html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: My goal for the week is to be as brave and open as she is. I meant to write about a different entry of hers, though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My goal for the week is to be as brave and open as she is. I meant to write about a different entry of hers, though.

This post brought me to tears. I’ve always been alpha. I don’t even know how not to be. It’s just that we’re in a group and someone suggested a movie. That’s fine but in half an hour, the first person will get hungry. We have time to do both, as long as we take two cars, but if we are going to pick up food on the way we’ll need to leave within the next ten minutes. And then I stand there, waiting for the chain to be clear to someone else, hoping someone else will speak, because I was the bossy one last time. Two minutes… three minutes and everyone is still chatting and people still have their shoes off. Four minutes and I don’t even care, but the movie would be way more fun if someone made gin and tonics to smuggle into the theater and the group will turn surly if we wait until after to eat. Six minute… (FINE! CRAP!) You two! stand up and mix drinks! You go get the car, and you three put on your shoes. Now, so that we can grab food on the way. I’ll never understand, because there is a big difference between a fed, drunken movie and a hungry, sober movie. The chain of events and who should do what gets louder and louder in my mind; in fact, I rehearse it mentally over and over as I bite my tongue, hoping someone else will please mention the time. And you know what? I don’t even care. I don’t care if we go to the movie or we sit here all afternoon. I’ll have fun either way. But y’all said you wanted to see the matinee, and to make the showing that allows us to play catch on the beach at sunset I’ll have to be bossy one more time. It would be awesome if someone else took charge, but they just don’t and we’re gonna be late.

So I’m alpha in groups and I guess I’m alpha in relationships, too. Well, I know I’m alpha in relationships. When the ex told me he wouldn’t marry me, his exact words were “Your personality is stronger than mine and it would be a lifetime of not getting my way.” Which is a perfectly respectable reason not to marry someone. But I didn’t want my personality to be stronger than his. I wanted him to want to marry me.

That leaves me with a couple choices. I can find someone who is happy being beta or I can find someone equally alpha. I actually really like beta men; they're easy to be with. We fall right into place and I get my way a lot. You have to be alert with beta men, because they don’t read their own desires well and they don’t protect themselves. Being with someone who is naturally beta means taking on responsibility for his happiness, ‘cause he won’t. As long as he is good at something I’m not, I can respect him. I could love and be with someone who is solidly beta.

But every now and then I’ll meet someone that I am not alpha to. I mean, there are lots of people for whom alpha/beta is vague and never established. And I love being around alpha women (my girlfriend Le especially owns my ass), ‘cause we think alike. But once in a while I’ll meet a guy who isn’t beta to me at all. When I do fall for someone like that, it feels entirely different. Like I have a chance for a whole different type of relationship, with someone I can respect from the inside out. I feel like maybe I could show myself more and not be scared that it’ll be too much for him. Or I could trust him to stand up to me, call me on it when I’m not being a thoughtful partner or even just when I’m being less than I could be. Or that he might be strong enough that I don't have to be on all the time; I might even be taken care of. When I fall for a guy like that, the crush feels deeper, wrings my gut and the back of my throat and makes my breath catch.

I’ve never had the chance to find out what it would be like to be in that relationship. I barely hope for it, because it is hard enough for me to find anyone, much less one of the few men who is as alpha as I am. I have been very happy in other types of relationships and could be again. It might not work out with someone equally alpha. Maybe we would clash all the time. But maybe not. Maybe I would know for my whole life that I had married up. Maybe he would know that he did too. Maybe I would keep swooning for him, be thankful for years that I was with someone so exceptional. Maybe it would feel like more than I've ever known.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's one thing to take charge. I'm like you, I can't stand it when people can't see the obvious, if you want to do x, y and z have to be done NOW or we're not going to make it.

But, it's another thing to have to have your way with things. Being overly particular is probably a bad thing.

My g/f always wants her way in things, even when it has no effect on her. It wears thin. I don't need to have my way in everything, but I don't want to have to have an argument everytime I want to see a movie she won't like either. I don't care about being in control, but I'm going to do some of the things I want regardless of what she thinks of it.

No, I can't say I'd recommend getting into that situation, if you're the type who has to have your way, you better find someone who is very easy going, and can just deal with it. 2 people who want to be in control would just be trouble, the fighting would likely be worse than it is with me and my g/f, and that's already close to unbearable.


1:04 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

In my years of playing Ultimate it was always my impression that it appealed to what seemed to be a larger than normal number of beta men. (Almost all nice people but very...beta...I got sick of setting up the teams every damn week for pick up games.) At least in the Boston area groups I played in. I haven't played since moving to Colorado so perhaps it was something peculiar to Boston. If that is an Ultimate-wide demographic and most of your socializing is tied to Ultimate then that may explain the relative dearth of deep crushes.

In my experience, the larger the group the more of a need for The Decider to step up and make things happen. I got tired of always finding myself in that role and have in recent years opted to avoid groups larger than two or three friends. This allows a different side of my personality to be in the spotlight.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I guess you would have to be mild-mannered to choose a self-officiating sport. Hmmmm.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not true at all. What about street basketball? There's no ref there, do you think those guys are mild mannered? They're really not.


