Thursday, January 27, 2011

Attack Vulnerability - Deny Weakness

Lawyers have to take continuing education classes as part of their professional development. California requires its lawyers to take a class on substance abuse because the problem is common to this occupation. I watched my course online last October.

(I'm on the left.)

I took notes because I thought the presentation hilarious. Finding them very illuminating now.

Lawyers v. General Population:

As Pre-Law Students
Characterized by:
  • Need for dominance and leadership
  • More authoritarian
  • Low interest in emotions and others' feelings
  • Normal levels of psychological distress

Effects of Law School
  • Increased aggression under stress
  • Preference for competition
  • Failure to rely on peers for social support
  • Increased tension, insecurity, and substance abuse (confirmed by numerous studies)

As Lawyers
  • Competitive, argumentative, aggressive
  • Low interest in emotional concerns (theirs or others'); disproportionate preference for "thinking" versus "feeling"
  • Higher incidence of distress and substance abuse
  • Pessimistic outlook on life

Successful Lawyer TechniquesSuccessful Relationship Techniques
Avoid errorAdmit mistakes
Attack vulnerabilityAllow for vulnerability
Think for othersRespect partner's opinions
Deny weaknessTrust

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Picture me in Irving, Texas, in a parking lot of an office park like any you would find in Santa Clara, Reston, Redmond, or Waltham. The sky is gray. The grass is dead. I'm reclined to near horizontal in the driver's seat of a rented red Corolla, at 10:07 on a Tuesday morning in January. My eyes are closed. My watch alarm is set for 10:25. I'm wearing my peacoat and business casual underneath - a suitably feminine blue cowl-neck wool sweater, pinstripe pants, desert boots with low heels, but not so feminine that I escape being called "Sir I mean ma'am" by the rental car attendant. My Blackberry light is flashing red on top of a messy accordion file on the passenger seat. I am 23 minutes early to a meeting and recovering from a cold and dead tired because I could not fall asleep in the creepy Overlook Hotel where I stayed the night before, popping M&M Peanuts from the minibar and watching a reality show in which psychotherapists coax people with obsessive hoarding problems to stop living in piles of shit. (Literally piles of shit - one featured couple let 22 roaming pet rabbits cover their house ankle deep in shit pellets.) I am trying to catch some sleep before the meeting, but instead I just fall in and out of the zombie zone of consciousness for fourteen minutes, and then get up before the alarm and make my way to the office building, where I collect my security tag, brush a stray piece of potato hash off my sweater, and prepare to dazzle a client with professionalism.

Today was one of those days where I couldn't decide whether I loved or hated traveling. There was, on the one hand, dozing in a parking lot in an unheated rental car in front of squat, lifeless office buildings. On the other hand, there was the bartender I met in my quest the previous night for gay Dallas weeknight nightlife. Check out her biography: poor, Mexican-American, lesbian, ex-Marine specializing in explosives, ex-alcoholic, ex-world champion welterweight boxer, seventeen years a bartender, now a rugby flanker with no natural ligaments in her left knee trying to save money to move to New York to write her book. She was my height, slightly taller, all muscle, nothing wasted. (Later, S., a little too breathily, asked me to describe the bartender's build in great detail. She benches 225.) We connected because I played the same position in rugby; before long she was saying things like, "You understand how it is, you're a jock" and telling me that after she made a little extra cash over the holidays she treated her girl to a shopping spree at Forever 21 and treated herself to nutritional supplements. "I took myself out and got everything I wanted: my magnesium, my whey protein, my NO2 platinum caps . . . " She said it like that, prefacing each supplement with a possessive. Her handshake was like a hungry mastiff. I skipped back to my hotel feeling high having made a new friend in a new city.

My meetings the next day didn't take but two hours and afterward I had four hours to kill before my flight. I found an artificial creek in Irving and in the backseat of the Corolla swapped business casual for running clothes. I admit I was psyched up for fitness from the girl jock talk of the night before. I did not bench 225 but I did jog the length of the creek at a shade above a walking pace and then kicked like a drowning dog through three pull-ups on the jungle gym next to Indian-American tots oblivious to my raw power. Apparently 100% of people who use this park in the daytime are South Asian toddlers, South Asian women, or South Asian old people strolling along in unnecessary winter wear. Then I put half a pig in my face in the form of a barbecue sandwich followed by green beans with bacon and black-eyed peas cooked with fatback. I had vanilla soft serve, again sitting in the driver's seat of the Corolla, pointing toward Boston Market, jawing to S. about Hoarders.

