Saturday, May 2, 2015

Leading

"You should lead more. I can feel it in your grip--you're tense when you follow and relaxed when you lead."
"Yeah, you look like you have a lot more fun when you lead."

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This is another self-indulgent post, because these comments have been going around in my head since they were made to me last Saturday and I want to think through what they mean to me. I have a feeling that they are important.

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I've started going to more dances with my friends, and something I've noticed is that I enjoy leading more than following. It kind of surprised me, however, that other people noticed, and noticed in a way that was strong enough to bring up to me.

We're told a lot at the university that we're "leaders" and that we're going to "change the world." At the end of high school I did think of myself as a leader since I held leadership positions in various organizations in which I took part. Since coming here I've been so overwhelmed by the vastness of my ignorance and inexperience in real-world situations that I've stopped thinking of myself as a leader.

Humility is important. But I do think that it's significant that I experience following as more unpleasant than leading, and that I enjoy being the one to give direction to jointly-executed actions. Having control is better than having to respond to someone else's decisions.

In senior year, I wrote an essay in AP Lit about obligation and social status in Crime and Punishment. I found that the idea of noblesse oblige resonated a lot with me. This sounds terribly arrogant. But I think that I am better suited to positions of authority--in the Aristotelian sense that in a position of authority I can be myself better than when I have to follow. When I am in a position of weakness my desire is to fight. When I am in a position of strength my desire is to be considerate and benevolent.

I think I'd get a kick out of magnanimity. What does that say about me?

I like myself better now than I did in high school, and in fact have a very hard time putting together why anyone held me in high regard when I was in high school given how defensive, willfully ignorant, and close-minded I was. I'm still terribly ignorant, less curious than I should be, and full of bs excuses not to do unfamiliar things, but at least I don't want to be that way. I feel as though I am becoming a better person, a more useful and practical and mature person, and I want to keep on doing this.

It's a simple chain: I am becoming more than I was; my present self can do more in the world than my terrified past self; I like my present self better. (Then again, I am a simple person.)

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When I follow, I just kind of go through the steps. I can enjoy following, especially for contra, but I started out leading at my first salsa lesson ever on Saturday and learning cross-step waltz on Wednesday, and I don't think I could enjoy following as much as leading. I think, for me, if I don't know what's going on or if I lack control, then I will experience enough low-level anxiety to not enjoy myself as much as I could.

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Of course gender stereotypes play a part. I've noticed that I and several other of my close female friends tend not to do things that are coded feminine in society. My roommate and I both have short hair, alto/contralto voices, and engineering majors. Wearing pink or dresses or lace or...whatever clothing is considered feminine is not something I do often/at all. The last time I went to a thrift shop with my best friend we ended up getting button-down shirts from the men's section. I play a lower brass instrument. And I prefer to lead.

Traditionally, men lead and women follow--in dance and, unfortunately, in society. I'm trying to disentangle what feminine things I avoid because they're coded feminine and what feminine things I avoid because that's just how I am. Dresses fall into the first category; pink (it's a warm color) and following (I think) fall into the latter.

I am not sure if it is an anti-heteronormativity thing either, because I enjoy leading guys as much as I enjoy leading girls. (Actually, leading short girls is best because then the turns actually kind of work.) Though there is something to be said about subversion of gender roles &c.

I do not know if anything I have written makes sense or if I am just going around in circles trying to make sense of myself. I may return to this post when I have had more sleep. I am not that complicated of a person; I would like to figure this out better.

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