The Wrapping and the Present
Saturday, 28 December 2013
Over the past month, 340Breeze, one of our members and commenters here, has made a couple of insightful comments and asked a few thoughtful questions about a subject that can be fairly boiled down to "the wrapping and the present".
The first comment discussed his experiences meeting women who seemed outwardly impressive at first, but lacking in substance after he got to know them; in the second comment, he asked whether it was better for a woman interested in capturing a good man to focus more on playing coy and drawing things out with men (what I'd term "game" and "fundamentals", or style), or on becoming such all-around awesome people that they were simply naturally already in very high demand (who you really are as a person, friend, and mate - your substance).
In fact, this dichotomy - of fundamentals and game vs. who you are, style vs. substance, or the wrapping vs. the present - is one that underlies all of social dynamics, whether mating and dating, or choosing whom you want to be friends with, or hiring employees, bringing on consultants, or selecting the company you want to go work for.
The key here, and what everyone's trying to do, is to avoid being suckered by nice wrapping that isn't backed up by an equally impressive present underneath... but also not miss the great presents hiding under crummy wrapping paper.
Yet, that isn't so easy to do.
Men and women share similar annoyances with their love lives when you look at things in the terms of the wrapping and the present.
Women get frustrated because the assholes and bad boys they go for - who are oh so sexy and charismatic - just turn out to be not very good guys, leave them high and dry, and don't come close to matching the high expectations they had for them early on, based on their extravagant wrapping.
And men? Well, right around the same point in their lives that women start realizing that those flashy, sexy bad boys are no good for relationships, men start realizing that those dolled up hot girls with perfect hair, nails, and make up, and all those flashy, sexy party girls they spent so much time and money chasing after as the brass ring of dating life, really aren't the kind of girls you want to take home to mama... and for all their beautiful wrapping, the present you get underneath is not nearly up to par.
With time and experience, most men and women alike come to realize that those who focus most on their wrapping often focus least on the present beneath, and those who focus most on the present frequently forget about their wrapping altogether.
But, not always.
And, before we write off those with flashy wrappers completely, let's take a more nuanced view of the long-game, and how everything plays out both rationally... and emotionally.
The Long-Game: Focus on the Present?
Your first instinct might be to say that the wrapping is the "short-game", and the present the "long-game."
Your style is only good for getting you in the door of that exclusive party; it's your substance that keeps you there.
However... you wouldn't be entirely correct.
That's because, you see, a mental model that says "The wrapping is the short-game, and has no impact on the long-term, and the present is the long-game, and the only thing that matters later on down the road" is a flawed mental model; it fails to take into account that one thing we know is so very important to all relationships: precedent.
And the most important precedent you set is the precedent you set early on, when the wrapper is still on and the present has yet to be fully revealed (or, unwrapped).
I'll give you an anecdotal example: following a big breakup from the longest and most serious relationship of my life, I found myself casting about, emotionally needy for the first time in almost forever. I slept with a string of new girls, but it didn't help; I needed a rebound relationship. I lacked absolute abundance and wasn't confident I could find another replacement girlfriend as great as that one I'd parted with.
So, I broke form, and started chasing a girl.
This girl was a classic hot girl cocktease: she made herself up to look way more sexy and appealing than she really was (without makeup / clothes / nice hair); her personality was the kind that men just find addictive; and she constantly harped the damsel in distress role that made you just want to scoop her up and tell her she was all safe now - you'd protect her, my fair lady.
And whatever base you'd call getting her shirt off and sucking on her breasts - second base, third base - whatever base that was, I just could not get past it. She wouldn't let me. She'd shut me down like nobody's business.
I ended up spending around two months chasing this girl - interspersing it with other women I was actually taking as lovers (fortunately; or I'd have gone completely insane) - before I regained control of myself, cut it out, and cut contact with her and gave her the boot from my life.
After her, I dated a number of women who were ALL of the below:
- Smarter than her
- Better educated than her
- Less needy / dependent / depressive than her
- More beautiful in the face than her
- In possession of better bodies with thinner waists and larger
breasts / buttocks
- More personable, sociable, and charismatic than her
- Less self-conscious than her
- Lower in partner counts and previous relationships than her
- Yet, also more sexually comfortable than her, and more
comfortable with men
... and even still, I could still feel emotions rattling around for her in my skull that none of these subsequent girlfriends managed to generate. Emotions of scarcity, desire, and need.
