July 2009


MY CV

The other day, I happened to follow a link to something on the CNN website: 43 weird things said in job interviews. I found the weird things very funny. Except for one of them. In answer to, “Use three adjectives to describe yourself,” the interviewee said, “I hate questions like this.”

I didn’t laugh at that one. I stared at the screen askance. Oh my God! Did I say that? Well, I might have done. But, if I said it, I didn’t mean, I hate you for asking that question. I meant, I hate having to answer that question, because I tend to underrate myself and because I can’t think straight at interviews. The three adjectives that spring to mind now are: quiet, nervous and weird, although, given some more time, I could come up with intelligent, meticulous and friendly. At an interview, I probably wouldn’t be able to answer at all.

At this point, I could continue to talk about job interviews, or I could continue down a different path, and, as job interviews are not a happy topic as far as I’m concerned, I’ll move on to the other.

So, you’re talking to your mother-in-law and she complains about someone who was rude to her. What’s your first thought? I know what mine is: Oh dear, maybe I’ve behaved in that way, too.

A colleague tells you he’s just been dismissed. What do you think? I think: If he’s going, surely they’ll get rid of me, too. Whatever he’s done, I must have done.

Do you do that, too?

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Alien outside circle

Not funny ha-ha. Funny peculiar. Peculiar for me, that is.

I spent my childhood on the edge of the social circle, always looking for the way in, but never finding it. I spent most of my adulthood locking myself away from society and its imagined dangers. Divulging anything about myself that was a bit sensitive has always been hard due to conflicting voices within me. And also because no one would reciprocate. Why would anyone want to confide in me when they have so many others to choose from?

So, I was surprised when I received the email from J that I mentioned before. Just because it’s unusual for me to find myself in the position of confidante. And I felt that J deserved a serious and helpful reply.

J’s problem was not one that I knew about through personal experience, although I had read about it before. So I was hoping for some responses to my questions. On reflection, it’s not surprising that there weren’t any. Like J, anyone with experience of it probably wouldn’t want to announce it.

Do you tell all or keep things to yourself? How do you decide who to tell?

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Plagiarism

There are two cases of plagiarism that I remember from my past. One occurred when I was doing translation work for some students. One of the students (A) was having a lot of difficulty writing his piece. So one of the others (B) lent A hers, so that he could get an idea of the type of writing that was required. When A finally handed me his piece to translate, I realised that most of it was copied word for word from B’s. This made my work of translating much easier, as I was able to copy from my previous translation. I did tell B about that.

A so-called “psychologist” advertised himself on the Internet, using text copied from another site. I happened to remember that I’d read this before and checked to make sure. I didn’t do anything about it. Perhaps I should have done.

There are those who say that all work should be freely available to everyone to do what they want with it. That’s fair up to a point. But I would be very hurt if someone won a prize for work that I’d done, or even if my blog post appeared on another blog, attributed to someone else.

That’s why I’m joining the campaign against plagiarism, which is being organised today on How Publishing Really Works.

If you want to quote from my blog, I shall feel honoured – as long as you say that it’s a quote and include a link back here.

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Beauty and the Beast

Beauty is only skin deep, they say. But how “only” is “only”?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. Yet, many beholders seem to agree with each other. But so what? Who cares? Why should looks matter?

Many people whose bodies look less than perfect seem happy and confident. Many others are unhappy with their bodies, although they look fine.

If I sound confused, it’s because I am. I’ve always been happy with my body. When I was younger, I knew that men were attracted to my body, but later turned off by my personality, or apparent lack of it. My “issues” have never been affected by my body or my view of it.

The cause of my recent reflections on body image is an email I received from J, someone I’ve known for a long time. J read my blog and wondered how much social anxiety is affected by body image. J, it transpires, has often refrained from taking part in conversations because of J’s body image, i.e. being fat.

I was stunned by this email for two reasons, and had to reread it to make sure this is really what it said. My first reaction was, “But J isn’t fat and never has been!” Also, I’ve always thought of J as outgoing and talkative. How could I have failed to notice? Well, maybe because I’ve always seen J in friendly, non-threatening situations – situations in which even I have talked a fair amount. And maybe I was too wrapped up in my own problems, although I don’t think that’s true – I tend to be a good observer.

I looked up BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). As far as I know, the definition is too strong for J. But I do know that some sufferers of social anxiety also suffer from BDD, and poor body image has caused them to withdraw from society.

It’s hard for me to understand all this, just as it’s hard for some to understand social anxiety. I believe that it’s a big problem, but don’t really understand why. Why do some people have poor images of their bodies and why should this affect their participation in society?

The other reason why I was stunned by the email is a topic for another post.

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hint fiction (n) : a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story

Changing wordsI’ve just written my entries for a competition of hint fiction at http://www.robertswartwood.com/?page_id=8. I don’t expect that any of my entries will be chosen over the many others for the forthcoming anthology of hint fiction, but I’ve enjoyed the experience of composing them. I enjoyed pondering over each word, wondering whether it best suits its purpose, whether its meaning is exactly the one I want in this particular place.

When you’re allowed no more than twenty-five words, you have to use the best ones you can find. In a novel of fifty thousand words or more, you try to do the same, but there’s a limit to the amount of time you can spend getting it just right. Writing a novel is more of a balancing act.

When you talk, you have practically no time to choose your words. And that leads to embarrassment, if you’re me. It leads to wishing you’d expressed something in a different way or wishing you hadn’t said it at all. And that, in turn, leads to refraining from talking. If you’re me.

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AliensI was delighted to see that at least two people identified with the sentiments of my last post. Delighted that they really got it. Why? Why do I care whether others feel the same way as I do?

As children, our natural tendencies are to want to be like everyone else. We fear being singled out as “different”. But as we grow up, we don’t mind that so much. We even want to be different, to be individuals, not one of the herd. Up to a point. Because if we’re too different, we’re considered weird and that’s not good.

So we hail our individuality and then seek out similar individuals. We form groups of individuals who are all the same. Because really, most of us don’t want to be different at all.

People who suffer from social anxiety feel very different. They know that others think they’re weird and this increases their discomfort in society and causes them to hide from it. Most people who join a social anxiety forum say this: “I thought I was the only one in the world with these problems. I’m so glad to have found other people who go through what I go through.”

This is one of the reasons why I want to publicise the disorder. To help sufferers to feel less isolated in a tough world. We all need to connect to others who understand.

No man is an island, entire of itself.” ~John Donne (1572 – 1631)

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