Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Girding Your Loins

I’ve always been curious about human behavior, and so I watch people quite a bit. Not in a creepy way, but in a waiting-in-an-airport-for-my-flight kind of way. Perhaps “observe” is a better term than “watch”.

At any rate, whether it be in preparation for a social gathering, an athletic competition, a trip, a purchase, an encounter with a stranger, or any number of other things, I notice people getting ready by deploying all kinds of rituals; a young lady plays jazz CDs and drinks a glass of wine while applying her make-up before a date; a basketball player refuses to speak to his teammates while he stretches in the locker room; a commuter sets subway passes and a book on the table in the foyer each night before bed; a homeless man belts out an incoherent chant before he throws trash at me; a writer circles her desk three times before sitting down to write. The methods of preparation are very interesting and often unique.

But what about you?

How do you gird your loins? What’s your method of preparation? Do you have rituals that you go through for anything?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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35 Comments

  1. “Gird your loins with boughs of holly. Fa la la la, la la la la.”

    Cripes. Now @Garrison22 has me doing it too.


    I prepare for stressful situations by sleeping poorly and feeling queasy. Sometimes I throw a stress headache into the mix.

  2. OK, the basketball player and the girl getting ready for a date seem like good examples of people trying to prepare themselves mentally for something.

    But the guy putting out his subway tickets is just making sure he doesn’t forget anything. It’s just something he does for practical reasons. You might as well include putting clothes in the hamper at the end of the day.

    The homeless guy is just crazy. How can you say why he does anything?

    The writer who circles like a dog seems to be suffering from an obsessive/compulsive disorder, rather than trying to “gird her loins”.

    Trying to conflate all these into being examples of one thing seems to make it so broad as to be meaningless.

    – – –

    Also, if you are trying to convince us that you are not creepy, why do your few examples include watching:
    – a woman in a bathroom
    – a guy in a locker room
    – a man in his home at night about to go to bed

    That doesn’t sound like airport-style people-watching to me. Just sayin’!

  3. I wrap a short piece of soft linen about my nethers, and then to secure it, I take a much longer, heavy piece of linen and wrap it around my torso several times, just above the hips. Then I cinch it good and tight before tying it off. And that’s how I gird my loins.

    Then I just slip on a linothorax and strap on my xiphos, and I’m ready for the phalanx!

  4. @Howard: Damn, beat me to it! I just love that you got the word phalanx into a post (never mind xiphos or linothorax).

    @davew: You’re welcome. It’s just another service we provide.

    As far as girding my loins goes: Small drink of something alcoholic helps me.

    (Just one, Elyse). :-)

    I had major social anxiety when I was a lad, and now I am a college professor who lectures in front of 30-100 people without a problem. Don’t know how that happened, really. Taught a class many years ago and found the experience exhilarating, the rest is history.

  5. I have to check both work and personal email accounts before I can start almost any task. If I don’t, I worry continuously about whether I missed something important. Doesn’t matter if I checked it 5 minutes before.

  6. I tend to obsessively prepare – especially when dealing with public speaking/performances.

    Then, right before, I decide I’ve prepared as much as I can prepare. Worry and such are a distraction now. No more time to prepare, time for action.

    I close my eyes, taking long deep breaths, I imagine myself in my head, surrounded by nothing. The camera in my mind’s eye pulls back, and I am surrounded by more and more nothing. Quiet and calm.

    Then I open my eyes and go for it. If I fuck up, I deal with it. (shrug)

  7. I compulsively check my bank account online before I leave the house, make several trims around my apartment looking for my shoes, and then rummage through my purse to make sure I have not forgotten my keys, wallet or a book.

    And for some reason I cannot engage in any major cooking without a drink. Even if I am making waffles, I kinda want to open a beer. Sometimes I will wait until late afternoon to start baking that pie, just so it’s not weird.

    @Howard At least that wrap isn’t made of cotton. I’d hate to see you damned for such an abomination!

  8. @SamOgden :Haha, Sure,sure.

    I always wash my face, put on some new make up (and most definitely get the mascara brush ín my eye, then remove black dots around my eye and put some make up on again), sing and dance accompanied by my radio.
    That’s my ritual, doesn’t matter whether I’m going out, shopping, school, hanging with friends.
    Always wash my face, sing and dance.

    But I do close the curtains.
    And now I read this AI, I know why (just kidding, just kiddin’)

  9. When I was younger I did a bit of amateur auto racing. Before every race, I’d get dressed in a very deliberate sequence (first the fire-retardant shirt, then the pants being sure to tuck the shirt in so there was no bare skin, etc.). To an outside observer, it probably looked a lot like OCD. In reality, it started a means of mitigating the nerves and fear of getting injured. (“If I do it the same way, every time, I won’t forget something crucial and get hurt if something goes bad out there.”) Then I’d sit alone and visualize the start. Not in the “picture your success” crap sense of the word, but just mentally playing different contingencies and warming up my mind to be ready to make those snap decisions when it really counted. Over time, this just evolved into ritual. The nerves and fear were gone, but the ritual remained out of habit (though I was less freaked out if something disrupted it than I used to be).

