I have been fascinated for some time with the power dynamics of the pack or tribe and have read with amusement since my early 20’s the slew of PUA (Pick Up Artist) books written by omega males pretending to be alpha males. Hint, wanna-be’s: alpha males don’t look for one-night stands. As in the animal kingdom, they display dominance by regularly protecting and providing for their mate — or multiple mates, concurrently, not consecutively. Omega pick-up artists don’t generate enough income to protect and provide sufficiently for themselves on a regular basis, never mind for a mate and multiple offspring. Having that much income is yet another way the alpha male displays his dominance. (Reader, if you’re wondering why I read these PUA books, it was so I could learn their m.o. and protect myself against such tactics. However, these omega males have a very distinct scent in their sweat so it turns out I never really had to worry about it because I would smell them coming my way before they ever got so much as my name.)
So over the course of investigating the differences between alpha, beta and omega men, I was exposed to articles and books regarding the characteristics of alpha, beta and omega females as well. I always felt like I was just none of these and wasn’t sure what to make of it (long story short: alphas are hyper confident leaders, betas are loyal worker bees, and omegas are — to be very very frank and oversimplify it way too much — losers). So I started looking more into the traits of actual wolves to discern the real world roles these tribal/pack roles play and found out there was such a thing as a sigma wolf. Sigmas are interesting: in the wild, they find themselves alone because they refuse to accept the authority of the alpha. Ironically, as a lone wolf, the need for survival itself forces them to adapt and to accept the role of alpha that nature thrusts upon them so that they can find a mate. Wolves’ prey is much larger than they are. They need at least one other wolf to help attack and kill dinner in order to eat it. (And you know what happens after dinner, with all that romantic snow and picked-over carcass. SEX. And 2 months later, the beginnings of a new pack. OMG, cute little baby wolves!! SO CUTE!! DYING OVER HERE!!!!!) **Also, I have terribly glossed over the traits and mating patterns of wolves in the wild so there’s that.**
**slightly related tweet about wolves from last month
Extrapolating that fascinating information, we can see that a sigma human too rejects the ranking and categorizing so prevalent in traditional human hierarchies, but will, in order to survive, “deal with it,” as it were. Sigmas overwhelmingly prefer not to be controlled — in other words, they seek autonomy. But because they have no inclination to control others, they avoid leadership positions. But they can lead. If they absolutely have to. (PUKE. Like during “team playing”! Where one person does all the work but everyone gets credit for it! Guess who does all the work to make sure the team isn’t let down? Yeah, SIGMAS. Fan-freaking-tastic. Avoid groups and group projects like the PLAGUE!) So, ok, I thought, that’s more like me.
Now, I’ve found that alphas are generally not that bad. Especially alpha females: they like me and I respect them. Alpha males are assholes. Bottom line. Even if they’re good, they’re horrible. Vengeful. Vindictive. Mean. Self-righteous. But they will jump in front of a train if it means the survival of at least two other members of the tribe. So, I guess we all have our bad points. And they reply to that short list of traits with, “True, true, true, true — but I thought you were going to mention my bad traits?” HA HA, so FUNNY, alpha males. Actually, alpha males and females have a great sense of humor and you get points with them for being funny — and for being brave. So if you ever find yourself around one, that’s how you get their protection. (If you *want* their protection — suffice it to say, there are good alphas and bad alphas and the price of their protection will be perpetual loyalty.)
And Betas can be decent friends; but they gossip, a lot, and rank and social status are very important to them. And most people are betas. Betas are how we got trends like rolling our jeans and shoulder pads. They will literally do whatever the magazines and the TV tell them to do. They’re not bad people. But then again, is there such a thing as a good or bad person? This blogger says no. There are only good or bad actions — or the worst of all, taking no action when you could have and it would have prevented pain for yourself or others. Betas act when alphas (especially alphas on the TV) tell them to.
Omegas are the most detrimental to the happiness and healthiness of everyone in the tribe. They are all the manipulativeness of Alphas, all the gossipy, easily influenced suggestibility of Betas, and all of the resistance to authority of Sigmas — and they can’t stop talking about themselves or complaining about how bad the world is. They personify lost potential. (Alphas would say they never had any to begin with but I don’t know if that’s always true.) When they talk about how fucked up they or their lives are, believe them. When they tell you, that’s just the way it is, life sucks, what are you gonna do, that’s the way it’ll always be, and subsequently you wonder if they ever had a history class, don’t even be tempted to explain that women can vote now and there is no more (legal) slavery in our country, or that things change when masses of people organize to change them. Omegas are rarely operating in reality. So when you point reality out to them, you might as well be speaking gibberish.
