“This isn’t a court case!”

A common problem I come across in debates is the accusation that I’m talking or thinking too much “like a lawyer” – the implication being that legal concepts and analogies belong solely in the realm of litigation and should be left there.

I always try to remain calm and logical in debates, but this accusation is second only to the “straw man” fallacy when it comes to genuinely winding me up in that environment.

The argument usually raises its head when I use terminology often (though not exclusively) found in law – such as the phrase “burden of proof” – or when I use a hypothetical court case as an analogy.  For example, my opponent might make an assertion in support of their stance on an issue and I might attack that assertion as being unsubstantiated, e.g. the assertion that violent computer games influence their players to act violently in real life.  I will point out that they can’t prove that this is true, which means their argument is invalid.  They will retort that I can’t prove that it’s *not* true, I will respond that the burden of proof is on them not me as they are the ones making an assertion of fact, and hey presto: “this isn’t a court case”.

Here’s my problem with this line of argument: the only part of courtroom advocacy that isn’t always applicable outside of the courtroom is the specific content of the black letter law itself.*  Other than that, it’s merely a debate at a very high level – higher than most people can be bothered with.  I have to focus like a laser on *exactly* what the issue is.  If I make an assertion then I have to back that assertion up with something.  And any evidence I do put forward in support of my position will be rigorously analysed.  What I can’t do is demand that my interlocutors simply take my word for it and start crying and calling them names if they don’t.  You put up or shut up.

It seems to me that, as long as you actually believe in liberal democracy, this way of thinking and arguing is no less applicable to the social sciences than it is to the law, yet people do often seem to apply a more lax attitude towards proof.  And it matters, because every time you ask the government to ban X or to regulate Y you are interfering with people’s freedom to do as they please.  If there is no compelling evidence that violent video games cause their players to behave violently in real life then there is no proper basis for banning them.  If there is no compelling evidence that exposure to porn causes viewers to adopt misogynistic attitudes then there is no proper basis for banning it.  And I ask my readers (whomever they may be) to bear in mind that correlation does not imply causation when considering those examples.

The result of applying a less rigorous attitude towards debates is that people simply spout platitudes at each other, talk past each other and get wound up.  Take the abortion debate, for example: the pro-choice camp say it’s about a woman’s right to have dominion over her own body and accuse their opponents of misogyny, but that’s not the basis on which the pro-life camp oppose abortion.  They oppose it because, in their opinion, a foetus is a human life indistinguishable from any other and it is therefore wrong to terminate it.  Any pro-choice argument – such as the sympathy we may feel for a young woman who didn’t feel ready to raise a child or even one who had been raped – would go up in smoke if we were talking about killing a baby who had already been born, even for the most ardent feminist, so the pro-life camp would argue that abortion is no different in principle, it’s just that out of sight (i.e. inside the womb) is out of mind.  So the debate actually turns on two simple questions – does a foetus count as a human life, and if not, why not?

***

I’m a big fan of the philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris.  He is not a lawyer, but I feel he argues on a level rarely seen outside of the law.  He has attracted a lot of false accusations of Islamphobia and racism because he criticises Islam and deems it more dangerous than other religions.  Sometimes I think the people making these accusations are deliberately libelling him, but sometimes I think they’re just too thick to argue on his level and understand the subtle distinctions he is making.  To paraphrase his interview with Cenk Uygur from the Young Turks, in which he tried to clear the air on this issue:

“I think it is fine to assert that some religions are more worthy of criticism than others.  For example, Mormonism is objectively less likely to be true than Christianity, because while it’s unlikely that Jesus will come back one day, it’s even less likely to say that he will come back in Jackson County, Missouri.”

Cenk’s response was “Lol Sam, how can Jesus’ coming back to Missouri be any less likely than his coming back to Jerusalem”.  But that’s not what Sam said.  He didn’t say anything about Jerusalem.  Jerusalem vs Jackson County is not the point.

Ultimately I think the “this isn’t a court case” argument is simply an excuse.  If you use it then you are conceding that you can’t or won’t back up what you’re saying.  Game over.

* A slight caveat here is that the black letter law sometimes IS relevant in debates.  For example, people often rant about the Human Rights Act without knowing what it actually says.

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For Frida

I once watched this TED talk about depression (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drv3BP0Fdi8) in which Dr Stephen Ilardi explained that the most effective treatment for depression is physical exercise.  It’s far stronger than even the most powerful anti-depressant drugs you can get.

