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  • Caroline Wright

On challenging status quo

I met a guy for a second date (dinner and some fabulous drinks) at this great speakeasy-type place. The ambience was truly memorable. A fine-looking woman in her mid-30's was sitting next to us—next to him, really —so my guy asked her about the menu, but she said it was her first time at the establishment as well. She mentioned she was in town touring for a show, a topic we all briefly talked about together. When Ms. Fine mentioned she was from New York City, my date's posture starting turning more and more toward her until he was "going on an NYC bike trip in a few weeks" with his back to me. Ms. Fine went out of her way to enunciate the word fiancé multiple times while conversing with the guy (who had now officially become a jerk), probably since it started getting weird for her, too. For several minutes I kept to myself and my Agave-based beverage, "Tick of the Clock." A few ticks later, I took the last sip of my drink, followed by a deep breath, then slowly got up from my bar stool and began putting on my scarf. I interrupted their conversation, stating that I was leaving. What? the guy asked, seeming stunned. We haven't even had dinner yet! Oh, I am aware, I replied. But, thanks for the drink!


Mint condition

Walking through the corridor,

cigarette butts and candy cane wrappers.

Funny, I used to like the smell of mint.

If heels were originally made for men,

somehow they ended up on my feet tonight.

I must have been high.

Showing up was easy,

though I know nothing happens

‘til you open the door.

I’m knocking,

hopefully not my sanity.

Guess I’ll know in a minute.

In a minute

I’m not so claustrophobic

despite your closeness.

Making my way through the bedroom,

sanity still intact,

you offer me a stick of gum.


Politics aside, status quo is basically a situation which both parties find mutually undesirable, but the outcome of any changes to the given situation are risky, so they continue the undesirable thing knowing that eventual change will occur.

In 1988's Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, William Samuelson and Richard Zeckhauser published an article: Status Quo Bias in Decision Making, where they concluded that, in real life decision-making, individuals disproportionately stick with the status quo. Their research points to economics, psychology and decision theory as possible explanations for this phenomenon.

Curiosity on the topic of status quo continued even sixteen years later when John T. Jost, Mahzarin R. Banaji, and Brian A. Nosek conducted their own research for Political Psychology: A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo, with themes more consistent with social dominance theories than those of social identity:

...system justification theory unambiguously addresses the possibilities that (a) there is an ideological motive to justify the existing social order, (b) the motive is at least partially responsible for outgroup favoritism and the internalization of inferiority among members of disadvantaged groups, (c) it is observed most readily at an implicit, nonconscious level of awareness, and (d) paradoxically, it is sometimes strongest among those who are most disadvantaged by the social order.

It's the idea of the comfort zone (though I'm certain many people will agree this area feels anything but comfortable!). While the particular zone may not actually be favorable, it can be more convenient than a potential alternative, which would, of course, require additional (and often complicated) effort, producing outcomes not yet known. On the flip-side, if a specific outcome is suspected, one is likely guaranteed to feel worse than he or she does in the present situation, at least for a brief time.

[Enter the so-so 10-year dating plan: when staying with someone you moderately like (or love) for a long period of time becomes the norm, because no one better has yet come along, but you're not exactly in the position to date anyone else, either. ]

However, a comfort zone is just a zone with boundaries you, yourself, create. (Nothing a can of paint won't fix!) So, grab a brush and start drawing a new line or two. Eventually lines become a pattern, much like stripes. Once your pattern takes shape, you can evaluate whether or not it suits you. If it does, keep painting. If not, you can always re-paint.

You're ultimately the one who has to continuously deal with patterns in your own life. If you find yourself comfortable with the way things are in your current situation, cheers to you. But, if you're ready for something different, go ahead and change your stripes! Remember, there are multiple colors of paint, various-sized paintbrushes, and lots of helping hands, so you never have to start from scratch. And you certainly don't have to paint on your own.


Phillipe Jestin of San Francisco, CA creates artwork that straddles the border between the figurative and the abstract, but always involves a sculptural dimension. He works with various materials and subject matter to define new spaces and create a sense of fluidity in his finished work. His "Silhouette and Body Lines" series began in 2000 when he started carving silhouettes into wood panels, cutting boards and wood plates prepared with white enamel paint, then filled with translucent resin. In these works, he appreciates the lack of reference to a particular personality; instead, the movement and gestures are the defining elements, the identity.

The above featured piece, "Stripe Pose #6" was created in 2014 using resin and paint on wood.

Check out his website here:

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