Not based on anything remotely rational. Totally emotional.
The girl in question ended up pursuing me hard for sex and a relationship after I parted ways with the first girlfriend I had after cutting contact with her; despite my emotional cravings/yearnings, I turned her down, because I knew she didn't come close to stacking up with the kinds of girls I landed as girlfriends quality-wise, and the emotions she'd put in me for her meant there was some risk she'd be able to rope me into a bad decision relationship... it just wasn't worth it to me.
But it was very curious to me: here was an across-the-board lower caliber girl in every way than my previous and subsequent girlfriends, yet I felt more for her because I'd spent so much more time chasing after her and investing emotionally in her before ever getting sex.
Conversely, the actual girlfriends I took I generally slept with within two weeks of first meeting them - and often within a day or two. And all were girls I spent little time on before intimacy, and forbade myself from thinking about or getting worked up about emotionally prior to sex (so as not to get feelings prematurely that would affect our chances of actually really getting together in the first place).
And this isn't just me. I've noted it in guy after guy after guy - just scan through the comments section of "Can't Stop Thinking About Her? Here's Why You Need to Meet More Girls" and look at how many men (and even some women) there are confessing out-of-control emotions for people they haven't even slept with yet.
For all they know, these hotly desired prospective partners may be 95% wrapping and 5% present, and even if they got them, all they'd find on the inside was a sooty lump of coal.
But I bet you a hundred bucks that'd be the most beloved lump of coal they would ever blacken their hands with... and even years later, those feelings would not have completely worn off.
That's because of the phenomenon of precedent; and that's because the emotions we tie to something early on into knowing it are the emotions that we associate with it for the rest of our lives, no matter how much things change.
Emotions are Dumb
In some ways, emotions are incredibly powerful allies:
They alert us to danger we didn't even realize was there
They prevent us from sinking time into most obvious lost causes
They can inspire us to go above and beyond our normal capacity when needed
They steer us to opportunities with excitement, and away from useless repetition with boredom
... nevertheless, they can also be incredibly blockheaded.
One of the biggest ways they can be this way is by forming set emotional opinions about people and things based on early impressions that turn out to be taken from the wrapping, rather than the present underneath that wrapping.
I used to be a big fan of the mid-1980s television show Pee-wee's Playhouse when I was a kid. Pee-wee Herman was hilarious, and the show was great (fun fact: Laurence Fishburne - Morpheus from The Matrix and the dad from Boyz in the Hood - played Cowboy Curtis in the show). Then it went off the air when Pee-wee got caught masturbating in an adult movie theater.
He later tried to make a comeback, but again, another ball dropped; this time, he got raided by police, who discovered a cornucopia of homosexual and borderline kiddie porn material in his house; he argued it was art, and a dealer who sold it to him claimed he was a pure collector, straight up, and bought in such bulk there was no way to know what he was getting, but nevertheless, that's a pretty sticky thing to get found with having in your possession.
Yet, my emotional impression of Pee-wee is still that he's a swell, family-friendly, and wholesome guy - and based on the number of Twitter followers he has, I'd suspect I'm in the majority, not the minority.
If the first thing I heard about Pee-wee was that he'd been masturbating in a movie theater and they found a bunch of pictures of naked boys in his house, and then I saw Pee-wee's House after, I guarantee you I would've been creeped out the entire time I watched the show, imagining it as his ploy to play the pied piper to little children.
But because I saw the show first, and heard the news after, I still see him as a wholesome guy who's great for the whole family. And that's how impressions work. You can wear away at them with bad subsequent precedent... but they are more or less set once you've formed 'em.
So... while you may WANT to say "the wrapping doesn't matter" and "it's all just for show" and "real beauty is what's on the inside"... the truth is not so simple.
Because as important as the present is (and there's no denying it's a huge part of the long-term stability and success of any sort of relationship), the wrapping has effects that continue to dazzle, long after it's been torn off and cast to the side.
After the incident with that girl I chased - and I've never been the kind of guy who ends up in the friend zone, not even when I was hopeless with women - I realized I needed to make a permanent change in how I interacted with women:
I needed to minimize all chances of being dazzled by the wrapping, and get to the present as quickly as possible.
