Dear Engineers

27 Jan

Dear Engineers,

You'd think engineers would be good at this.

You seem so FUN and yet survey says you are not.  Let me start by saying this: one of my mom’s favorite things to do is suggest that I, or my sister, or my friend, or that neighbor’s granddaughter, or that girl in the grocery store, should go hang out in the college libraries of male-dominated fields in order to meet men.

Her: Why don’t you go study in the engineering library?

Me: Why would I do that?

Her: Well you’re sure to meet a nice boy there!

Me: Excuse me?

Her: You know that something like 78% of engineers are still men.

Me: You know I don’t study in the library, right?  Any library?

Her: Sooo if you want to meet a nice, smart boy, you just have to put yourself where they can see you.  Engineers are great!

Me: They are? Are you sure?  Who do you know who’s an engineer?

My sister: She probably wouldn’t meet any engineers, actually.  They’re notorious for being awkward in social situations.

Her: Your boyfriend’s an engineer.

My sister: Yeah, and even he says engineers have terrible social skills.  He doesn’t know what to say to them half the time.

Her: Your roommate’s an engineer.

My sister: Yeah, and he says engineers are impossible to talk to, too.

Her: But they’re smart and hardworking!  They invent things!

Me: I don’t think we have an engineering library.  I think we just have the one library.

Her: Well, is there an engineering building on campus?  Don’t you want to meet a nice boy?

Me: No.

Her: Your Uncle Bill is an engineer!  He’s lots of fun!

Uncle Bill: Engineers?  Those guys?  That I work with?  No.  They’re no fun.

Although…clearly we know one fun engineer in every group.  And engineers do fun things!  Like make subway station stairs into a giant piano keyboard!  An insane amount of work, just to find out if they could get more people to take the stairs than the escalator.

…Work they did at night, probably on the weekend, and that required hours hunched over a laptop and in a garage, surrounding by their engineering friends, work that probably included testing pitch according to different people’s weights and at least 17 trips to Home Depot on Friday night and precise calculation of word problems: “If 2,000 commuters step on 20 piano keys within the hours of 7-9 and 5-7, and the temperature is 41 degrees, then…,” work that kept them so focused they looked at their shoes while they walked and they slept through that friend’s dinner party on Sunday and…

I just don’t understand why engineers have trouble talking to girls.




10 Responses to “Dear Engineers”

  1. Kaitlin 27 January 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Sounds like a conversation my mother and I have had, but transplant church for engineering library, which enfolds its own breed of awkwardness.

  2. Garrett 27 January 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Hahaha! I used to work exclusively with middle-aged engineers. Talk about a heady mixture of extreme personality types!

  3. 27 January 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    How much of mom’s persistence is based on finding a partner that can provide financial stability vs. intellectual/social stimulation? Just sayin…

    Yes there is an engineering library at UW, but please dont go there to pick up dudes. They’re trying to study and ladies everywhere would ruin them. Let me go into why.

    -Usually dudes get into engineering because of a knack/interest in some sort of technical application. The immersion required to become an engineer tends to stymie intellectual development in non technical areas. How many women do you know that like to talk about technology all the time?

    -While it’s changing rapidly, currently there is a large discrepancy between the amount of men vs. women engineers. This equates to a lack of opportunities to interact with women for your average male engineer. Plus engineering women tend to be a whole breed of their own, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

    -Engineers are encouraged to develop a certain mindset to aid in their profession that transcends into every day life. This mindset utilizes logic based reasoning and relies on facts and data when making decisions. While practical, it usually does not help with wooing women. I’m not saying that women aren’t rational, but I am saying that there are aspects of the female psyche is based on emotional evaluation that can difficult to understand for an engineer considering said mindset. For example, pick a random Rom-Com. Usually the lead male performs some act that ultimately wins over the lead female. How often is this act based on rational, fact based reasoning? Almost never, and actually I would argue that a given Rom-Com wooing act tugs harder at female heart strings the more that act is based on irrational thought processes. “I would do anything for love” and all that. This concept is totally foreign to a purely rational mindset, which is the mindset in which your typical engineer revels. In short, the engineering mindset tends to widen the “men are from mars and women are from venus” gap.

    -Engineers don’t do well with things they aren’t familiar with, especially if there isn’t a methodical means available to evaluate the situation and decide on next steps. The beauty of engineering that no matter how daunting a problem may seem at first (e.g. getting a person to mars), usually one can pave a path to resolution by breaking the larger problem into smaller more manageable tasks (design a space suit, design a ship, etc.). Unfortunately affairs of the heart are rarely this simple, and typically engineers react to these unfamiliar situations with anti-social responses.

    However, not all engineers are alike, so by all means give them a try. Just mentally prepare yourself to deal with an engineering persona.

  4. margaret michelle 27 January 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Well said, sir. Well said indeed. I’m not a rom-com type of girl, but I have to say, I do tend to like a little bit of emotion served alongside my relationships…probably my bad. I’ll keep working on that. 😉

  5. MEA 28 January 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Hmmm. I kinda thought the right brain/left brain or brain vs. emotion were kind of dead issues. Still seems to me like they are all connected! MEA

  6. Brendan Cavalier 23 February 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I was perusing your blog and saw a letter to my people. Nap Ninja has got it spot on. Also, your conversation with your Mom and Sister reminded me of a video I sent my parents a while ago. Hope you enjoy.

  7. margaret michelle 23 February 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    i love it!

    although I also love fish.

    have you seen the Tales of Mere Existence on Subtext? In emails? So good.

  8. Brendan Cavalier 4 March 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I was showing a fellow engineer this blog post, and I realized that you responded, but it didn’t alert me.
    Subtext is my life … in fact I’ll probably rewrite this short post 4 to 5 times. It’s the primary reason I prefer to communicate with people face to face, that way they can tell how weird I really am, and not have to intuit through my childlike scrawl.


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