I’m into lifting weights, and I can say I’ve experienced the transformative effects of exercise first-hand.  Although my numbers are nothing to write home about at this stage, they are steadily going up, and I feel like the king of the world when I’ve finished.  My post-workout mood is the only time I ever feel truly relaxed.

I tried cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) once, and while I have some reservations about it, one point I did take away was that you sometimes have to force yourself to do the things you enjoy.  That sounds like an oxymoron, but really it isn’t.  When you’re depressed, you may feel like you just want to curl up into a ball on your bed and forget about the world, which only leads to spiralling further downwards.  You have to see the warning signs, grab yourself by the scruff of the neck and make yourself do something you enjoy – then, once you get stuck in, you will feel better.

Over the years I’d say I’ve been very dedicated to my work and to furthering my career.  But I think something has to give now.  I have therefore made an executive decision to force myself to leave work on time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so that I can get to the gym and do my thing.  It’s important for both my mental health and my physical health.  I need to take my weight training seriously – not just as a casual hobby that I dip in and out of, but as a real priority that other things have to fit around – work included.  I’ve fallen off the wagon before when I got busy.   I need to stop doing that.  And who knows – maybe my work will benefit from a calmer mind.  It’s time to take charge of my destiny.

I mentioned above that I had reservations about CBT.  Essentially, I like the thought that I am solving my problems, not merely learning to live with them, which feels like accepting defeat.  I also don’t like the idea that I need to “change my perspective” in order to feel happier, because this assumes that the problem is all in my head and that my negative outlook couldn’t possibly be based on an accurate assessment of the facts.

But maybe there’s more to it than that.   I’m an atheist, but I think about the message in the story of Joseph in the Bible – in particular, the part about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.  Joseph advised the Pharoah to stockpile resources during the plentiful years so that Egypt could survive the coming famine.

I can’t make my current situation work as a perfect analogy to the story of Joseph.  But I think you can get the gist.  Lifting weights is not a miracle cure for the loneliness and emptiness I often feel.  It won’t deliver the love of my life and a circle of close friends to my doorstep tomorrow.  But while I’m waiting for those people to arrive, I can work on making myself fitter, healthier and more fun to be around.  That’s CBT.

Frida was the cognitive behavioural therapist I saw a good couple of years ago now.  I know I was hard work.  She cared so much that I actually ended up feeling sorry for her by the end of it.  And I doubt very much that she is reading this now.  But I hope she knows it wasn’t all in vain and that I really did move forward in the end.

Thank you for everything, Frida.  I’m sorry I was so difficult.

The Road Ahead

As I write this, I’m aware that I’m up far too late.  I was just going to turn in after a House of Cards session (God that show’s addictive!), but then I had a flash of inspiration regarding my difficulties with dating.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends drove up to Manchester with me to visit another best friend of ours.
The journey up to Manchester took several hours, but it was a lot of fun.  We hadn’t seen each other in months, but as always, it felt like only five minutes had passed.  We had a great time blasting out some music, telling crude jokes and reminiscing about the old days, but also catching up on where we were now in our lives.

Now imagine how it would have gone if we’d had a futuristic teleporter rather than a car.  As fun as the car journey was, neither of us would have chosen it over the option of simply teleporting to Manchester in an instant.

My perspective on relationships is like that.  And to be honest, I think this may be where I’m going wrong most of the time.

Most people want the car journey.  I want the teleporter.  From their perspective, the journey is half the fun and I’m spoiling it like the annoyingly impatient kid in the back seat who constantly says “are we there yet”, whereas I don’t get why they are deliberately choosing to make the journey take longer than it has to.

Maybe the way forward is to be more patient.

Fading Love, Part 2: To Forgive, Divine

Once upon a time, I had a girlfriend at law school.  I became concerned that she was not really interested in hanging out with me for all the reasons I outlined in my previous post.  Cancelling with lame excuses?  Check (hers was that she was busy due to studying, which I didn’t buy because I was also at law school).  Upset that I had deleted her from Facebook before?  Check.  Going back out with me afterwards but acting uncomfortable?  Check.  Restricting non-face-to-face communication to texts and instant messages and never answering calls?  Check.  Me making all of the effort?  Check.  Due to a combination of fancying her a lot and wanting to believe her, I couldn’t quite bring myself to pull the plug at that time.  But she was aware that I had suspicions.

