Monday, 29 July 2013

Outwitting El Zorro

          While I was away visiting friends over the last couple of weeks, I met a guy -an acquaintance of one of my friends- who gave me plenty of opportunities to practice all these skills we've been discussing for the last few months. I have quite a lot to write about him -since he was such an interesting case- but for now I'll just tell you about this one incident.
          This guy joined us for a weekend away and made an entrance that reminded me of a man with a cape dashing in on horseback. Not that he literally did that but that's the image he conjured in my mind. I have noticed for the last year how new Ns I've met all seem to make this sort of entrance: noisy and creating a centrifugal force around them, almost like a tornado. I now think this is a trick designed to create a distraction so you believe their image of a "hero" when in reality they're a villain in disguise. 
          One day while we're all having breakfast he blurts out:  "There are no women geniuses, men can have that mixture of genius and madness but women can't".
          Remembering T Reddy's DH's tip of asking clarifying questions, I say:

"Why do you say that?"

He replies:"Women can give birth to children, so they couldn't have it all. So no, they can't be geniuses as well."

"Define genius" I say.

He fumbles with his phone and googles it. Then, looking ominous, he says: "you can't define genius" and then reads from wikipedia's article: "There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate."Still, I insist that there are no women geniuses."

I say: "How did you come up with this idea? Is this something that you've come to the conclusion of or have you actually read about it somewhere?"

Don Diego -we might as well call him by the name of el Zorro ;) - replies:

"Simone de Beauvior said it" 

I say: "Do you know why she said it? Did she do a study on it? Did she offer any backing for that assertion? Because really, unless you have any empirical proof, that statement is sort of moot."

He looks at me slightly confused and says:
"The only proof that I will give you is that if you think about it long enough you'll realise that it's true."

"That's not proof. In any case, you know very well that women throughout history have not had the same opportunities as men."

"They do now and there are no women geniuses"

"Nor there are men. Name a contemporary genius."

Silence. He can't come up with one. He's sinking lower in his chair. "But Simone de Beauvior said it."

"Just because someone says something, doesn't mean it's true, unless you have any real proof of this, it'll will just be your opinion but not a fact".

He goes back to insist that if I think about it long enough I'll change my mind but he's looking down and not at me while he says it. I realise that he's saying this more to convince himself than to convince me. I have disabled his argument and he knows it. 

A day later he pipes out: "I have to admit that you're the closest thing to a genius I've ever met in real life..." 

El Zorro -0, Kara and friends -1, and two, three, four... We lost count in the end of how many times we beat him. The guy didn't know what hit him. He's a good looking, well dressed, suave sort of guy who quite clearly impresses most women; he was not used to women who would challenge his assertions and not take his every word as fact.

And for the record, we weren't mean or horrible as we beat him: we simply counteracted his arguments fairly and squarely, which is more that I can say about the way he treated waiters... (and there's enough material there for a whole other post :P)


  1. Love this! Way to go! I enjoyed reading this incident. You challenged him in a fair and honest manner - direct. Love it, love it!

    Some do perceive this to be rude, why? There is no attack of his character or who he is. You clarified this thoughts and even in the end he seemed to have realised the flaw in his reasoning. Which that helped him more than he realises.

    "I realise that he's saying this more to convince himself than to convince me."

    This is an excellent point - I think when these false truths come out of them - they are trying to do this. It reminds me of many conversations with SiL where I see that maybe she is trying to convince herself. This sheds light on many conversations with many Ns.

    Well played and looking forward to hearing about the rest.

    DH says 'Thank you' for the shout out!

    xxoo TR

    1. I'm indebted to your DH ;) asking clarifying question was such a useful tool with this guy. I came to the conclusion that he needed to convince himself because if someone keeps insisting on an idea once it has been proved to have no basis, you realise there's some other emotional commitment to that idea for whatever reason that might be.


      Kara xxoo

  2. Gosh, I can't even say how many ways I love this post. You were SO incredibly COOL! those replies to him were perfect. What an awesome set of comebacks. How did you keep from getting too annoyed to respond with such logic? I mean, I know the guy is nothing to you so didn't push any personal buttons. But its a real skill to stay this cool with anyone acting like he did. As if Simone de Beauvior were the last word on women. What rock did he crawl out from under? She was also Sartre's love slave, and a notable anti-Semite! The way you describe that "swooping in" sense. I know exactly what you mean. It's the way my mother enters a space, and my father's wife. It's the way my "friend" Harry enters a space. He must've been really surprised at the way you kept coming back at his lame statements. I look forward to hearing more of these episodes, because they are very helpful to me. When I go to my father's big bash next month, many of their "friends" are megalomaniacs, and I'll have to "chat" with them (not to mention King of the Grandiose, my father). Staying cool with Spock logic is something I need to practice. love CS

    1. I think that was the key CS "the guy was nothing to me". It highlighted to me how much easier is to stay cool and not JADE when you have absolutely no emotional involvement with a person.

      "As if Simone de Beauvior were the last word on women." YES, exactly what I thought at the time. One other thing I learned from this experience is what battles to pick. Some of the stuff he brought up I completely let fall by the wayside but this was one that I was not going to let go (more on that on the next post).

      I think also what helped me to be cool was that I was very non-confrontational as I asked the questions, I didn't make it an women versus men issue (which I think it's where he wanted to go -the old battle of the sexes rubbish-) I was like "ok, I'm happy to hear your argument but you have to offer some evidence of it". I'm not sure he was expecting that, and he had no comeback for it ;)
      Kara xxoo

    2. You're absolutely right, of course. Provocative comments like "there are no women geniuses" are designed to pull you into that stupid stale "war between the sexes" crap. It's so stale it's not worth going in there. Women were kept out of science, publishing and the public eye pretty much until the nineteenth century (unless they were aristocracy or royalty). We need to give it at least another century before such blanket claims can be made. Our way of "assessing" what qualifies as "genius" is also gender-skewed. So, lesson here, I guess is when someone who isn't anything to us tries to provoke us, remind ourselves first that they are nothing to us. QED.

  3. I can't begin to say how happy this post makes me. Not only was it delightful to read, I am so happy to see how much you've grown and changed. You really are becoming a skillful Indiana Jones ;).
    And El Zorro was right on one account, you are a genius ;).

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your encounters! And I agree with CS, it's so nice to see some real examples of how to interact with people like this.

    1. Thank you Jess :) Who would have known that we'd learn so much in a year of blogging... xx

    2. I actually think we've been learning in concrete visible ways from each other. The sharing of our situations is more profoundly helpful to me than all those many dozens of books I read about dysfunctional FOOs over the years. I've learned more, grown more, from discovering there are other wonderful people who've been living similar situations to mine. The "year of blogging" has been a huge leap for me. I don't feel nearly as "alone" with my feelings as I did last June. I still remember the day I ventured into leaving a comment at CZ's. Last July. Then the terror I felt starting my own blog (about FOO discovery). Of course, there was the ugly derailment by the bullies; but even that only really helped me to learn how better to handle my own responses. The more actual exchanges you record, Kara, the more I learn from how you handle things. I think you have an ability to step back, a kind of "objective eye" even when you're feeling under the gun. It's interesting--it's always there in your voice. So I learn alot from your interactions. love CS

    3. Thanks CS It's very hard to keep an objective eye when one's under the gun, but I do try. XO