Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Random Thoughts - Business and Sex

The other night I went out for drinks with my friend Tyrone. After the hour-long banter about music, books, Battlestar Galactica, magic and chicks, he managed to mention in earnest that he has a thing for prostitutes. “I really like them,” he said. “They’re so down to earth. The conversation afterwards is always so interesting.”

Ever the one to find connections in the world, I noted that Tyrone is the third person I’ve known who is a practicing john, and like my other two friends, he is a capable and dedicated businessman. The other two were both brokers, one in steel, the other in petroleum. They differed from Tyrone in that they were both substance abusers and full of self-loathing. Still, I wondered privately if the Adam Smith school of thought somehow lent itself to solicitation.

It’s always dangerous to draw conclusions based on anecdotal evidence. After all, in poker, it’s not too extraordinary to get three of a kind in anything. So, why even remark on it? Well, possibly, because it feels like there’s a correlation. Three johns who are also three hardcore business guys. A successful player in the business world doesn’t simply stumble into the job like one does for, say, a delivery driver or motivational speaker. No, it’s a vocation. It’s a career that takes a certain kind of person, one who thinks and sees the world in a very specific way.

For the adept capitalist, any human interaction is an avenue for commerce and exchange. Casual meetings, weddings, introductions, chance encounters –whatever—they are all legitimate opportunities to feel the ground and swap business cards. Inane banter is gregariously embraced as a vital preliminary to the bonhomie necessary to conduct trade.

Standing on the outside, witnessing these interactions, I can almost see the gears turning behind the rigid smiles as both parties size each other up, asking themselves, What does he or she have that I want? What does he or she want from me? How valuable would this relationship be to me? Yet, where I once suffered a nauseating and visible distaste for such pragmatic calculation, I now tend to think that this is not unlike any interaction between strangers, though most of us tend to perform such calculations on a purely subconscious level. And for that reason, when savvy players are on their game, it’s almost refreshingly pure and honest, if not artless.

As my friend Tyrone says, “Nobody does it better than Americans. The French, they have rules about not talking shop with their cousins or whatever. But that’s why the French suck at business.”

It’s not to say that all who embed themselves into the world of business are insincere and superficial. Perhaps only the majority of them are. My three whoremongering friends, for example, adapt their manner to whomever they are talking to. They’re superficial only part of the time, when it’s to some advantage. But obviously they can be genuine and introspective enough to make the kind of confessions that they’ve made to me, someone who has nothing to offer in business but who also happens to enjoy thought-provoking dialogue.

To get to the point: When, in a person’s perception and attitude, any conceivable human interaction is reduced to the bottom line of economics, certain romantic notions like “true love” and “selfless giving” are regarded as unprofitable. Or so it seems to me. Time is money, and the effort spent in wooing a potential sexual partner must be weighed against the benefits to be incurred. If a romantic interest cannot bring money, connections, aesthetics or consolation to a partnership, but only sex, then the most profitable and efficient course toward orgasm must –and can only be—through a quick and efficient means of monetary exchange. No fuss, no muss. Not only is prostitution a major time saver, it’s good for business.

Me, I make no judgements other than on the art inherent in ritual. I have no moral qualms with most anything that anybody does. Despite my own personal tendency to gravitate toward the romantic means of getting laid, I don’t begrudge anybody who hasn’t time for such tomfoolery. After all, if we were all the same, it would be a pretty boring world. And I don’t suppose that all businessmen (emphasis on men) are the same. Still, I wonder what statistical data a study would bring.

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