Saturday, January 28, 2006

Gamma boys

Such an engrossing discussion over on VD's blog, all about Alpha and Gamma and Domination and thrilling things like that. I would have written it myself except that I was sleeping. I do sleep too much. It's one of my few flaws. However, my dear VD was kind enough to make a suggestion:

It would be interesting if you would attempt to explain the appeal of the Alpha male and the lack of appeal of the Gamma male from the female perspective.

The workings are a mystery to me, having been taught from day one that women just want men to be kind, gentle listeners, but observing completely the opposite. Thus, I know the What, but I don't understand the How or the Why.

Kind, gentle listeners! Why, certainly! We want you to be kind, gentle listeners on the morning after you have lifted us off our feet, tossed us into the loft, given us four orgasms and fallen asleep in a blissful pool of mingled sweat and pheromones. Silly boys. They always get their sequence wrong.

(They're not always very good at the orgasm part, either. But that is Mr. Savage's column, not mine.)

Sigh. Fascinating as this discussion is, with all its sweeping socio-political-cultural-biological generalizations, so much of it boils down to chemistry. Chemistry is a wonky and unfathomable thing, and beyond the scope of my analysis. Thank goodness. There must be some room for mystery.

However, I am moved to focus my discussion on those gray situations when there might be chemistry, or there might not, and Something Goes Wrong. While doing so I may touch upon Alpha behavior, or faux-Alpha, or Gamma, or Alphas who mimic Gammas and thus shoot themselves in the foot. I am not entirely sure. All of these scientific categorizations get beyond me sometimes.

I will tell you, then, about my buddy Gerry. For lack of a better definition, I will label Gerry an Alpha-Gam. He was certainly not Beta, at any rate; noted for his his charm, his Grateful Dead bandanas, and his degree in engineering, he had, to my certain knowledge, a harem of politically correct women scratching each other's eyeballs out over him. Gerry was a notorious serial monogamist. He would have the next lucky girl lined up even as he was tactfully and sorrowfully engineering the demise of his current relationship. One of the girls in the lineup was my dear friend Beth; she philosophically accepted her fate, even as she pined, when Gerry strategically moved to Dallas to get away from her.

Gerry and I were generally on the best of terms, though never close. Imagine my surprise when, upon his return from Dallas, I was informed by the rumor mill that Gerry had staked me out for his next girlfriend. Beth told me so herself. Gerry backed up the rumors with a series of knowing looks, and suggestions that I show up at his cooperative for dinner some evening.

Of course Gerry had my phone number; of course I would never consider inviting myself for dinner uninvited. That would not be polite. When my phone did not ring I naturally assumed dear Gerry had changed his mind.

Later that summer I found myself entangled with the incandescent, psychotic Williams graduate, who happened to be boarding at Gerry's cooperative. We went to dinner together; I greeted Gerry with warmth and friendship. Later my sister, who dwelled in the cooperative next door, told me that Gerry had dropped by, in a powerful sulk. "Your sister's over there," he declared. "She wouldn't come when I asked her, but she's over there now."

And, sadly, it seemed that Gerry never did get over it. He was vaguely snarky in my company right up to the day I moved to San Francisco, and in fact I ran into him at a Grateful Dead concert and he was snarky then. "I didn't think you were into the Dead," he said. He was right, I wasn't. Ugh. How I suffered.

When telling a girlfriend this story, years later, I phrased it like this: "he crooked his finger, and I didn't come running." She replied, "Good for you." But there wasn't anything good about it. It truthfully did not occur to me to come running. I expect that a truly confident gentleman has the courage to make himself vulnerable--to pick up the phone and say, 'you are a fascinating woman. Will you do me the honor of having dinner with me?' Anything else is ego.

But perhaps the story is no story at all; perhaps there was never any chemistry, as I said. I don't know. Certainly Gerry's sulks did not make him more endearing, although I continue to bear him no grudge.

I would say that this incident is perhaps an isolated case of an Alpha's failing to get his girl, but that such things have continued to happen to me on a fairly regular basis in years since. The pattern is generally the same; I am on friendly terms with an acknowledged Alpha, he crooks his finger, I look at the finger and raise my eyebrow, he storms off in a lasting huff. When I boil it down it really does look like pure egotism. I certainly would not call these men my friends. Friendship does not appear to be possible with a man like that.

I would, however, term such finger-crooking as 'passive-aggressive.' Interest has certainly been communicated, but not directly acknowledged. I frown upon such rot. As I said, a genuine Alpha takes his rejection on the chin or not at all.

So I am not sure what we are dealing with. Perhaps I will take refuge in Jane Austen. "By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."

But then, Mr. Darcy is a fictional character.

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