Which brings me to sigmas. Alphas love sigmas because of their usefulness to the tribe which hinges on one primary personality trait, indeed the trait which will define and redefine the trajectory of the sigma’s life’s path over and over again: a sense of obligation. Oh, you’ll miss your daughter’s recital on Sunday if I don’t pick up your shift? Sure, I can take it. What, you’ll lose your driver’s license if I don’t drop you off at the courthouse at 1? Ok … no, no, you don’t need to pitch in for gas. Say again, you need someone to testify at your name change hearing on Friday and I’ll have to use 4 hours of sick pay to do it? There’s no where I’d rather be! No one else can help the tribe avoid total obliteration on Saturday at 2:19 pm? Ok ok, you talked me into it … text me the address. There is a great way to avoid these situations, as the Sigma inevitably learns somewhere in their twenties, and that is to never give anyone their phone number. (True story. What, you don’t like email? Also going car-free when I was 28 took care of 90% of all requests for help. And here I was just trying to stop helping bankroll al qaeda!) But you probably noticed the running theme: a good cause. Sigmas respond to this like flies to honey. But it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, doesn’t it? When you think of the tribe as a single entity, always moving toward survival and away from destruction and/or dying out, the presence of specific members of the tribe who feel a sense of duty to make sure the others are ok or will be ok or won’t end up un-ok is a brilliant back-up plan, an insurance policy personified. If the entire tribe were in a van, sigmas would be the spare tire. They wouldn’t even BE a person — that is how utilitarian they are! (Metaphorically speaking.)
Now betas are going, but wait, I help out! Do you? Or do you say yes initially and then back out at the last minute and feel TERRIBLY GUILTY about SAYING NO at the same time that waves of relief wash over you? Do you really feel an obligation to do the right thing? Or do you suddenly feel overwhelmed by the possibility of missing an opportunity to show someone of social importance how special they are if your hand isn’t the first in the air when it comes time to volunteer? Betas’ volunteering is offering to set up and take down at the office holiday party. Sigmas are volunteering with Teach for America or the Peace Corps (or serve in the military or with another organization). Visualize this holiday party organization meeting: while the Alpha(s) are “delegating” all the peon tasks to simpering betas, and the omegas are complaining about how stupid and pointless another dumb holiday party without alcohol will be, the Sigmas are busy negotiating for permission to bring the booze. (True story — “But my awesome egg nog recipe just isn’t the same without the brandy. Couldn’t we just have the holiday party at a park? … Ok, that’s probably true … then let’s just have the party at a bar. We won’t need to bring the alcohol, the alcohol will bring us! Ha ha, get it???” “Yeah, we get it, Sarah.”)
But there’s a much simpler way to identify which tribal role a person plays. Alphas are perfectly happy to have sex with or without love (although they prefer with — but they are the last to know this. Ten years into their [second/third/fourth] marriage, they’re like, oh, yeah, this is better). Betas pretend they prefer with but what is most important to them is approval of the tribe: if the tribe says promiscuity is the way to gain status, they’ll be promiscuous; if the tribe says polygamy is the way to gain status, they’ll have multiple wives; if they tribe says abstinence is the only way to go, look who’s donning a chastity belt. Omegas find their way or are lured into bad sexual situations. It’s as if the batteries in their inner danger detector died and no one ever bothered to replace them. They do sometimes marry another omega but usually they sublimate their procreative urge into a fantasy world where actual responsibility is unnecessary. Second Life comes to mind. This is also why PUA (pick up artistry) is so appealing to more extroverted male omegas — they don’t actually want a relationship. The whole thing is a role-playing fantasy. At the deepest level, they know their chances of being rejected for a one night stand are far lower than for a LTR. And, oh yes, sigmas. Male sigmas would rather pay a prostitute (or sex worker, as they would ideally be called) then lead a woman on under the false pretense that there is any hope for an actual long term relationship. They see the uncanny resemblance between dating and prostitution and would rather pay straight cash for sex than trade dinner and a movie for it. (Which is actually way less degrading to women when you think about it.) And if the alternative is an unhappy fake one, a female sigma would rather be in no relationship. If you aren’t a sigma, imagine for a moment what it would be like to have no procreative compulsion, in other words, no ticking “biological clock.” It’s a freedom that I can’t really explain in words. But when I am around frantic betas or manipulative alphas who can’t stop thinking about how they haven’t gotten married or had kids yet, I feel this amazing sense of relief that I am not like them. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever have kids; it simply means I have no active desire to. I would have to have a very specific lifestyle and very specific type of mate before I risked my happiness and financial security that way. What do you call a job that’s 24 hours a day you can never quit and never get paid for? Were you going to say slavery? Funny — I was going to say motherhood.
What do you call a job that’s 24 hours a day you can never quit and never get paid for? Were you going to say slavery? Funny — I was going to say motherhood.
