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Over the past 5 or so years, I taught a series of classes for nontraditional students. It was a program called “Success in College,”  a three-credit class for a local university, and it offered nontraditional students a chance to build their confidence before going to college. It was fun and rewarding to engage these students in a positive way and later to hear and see “success stories” happen in my other college class, English Composition, which I taught in the fall semester for 4 years at a community college in southern Maine. Both classes were fun to teach.

While teaching the “Success in College” workshop series,  my students took the Myers-Briggs personality questionnaires, and at one point, I joined in taking it. It was really not a surprise to find out I was an ENFP, the “Champion” personality, since I’d taken it in my 20s and was an ENFP then, too, and once in high school during a leadership training workshop experience for teens. (LOFT?) ENFP stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling(based) and Perceptive. Charlotte Bronte was most likely an ENFP, too. She’s one of my favorite authors of all time. (I dressed as Jane Slayre, a vampire-slaying version of Jane Eyre, for Halloween last year. I was very fond of my red slayer boots.) 

The Champion is one of the Idealist personality types. And I’m no stranger to the behaviors of a Champion! My mother and step-dad are both ENFPs, like me, so I have seen and experienced the exciting drama, the high energy, the vivacious spilling-over-the-top sensation that is everything that interests a Champion. Like my mother, I write. I speak. I teach. I aim to inspire, to engage, to empower others. I love to improve things, to protect them, to champion a cause (or two, or three or four.) And I put my whole self into a cause as if my very life depended on it. This applies to my job (writing about protecting wetlands), my family and friends, my personal writing projects and even raising a rescue dog. (And my dog is definitely an extrovert. No assessment necessary. The vet said my pointer-dachshund is a “nanny” personality type, which means she likes to play nanny, to raise things, even weird things, like acorns and rinsed-out tuna cans, in her doggie bed.)

Sophie-Bea in her former modeling days

When I was asked to go to some employee training workshops to improve myself, I thought that was cool  since I’ve taught this kind of workshop myself, and attended them before for other jobs in the past.  Some people think these kinds of seminars are boring but I like them.  Topics like “dealing with stress at work,” which is different for everyone and for me (ENFP) is described like this:

“The Champion is usually a bundle of energy, but they can become exhausted if they are overloaded with work. They also will experience stress if their values and principles are violated and they see others in the company being hurt by policies that kill the human spirit. Then they become hypersensitive to what is going on around them. To regain their equilibrium, meditation will help (or in my case, swimming!) Kindness and support by others, but not patronization, will help them get back to normal.” – according to the Keirsey personality philosophy. I’m certainly a passionate type, so whatever I do at work, it’s not exactly subdued. It is especially interesting for me, as an extrovert, to work with a lot of introverts. My boss, all of my co-workers, are all introverts. So I’m sure sometimes they think I sound like a martian, when I’m just communicating in an extroverted way, and they receive information in an introverted way. There is something to that!

On a personal note, this insight into women in relationships based on personality type, e.g. Champion – for me, it’s right on the nose. Check out the sections on dating and mating based on your Myers-Briggs personality, regardless of your personality type. If you don’t know what your Myers-Briggs personality type is, I think there’s a way to find out on the same website. It’s certainly helpful to understand about yourself in a working environment and for those looking for a new job or figuring out what they want to do for a career after college.

Every now and then I catch a NATURE special featuring the weird mating rituals of some animal, like the koala in “Cracking the Koala Code” or mountain lions or prairie voles. I’ve already written plenty (far too much) about prairie voles, and that whole chemistry topic is nothing new. What I’m interested in is this topic of “dating down” that I keep seeing in blogs, or *gasp* crappy dating advice from over-eager dating coaches, who even encourage this twirpy and negative spin on dating. We all know what “dating down” means…in the usual context, it makes me think of some line from “Dirty Dancing” when the arrogant waiter tells Baby it’s okay if she’s “slummin’ it. We all do that sometimes, Baby.” (She was in love, dammit! And Johnny Castle aka Patrick Swayze was a stand-up guy.)

Osprey at Wolf’s Neck Farm. Terry Chick photo.

But I got thinking of another way to read the “dating down” concept:  what if it’s down to the bones of the dating rituals, or more accurately, the mating rituals. What it’s really about is dating down to the animal within us. When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was part fish and part otter, full of fur and snout and salt water. (My mother affectionately referred to me as her little raccoon, or otter, because I washed my seafood before eating it.) My dad’s a Grizzly Adams-Dirty Harry cross, and in my dreams, he sometimes appeared beside a bear, or AS a bear himself. I realized I was raised by some kind of bear-man, who identified himself as a lone wolf, and now I see him as part-wolf, part-bear, and still part Dirty Harry. My mother always said that the osprey was her totem animal, and she was always a bird-mom, in the best and worst possible ways, feeding us hors d’oeuvres and making nests for us, wherever we moved, which was often, circling in the same general territory, never straying too far from the Sheepscot River in midcoast Maine.  Our family land, now a Chewonki Preserve, has had an eagle’s nest for many years, along with osprey nests, and I grew up with a strong sense of responsibility in protecting our heritage and the wild things that depended on our land ethic.

