Employed in my head are many individuals, but there are two in particular that I wish to report on today. We shall refer to them as Bob and Steve.
Bob’s job is to keep me from getting hurt. The physical component of Bob’s job is of relatively minor importance. As I seldom find myself in immediate danger, provided I refrain from engaging belligerent individuals in fisticuffs and remember my inherent clumsiness when in high places, Bob’s primary responsibility is to protect me from emotional harm. Bob is an achiever. He’s decided that the best way to prevent me from getting hurt emotionally is to keep me from becoming emotionally invested in anything. And this strategy is working. Bob’s predecessor slacked off on the job a lot, mistakes were made, and so Bob was hired. Under Bob’s watch, instances of emotional trauma have been severely curtailed.
As for Bob’s methods, they can be described as extreme. Bob’s methodology can be likened to the servant whose job was to walk behind Caesar in triumphal parades, whispering “Sic transit gloria” in his ear. Bob is often seen as a pessimist, but in reality he is merely observing a great deal of fastidiousness in his duties.
Steve, on the other hand, is tasked with a job that should complement Bob’s: his job is to monitor social situations and determine what they mean and how to respond. For example, if an individual is fuming mad at me, it’s Steve’s job to discern this from their facial expression and tone of voice, and recommend giving them space. Likewise, if an individual is making sexual advances toward me, it is Steve’s responsibility to let me know. There is an unwritten understanding that this last task is to be Steve’s number one priority.
Steve’s performance at his job has been, unfortunately, less than satisfactory. There have, of late, been a number of false positives cropping up in Steve’s reports. It falls to Bob to serve as a correction mechanism, a task which he jumps into with aplomb. If a particular girl appears, to Steve, to be attracted to me, Bob is always ready with a reminder that she’s way out of my league, that I’m a fat piece of shit, and should probably just go die. These are but a few of his more colorful assessments.
Usually, I give greater credence to the recommendations of Bob. Although Steve has been on the job longer, my head is a meritocracy and Bob has proven himself correct time and again. However, inexplicably, sometimes I find myself giving more credence to Steve’s rosy-tinged advice than Bob’s. A phenomenally beautiful woman will strike up a conversation, and Steve will submit a report stating that she appears to be totally into me, and recommend proceeding with flirtation. In more extreme cases, he recommends asking the woman out outright.
Bob’s objections are strong.Â This department cannot concur with this report, advises his amendment to Steve’s report.Â It is our opinion that you are setting yourself up for extreme humiliation. To be attracted to this subject, given her level of physical beauty, approaches the level of clichÃ© and you have no advantages to distinguish you from the dozens of other men in your community who are doubtlessly pursuing her. The recommendation of this department is to abort any attempt to woo, court, pick up, or proposition subject.
Steve’s followup is peppered with citations.Â Observe the following phrases used during conversation,Â he writes, followed by a bulleted list of phrases which, in the right context, could be considered quite flirtatious. He points to the number of times conversation was initiated by the woman in question rather than by me. He points to the frequency of our conversations, and attaches charts comparing this frequency favorably to the frequency of conversations that I have with other friends. With just a hint of umbrage at Bob’s comments, Steve sums up:Â It is the opinion of this department that subject is totally into you and you should proceed with asking her out.
Bob counters:Â Basic due diligence on the part of other departments would have revealed that subject has, indeed, a boyfriend. Such departments are advised to engage in more research prior to submitting recommendations.
Steve has more citations.Â Please note a great deal of apparent obfuscation and redirection when the subject of boyfriends and relationships is subtly broached in conversation. Subject does not explicitly confirm or deny the existence of said boyfriend, but merely implies that at some point in the recent past, she was indeed dating someone. This need not be construed to mean A) that she is seeing anyoneÂ at presentÂ (emphasis in original), or B) that any such relationship, if it is currently extant, is considered exclusive. No evidence has yet been presented to support either of these scenarios.