One night, we were supposed to go out on a date.  At the last minute, she asked if I would mind doing more of a joint social evening with her best friend who she hadn’t seen for ages.  From behind my phone screen, I grimaced at the thought, particularly because this would inevitably mean tolerating the presence of her other friend who she lived with, as this was a guy who fancied her like mad and would always turn up joined to her at the hip in any social event that wasn’t explicitly a one-on-one date so that he could hover and buy her drinks all night.  But I gritted my teeth and said “yeah sure”.  So we went out with her friends.

But then something interesting happened.  She messaged me after she got home.  She told me she was so grateful that I had cut her a bit of slack and let her see her friend that evening.  And for a short while, the roles reversed and she was the one initiating contact and generally making effort.  Though we broke up in the end as I just couldn’t believe her.

Years later, I came across a female friend with whom I fell madly in love.  Truly, madly, deeply, as Darren Hayes would say.  I knew she had a boyfriend (whom she later married) so I didn’t make a move.  However, a mutual friend went and blabbed my crush to her anyway.  She said I should have been honest with her and told her how I felt, but I told her that I hadn’t wanted to jeopardise our friendship by making her feel uncomfortable when there was no chance she would leave her (then) boyfriend.  She said she understood and insisted that there was no way she would stop wanting to see me.

While we were officially just friends, and there were certain physical lines I never overstepped, she was obviously aware of how I felt and she even claimed to feel the same way towards me.  Her other half was, from what she told me, violent, controlling, immature and as thick as two short planks.  What he was doing with such an amazing, intelligent, beautiful lawyer was beyond me and I told her as much because he upset her.  At this point, I felt less guilty about openly asking her out or at least to leave him.

Once again, this friend kept making excuses to cancel at the last minute and it became a source of tension between us.  If she got the slightest whiff of an idea that I didn’t believe her she became very defensive and angry, saying she wished I knew what a day in her life looked like.  Supposedly it was because she had an Asian family so there were always these big events like weddings that she totally forgot about and couldn’t get out of.  Now, on those times when we were together, it certainly felt like she was having a good time too and she said as much… and some of the occasions when we arranged to meet were her idea… but I found it hard to believe that anyone had to cancel as frequently as she did.  So my usual suspicions were in play.

The last time I saw her was when she had this conference in London.  The idea was that she would have a small window after the conference finished to at least have a coffee or perhaps a meal before heading back.  And it was her idea.

I waited and waited for her in the coffee shop at the train station.  She told me she had been held up at the conference and she wasn’t sure what time she was going to get out.  I became worried that she was simply laying the groundwork so that she could cancel again.  But I chose to trust her.  I got her her favourite coffee – a mocha – for her to have when she arrived.

When she finally arrived, she gave me a huge hug.  She couldn’t stop talking and asking me questions about what I’d been up to.  She had so much she wanted to talk to me about that I could barely get a word in – but she managed to laugh at my jokes regardless.  She checked the train times on her phone to see if she could simply get a later train so that she could spend time with me – even sacrificing her pre-paid tickets to do so – but ultimately concluded that she really had to go so that she could work on this big case for tomorrow.  I said that was fine and we would catch up again some other time.  As she was leaving, she planted the biggest kiss ever on my cheek.

In the days that followed, once again, the roles reversed.  She was texting me multiple times a day to  tell me she was so grateful that I hadn’t been angry with her for being late to meet me, that she missed me or even to just send a random “X”.  I confessed the full extent of my feelings for her.  She said she felt guilty about how much she missed me when I wasn’t around, which was strange because we met in person relatively infrequently, and while she didn’t use the exact phrase “I love you”, she said things that insinuated that and kept saying that we really needed to meet soon.  Ultimately this line of conversation had to stop because she became worried about her abusive husband would do if he saw the messages we had exchanged.

The point I’m driving at is… maybe some people really do just find it hard to cope with situations in life.  What sounds like a lame excuse to me is genuine and heartfelt for them.  And when I’ve shown compassion and understanding, despite my cynical instinct, they have been very grateful for my cutting them slack.  Perhaps I’m really not this dull, tiresome guy that they needed to make excuses to avoid – at least in some cases.  Perhaps I really have been harsh and cut people out of my life unnecessarily.  Perhaps I have tarred too many people with the same brush.

I look back over the last few years and I think about all the arguing that’s resulted from my obsession with this issue and all the suffering I’ve inflicted upon myself as a result.  The exams I couldn’t concentrate on because I was too hurt.  The martial arts and fitness routines I never made significant gains with because I kept assuming there was no point and I would never be happy.  The junk food I’ve wasted money on as a source of comfort that only made me fat.  The worry I’ve put my friends and family through by constantly beating  myself up.