One day when I was a teen-ager, a mountain lion showed up in our backyard, close to the Sheepscot River. I made sure that my cat was inside the house and together, my cat and I watched the mountain lion creep over the stone wall terraces like a duchess descending a grand staircase. She was well-camouflaged against a meadow of lilies, a strong tawny blonde, and purposeful in her movements. I never forgot her. Over the years, I have grown to accept that I transformed, at puberty, from part-otter part-fish girl into a part-otter part-mountain-lioness and as daughter of an osprey-woman and a wolf-man, I have those animal traits, too. (If you’ve seen “LadyHawke,” then you can picture what I’m talking about.) I am protective and territorial of the land that I nurture and call home; I move through each day with purpose but I don’t show off, surrounded by the lakes and natural beauty. Yet I am still playful and never lose my sense of wonder, or love for the water.  

A female mountain lioness stakes out her territory, and then allows some males to approach. Most of the males are chased away, mauled and intimidated into submission, but a couple will remain, to tough it out. They compete for her affections, but it’s really more about chemistry—as she picks the mate no matter who wins the battle for dominance between the toms. It’s up to her, ultimately. Then after she mates with the tom, he’s allowed to stick around. This is a pretty big deal since mountain lions are not like lions in Africa—with a whole pride. And dare I mention kinky otter sex? That’s probably better left up to the imagination. Otter sex is not for the faint-of-heart, lemme tell you. Only Scorpios could really even imagine going there as it’s worse than shark BDSM. Ask a marine biologist. I’m not at liberty to say.

So what’s the take-away from this post? Date down, you might be disappointed. Date down to the animal, you might find the right mate, someone who echoes your instincts and brand of wildness. Or you might get mauled.

My bank, Key Bank, has a giant red poster hanging in the lobby that suggests it’s time for me to schedule a “Relationship Review.” I thought this was a special running in consideration of Valentine’s day, but alas, it is simply an annual service.  A few months ago, I was in there to make a deposit, and the teller said I absolutely had to meet the investment bank manager guy, who was there once a week–and yes, I looked fine, and oh, yeah, he’s single. So I met him. We flirted. We exchanged business cards. We hardly talked financial business, so I was not sure if he was hoping for a date…or a client. Later I looked at his business card and saw that his number was 1-888-KISS-2YOU, and I thought, huh, I wonder if their marketing department meant to have their Key Bank Investment Services branch contact number sound like a romance hot line. He was nice looking and he had a lot of gadgets. I told him that I had a busy schedule but didn’t have a blackberry or a watch–I just flew by the seat of my pants.  He seemed impressed, or desperate to save me, since he tripped over a chair to shake my hand. And I didn’t call him. But I remembered the phone number, and the flirting, when I saw the poster about the “Relationship Review.” I ducked into the office of the branch manager and asked her if this Relationship Review thing would improve my love life? She laughed. She said, “I’m not laughing at you, Leah, but you’re right, it does sound like that would be a benefit, one would hope!” According to Key Bank, they have “Relationship Managers” who conduct annual “Relationship Reviews” with their focused clients. Not every client, not the distracted ones who go about their life willy nilly, but the focused ones. Apparently a “Relationship Review” assesses the level of risk and how involved a bank customer really wants to be with her bank (and vice verse). If you’re looking to have a good relationship, based on Key Bank’s standards, you’ve gotta be focused. Distracted is a deal-breaker.

Let’s pretend that my “bank” is my “boyfriend,” and so I’ll call him my “bankfriend.” My bankfriend doesn’t want to be involved with a girl who launders her money, bounces checks or has bad credit.  That’s okay by me as I’m a goody-goody.  A couple of years ago, I bought my house–in part thanks to my good credit score, after I went through my credit report and corrected errors. (It took time and effort.) My bankfriend wants me to be responsible and thrifty, but also to treat myself well, like during my birthday week. I have been in a committed relationship with my bankfriend since 2006, when I started my current job, and so I’m no stranger to commitment. I don’t use the drive-thru window; I go inside the bank to make deposits, chatting up the tellers and sharing a secret now and then. (Key Bank tellers like the “kiss-and-tell” kind of customer, and perhaps that’s why their number is 1-888-KISS-2YOU.) As my bankfriend will tell you, I don’t have intimacy problems.  Whenever I go see my bankfriend, it seems that everyone is happy to see me, and they say my name with conviction and a promise…almost like a lover. It establishes a connection, this little weekly ritual with my bankfriend.  I look forward to seeing my bankfriend each week, and building on a common desire to grow my little savings account. We speak candidly and I am open about my passions–my love for my environmental writing job and nostalgia for Acadia, an adventurous past, and my new-found joy in raising a rescue dog. My bankfriend knows I’m a passionate individual–driven by my desire to protect wetlands and to write about the wet world. In short, I’m focused. Though, I’ll admit I get side-tracked with the occasional blog post about relationship reviews.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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