Don’t Rile the Phlegmatic

You know, I don’t feel as though I ask a lot from my books… if you’re meant to be entertaining, entertain me. If you’re meant to be informative, then I do LOVE to be informed. If you’re meant to rock my world and shake up my paradigms, then commence with the rocking and shaking, thanks.
If you manage not to do any of those things in 115 pages, then I’m just going to read you to stay on track with my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge.
After that, you’re dead to me.
No offense.
I am in the middle of a very…

well-intentioned… book that has been steadily getting on my nerves.
It can happen, of course.
It won’t when you’re reading Neil Gaiman, but it can happen.

Last night, I was treated to a few silly statements about the nature of phlegmatics that just about put me in the ground, because in addition to being phlegmatic, I’m a perfectionist, which means that I’ll still be sitting here with a dumb look on my face while I take you task… and you’ll think I’m joking…
Being a phlegmatic who doesn’t like wearing jeans, I do rather resent the first nonsensical statement that phlegmatics will wear the most casual clothes possible.
Because they’re like puddles of warm, gooey molasses, and they can barely stand up with help, let alone wear trousers and shave and apply makeup and struggle into nylons. Phlegmatics don’t have spines, you see, they have cores made entirely of Laffy Taffy, so your phlegmatic has no concept of fashion sense.
I object. One thing (temperament) has nothing to do with the other (sartorial choices).
The problem with this statement is the assumption that one’s temperament can be extrapolated to clothing preferences. I would never assume that someone with a melancholy temperament would automatically prefer the color black anymore than I would assume that a sanguine (what with all the cheeriness and bubbles and talking and what not) would prefer to be a nudist. If you know a couple of sloppily dressed phlegmatics who never shower and just sort-of ooze of out the door in the morning, clad in tatters and their own body soil, that can’t be laid at the door of their temperament, nor should phlegmatics use their unceasing calm as an excuse to be gross… any more than cholerics can rush about slapping irritating strangers, and shrugging it off with a “You’re going to get that with your cholerics.”

The second statement, upon which I closed the book gently, laid it on the table, and proceeded to go to sleep at once in an effort to preserve my poor fragile frontal lobes, implied that while every other personality type may get tired of assisting their friends through difficult times, phlegmatics won’t.
Um… generally speaking, I would say that everyone gets emotionally tired in times of prolonged distress. Emotional fatigue belongs to all of us, not just the overtly emotional. The fact that I won’t immediately tell my best friend to shut up when she has a problem does not mean that I won’t grow weary if she’s depressed for five years. Of course, I would still help her, but my assistance has no bearing on whether or not I’m tired.
Maybe a phlegmatic won’t tell you that he or she is tired but please don’t assume that fatigue isn’t present.
That’s just illogical… and perhaps a little bit insulting.
It’s like saying that people who don’t constantly eat or constantly talk about eating or constantly look ravenous are therefore never hungry.

Suffice it to say… I’m really not enjoying this book, for other reasons besides my irritation with people who use personality tests and temperament analysis to continue putting people (with years of experience, training, preferences, and personal growth) in rigid itty bitty boxes, all the better to understand them with, without actually having to talk to them… but perhaps the book’s personality commentary was the last straw. Idealistic, perhaps, but I think authors have a certain level of responsibility to not perpetuate nonsense.
Unless you’re Neil Gaiman.
If you are a writer, and you struggle to organize your thoughts, and you struggle with a tendency to say silly things that you can’t back up with data, GET AN EDITOR.

It occurred to me this morning that perhaps a little refresher course on the nature of phlegmatics might be in order. Exploring the Introvert: 14 Facts about Phlegmatics is a beautifully succinct blog post that outlines the basics.

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