I once read that resentment was like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.  When you’ve been mistreated by people who took advantage of your better nature you can be tempted to take a very harsh, critical line to protect yourself from history repeating itself.  But I’ve had enough poison.  It’s left me fat, bitter and less likeable.

It’s time to stop.  It’s time to let go.  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to forgive.

Fading Love, Part 1: the Rage

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog.  But I recently saw an excellent post on another blog that inspired me to get blogging again (https://lessonsinkindness.tumblr.com/post/163865541215/sweating-the-small-stuff).

The premise of the post I’ve linked to is that your upbringing can sometimes lead to a set of expectations you carry around with you that not everyone else shares, or aspirations in respect of which not everyone does more than pay lip service, and eventually you can reach a point where you just accept that certain people are beyond hope and you can give yourself a break accordingly.

This will be the first of two posts in which I give my thoughts on a topic that has caused me an incredible amount of frustration over the years for this exact reason – I wonder if the standards I expect from people, based on how I was taught to behave, are unrealistically high.  My mind is still not entirely made up on the issue, so each part will offer a different perspective.  If I haven’t bored you already, then read on…

I get very upset when people I care about flake on me or simply stop making an effort the way they  used to.  Perhaps unreasonably so.  It does, perhaps, preoccupy my mind a disproportionate amount.  But it makes me so angry.  I mean, really angry.  It’s something that I’ve mostly experienced in my love life, but in recent years I’ve noticed it creeping into friendships too.

The effect of this issue has been amplified recently because I’m all on my own at the moment.  I moved far away to take a job, so I don’t get to see my old friends as much as I’d like to and I’ve yet to put down roots down here.  If someone bails on me with a lame excuse then it means another weekend staring at the walls, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Monday.

To be clear, I’m not some kind of socialising Nazi.  I understand that people have other commitments in life and I can’t expect them to come running whenever I click my fingers.  I also understand that people can be disorganised and innocently double-book themselves.  Finally, I also understand that people may go through periods of being withdrawn due to some traumatic event going on in their lives.

However, there are people who do their best and there are people who clearly don’t.  I have an old friend who is the director of an engineering company, lives far away from me, has a wife who also has a high-powered job and has a three-year old daughter.  We can’t see each other as much as we used to and I understand the reasons why.  But we still do what we can and I trust him completely.  We recently took a Friday off work to go and visit a third member of our group in Manchester.  We do it because it matters.   Hell, I even have friends in other countries who I have managed to meet up with.

In contrast, if you work a normal 9-5, Monday-Friday job, live just round the corner from me and don’t have any responsibilities outside of work, I find it hard to buy that you are just “too busy” to meet up with me.  I really don’t believe you couldn’t find one hour on the weekend, over the course of several months, to have a coffee and a catch-up.  The former friend who I’m clearly alluding to here went from a bromance wherein he asked me to be his best man to downgrading me to an usher and just disappearing completely once he got married – at no point did we have an argument, and at no point was any of the reasoning behind this discussed with me.

The reason I take it so personally when people fade out is that it gives you an insight into how much of a priority you really are for them.  In my mind, actions speak louder than words, and if people want to see you they will find the time to do it.  If someone simply can’t be bothered to sustain the friendship the minute the slightest bit of inconvenience raises its head then it makes me feel like I just don’t matter to them as much as I thought we did.  The same goes for if they give me an excuse but then appear to have time to hang out with other friends.  I feel stupid, I feel used and I feel betrayed.  Because I would never do that to someone I care about.  I can’t even imagine wanting to.

It’s upsetting for me when this happens with friends.  But at least I have other friends.  When it happens in my love life – and it happens a lot – I see red.  It makes me feel like there really is no hope because I just can’t expect people to be as reliable or direct as I would like them to be.  Someone I thought I had a connection with just lost interest without having a specific reason.

I remember lying in bed one night with a girl I was seeing at the time.  I remember the conversation like it was five minutes ago.

“Rambling Aspy… can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why are you single?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you are good looking, you are nice, good at cooking… I just don’t understand.”

This girl basically went from thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread to declaring that she didn’t have any feelings for me whatsoever and she was freaking out about it.

If it were just one or two people doing this, then I’d just brush it off as a couple of crazies, but it happens over and over and over again.  How can I ever feel secure in a relationship?  How can I ever be confident and happy that I’ve got over the line and everything is going to be OK?  When will I finally know that I’ve got to the promised land?