And now, the whole reason I was inspired to write this post. The other night I was quite nearly the victim of a slow-motion ambush by the human version of a pack of wolves at a Starbucks of all places. Middle aged mean girls. As I watched the alpha and her highest ranking beta use their tried and true techniques (meaning, strategies that had worked on beta outsiders in the past), Hillary and Debbie Wasserman Schultz came to mind. They felt entitled to everyone around them bowing to their will. And why? Because everyone around them had in the past. But that night, they picked the wrong woman.
I was sitting in front of the fireplace across from an empty chair when the alpha walked in and sat across from me, her knitting bag in tow. I found out later that she and her Stitch ‘N’ Bitch crew do this at Starbucks locations across the twin cities, but at that moment, I thought she was alone. We said hello to each other (I went out of my way to make sure she knew no one was sitting there and that she was welcome to because I was raised by a sigma mom who taught me to be polite and considerate as a way of preventing war which ensures the survival of more of the tribe). Queen Bee took out her knitting and about 15 minutes later, the rest of the pack began to slowly trickle in. And they pulled their chairs so that they formed a half circle that ostensibly ended with my chair. Here’s a picture of what it looked like after half of them had arrived.
I knew it was too good not to photograph and blog about and took the picture above from the register. Then even more knitting mean girls arrived until the point where they literally had me boxed in! Now when I got up to go to the bathroom, the woman sitting in the chair to my immediate left that was keeping me from getting out said, “Oh! I’m blocking you in!” as she remained sitting. Yeah, this sweet submissive beta was feeling really brave in front of her Alpha. I replied, in her exact tone, “Yeah! You totally are!” Oh, Right Hand Beta (the one with her black hair pulled into a bun above) wanted to shoot daggers out of her eyes and into my throat. I wish she had tried.
Shocked by the combination of my perfect echo of her awfulness and my unwillingness to be group-bullied out of my own chair, Beta Number 5 scurried to get out of my way and moved her chair to the side so I could get out. As you can see in the photo, I had placed my laptop so that it occupied exactly half of the footrest in order to mark my territory. I had been watching “The Blacklist” and had intended to go home after it was over. But as I walked to the bathroom, I knew: I’d stay till every last one of those piles of yarn had left the building. When I came back, Beta Number 5 jumped right up to let me in (I almost gave her a treat for such a compliant display of good manners! She was learning so fast too!) and I sat back down. Alpha said, “Yeah, while you were in the bathroom, we logged into your bank account and took all your money.” Yep. I hadn’t locked my screen to indicate to them that they were zero point zero percent a threat to me. And Alpha didn’t like that. I didn’t even look at her. Please. She was a poorly trained mannerless consumer not a criminal. I put my headphones in and started pinteresting castles. Bun Beta Number 1 would glare at me from time to time and I’d smile sweetly. Then, hilariously, she put her Samsung on the two inch border that Alpha and I had left open on the footrest. I realized that she is likely an alpha in her workplace and in her other circle of friends — in my peripheral vision, I noticed that she barely actually knitted and compulsively checked her phone (like an alpha, not like a beta). But in this pack, she was not an equal to the woman sitting across from me. Also, she used some very alpha strategies to get me to leave. In addition to regularly staring at me, she started talking very loudly. (In other words, I could hear her over the music I was listening to which I already had up to max volume.)
Now at this point, more mean girls/adult women started showing up. I didn’t count but I want to say 10. And if you notice in the picture, Alpha and Bun Beta are the only two in the special soft chairs; everyone else sat in a hard chair. As all the newcomers sat on my side (instead of a few of them sitting over by A & B), I realized that this was a strategy they’d used before, to literally make their prey feel surrounded and run. So fucking mean.
So guess what I did. I pulled up the guillotine/beheading episode of Criminal Minds (“Drive”) and angled my laptop out so that that group of 8 women could clearly see it and put it on full screen (my laptop is 18 inches wide — don’t worry, I had my headphones in). How long do you think it took before they angled their chairs away so that they formed their own haphazard circle of 8, separate from Alpha and Bun Beta completely? 7 minutes. BOOM. So for the next two hours (I watched another episode of CM afterwards), the 8 women knitted to my left in one group while the leaders talked only to each other on the other side (there was a third woman who joined them halfway through but she didn’t stay long). Around 9, they disbanded, and after every one of them had left, I learned a bit more about their pattern from some people who’d witness their behavior before and discovered that the mean girls do this to whoever is sitting at the fireplace, every Friday night.
Well, good! I’ll see them again next Friday! Looking forward to it.
Finally, isn’t it fascinating how terrible people can be? How one strong personality can override even the basic manners and etiquette training your parents instilled in you in childhood? I thought of that sweet beta (Beta Number 5) who moved her chair for me and knew she had parents who would be shocked if they saw her treating a stranger as rudely as she treated me. But that’s pack mentality. One strong leader can bring out either the best or the worst in a small group, a big group, a country, or even the world.
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