Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NT Planet: Time to Take a Hint


The comic "Dilbert," about an engineer in a supposedly high-tech company, gives some good views of what happens when Aspie and NT sensibilities collide. Aspies have tended to concentrate in high-tech industries, so these behavior patterns may be better understood there.

In this Dilbert strip, Dilbert is chatting up a woman; she asks if he has a good job, and he mentions that the stock market has taken a toll on his stock options - so he's not exactly wealthy. She then looks at her watch and says "Hey, look at the time" - while Dilbert keeps talking.

Like it or lump it, many women* consider wealth and income important factors when selecting a man. When Dilbert admitted that the stock market had taken a toll on his finances, she wasn't interested in him anymore. Rather than say that outright, she "noticed" the time - which implies that she has to leave soon. It's considered a polite way to end a conversation.

Of course, it's somewhat exaggerated here. In real life, the woman would chat for another minute or three as a "decent interval". Since people know that mentioning time and having to leave is a polite substitute for the truth, people figure that such an excuse - especially right after receiving information that she may find negative - is likely untrue and in fact she doesn't want to chat anymore with a guy who's not earning a lot. Since officially we frown on people dating or marrying for money, people are hypocritical about it.

It's a classic form of hypocrisy - she doesn't want to actually say "Since you don't have a lot of money, I don't want to talk to you anymore." But she also needs him to understand that in fact she's terminating the conversation permanently. If Dilbert took her literally, he may offer to chat some other time when she's free - even ask for her phone number or email address.

On the one hand, social mores prevent her from (at least being comfortable) saying it. On the other hand, she still needs him to know it - and social mores expect him to accept it, too. This kind of hypocrisy explains much social dynamics.

[*] My wife Emily is not that kind of woman!

UPDATE: Donnla Nic Gearailt responds: "A woman who is mainly interested in a man's finances shouldn't limit herself to just the one john."

No comments: