Here’s a little post about something I call The Exception Game. I call it the exception game instead of the exception cognitive bias, because game sounds more fun, and because I want to make it clear that this isn’t a You Are Bad sort of post. I get it- I also have a human brain, I also am constrained by my consciousness! I also frequently think I’m an exception- but I have to think my way out of it. Here’s how it goes.
A couple times a week or day I get an email from someone who would like to meet me, but asks to do so in a way that doesn’t follow the protocol I have for new friends. Protocol sounds super serious!! It isn’t really- it’s screening info in the first email, and more than one line. Now most requests like this aren’t “hey Mollie, you fiiiine, wanna come to my tractor trailer for some champagne of beers and watch the Human Centipede?” No, they’re usually requests for specific pieces of information, the sort of information that, should my answer be a particular way, would obviate the rest of the process. “Are you around tomorrow?” “Do you have a white garter belt?” “Are you a giant panda?” And I understand that for these interlocutors, if I am in fact NOT a giant panda, they will not want to book, and so they would rather me answer the damn question before they trot our their bona fides. Fair enough.
But here’s the thing- in my Us section and in my automatic responder, I have said, “If you don’t include screening I can’t discuss any questions.” Why would that be? Oh you card, I know you don’t ask that question seriously;) This is a risky demimonde. Those risks I can decrease I absolutely do. Additionally, to be frank, the Venn diagram of ‘men that have presented me with reasons why my screening is too intense’ and ‘men who have tried something shitty on with me’ has a fat dark overlap in the middle.
Ok, but, and here’s where the game comes in: HE’S not like that. That man who wants to know whether I’m super cute and eat 99% bamboo, he’s not up to anything shady, and it would be the work of a second to tapp out: yes, my name is Tian Tian, and I’m always sleepy. I risk nothing! Because He knows that he’s not up to any funny business, he’s simply trying to make quick plans and have a lovely, toe curling experience.
I understand. I love to curl my toes with fuzzy Chinese Ailuropoda melanoleuca! I do. But: I DON’T KNOW WHO THIS LOVELY MAN IS. All I have is his word that he’s nice, just like you have my word that I’m a 200 lb black and white herbivore. I swear, I am!!! Do you trust me that I’m telling the truth about that? If you are this lovely man, I don’t know who you are. At all. Any attempt to tell me that you are an exception, you are a super nice guy- these words don’t mean anything to my adorable, fur tufted ears, because I have no idea who you are. You know you’re an exception, but I don’t. I can’t know that, without ascertaining it. And here’s where it gets real.
Remember how I mentioned above the men who tried to explain to me that they were exceptions, and so they shouldn’t have to jump through screening hoops? Well, back when I was a baby panda, I thought, what harm can it do? I met a couple of them. What I discovered is that men who have the exception game running through their head don’t have it just about screening. You, dear reader, you read the above, and even if you thought, OK, the panda shit is a bit tiresome, get to the point- you at least put yourself in my place. You could see from my perspective, and understood that I’m running blind. From my side of the laptop all claims of being a great guy are equal. The men who CANNOT make that cognitive leap frequently couldn’t make it about other things. If they felt confident that they were healthy, then I should trust them and be unsafe. If they tried to be really rough or rude, they were sure I liked it or I would get the joke. Their perspective on what was OK and didn’t feel bad was in fact my perspective. They didn’t just think they were exceptions: they couldn’t get out of their head enough to understand anyone’s experience other than their own. No big deal- but I had to show them the door. And that, my friends, is why I don’t play the exception game.