Please just solve for n

The most hysterical I've ever been, I think, was the first time I rode the Sheikra at Busch Gardens in Tampa. That was awesome. I screamed and screamed and screamed. If it hadn't been for all the teenagers from Brazil clogging the lines, I think we could have ridden it several more times.

So hysteria, and the ladies. Let's talk about that.

I think my first hint, this time around, was in some of the memes that I started to see regarding the closure of salons and the joking about people seeing women's real hair color, stuff about nails, and concerns about salon procedures I didn't even know were a thing.

Years ago, on an old blog, I wrote about how I wondered how women knew how to be women. You see all these women on TV--Hallmark channels, for example--and they go to bed and wakeup with nice makeup. They interact and respond to people so lovely and cute. When I go to events where there are lots of women, I sort of watch them come in and feel like a spectator at a sporting event, or maybe a customer at a zoo. I watch how they flock, and then dart and weave when a predator of sorts approaches. I listen to them talking on their phones about stuff I don't recognize. I see them with their hair and makeup done and wonder why it didn't occur to me to do more. They go to salons, apparently, and have things done to their hair I've never heard of. Women seem to get compliments on their lovely apperance; I get a decent number of comments that I make funny facial expressions.

How do they know how to do their hair. How do they know what clothes to wear together. So that weird thing I saw on the hangar at Kohls was a shirt and not pants. That dangly necklace is going to get caught in a power take-off unit. Why are you wearing a scarf, because it's not cold out. Are they aware those shoes will put them at a noticeable disadvantage if there's an emergency.

Stuff like that.

I even wrote an essay about it in my first book.

I wonder if our stereotype of what it means to be or appear to be a woman is where some are confused about if they are a female or not. I've never wondered if was a guy, though in the early internet days when I'd be on forums with a generic name and avatar, I discovered it was often assumed I was a guy. Apparently there is a way of communication which is stereotypically male and stereotypically female. I would generally think that's sort of bogus, because back then at least, the women who were blogging were sort of snarky and witty. There weren't as many women online, because social media wasn't a thing yet. So there was a barrier to wide entry for people, and the people online were perhaps a certain type. I don't know. It's moments like this past week that make me reconsider.

I truly actually literally had a discussion on Faceblehk with a woman, using exclamation points at the end of every sentence, with periodic ALL CAPS, telling me that she was glad there was hysteria surrounding the pandemic because at least it would make people take it seriously.

I can guarantee you that the only playbook that has hysteria as a technique is not a good one.

Apparently that woman hasn't heard any theories on desensitization, i.e. after hundreds of reminders of starving children in some far off land, we stop feeling anything.

I simply told her I would not vote yes for hysteria.


I think I wrote about this before (but am too lazy to look), but this is the screaming girl in the horror movie, the one who becomes definition-solid hysterical when all the characters realize bad stuff is going down, and you hope she dies next because you can't take the hysterics.

My brother sent a meme to me last week.

Screaming girl is the one the Donners would eat first. If they didn't, they'd probably just off themselves.

Notice I used "screaming girl" instead of "screaming guy." That's because there's a stereotype, we all know of it at least vaguely, and it frustrates me to no end to see it realized.

It has to do with "female hysteria."

Ah, that great and exclusively wonderful lady club of nutterville:

"Hysteria is undoubtedly the first mental disorder attributable to women, accurately described in the second millennium BC, and until Freud considered an exclusively female disease. Over 4000 years of history, this disease was considered from two perspectives: scientific and demonological."

[Fun sidebar: I bet back then, they told people to trust the science and health experts, because every generation is the most advanced up to that point. So if you got a bit loony, it's because your uterus. Science.]

I know lots of tough women who are not hysterical. My sister Janet, for example, has beat me up several times in a non-hysterical manner. 

I simply don't find a use for hysteria. If it's a bad emergency, no one needs screaming girl. She just makes noise so people can't think, attracts the monster, or turns you into the killer out of annoyance. 

One bitterly cold winter Sunday, back in my high school days, my parents and my sister and I got home from church and my sister and I went out to check the water for the horses to make sure it wasn't frozen. There stood a horse with what looked like an Volkswagon sized chunk of bloody ice on its shoulder. 

You could get hysterical, I guess, and freak out the horse. Or you could sort of say "that looks bad" and then "lets get her into the heated garage."

Which is what we did. 

We proceeded to use hot water with disinfectant to melt a billion gallons of blood off the horse, bit by bit with rags and pressure, to get down to a massive flap of skin that had torn away cleanly so you could see the pink neck skin? muscle? below.

There we were, staring at it. She would twitch and you could see the muscle of sorts. Weird and gross. The flap was hanging there, three sides torn.

The horse trailer was probably buried in a snowbank in the trees. Vet was too expensive, anyway.

We sort of cleaned it all out, put ointment all over, squished the skin flap up as smoothly as we could, and wrapped it with whatever bandage we had on hand, hoping it wouldn't freeze off. It ended up healing decently; only a little pucker in the hair revealed its location.

