A guide to being normal and having friends at Whitman

Isabella Hunter, Columnist

Illustration by Astrid Ketcham.

In case you couldn’t read the room, this is satire. 

I’m assuming you’re reading this because, let’s face it, you need the help. You’ve found yourself with nothing better to do on a Friday night than jack off to bigger, more successful people out there selling you their dumb books, reddit-tier stockmarket advice (shoutout to my buddy running r/wallstreetbets though, you’re a real one) and mushroom coffee. The problem is that these are all cheap and easy fixes. I hate to tell you kiddo, but you need to put real work in if you want to attract popularity and social success. Below you’ll find my strategy to, as my good friend Dale Carnegie would put it, “Win Friends and Influence People.” (And no I haven’t read the book, I just used my acute social intuition to figure it out.)

I’ll admit, some people are born with it and some will really struggle to reach their full potential in life. A loser is obviously someone who fits into this latter category, having either no friends, or weird friends (which is honestly worse than having no friends). This personality type is weak and annoying. They are visibly insecure and get on everybody’s nerves. If you’re reading this right now for the purpose of self help, I’d wager that you fit right into this category.

We use this “winner/loser” terminology to emphasize the nature of the game—you’re always winning or losing, always gaining status or losing status. All it takes is a little Game Theory to figure out that the optimal strategy guarantees that W 100 percent of the time. Therefore the question becomes: “How do I always win and never lose in the game of social interaction?”  

I’m going to start by directing your attention to the first rule of my Nobel Prize in Literature winning self-help novel, “12 Rules for Life: Always Follow Norms and Social Cues.” Think about it—norms exist to enforce something (but obviously what they enforce is not typically questioned, so don’t do that), and cues are there to “cue” (duh) you into the norm. There’s a direct correlation between following norms and social status, where people who, for example, dress the most normatively in a given situation have the highest perceived status. The two variables are what we in the scientific community call “causally linked.” 

Let’s try to imagine walking into a gym—first off, notice how you’re not wearing business casual, okay, you’re conforming to the space and wearing appropriate attire for the occasion. I bring this up because everyone follows norms, everyone has to play the game—and don’t ask me why, that’s a stupid question. 

So you look around and ask yourself, “who has the highest perceived status here?” (If you aren’t already doing this then I’m going to safely assume you’ve never left your childhood bedroom.) And the answer is the people who are the most normative have the highest status. Generally, these people are going to be attractive and hygienic, they know what they’re doing, they’re probably listening to music and minding their business, and they don’t stick out, but everyone can tell who they are.

Let me ask you something: Who are you imagining right now? What do they look like? Now whoever that is, I want you to imagine talking to them. Literally, go up to that person in your head and introduce yourself, ask them how their day is going. How do they respond? 

Here’s the point I’m trying to get at, right: that person, the person who you imagine has the highest status in the room, is the literal embodiment of social norms. I bet you could imagine their response to any scenario, any interaction. How? High status people always give the best responses, that’s what they do. That’s what natural leaders do. So you already know, like a secret that I just unlocked for you, how to be the highest status person anywhere you go. You just have to be that cool person at the gym. So what’s stopping you? 

I’ll tell you. Power and status are not for everyone. You’re either born with it or you aren’t. By that I mean, for you straight able-bodied cis-gendered heterosexual men out there, if you’re losing it’s because you’re snoozing. News flash, when people picture high status people, they’re either picturing you or a white woman. 

So my advice to you, white person reading this, is to keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Care about political and moral issues only as much as it is socially acceptable to do so and don’t for a second dream of questioning the norms that keep you comfortably conforming to a system like this. A system where even in the smallest of social interactions, even in the privacy of your own imagination, you are the only winners. Because why risk being a loser, right?