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born to be contrary

right now (well, not literally this moment, but generally) i’m reading a book my friend jessica lent me called “wired that way,” by marita littauer. it’s about the four basic personality types (choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic) and various combinations of those, how inborn personality traits affect us in various realms of life, and how we can put the positive traits to the best use and learn to overcome the negative ones.

it’s really quite a fascinating book, and, though i’ve admittedly got a long stretch of reading to go before i’m finished, i’ve learned several interesting things about my dominant personality type, which is phlegmatic.

we phlegmatics, it seems, like to be comfortable and relaxed. littauer says phlegmatics will typically be found on the “more casual end of the acceptable spectrum of attire” at work, for example. well, that is probably true. i put away my laundry tonight and i will say that just about everything in my wardrobe is pretty comfortable. and, um, a trifle wrinkly — i don’t iron things unless i absolutely have to. a negative aspect of phlegmatics is they’re lazy. ouch. but it’s true more often than i’d like to admit. (the previous basket of laundry sat in my room for two weeks before i folded it and put it away.) littauer also describes a phlegmatic guy she met as having “wind-blown casual” hair. i usually don’t comb mine unless — yes, again — i have to. part of this is because i don’t take the time, and the other part is because some hair-combing experiments have left me looking like a little boy or an attendee of a dorky prep school. in that case, i embrace wind-blown hair whole-heartedly.

something else interesting she talks about that i’ve been made aware of in the last few months is that, while phlegmatics are typically easy-going and often indecisive, underneath they have a “quiet will of iron.”

ha ha.

i don’t know why i find that funny, but i do. maybe it’s because my coworker tells me several times a week that i’m a very stubborn young woman (only he calls me “experiment” now) and he can’t convince me to do anything i don’t want to do.

which is true, usually, if it’s something that doesn’t have to be done for work.

i also noticed this during running class a couple of weeks ago, when i was starting to lag behind the woman i’d been keeping pace with for a while, and she looked over and said, affably enough, “hey now, you won’t get that slice of cheesecake, or that ben & jerry’s.” she was teasing, but i thought to myself “i am not going to let you beat me,” and so i kept up with her. (by the way, i don’t eat after 5K training class. just so you know i wasn’t going to eat cheesecake when i got home regardless.)

and last week, when i asked a friend about a song lyric he quoted, he said something innocuously polite about the group in question perhaps not being quite my taste — so i promptly bought the album on iTunes and made myself listen to the entire thing without stopping or turning it off. (which i was glad i did, incidentally —  it’s great. i’ve been listening to it, singing it and trying to plunk it out on the piano ever since.)

maybe this is one of the reasons i like God help the girl‘s eponymous song so much — besides the fact that it’s hilarious.

“you have been warned, i’m born to be contrary,” the chorus starts off. i love that line. (the full list of lyrics says “i’m warned to be contrary,” but i think that’s just a mondegreen.) i know it’s not quite the same thing as having a will of iron, but it can be related. or let me pretend it is.

so yes, i will fully admit to you now that i am entirely capable of being stubborn, passive-aggressive and contrary just to prove a point.

i guess the lessons here are:

  1. this is pride, basically! so, self, be contrary in your contrariness and don’t let yourself give into being proud unjustly.
  2. be careful what you suggest — i might take it into my head to prove you wrong.
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