March 5, 2007

How a spider monkey got in my backpack


I love snap decisions. I've never taken a bite of grapefruit but I hate the stuff. I gleefully judge books by their cover and avoid eye contact with the man wearing high heels on the metro. When I found Winnie the Pooh figurines at the dollar store I bought 60 of them to sell on eBay (alas, no one will buy the poor dears). I chose my major in undergrad in 20 minutes by sitting down with the course catalog and finding the major with the fewest hours. I decided what to name my child by playing "Rock, Paper Scissors" with my husband.

In the past, this trait is something I've chalked up to "character." I'm impatient, thus most of my life decisions are alloted 10 seconds or less to make. But I picked up the book "Blink" this week by Malcolm Gladwell and suddenly everything that I thought was beautifully rash, insane and quirky about my "snap decisions" now begins to look deathly rational. In essence, the book explains how your subconscious mind is highly trained to take all factors into account and make quick, accurate decisions on our conscience mind's behalf.

Most of the time.

Sometimes these snap decisions go horribly wrong. The trick then is figuring out which decisions to trust to my subconscious and which to put some elbow grease into.

My most momentous snap decision was to marry Spike. We describe it to friends as "love at first sight" for lack of a better explanation. Spike had dated every girl at BYU and I would fall in love with anyone who made eye contact. From what I can gather by listening to his dating chronicles, I was simply the last girl he hadn't dated on campus. Luckily for him, he made eye contact. By the end of our first date we had agreed to go to Costa Rica on our honeymoon. Twenty one days later we were engaged. Six months after that we found ourselves chasing a spider monkey out of my backpack on a deserted Costa Rican beach. I like to believe that behind this seemingly random hook-up there were deep, inspired mental realizations on both of our parts. But I can't be sure.

The book specifically says that when people are pressed to analyze the reasons behind a snap decision they frequently get it wrong. Sometimes, Gladwell writes, it's better just to go with it. In the past when friends ask me why I decided to marry Spike so quickly, I've ducked my head and sheepishly admitted to our uninformed selection process. I'll usually conclude the story with, "lucky for us it worked out" and a nervous laugh. Thanks to the wealth of sketchy scientific conclusions in Gladwell's book, now when people are skeptical about our hasty hook-up I can simply reference the studies in "Blink" and ask them why in the world it took them 10 years to get engaged. Anybody with half a brain should know not to use it.

I won't recommend the book. It bugs me when people try to shove books down my throat when all I'm trying to do is make it through the day without getting pooped on. But I will suggest that if you ever have a spare hour and the book happens to be propped open in your lap to read a few pages. You may find that your decision to get the word "Loser" tattooed on your forehead all those years ago in a drunken haze was actually the smartest decision you've ever made. Let's hope so.

20 comments:

Adrienne said...

TWENTY ONE DAYS? You decided to get married after dating for TWENTY ONE DAYS? Man, no wonder you seem so stricken by the idea that Francis and I just got engaged after dating for nigh on seven YEARS.

I'm not sure where I was going with this post... 21 DAYS!?! Sorry.

Toni said...

Awesome! Hubby and I were married 6 months after meeting! And no I WASN'T pregnant! That's what EVERYONE thought! Best 'snap' decision I have ever made!

drainey said...

Hi Sar. I've read that book and I agree with your weak reccomendation. I didn't think he had much to go on. It seemed like his points were propped-up and entertainment-based. Pretty lightweight stuff.

I have my own explanation for how the spider monkey got in your backpack. I won't expound, but the title of my theory is "Destined for Flakehood". You know, some are born Flakes, others have it thrust upon them...

doug said...

Hey Sarah, I'll bet you have a whole tag or category along the lines of "Posts That'll Be Deleted By Adam When He Finds Them."

Melinda said...

anyone with half a brain should know not to use it..... good one. and yes, you described the only scenario under which i will read that book, as much as i'd like to add it to my extensive list. i just got pooped on, i have to go.

s'mee said...

One of my best friends was engaged on their fourth date and married before they knew each other three weeks. They are going on 40 some years and are perfect for each other.

Thor thinks that if you have to fast and pray about marrying so-in-so then you've already got your answer.

Snap decisions are the way to go 90% of the time. I mean really, how many of us would have children if we really thought that one out for more than two minutes?

tracy m said...

Sarah, you totally rock. I love the way you put things.

I waited 10 years- but my husband was ready to marry the night we met. Who was right? We're still married, going on 8 years and three kids...

Kristine said...

Love ya...
Love your blog.

Love that you were engaged in 21 days.
Snap decisions must be right up my alley.

Th. said...

.

I just wish I had had it put on in mirror image. You know. So I could read it.

Jenny said...

It was four months after we met that we were married. Good thing it worked out! *nervous laughter*

Sarah said...

Adrienne - you mystify me with your scientific ways. Must everything be planned?

Doug - I think I broke Adam's will to live months ago with this blog. Now he just gives me a sad look and sticks on his headphones. I haven't stopped though so I guess it's worth it.

Tracy and Kristine, why oh why do you egg me on?

.Th - I have no clue what you are talking about. Seriously. I've read your comment 20 times. What am I missing?

Chanel said...

extremely well written, I like snap decisions, mostly b/c I like to be the one making the decision and not giving anyone else time to choose. Judging books by their covers- is there really any other way??

High Heels said...

I've made most of my major decisions on an impulse. Sometimes it worked out ok, sometimes (mostly actually) it's been disastrous. Yet I can't seem to change... maybe it's just the life force! thanks for dropping by my blog btw. :)

Adrienne said...

Sarah, what can I say? I'm a planner. I can't do diddly without a plan.

My last snap decision was to go to grad school... Oh, how I wish I'd thought THAT one through a little more.

AzĂșcar said...

I need to learn more from you because my decision process is AGONIZING. Could it be A, could it be B, did anyone stop to consider C? The What-Ifs can be paralyzing.

Everything should be thought out with every ramification accounted for. Sleep should be lost in mental gymnastics.

Where has it gotten me?

Practically the same place as you.

Janell said...

Reading these comments, I seem to be my own little brand of decision making. I agonize over every detail of a decision, and then make a choice on impulse or whim later on. I was 80% positive I would be going to a different one than I did. On the last day to actually declare a school? The gut went in a different direction.

Still, 21 days? Wow. Good job =)

angela lovington said...

great post, sarah! i think th. got LOSER tattooed to his forehead. i am going to have to practice making snap decision because usually i just avoid making decisions at all.

Sarah said...

I'm dumb. Thanks for clarifying, angela!

Bex said...

21 days? That's impressive! Sounds like you have a knack for snap decisions. I think about things and then doubt myself and then decide to go for it and then doubt myself. It's annoying.

It sounds like snap decisions are the way to go...I'll have to try it sometime. Maybe. Yes, yes I will try it. Maybe. Hmm, maybe not. Wait, yes I will try it. Hmmm, Maybe.

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