You know what wouldn't have been handy in that small garage with a jumpy horse and blood all over?

Screaming girl.

Screaming girl gets you hurt. Killed. Distracted. Nonfunctional.

Here are some places you do not want screaming girl: emergency rooms, the back seat of a police car, elevators, hostage situations, and with unfettered access to a theoretically unlimited audience like say on Facebook.

I see screaming girl too much online. It's always the worst all the time.

Guys do it to, of course, but I'm seeing it mostly from women. In fact, regarding this pandemic, I've seen more male medical professionals post content that, while serious, uses data and is more restricted in the fear factor. I've seen more female medical professionals pushing emotional responses and a sense of fear or terror. Why do they think fear is the better motivator? Fear makes you run off a cliff.

I prefer the former. It encourages thought. Maybe some math. Maybe some reckoning. Maybe some consideration to how it applies or affects my life.

Emotional or instinctual reactions are pretty good if you're being chased by a bear or something (watch out for that cliff, though). But in other situations, when you have time to pause, do make use of it and think. If you get the cattle running towards you, you can run in terror and bounce off of grandpa's electric fence (um...), or you can take a moment and choose the best path to run, and get to the gate.

Emotional and personal stories have some value if used sparingly to reach the masses to move on an issue. Like anything, though, their value is in scarcity because too much of it is, as I pointed out in the referenced conversation, like a sugar spike. Unless you're addicted to drama and emotion, you really can't take it for long. After a while, you sort of don't feel much. You've been exposed to it too long. You can only read about disasters, death, human torment, dead baby animals, and so forth for so long before your body (wisely) starts to process that differently. Maybe it's compartmentalization, maybe it's through distancing, maybe it's an extreme opposite response ("that won't happen to me") -- whatever it is, it happens. We simply can't have all the feelz all the timez.

We aren't God. We aren't supposed to know everything. We don't know how to process it or even understand it.

Telling people, at that stage, that "they'd care if it was your family!" is missing the point. Sure they'd care. Why wouldn't they? It's the reason survivors and victims become advocates and start non-profits based out of their own trauma. They care when it happens to them, and not so much before. You simply cannot expect everyone to care to the top degree for extended periods of time for everything, so you'd better find a way to unite and move the needle without relying too much on emotion.

One way you could do that is help people comprehend what they read, and think critically about numbers. 

You know, the difference between seeing a total, and thinking of it in per capita. Tallying percentages. Looking carefully at the X and Y axis of a graph, and paying attention to spacing. Making sure pie charts don't exceed 100 percent.

Stuff like that.

Anyone can visually dump information for people to consume, but to provide it in a way that lends towards clarity instead of Spicy Hot Six Piece Chicken Little Sky Is Falling takes real skill. It might take presenting the same data in several forms so people can build the habit of how to see it and think of it, sort of like we non-metric people understand a liter because of familiarity with large bottles of soda.

Thanks to my high school math teacher, Mr. Wright, I can figure percentages using three easy formulas:
  1. 20 is what percent of 50? > 20=n(.01)(50)
  2. 20 percent of 50 is what? > 20(.01)(50)=n
  3. 20 percent of what is 50? > 20(.01)n=50
(Look. Art majors can do entry level STEM!)

Because of that, the first thing I do with numbers is figure a percent. That gives me the starting perspective (e.g. 120 is a bigger number than yesterday, but it is only out of 4,000 likely to have it that were tested, so what is the percentage of positives out of liklies, positives per capita, and extrapolated positives per capita). Then I try to do per capita or per item (thank you, 4-H consumer choices). Then you get into the bar and line graphs where, possibly, you might envy the Donner party depending on the graph or chart.

I mean, not all government generated charts, despite their colors and explanations at briefings, have any value. "Trust the experts" isn't always the greatest battle cry.

From a NYT article on death by power point in military presentations.

In all fairness, I get it.*

We're not all the same. We process, express thoughts, and are moved differently. This is all a bit tongue-in-cheek (no one envies the Donner party, people, that was awful). We're all different people. We need that.

However, to the degree that I ought not make assumptions, the same could be said of those suggesting that my response to "hysteria" and repeated emotion is "downplaying" or not taking things seriously. You have no idea how serious I might take something. Apperances, volume, and speed aren't indicators to rely on. The man quietly and carefully reaching for his gun is more serious than the guy screaming.

Your definition of what serious people do and how they respond is simply based in your preference. If I'm out at Ft. Lincoln at the haunted house for Halloween and the creepy clown is chasing me with the chainsaw, yeah, I'll scream all day long. It's documented for three years in a row. But I probably won't otherwise. 

So every time I see an online post or content I think is hysterical, I'm going to feel obliged to balance it out with something that pulls back and says "let's look at this differently."

Are we really supposed to not question, not think, and not find additional perspectives for a better picture in a time of crisis? If ever there was a time for such activity, it ought to be then.

Instead of hysteria, maybe just take some time to solve for n.

* A spider would get me to hysterics.