I’m just a boring programmer
How to appear like a normal person when, in reality, you suspect you’re a rejected beta version of an AI missing a social charm plugin
My kids told me that my job looks boring. I couldn’t blame them. They’ve seen me sit in front of the computer, typing long lines of sentences in funny english, wearing my coffee-stained pajamas at 4 pm.
If I told them I was building the app that will replace Instagram, they would surely light up. But what if they find out the truth, that I’m just writing a command that will submit an invoice to some legacy bank system. What if they discover that I’ve spent days tweaking a label so it’s properly aligned with a textbox? My reputation as a cool mom would be forever tarnished. My kids would look at me with those sleepy eyes, silently wondering why their mother wasn’t a makeup vlogger star, earning thousands of dollars a day being a cutie pie?
With my non-programmer girlfriends, it’s a different challenge. When more wine bottles have been opened and everyone have started ranting about their insecure co-workers or sexist bosses, I have to be extra creative to compete with the drama. I break into ‘Sooo, today, our build failed right before the planned release! Somebody from the API team missed a freaking closing bracket. Can you imagine that? A bracket, of all characters! It was so heartbreaking, I couldn’t take it anymore. If I see another red squiggly line again, I’ll go down with full depression.’ This would usually be the cue for my friends to gather in a group hug, wipe away tears, clueless of what I just said.
I admit, there’s nothing glamorous about programming. It doesn’t require you to wear stilletos to work. Nobody cares if your lipstick matches your skin tone, when you’re anyways constantly illuminated by the screen light, you resemble an iron-deficient cyborg. And that sweet, modulated voice of yours, well you can enjoy listening to it when you’re talking to yourself about how to solve that pesky bug at line 4918. When I found out that Rihanna is going to play the role of a hacker in Ocean’s 8, my heart sank. Rihanna is a goddess from a kingdom of impeccably beautiful people, where their skin sparkles under the ray of sun and their body flows to the rhythm of the wind. I, on the other hand, looks like a deranged, bloated duck when I attempt to twerk.
When Riri hits the enter key, invisible signal propagates out in the air and into that part of your brain responsible for increasing your body temperature. When I’m sitting coding all day, I hunch so much that I look like a parenthesis with a little beer belly sticking out from the mid section.
What if I do try to live up to Hollywood’s interpretation of a female computer nerd? I’ll wear dark framed glasses even when I have 20/20 vision. I’ll get a cool, choppy haircut, with uneven bangs and neon purple streaks. I’ll rock a belly button shirt, uber short plaid skirt, paired with white knee high socks and suspenders (google nerd girl costume). Will I become more popular? Will I meet new friends? Will it make my days more fun than when I have mismatched socks and seemingly endless variations of a black t-shirt? Maybe.
When I started my own software development company, one where all my teammates are either working from customers’ sites or sitting halfway accross the planet, I didn’t consider how lonely it could get. I feel isolated, specially because I’m living in a foreign country where there are probably more deer to get drunk with than people.
I’ve always loved my career choice. I enjoy sitting all night solving problems, figuring out how to write code as elegant as it can be, so when I read it five years later, I wouldn’t get a cardiac arrest. I enjoy it so much that I’ve managed to ignore that my social skills is slowly becoming comparable to a Panda’s. Who needs a human confidant when a debugger can be more honest about your mistakes and shortcommings? Plus, it doesn’t gossip.
I suppose you stumble into this article expecting to get advice on how to kill loneliness, or perhaps, to a lesser tone, learn to be a tad bit more fashionable even when you have a computer for a best friend. Well, I wish I could help but I can only take a stab at it based on my own, mostly fruitless, experience.
Here are my tips on how to appear like a normal person when in reality, you suspect you’re a rejected beta version of an AI missing the social charm plugin.
Do go out for beer with your buddies, but don’t spend hours explaining how you use an IoT kit to control the temperature of your special IPA brew and receive alerts on your smartwatch when the level of alcohol is about to reach the threshold.
T-shirt sizes are not just for user story points, do go shopping for clothes that flatter your figure, but don’t use hexadecimal values when you ask for your right shade.
At family reunions, when an aunt introduces you as the smart gene, that translates to you’re the weirdo nobody understands. Do talk about the weather, or even politics, but don’t speak about your dream society where talking silicon chips are in charge of the environment and governance, instead of leaving these highly complex aspects of our existence to the hands of intellectually inadequate mortals.
Do go to the gym regularly, preferably in your cutest, sporty outfit. But don’t start computing your optimal macronutrients down to the 10th decimal place nor bring out fifty different gadgets for monitoring your vitals, including exactly how much protein your liver secretes when you’re doing a burpee.
If you have kids, never attempt the Fortnite dance steps in public places, specially not in front of your kids’ friends. But do let them play an extra hour or more, gamers are the new tycoons.
Do travel as often as your employer is willing to pay for, but stop filling your social media account with pictures of airports and hotel rooms with your dinner for one. Finally, if you’re in love, or looking for love, never ever buy a couple shirt with this < printed on one, and this /> on the other. You will die single.
There you go. Don’t expect any of these to work when it’s written by a girl, while she was sitting alone in a cafe, holding hands with her flat white coffee cup and batting lashes with her mobile phone.
If you have better ideas on how to have a more exciting programmer life, please, I beg you, enlighten me.