    Also, in college I’d sit and play Solitaire (with real cards) for about an hour right before I’d take a test. It was something that kept me occupied and made me think without actually obsessing over the upcoming test and trying to do last minute cramming (which usually never worked and only made me more freaked about what I didn’t know than reassure me of what I did).

  10. I used to play “Low Rider” on my cassette deck before embarking on a long drive (usually between college and home), but my husband does most of the long distance driving now so I’ve given up that habit.
    Other than that, I just usually make sure I have earrings in all my ear holes and a tissue or two in my pocket and I’m good to go.

  11. I use patterns to combat my absent mindedness. For instance I keep the 5 key items I take everywhere (keys, wallet, phone, iPod, glasses case) in the same pockets and every time I leave a place I pat down all those pockets to ensure I have everything.

    As for girding my loins, I have this concentration technique that lets me shunt my emotions aside. I tend to be a bit abstracted when I’m doing this, but it keeps me from getting too nervous.

  12. The closest I come to a ritual is the obsessive checking mode that I descend into whenever I’m about to travel overseas. It’s like the laws of the universe might suddenly have changed and the camera/passport/wallet/iPod that I just checked on might have suddenly disappeared from my bag in favour of appearing on the other side of the galaxy. The rest of the time, I try to keep the crazy in check.

  13. (shrug) Not that I know of, other than stopping by the Men’s Room before a long trip or checking my pockets quickly for my keys, etc.

    Before a public presentation, I just check over everything I need and then forget about it until it’s time to start. (Experience will do that to you.)

    All kinda “practical” things, no really “odd” OCD ones…I almost always have some music on, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I don’t know if that counts or not.

    As far as what dpaul described, that kind of habit is common in some circles, with auto racing being a great example. Others would be EMT’s, aircraft pilots, nurses, etc. I take it more as a ‘professional preparation’ habit than anything odd in itself. If he were doing that to prepare to go to the grocery store or on a date, I’d wonder…

    @faith: The next time you are going to take a major exam, could you stop by my house first? ;-)

  14. I usually start my workday by reading Dieselsweeties, PvPonline and Scarygoround. In that order. Dieselsweeties is mainly ritualistic by now as it stopped being funny a long time ago.

    Before I got a new computer at work, my morning ritual was a bit longer and more elaborate as I had time for all sorts of stuff in the twenty minutes it would take for the old machine to fully start up:
    I’d turn the computer on, take off my jacket is I was wearing one, grab my mug off the table and go and say good morning to everyone in the department on my way to the tea-kitchen. Once there, I’d fill the mug with hot water and a few drops of dish-soap, set a kettle over and then go to the bathroom to throw some cold water in my face.
    I’d then wash my mug thoroughly and make me a cup of tea.
    After this, I’d go through all the stuff that could be handled without a computer and throw out the old paper from my desk and perhaps walk over to the canteen for a piece of fruit or some such.
    If in the mood for something to eat other than fruit, I’d walk across the street to the bakery for a pastry or a roll or something.
    Finally, I’d sit the last five-to-ten minutes waiting for my computer to be ready and cursing at the lousy machine and noting that even things that genuinely are intelligently designed aren’t designed all that intelligently.

  15. When I write, before I start, and while resting in between, I play mindsweeper. For some reason, I feel like it helps me. And if I am stuck on something on the assignment, I stand up, get a glass of juice, and start pacing back and forth.

  16. I keep a pair of pants all kitted up for tomorrow; cell phone, wallet and keys are already in the pockets when I put ’em on.

    I started doing this when locking myself out of the house became a real possibility… and all the neighbors lost their spare keys.

    Somehow.

    Maybe there’s a teeny-tiny chance I forgot to give them back.

  17. I work as a Police Officer in a behavioural sciences role now but when I was in uniform patrol I used to have a bit of a ritual as I got ready in the locker room. It is a bit like dpaul’s auto racing preparation.

    I’m normally very mellow and relaxed, and off-duty, nobody ever guesses my profession. I had to put on my ‘game face’ when going out, and it would always start in the locker room with my protective gear. I would put on my ballistic vest and cinch it up, put the rest of my uniform on. Then came the duty belt. I’d run through all my kit on the belt, then load up my gun the same way each time with a clean, quick draw into the safe loading box.

    There was always a palpable change in my perceptions once I was done although not in attitude, per se. It was more like I had dialed my senses up a little notch, and discarded things I didn’t need to think about at the moment; sort of like commercial pilots keeping a ‘sterile cockpit’ on approach to landing when all non-critical communication is held for a time.

    Likewise, my game face went off when I took off my vest to go home. It was like a physical indicator to relax again.

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