But the strangest thing of all is the way these people react when I call them out for their behaviour.  They beg and plead for me to believe their bullshit.  They act incredibly hurt that I don’t believe their excuses – particularly if I (shock horror!) delete them from Facebook.  Some say it’s a cold and harsh thing to do; that I should at least talk to them if they’re being a bad friend; and that maybe they’re just not as good at balancing commitments as I am.  But to me, it’s not about being a bad friend.  It’s about priorities.  If you really like someone, then meeting up with them shouldn’t be seen as this big chore that you have to make excuses to get out of.  In my experience, the best case scenario when you try to reason with people about why they’re drifting away from you is that they start making a bit more of an effort out of guilt – perhaps they just don’t want to be perceived as the villains of the piece – but they are clearly uncomfortable in your presence.  At the end of the day, if your heart’s not in it anymore then there’s nothing either of us can do and it’s time for me to cut my losses.   If you can’t help feeling the way you do then you can’t help it.  I can’t force you to meet my expectations of a friend, however sad it makes me.

Just don’t expect me to call you a friend.  Because you’re not.

Next!

It’s been a long time since my last post on here.  A lot has happened since then and I am not so sure if I even have Aspergers as it seems that five different medical professionals will give you five different answers.  What I do known is that I have very low tolerance levels for certain things and that commonly touted excuses and rationalisations for those things don’t wash with me.  This is particularly so when it comes to trying to understand the rituals of dating.

In my early 20s I became familiar with an online community known as “the seduction community” or “pickup artists (PUAs).  They are a controversial group and I don’t know how much I buy into what they say.  But I have been thinking today and I have come to the conclusion that they are right about one or two things.

Before I go into what those things are, I will explain what PUAs are all about.  Essentially, their community consists of a core of self-styled dating gurus and an outer core of fans.  There are numerous sub-sects within the community, but they are united in their adherence to one basic premise: that mainstream dating advice is fundamentally flawed as it confuses what women often say they want in a partner with what they actually go for in reality.  According to their argument, supplicating to women as traditional advice suggests merely makes you look weak, unmanly and destined to remain in the friend zone.  Instead, you want to look like you are a high status man with plentiful options so that girls will tend to feel like they have to work for you rather than the other way round.  Among the most famous PUAs is the author Neil Strauss.

As stated above, PUAs have attracted a fair amount of controversy because of how they purport to describe how women think and feel in less than flattering terms.  PUAs respond to this criticism by saying that they are simply responding to what women actually want on an instinctive level and that, therefore, by definition, what they are doing is a good thing.

Personally I don’t know how far down the PUA road I want to travel.  That’s not because I think they are sexist as charged, because at the end of the day, people want what they want and it does seem to work from what I’ve seen.  It’s mainly because I just don’t want to have to play head games to keep women interested as some of them advocate.  My assessment is that, once you get beyond a few basic pointers, you are really talking about amassing notches on your bedpost, and speaking as someone who really does want a serious relationship, I detest the thought of having to play head games to keep someone interested.

But there are some real gems among those basic pointers, and one of those is the concept of “nexting”.  This is the idea that the solution to 90% of the problems men encounter during dating is to just go and have sex with more women so that this one loss doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  And this is the argument that really does resonate with me.

It sounds very cold, harsh and perhaps even sexist – making it sound like you should treat women as sex objects and nothing more.  I say that this criticism is unfair.  Let’s consider it for a moment.

The desire to have sex is natural and harmless in and of itself.  Even if you (like me) are the kind of guy who would rather have a stable relationship than sleep around, you still need to be able to establish sexual attraction if you want to be seen as more than a friend.  And this element is extremely arbitrary and frustrating.  You can be as nice as pie and still get told that they just don’t “click” with you or feel a “spark” with you.  You are also aware that people may not tell you the bare truth because they feel awkward doing so.  Trying to understand their real reasons in an attempt to satisfy your hunger for justice and logic will simply drive you mad.  All you can really do is recognise that you made a bad investment, “next” the girl in question and stop wasting your time.  There are some people you just can’t win with and some problems you really can’t solve.  Life is too short.

The lens

It can be tempting, once you have been diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder, to try and view every issue you have come across in your life through that lens.  It’s a bit like when you read the horoscope and think “wow, that’s so accurate!”.

But I think, in my case, that some of the clashes I have experienced in life have had more to do with a difference in mentality than anything to do with my condition.

