Just got back from the Dream Theater concert at the Warfield. As a final encore they played “In the Name of God” from their latest album, Train of Thought (which is surprisingly good, up there with Images and Words and Scenes From a Memory), which pretty much showcases all that’s cool about DT: awesome monster riffs, glorious singable choruses, jaw-dropping technical proficiency. It was a fitting ending.

I went by myself, and I found myself reveling in the anonymity. Surrounded by unknown faces, I felt free from expectation, abdicating the responsibilities of a social creature for one evening.

I had the opportunity to go to two other concerts this week (Vienna Teng’s release show for Warm Strangers, and Mahler 5) but for various reasons had to miss both. Phooey.

You might wonder why I write so much about music, why I’m so obsessed with it. The answer is: I don’t know. I have no idea why it does these things to me. It’s strange … in my life, blessed with an amazing amount of good fortune, yet inexplicably — and inextricably, it sometimes seems — fraught with delusions and neuroticisms, music appears to be a unique companion: one that speaks to me in my own voice, with words that I have neither the eloquence nor the understanding to say myself.

——–

On the drive home (borrowed my brother’s car), a kind of interesting analogy occurred to me.

In evolutionary biology, there’s a concept known as Zahavi’s Handicap: a negative characteristic endured by a male of a species to advertise that he is “man” enough to handle it. For instance, a peacock’s huge tail feathers are a real detriment to his safety — but by surviving with them, he is showing the females that he is such a good mate that he can survive even with some gargantuan ostentatious feathers sticking out of his butt. Antlers (especially when they get huge and cumbersome) are sometimes viewed as another example of Zahavi’s Handicap. If the handicap is honest — in that it really is costly to live with — then females tend to respond positively towards it.

Anyway, so a long time ago, in one of my first entries in this journal, I wrote about how annoying it is that so many girls like assholes. I offer my usual disclaimers: a) before you vehemently deny that such attractions occur consistently enough to be stereotyped, I can provide you with friends of mine who explicitly acknowledge such a preference, and other friends who implicitly acknowledge it, at least based on their choice of boyfriends :) b) and before I am accused of whining — as a purportedly “nice” guy who is just bitter that I don’t have whatever it is it takes — I will say that I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have met at least some girls who are sensible about realizing the values of “nice”.

Blah. Okay those disclaimers are ridiculously overwordy and unnecessary, and obscure my main point, which is this: being and asshole can be thought of as an example of Zahavi’s Handicap. Basically, the guy is saying, “Okay, I’m going to be a dick, which certainly will be detrimental in all other aspects of my life, but I’m such a studly guy that I can handle these detriments. So: I’m being a dick just to show you that I can be a dick and get away with it. Give me some sugar, baby.”

(Okay, that last sentence is copped from Army of Darkness. But the rest is serious!)

And girls buy it, because they’ve been trained to by evolution over the last zillion years.

So this is probably all a load crap, but it’s fun to think about :).

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15 Responses to

  1. gilson says:

    awesome post. first bout music, then bio, then standing up for us nice guys and to top it off a quote from army of darkness. it’s not crap dude, it’s totally true that alotta girls prefer assholes.

  2. snafuuu says:

    I don’t know what this makes me, but I’ve never had respect for girls (or anyone, for that matter) who are attracted to assholes. This includes my ex-boyfriends, because I’ve been a pretty big asshole in previous relationships. I don’t know how evolution plays into any of this though. I figured weak-willed people like that would’ve been wiped out by now. =p

    And yay for Army of Darkness! I wish I still had my Bruce Campbell user pic.

  3. gdogg says:

    Interesting idea. Brilliant! (as in the Guiness commercial)

  4. awu says:

    How is being an ass detrimental to anyone but the seemingly rare sensitive types?

    I recently had the thought that perhaps some people are attracted to non-nice people for the same reason academics are attracted to puzzles, academic challenges, debate, or mathematics. Because it’s a challenge… merely because it would be difficult.

    Another perspective is that the ass hat strategy works for the same reason gambling and Diablo are addictive. No hat = fixed schedule lovin. Hat = variable ratio lovin.