Bob’s next memo is characteristically direct:Â This interpretation of the available data is reckless and proceeding with recommended course of action presents an extreme hazard. In particular, please be advised against pinning your hopes on the possibility of polyamory.Â The best available evidence suggests that less than 1% of the population is engaged in a so-called “open” relationship. Don’t be a schmuck.
I suppose it must be Bob’s attitude that sometimes sways my opinion in Steve’s favor. Bob is relentlessly negative, even abusive. Bob has never cited evidence, never made charts, never offered any proof of his thesis beyond circular tautologies.Â You always fail because you’re a loser, and you’re a loser because you always fail. As you can imagine, this is not an attractive philosophy. It is natural to gravitate towards a more optimistic picture of events.
However, this approach has led to some very undesirable consequences. In the recent incident from which the above quotations were taken, said boyfriend proved to be very real and very current, casting extreme doubt upon Steve’s powers of data analysis.
Bob’s summary report on the situation is unmerciful.Â This department directs your attention to our previous memoranda, in which we communicated the likelihood that subject was engaged in a romantic relationship with an individual who was, quite probably, your superior by every conceivable benchmark, and it is with great disappointment that we note that this has turned out to be the case. We point to the level of comfort that subject exhibited when introducing you to him, and the manner with which he conducted himself in your presence. This department wishes to make clear that the only course of action now available is to drink copious amounts of alcohol and listen to the music of Leonard Cohen for several hours at a stretch.
Steve is forced to concur, his memo stating:Â This office reluctantly agrees that subject’s apparent boyfriend appeared not the least bit threatened by your person, and notes with disappointment that our previous analysis is likely rendered obsolete in view of recent evidence. We have no excuse for what seems to be our misinterpretation of the available data, and are at a loss to explain the apparent disconnect between subject’s behavior towards you and the expected behavior of an individual completely devoid of romantic interest. It is conceivable that, in therms of conventional behavior towards individuals that are considered “just friends” by the feminine gender, subject represents an outlier. This department could have undertaken to gather more data from male individuals with whom she maintains platonic relationships, but was hamstrung by other departments’ insistence that your interest in subject remain a closely-guarded secret.
Bob responds:Â This department wishes to make clear that it is precisely this injunction that has prevented this situation from becoming a far greater embarrassment than it already is. Had word of other departments’ reckless recommendations become known outside of your person, you would have been held to ridicule for your presumption, and this would have damaged your reputation in your community. This department can cite several examples — some provided by subject herself in the course of conversation, a fact which other departments should have considered — of individuals who have attempted, despite an obvious gulf of physical attractiveness between themselves and subject, to pursue her affections, only to find themselves the subject of unflattering gossip. We submit that additional data would not have improved other departments’ interpretation of facts, as their theses were riddled with problematic fundamental assumptions. In fact, we must question whether such departments are willing to accept the final determination of management in this matter, or if they are even now formulating hypotheses which introduce a layer of doubt into management’s findings.
Steve is forced to admit:Â It is true that subject has not, explicitly, articulated the notion that said boyfriend is current and exclusive, and indeed the behavior he exhibited with her might well be interpreted as the behavior of an ex who remains a close friend, a circumstance which has been known to factor into subject’s life previously…Â and that’s the final straw.
Were this an isolated incident, I would be inclined to overlook Steve’s errors in judgment. However, this is merely the latest in what can only be called a pattern of unsatisfactory performance on Steve’s part. The term “incompetence” might not be considered too strong in this case. The fact that even now, he continues to make excuses for his mistakes cannot be looked upon favorably.
Of course, the ultimate decision is and has always been mine, and I must take full responsibility for what is ultimately a failure of management. Nonetheless, this cannot be allowed to continue, and corrective action must be taken.
That’s why, effective immediately, I’ve decided to terminate Steve’s employment and transfer his responsibilities to Bob on an interim basis, until a suitable and hopefully more competent replacement can be found. I ask for my friends and family’s understanding during this transition, during which I expect that I’ll end up being a total bummer to be around. Individuals interested in pursuing romantic liaisons with me are advised to make their intentions unmistakable, such as by introducing their tongues to my throat. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.