures of Authority, Buddy Holly, People from Indiana
No Glasses: Everyone who Looks Better than You
Take these suggestions with an Abercrombie & Fitch designer-wheelbarrow full of salt. The author of these letters is a couple of groupies short of an entourage. I’m lucky if I have enough charm to successfully return a defective Lord of the Rings DVD to Walmart.
Tags: Pygmalion, charisma, humor, dating, self improvement