When I worked at a law firm as a paralegal, I absolutely hated it.  My boss and I just could not see eye to eye.  I feel like I could write a whole book about what annoyed me, but in the interests of brevity, I will concentrate on the following major issues:

1) My boss would turn me away when I informed him that I had completed the tasks that he had set for me, but then complain that I wasn’t doing enough work.

2) My boss would complain about me missing my billing target, but then lumber me with even more non-billable work.

3) My boss would pressure me into working beyond my contracted hours and taking it home with me, insisting that this was absolutely necessary if I wanted to make it as a lawyer “worth his salt”.  This even extended to doing extra reading in my own time.  I wondered what the point of having contracted hours was if this were the case.

4) My boss would ask me to do X, I would then do X, then he would complain that I had not also done Y and Z that he never actually asked me to do.  This was the one that really drove me mad, and I got seriously tired of being dragged down to the meeting room for a bollocking over it.

An example of what I mean is this situation: one Thursday afternoon, my boss asked me to research a point of law for a conference he was due to have with a client the following Tuesday.  So I came in Friday morning, ready to go.  However, my colleague needed urgent help getting a bundle together to send to court.  So I decided to put back what I was doing as my colleague’s task was far more urgent, which seemed perfectly sensible to me, and continue with my boss’ task on Monday.

When Monday morning came along, my boss was very tetchy about the fact that I hadn’t completed his task – despite the fact that he hadn’t actually set a deadline and I still had plenty of time to finish it.  When I eventually gave him what I had done, he was annoyed that I hadn’t planned the entire conference agenda (a task that, he claimed would have given me 15-20 hours of billable work), even though he hadn’t actually asked me to do that.  I just couldn’t understand it.  I helped my colleague because his project was more urgent.  If my boss had explained to me that he needed the task to be completed by a certain time, or that he wanted all of this extra stuff, then I would have said to my colleague “sorry, but I can’t help, I have to get this done”, but he didn’t, so naturally I assumed it was all OK and my boss had the rest of it all in hand.

I maintain that my stance on this whole thing was perfectly logical.  In my mind, either I am working set hours for a set salary, or I am not.  When I was self-employed, I worked as long as was necessary to get things done, and I had no regard for “normal” working hours because I was paid to complete tasks that took as long as they took.  If my contracted hours would not give me enough time to meet my billing target, then the entire contract was conceptually flawed.  If learning my craft on the job was insufficient and I had to do extra reading in my spare time, then my boss should have hired someone with more experience.  Why bother with contracted hours if we’re not going to abide by them?

However, my stance was also very naive.  A commercial reality of law firms is that you eat what you kill, and to a large extent it’s down to you to generate your own billing, whether it’s by bringing more clients in or by actively fighting your colleagues (and even your superiors) for a bigger slice of whatever billable work is already available.  In this way, you have to be business-minded and competitive, no matter how junior your position, and you can’t afford to dig your heels in on matters of principle like your working hours.  This is particularly true of small firms, such as the one I worked at, as your superiors will be far too busy with their own work to train or supervise you.  So if you really want to succeed, you need to think of your boss as a client rather than an employer.

So my issues had little to do with my mental condition and more to do with the fact that I just couldn’t reconcile the terms of my employment contract with what was, in fact, expected of me.

Similarly, I think a lot of the problems I have had with trying to get a serious girlfriend have revolved around my own peculiar mindset – which is one of preoccupation with getting a serious girlfriend.  Most people are happy enough being single and merely think of dating as a light-hearted dabbling exercise.  They enjoy dating for a bit of fun in and of itself and don’t overly worry about whether it actually leads anywhere, whereas I really crave the full girlfriend experience, and dating that goes nowhere just feels like a waste of time.  Their light-hearted attitude towards it is such that they don’t mind experimenting by dating someone they’re not 100% sure about, or when they’re not 100% sure that they are ready to date at all, and I just can’t relate to that.  I take it a lot more seriously, so it wouldn’t occur to me to “experiment” with someone in this way – I either fancy someone or I don’t, my mind is made up from the get-go, and I won’t change my mind unless a serious character flaw rears its head.  So when I hear that they are “too busy”, or that they are “not ready” for a relationship (only to go out with someone else five minutes later), I assume it was all a calculated lie, whereas it makes more sense when you look at it through the lens of this “experimental” attitude.  Whereas it seems to me like they have randomly changed their minds for no reason, or come up with a silly excuse, the reality is that their minds were never 100% made up to begin with.  I think this clash of attitudes towards dating is the wider issue I have to deal with, as opposed to quibbling about gender roles or how to become a pickup artist.