They're Not Dumb, They're Just Not Where You Are Now

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I got a comment the other day sneering at my so-called “genius” for writing a post full of super-obvious advice for dumb people.
And it’s true: what I wrote wasn’t rocket science.  If you’re experienced with relationships, “Talk extensively with your partner before making major changes to your relationship” is Dating 101.
But someone’s gotta teach the introductory classes.
This is not me hoisting my banner high and shouting, “It’s me!  I have to teach the n00bs!”  Rather, it’s me noting that constant irritation emanating from more experienced people at the mere existence of the n00bs – when I go to Linux forums to look up an answer, I see beardy admins sneering at these clueless kids.  Whenever I see writing advice for first-time National Novel Writing Month participants, I also see haters bitching about HOW COULD THEY NOT KNOW.  And yeah, every time I write a Poly 101 thing, I attract folks who say, “They don’t know this by now?  What idiots!  They don’t deserve to be taught!”
But chances are good you’re not smarter than they are: you just got an education elsewhere.  A lot of what I see as “dumb” can be written off as “inexperienced.”
The good news is, “Inexperienced” can be fixed with a bit of teaching.
Dumb may be an inherent state, depending on the person.
Which is why I try not to sneer at the newbies too much.  Yeah, they’re often inconvenient, clogging my Linux feed with questions like “How do I move a directory?” They often embarrass me, because I see so-called “poly” newbies wrapping themselves in the name of a lifestyle I love and being the worst and most psychodramatic ambassadors of it I could imagine.  And they’re sometimes an out-and-out harm to the community, when new dudes to Fet assume that every woman on a dating site just wants to get fucked and propositions a million women crudely, thus degrading not just the women but their positive experience on that social network, actually driving them away.
(And then they have the gall to go, “Why is it so hard to find a date?”  But that’s another essay.)
Newbies can warp a community in weird ways.  It’s not wrong to have rules that rein their puppy-dog tendencies in, or even to have communities that exclude folks without a certain level of skill in the topic.
Yet none of that means that a newbie is necessarily stupid.  It means they’re starting out, and when you start out you make mistakes, and if you’re not making embarrassing mistakes you’re not growing.  I’m willing to bet if we could pull up the history of these newbie haters, many of them made similar mistakes years back when they were first learning the ropes.  (Or if they didn’t screw up, they had circumstances where they got valuable lessons handed to them – a form of privilege – well before they could make the mistakes.)
Point is, yeah, I think a lot of my essays don’t say anything new – they’re rehashing old topics in a folksy way that’s easy to read.  I don’t see that as a flaw in my writing, though.  Like a lot of writing, it’s not meant for you.  If you’ve done a lot of poly, you can probably skip over 80% of my writings, because this is shit you know.
But someone doesn’t.  I know this because sometimes they email me to thank me.  And I write because I wish to God I’d had this great repository of knowledge of all these blogs when I was in my early twenties learning about sexuality, and I see all the other people writing awesome fucking advice that would have saved me so much humiliation, and I’m proud to contribute to that body of knowledge.
You know this stuff already?  Good for you.
Pass it on.

1 Comment

  1. Yet Another Laura H
    Feb 6, 2015

    Tangentially: I was just this morning struck by a need for “Poly 101.” Not that I need advice on how to be poly, but a rather sizable percentage of my peer group just demonstrated where a “basic brand ambassador” course was needed. It turns out just about every woman who likes to think herself as “kind, a good listener,” has had the experience of a married man opening up to her as if to a friend, then letting the meaning-bomb of, “My wife and I are opening up the relationship” fall on the table and spoil the last of the entree (the wife is never, ever there when this line is uttered).
    It’s a shame, because statistically speaking, at least one of these men probably ACTUALLY meant, “My wife and I are exploring poly,” rather than, “I would like to force my wife to end/ take serious stock of our relationship, please. Can I get the sexual healing in a little dish on the side? I hear NRE is a GREAT way to revitalize your career. Oh, no, don’t squirm or pretend your feelings matter in this, I will have a gigantic fit about how you lead me on.” And it gives poly a bad name– sometimes problematic, yes, but I do get the overwhelming vibe that it does not actually mean, “My horniness and drama-addiction is your problem.”
    Anyone reading this know if there’s an Internet Thing out there that deals with this situation? It would be greatly appreciated.

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