I did this several ways:
I forced myself to be even stricter about not thinking about / imagining / fantasizing about girl's I'd met whom I hadn't slept with yet. I even forbade myself from talking about them with friends - doing as much would make me want to highlight the girl's attractive qualities to the friend (which would mean I was thinking about them and emoting over them), and might make him act excited or otherwise get me to think about her more and put more pressure on myself to get her and begin investing increasingly more in her emotionally
I restricted the amount of time I allowed myself to pursue a girl down to a several-week window if using date compression, and, most of the time, primarily just to a single date to make everything happen, unless there were some kind of unique, extenuating circumstances (e.g., a girl misunderstood directions to where I told her to go, went to the wrong place, then got upset/panicky, and I ended up going to meet her, messing up logistics for the date - flexibility's really the only option here if you're being even halfway reasonable)
I made cutting contact with women it didn't work out with in the allotted time period final, rather than the previous, "Well, maybe I'll check in with her in a couple of months and see if her desire to meet up / do something has changed," stance it used to be (in my experience, these women invariably shift you into a boyfriend prospect role, unless you're leaving town or they are - you had your shot with them earlier, didn't take it, but you stuck around, so you must be a good provider... that's too much work trying to pursue for a girl it didn't work out the first time with, if you ask me - if there was a spark, there'd have been a spark)
I've also extended a similar process to other things in life (new
friends; business ventures; etc.), with only slightly modified rules;
but for the sake of simplicity, we'll stick to talking about women and
You might think of going for a roll in the hay with a girl as taking the wrapping off (in more ways than one).
It is, after all, sort of difficult to keep up appearances when you've seen her appearance without all the trappings of what she puts on to impress in polite society. And while it is possible to play games in the relationship, at least early on, good sex and good relationship management skills tend to get people to knock this off and get sincere pretty quickly.
Thus, for our purposes, a convenient shorthand for "getting to the present" with women you're interested in is "getting to sex" - and the more you can do this without getting emotionally invested in the wrapping, the better off you are.
Of course, especially when you're just starting out, that can be easier said than done.
Why Would You Want to Ignore the Wrapping?
The biggest reason I can think of for wanting to ignore the wrapping and forego emotionally investing in it is because it will soon be gone.
Assuming, that is, you ever unwrap the present.
If you see a gift box sitting there waiting for you, with the most beautiful wrapping paper and the most ornate bow sitting atop it, and you stare at it and imagine what must be inside and lust over how bad you want to tear all that wrapping off and get to the interior, what are the chances that what's inside measures up to or exceeds those expectations you're building?
Further, once the wrapping paper is off and discarded into the corner, you're still going to have that memory of it in your head - with some mix of disappointment that what you've got now isn't as exciting as that anticipation you once felt for it, and some fear of not giving this present up, because who knows if you'll ever receive another one you feel so strongly about again. And besides, with all the investment you put into it before you even opened it, you really value this present - even if it turns out it isn't all that useful or high quality of a present after all. But you can't help it - emotionally, you just don't want to give it up and go get something better. It's too hard.
Letting your emotions be determined by the wrapping sets you up for both disappointment in what you actually get, and improper valuation of what you actually get later on down the line.
It fools you into pursuing relationships that are all wrong for you.
I spoke with a friend about this just a few days ago. He was telling me about how he met his wife - at the time, he'd been sleeping with a handful of different women, and chasing after some women he was really excited about. When he met the woman who's now his wife, they quickly hooked up, and he felt little emotion toward her. Then, when he tried to see her again later, she announced that she'd gotten a boyfriend in the interim; he was a little surprised, but was fine to keep chasing those other girls. When he met up with her again 6 months later and she was single once more, they slept together again, and ended up moving in and getting married, and now are expecting their first child.
My friend reported that now that he's spent some time with her, he's amazed by how well his wife and he get along together - they have very compatible views, interests, and the like. And he's also amazed by how badly he wanted those other girls - girls who, he now realizes, were very poor matches for him.
So why did he want those other women so desperately - women who weren't right for him at all? The reason, of course, was the wrapping - unlike his wife, they drew things out with him, played games, acted coy and aloof, and made his heart beat and pang and lust for them.
His mind smiles at the union with his wife. But had his heart won out, it'd have placed him with women he'd have a far more strained, unpleasant, mismatched relationship with - albeit, one that would have had hanging over it always the memory of a lusty seduction and emotion-drenched courtship.