1:48 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

Yup, it's not just the self-officiating. Ultimate is non-contact. It was created by a bunch of dirty hippies. The first rule of Ultimate is "don't be a dick" (alternately read as: "don't act too much like an alpha").

Such actions as taunting of opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional fouling, or other "win-at-all-costs" behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like kind of a boring sport then. If you're not there to win at all cost, why even bother competing? Why not just play catch, or knit, or something?


2:06 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Ultimate is totally interchangeable with knitting. Like sometimes, we show up and we don't know which we want to do, knit or play disc. So we all gently hug each other and talk about our feelings. Maybe we feel like we need some warm fuzzy blankets. Then we sit and knit, and say how pretty we all are, in our own beautiful ways. Or maybe we feel like we want to sprint and lay out for discs. It can totally go either way.

Do I have to post pictures again?

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More pictures are always good. Anyway, I just don't believe in competitive non-contact sports. Competitive sports should always be contact sports, that way if you can't win, at least you can hurt your opponent.

And, if you want to see neat pictures.

probably not work safe though.


2:42 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

First, I think Sherry's guy is a dick. They're friends, so he doesn't find her unpleasant to be around (that is, I could see two 'alphas' not wanting to interact because they were butting heads all the time, but then they wouldn't be friends) and given that the conversation was in the context of making out, he's attracted to her. I can't read that as anything other than "I need to be the boss of my girlfriend." Dick. (Or, possibly "I find myself kissing you, but I'm not really all that attracted to you. I must find something gentle to say that will let you down easily. I've got it, I'll say you're too bossy." Still, dick.

More abstractly, the movie-planning behavior doesn't sound exactly, alpha, to me, if alpha means able to dominate people. The word I've always used for what you're talking about is 'Sheepdog' -- the kind of person who can convert a milling mass of people into an organized group. You're not making them do anything they don't, actively, want to do -- just making them move.

I think these I different things, because I'm way high on the alpha scale: for no good reason I can see, people are afraid to disagree with me. (A wild overstatement, but I'm apparently intimidating). But I'm zero on the sheepdog scale -- I can stand there watching the time tick away, and knowing what has to be done, and not successfully moving people. I could absolutely win an argument about "What should we do tonight", but I've got no shot of getting anyone to get their shoes on so we can go. You sound like you rate high on both.

I don't know if separating the two qualities is going to help you figure anything out, but I swear they're distinct.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sherry says he isn't a dick, we just didn't get the whole story.

I like that distinction, and sheepdog is the perfect term. It is annoying to have to keep doing it, though. All you younger brothers and sisters out there who keep with the wrestling and the giggling when the group needs to move are a bunch of freeriders.

I think I am pretty alpha too, though. People always seem willing to do what I want to do. I don't know why, it was just an idea I threw out. And they walk a half step behind me and give me shotgun and make me do the choosing. But I don't ask for those things, they just happen.

Then I hear that I am intimidating, which I don't get at all, 'cause I figure I'm goofy if anything. But it keeps coming up, so I'll keep working on why.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Aye aye aye, I am SO sheepdogish. And the sheepdog is not what I want to be because it interferes with thinking about other things. Why should I be the one worrying about being late? Because I am what I am and what I am is a sheepdog. Why is everyone else so retarded that they can't tell we're going to be late? Sorry if "retarded" seems like it is a judgement, but I mean seriously -- literally -- RETARDED.

Lizardbreath's analysis is very good, even if he's not actually a dick after all.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You know what the best ever is? The best ever is when, by chance, every person in the crowd is a sheepdog. And a few minutes ahead, they start gathering their stuff and no one needed to say anything and yet magically, we left the house.

What is the opposite of a sheepdog? because whatever that is, that's Chris. He dawdles just to be contrary, I swear.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

A sheep?

3:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

A fucking contrary sheep, who darts back into the living room to change pants and then shouts out to Anand to come look at this and oooh, Anand should know better but then I have to go get the both of them, and WHY are they playing catch with tonight's dinner when it is time to go? and HOW did I just get tackled again? Dan, you stay put in the hallway or... godDAMNit CHRIS!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

I think it's fine to be alpha in a relationship SO LONG AS you know when to battle and when to let go. And when I say let go, I mean never ever mention what you were thinking when you let go. Never say, "I was going to suggest this, but didn't because..." I mean, have the thought, and let it drift meaninglessly out of your head, never to be visited again.

You can choose to be the occasional alpha. People like that better. Men like that better. And, it will lower your self-to-self, in-head conversations over time, I promise. Learn to let go.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Group momentum is a powerful thing. If you want to do a thing, you have to push. If you want to do anything but sit around, you have to champion an option. I've always been like this. I just suggest something and push a bit and if there is no resistance, I make it happen.