On the way to the rental car return, a megachurch caught my eye and I pulled over to snoop around. "I just want to look at your church," I told the receptionist in the front office. "I've never seen a church so big." She and the people in the waiting area laughed with pride. Nothing was happening midday on a Tuesday, but many days of the week the church offers services in English, Spanish and (?) Nepali, as well as break-out groups for kids, teens, college-age students, young adults, parents, seniors, women, men, music aficionados, and the Nepalese. Plus a cafe. I have nothing epiphanic or derisive to say about the church or the people I met there; it and they were plenty nice. Anyway I was not paying close attention. Half of the time I was supposed to be peering through the windows at the chapel, I was admiring my own junior welterweight form in the glass.

So, the jury is out. Was it a good time, because a sly shopclerk called me "honey" while I perused cock rings at the porn/rainbow flag necklace/And the Band Played On gay general store? Or was it a bad time, because I had to bury my nose in a book to avoid the desperate, smiling eye contact of the woman next to me at my airport gate who wore sandals with socks and said, "Oh, I don't travel so much!" Sorry I cannot tell you why the kiosk attendant cannot tell you more about the status of our flight, lady, I have to read this important book!

No, it was merely a time. A short time - 22 hours total on the ground in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I came home and my parents barely registered my absence. Dad said "You're back!" and then rushed Mom to Home Depot to buy caulk. I felt like a long time had passed since I had been in the zombie dreamland of a reclined driver's seat in a parked car in suburban Dallas, so I wanted more ceremony on return, but only dear Boo paid me any attention. Now on my list of New Year's resolutions: bench 225, move out of the suburbs, sell my Corolla.

Monday, January 03, 2011

december 23

Work ended slightly early. I came home and T. of the Pinenuts was waiting in the living room already for J. to come drive us all to Maryland. The drive was fun and not terribly slow, though there were snafus with traffic upon entering New Jersey and with J.’s EZ Pass not registering, but as he explained to the snippy EZ Pass attendant, “That’s your problem.” We ate at Dick Clark’s Horrible Food Diner while watching videos of Hootie and the Blowfish. We contemplated buying Cinnabons but were dissuaded by the fact that they are 850 calories and your recommended lifetime allowance of fat. T. got excited by the prospect of hoverboards in the year 2015, as predicted by Back to the Future II. T. failed to guess herself as the clue to a short game of Botticelli. We fell asleep and woke to a funny Canadian radio program. I asked S. and T. and J. to explain everything they knew about Maryland. J. was very knowledgeable about the ugly Maryland state flag and the regions of Maryland. He spoke enthusiastically about “Blast,” the annual high school musical variety show, the lead roles of which became yet another prize for parents to compete by proxy through their kids for. Like my Palo Alto public school experience, S. and J. and T.’s P____ public school experiences were peripherally touched by charismatic, pedophile teachers. J. was incensed enough about the new speed cameras in P____ that he remarked upon them twice.

We dropped T. off – she momentarily panicked that a thread of her scarf that had gotten caught in the trunk door would decapitate her, but this threat was defused and S. and J. and I continued on to P____. Their parents were still up waiting for us, and the chatting began immediately. Daddy, who referred to himself as Daddy, and Mommy, who referred to herself as Mommy, said they wished Carly would come over for a visit but that she might not get the chance. Then Daddy pulled up pictures of Carly on his iPhone. Turns out she was a poodle. They insisted we eat pears from Harry and David but it was late and we were tired, so we just went to bed. I paged through S.’s yearbook reading her many inane declarations (“Let me just tell you, I believe this year we were most spirited” and “In my opinion, the P____ Picayune is a great opportunity to improve your editorial skills”). I molested S. until she beat me back with the high pitched whine: “Can I pleeeease just go to bed?” Both heroines fell asleep immediately thereafter.