Thus, why you ignore the wrapping:
you ignore the wrapping to bypass
the fool's gold of presentation designed to play to your emotions by
those who know what they're doing - and who know which buttons
What Should You Focus Your OWN Efforts Upon?
Attractiveness or person?
Style or substance?
Wrapping or present?
It's an ever-timely question: do you focus on developing your appearance, or on what lies beneath it and what backs it up?
I noted in response to one of Breeze's two comments that each of us
only has so much time in his life, and we can only focus so much of our
energies into one area or another - rarely if ever will you find an
individual who has the grandest wrapping covering up the most
magnificent gift. A truly grand wrapping often belies a modest (or
worse) gift, while the most magnificent gifts very often boast
However, if you want my opinion, it's vitally important that you focus on both areas of yourself, though not perhaps in completely equal amounts. My suggestion would be about 60% present, and 40% wrapping.
In the area of seduction and getting girls, the present would be things like:
- Being good in bed with women
- Abandoning the need to be liked or achieve perfection
- Freeing yourself from victim mentality and from entitlement mentality
- Being decisive and not being wishy-washy
- Becoming non-judgmental of other people
(while remaining discriminating)
- Truly coming to understand women and be empathetic toward them
- Knowing your purpose in life
... and things that have to do with being mentally strong and personally attractive, even while not in "gaming mode" or out being social; while the wrapping would include such things as:
- Having attractive body language
- Knowing how to approach a girl
- Being great at texting women
- Setting up easy, simple dates
- Expertly deep diving and chase framing
- Knowing how to escalate to sex
... and things of that nature - things that deal with process; things that you do to achieve specific results, rather than things that you are or ways you behave simply because those are the things you are and behave like.
This ties back to the "under promise, over deliver" mantra I evangelize - you want to position yourself such that when people get to your real value (the present), they're amazed and blown away - they didn't even suspect it was going to be this awesome.
Yet... you must also have such great wrapping that people are lining up to get access to what you've got - you want women ready to hop on you the moment you walk into the bar, in other words.
To do this, of course, you need great wrapping, and an even better present underneath that great wrapping. That's where a strong focus on personal improvement comes in.
The good news is, when you're doing a roughly 60/40 split between focusing on present and focusing on wrapping, you get a nice little synergistic loop going on that benefits both - because you know that people will be consistently impressed when they get to the real meat of what you've got to offer (the "present"), you're going to feel even more confident putting out an impressive lure in the first place (the "wrapping").
And, as you get more and more invitations, opportunities, and successes from all the hands you get working to tear off that sparkly wrapping you've dressed yourself up in, you're able to rack up experiences and make your substance-side of things (the "present") all the better.
You forego these synergistic gains by focusing too much on just one aspect of things - focus mostly on the wrapping, and you'll get so much disappointment by the time people reach the present that they mostly just leave, which leaves you clueless as to how to keep them around, and usually only inspires you to work even harder on the wrapping to attract even more attention to replace those individuals you keep losing.
Conversely, focus mostly on the gift, and you get few opportunities to show what you've got... because no one feels much of a burning compulsion to look inside that beat up old cardboard box in the far corner of the room.
For the greatest gains in both departments, you must work on wrapping and present.
Don't Hate the Wrapping
... I know it's easy to do. You see it all over the Internet:
Women are so vain and shallow.
Men are such shallow assholes.
But the wrapping is important. It's how we reel others in - it's our magnet, our gravity well, our tractor beam. You might have tons of great substance, and girls who know you from social circle might pick up on your good traits if they're around you enough even without good presentation, but you still won't be triggering that raw, primal excitement in them that well-pressed style does.
What people get miffed about is either ending up with others whom they then realize had a lot less to offer than they initially expected, based on shiny wrapping paper... or they're miffed about not ending up with others whom they wanted to end up with (because they looked so shiny), but weren't attractive enough themselves, wrapping-wise, to draw in those others.
Thus, the need for training yourself to ignore the wrapping and form zero expectations around it... while simultaneously cultivating your own wrapping (and continuing to build your present up even more underneath).
The combination of impressive wrapping (and present) of your own with the ability to see but not be taken in by the dazzling wrapping of others puts you in great position to screen for those others who have not only great wrapping, but great presents underneath that wrapping too, and to draw in those others with an enticing lure - because you yourself seem to, and in fact do, have great things on offer, too.
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