However, I'm a pretty beta guy in relationships. I live to please. I'm an enabler; a beta sheepdog. This is a great position to be in if, like Megan says, the alpha is considerate and doesn't abuse the privilege of having an enabler. My girlfriend happens to be an alpha sheepdog. She sees what needs to be done and does it, often. I'm amazed when the logistics for stuff just work out because she anticipates needs and fills them. She's also clear on what she wants and never smacks my nose for being clear on what I want. So far it looks like a safe place for a beta sheepdog. :-D

Bottom line, I totally back the separation of sheepdog and alpha-ness. Sheepdogs can end up anywhere in the hierarchy.


4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About "letting it go..."

That is a good suggestion for alphas and betas alike. It's one that I have finally learned to implement and it's a lifesaver.

An integral part of letting go is _really_ letting go. You can't let resentment or incremental loss of respect build after letting to. You really need to say to yourself, "I respect this choice/option as much as what I'd have chosen and I let my option go..."

-- Tim.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

That was an interesting read. I can relate to many parts of it. Being an only child for the early part of my life set in motion a lot of independence and getting it done behavior. My aunts all think I'm too independent, and as a result guys are intimidated and unwilling to date me. I constantly wonder if my take charge attitude is a turn off because I seem less feminine.

I don't mind being a sheep but will step up when things aren't moving along. You also can a learn a thing or two by stepping back and watching others.

I don't mind being an alpha about day-to-day activities. My friends know, appreciate, and make fun of how organized and detailed I can be. However, I would not feel comfortable dating a beta man who is not proactive about personal goals (e.g. financial or career). That should not be for the girlfriend wife to decide (though input can be sought). It's been a turn-off with men I've dated. And certainly, if I had to plan all of my own anniversaries, I'd be a bit frustrated. ;)

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traditionally the contrarian, as contrast to sheep, would be a goat.


Fuck the sheepdog business, I was the shepherd. Now I'm done with that.


5:55 PM  
Anonymous Sven said...

Megan, I would be interested to know how you think the alpha/beta issue relates to recent posts about strong/weak preferences. It sounds like you have a weak preference for a particular movie but have a strong preference for making a decision and following through. Your friends may be in the reverse situation, wanting to see a particular movie but weak preference for following through. I have a number of close friends with whom I have a much stronger relationship now that I see their behavior in these terms. When I want to accomplish something and somehow fail I feel a sense of regret. I have noticed that these friends do not see a missed opportunity. For them the plan is not "see the movie at 7:15 on Friday" it is simply "see the movie in the future" that we missed our showing on Friday was unfortunate but the underlying plan is unchanged and the opportunity still exists. When I get frustrated with how they fail to act on their preferences I am projecting how I would feel if it were my plan.

Sorry, that went on a bit....
It just seems like the two issues are related. You mentioned that you feel a deeper respect for romantic partners who are also alphas. In earlier posts you had mentioned that you cannot understand people who have weak preferences in regard to what you perceive as very distinct things. When someone has strong preferences how do they behave? weak preferences?

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why is everyone else so retarded that they can't tell we're going to be late? Sorry if "retarded" seems like it is a judgement, but I mean seriously -- literally -- RETARDED."

Actually, more literally than you think, probably. "Retard" from Latin "retardare"-- "to make slow, delay, keep back, hinder." Think of the modern French term for "running late," which is "en retard." First recorded usage in English in 1426. "Mentally slow" usage first seen in 1895. Current usage meaning "stupid person" originated in 1960s.

See "" for more.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Especially if it is the same ex that cheated on you with your friend) Please never give credit to what someone tells you about YOU when they are dumping you.

A lifetime of not getting his own way!!!! Phooey. If it is a good match your way and his way will be the same a lot of the time. Like those sheepdogs. And you can both try to have some fun when you do it someone else's way. Alpha Beta Crappola. Good for you - getting everyone to the movie with full bellies and drink in hand. Bravo.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

To their credit, the ex broke it off with me a year or so before they dated.
Yes, I would like for our ways to overlap a lot.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, he didn't actually cheat on you? Not that jumping from you to your best friend is such a great thing either. But I'd been under the impression that he was cheating on you with her.


2:24 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Did NOT actually cheat on me.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Trevor said...

Wow. This post, together with Sherry's make me feel pretty bad about the times I've told friends of mine that were girls that they were a bit intimidating. And I never really considered that a bad thing, it was always just that you didn't mess around with [name], because you knew she could school you. And come to think of it, L was a little distressed when she asked me if I was intimidated by her and I confessed I was. Maybe next time I see her I'll holler, "Come on! You don't scare me!"

Is this a common phenomenon? The only girls that have ever asked if they intimidate me were in happy relationships at the time (and to my knowledge, still are), but I also can't think of any female peers that do intimidate me that haven't asked about it at some point.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say, I much prefer seeing a movie sober on an empty stomach. Just sayin'.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

It bothers me when I think it means that I've missed opportunities with boys I liked. Don't know if it is common, but it has come up repeatedly for me and I very consciously work to be friendly and easy to approach.

12:02 anonymouse:
You're watching the wrong movies.

11:33 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home