    Perhaps a parallel question intellectually is to ask why some people (ahem :) feel they must play devil’s advocate all the time.

    On that note, we can also wonder what constitutes an intellectual, cerebral “dick”…

    • aj says:

      “How is being an ass detrimental to anyone but the seemingly rare sensitive types?”
      Well in my experience, these people are generally mean in their day-to-day interactions with other people, which generates a lot of ill-will. They just don’t get along with other people that well, and I think that is definitely detrimental.

      …do it for the challenge…
      Yeah a lot of girls have told me this, and it’s a major knock against my theory :)…. although that just might be the way they have to be motivated (evolutionarily) to find it attractive. (Guilt, for example, is a good motivator, but I’m not sure that guilt, in itself, is the underlying causal factor in decisions seemingly motivated by it.)

      • awu says:

        I find that I tend to overestimate how “mean” someone is because I myself have been far too sensitive in that regard, and thus I wonder if the ill-will is just my own, projected, or if other people actually feel that way.

        Maybe I’m just saying that it may be difficult to read how well an assy person would get along with a median non-sensitive person.

  5. Anonymous says:

    10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

    Maybe because you’re in control – if you’re with an asshole you can be happy for as long as you want to be, and enjoy certain elements of the relationship. But then you can decide when it’s over, and know that you will be able to recover and it won’t hurt so much, because he was a dick on some levels anyway.

    No-one is a dick on all levels, and the kind of assholes we’re talking about usually have the allure of confidence, are easy-going and bring some drama. And there’s lots of drama queens out there. But mainly it’s the not-getting-hurt-moving-on-more-easily thing, because no-one sensible actually marries an asshole, or stays with them a long time.

    Also one final thing – the challenge, and being a woman who is so special she can change him, the delight in noticing reforms, or the guaranteed knowledge of actually having(/feeling like you have) some kind of purpose in the relationship? :) Lots of people don’t want someone with whom it’s going to be easy or too self-indulgent. Maybe it’s also then a defense from being too loved/appreciated – that’s a lot of pressure? Hmmm who knows, these all occurred to me as I wrote.

    • aj says:

      Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

      “But then you can decide when it’s over, and know that you will be able to recover and it won’t hurt so much, because he was a dick on some levels anyway.”

      Yeah, wow, I’ve never really thought about this before. Sounds very plausible. But do people really think about the breakup when they start dating? That’s some impressive foresight :).

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

        Yeah, wow, I’ve never really thought about this before. Sounds very plausible. But do people really think about the breakup when they start dating? That’s some impressive foresight :).

        There’s the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is dating the bad-breaker-upper who makes his ex-girlfriends want to kill him, and she breaks up with him because of it. It could surely happen in real life if it happened in Seinfeld :)

        • Anonymous says:

          That was Manu BTW

          stupid anonymous posting

        • aj says:

          Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

          Yeah, that’s true :).

          Actually, who am I kidding, before every relationship I’ve ever been in (after my first one), the suckiness of the possible breakup has crossed my mind…

        • Anonymous says:

          Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

          The first poster again (yet anonymous, I apologise! But consider the subject matter) – also had another thought, as a woman, that this to some extent avoids the inevitable competition that arises between most girls, even if it is all just in your head. If this scares or intimidates you, you can be guaranteed more success with someone who seems less like boyfriend material. To some people just having a boyfriend that is ok is better than singledom/battling-it-outdom. This may seem stupid, and it is, but this is on an entirely irrational, subconscious level, as a mechanism against the perils of competing for a mate, perhaps. So perhaps the actual process of selection that should weed these people out ensures our survival and unfortunately that of Le Dick.

          • aj says:

            Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

            haha, right. it’s all about survival in the end, isn’t it? but that would imply that the supposed nice guys have a constant stream of women who want them, right? (thus making the conflict-avoidance necessary)

            not too sure about that…

            anyway, i will gladly keep you under cover of anonymity, but there are two big clues: “apologise”, and the lack of “xxxx” :)

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: 10 Things I hate about you/why i’m with you

      I saw “Something’s Gotta Give” a couple of days ago and the young woman in the movie says the same thing — she dates bad guys because that way she never really gets hurt.