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The Pecking Order in the Singles Hen House
by Harlan L. Jacobsen

   Being an old farm boy myself, the pecking order in the hen house concept sounded very interesting. It is a basic psychological concept that has its counterpart in other animal species, including, of course, the good old homo sapiens. My first encounter with this interesting concept was growing up on the farm observing, rather as a part of natural farm events, the social order of the chicken and a large variety of other animals.
   My second contact with the idea came when the professor brought it up in an industrial psychology course. Since then, and especially since becoming single, I have been carefully observing the establishing of the pecking order, specifically, in the singles hen house.
   The basic concept behind the establishment of the pecking order in the hen house is that it is necessary to determine who is the 'top chicken,' the 'bottom chicken' and where all the rest fit in between. (Which chicken gets to eat first, which chicken gets to peck on any other chickens they want.) Then you will observe there are chickens in the middle, so to speak, who peck on certain chickens but are, in turn, pecked on by other chickens higher up on the scale. The bottom chicken is one that is so spineless that it lets ALL the other chickens peck on it and stands up to none.
   In the animal world, what determines who is number one chicken has not been exactly established and, in most cases, has not been determined because the chickens aren't talking.
   This may confuse you about this article, but studies in a group of orangutans determined it was not the biggest or best looking orangutan that got to eat first or had first choice of female orangutans or anything like that. Researchers somehow finally discovered it was the male orangutan with the bluest posterior. So they took the orangutan that was on the absolute bottom of the pecking order and painted him a royal blue in all the right places. Overnight he was number one orangutan. He had the companionship of the fairest of any of the female orangutans he wanted and everybody else got out of his way.
   However, now the researchers have a neurotic orangutan on their hands because his paint is fading rapidly and his position in the orangutan pecking order is slowly descending from the rather heady number one orangutan to his former position of the low man on the orangutan social ladder.
   Now, what all this has to do with you and the single world is just this. You need to get out and find out where you fit in the singles pecking order. When you throw a new chicken from another flock into the hen house, there is a certain fluttering of wings, cackling and general turmoil as the new chicken establishes where it fits in the pecking order of that particular hen house.
   Now, you and that chicken go through a certain turmoil in getting established as a single or as a chicken in a strange hen house. It is important that you not go hide in a cornfield or under a bale of hay because that is just going to make life miserable for yourself and prolong the agony of unnecessary fears that nobody will like you, nobody will talk to you, etc., when in actuality, it will probably turn out that you are pretty close to top chicken in your age bracket or whatever.
   The more experience you get in mixing it up and milling around with nearly the entire, current singles flock, the more confidence you will have. The experience you get will help you develop a sixth sense about what is necessary for you to rise higher up on the pecking order. Rarely do you remain stationary in the pecking order.
   If you were queen of the ball in college, you are not necessarily queen of the ball now. If you were the ugly duckling is your high school class, you may now be the rose of the 'single again' garden.
Let's take, for example, a newly divorced woman. She is afraid all the other gals are and will be more popular than she is, that few, if any males will show any interest in her, that even other women will not like her and that if she competes with all those other capable chickens for companionship, she will only get crumbs left over. If she takes the plunge and goes out and gets involved by mixing in with large groups of other singles, she will no longer have these fears, because she will then soon know who she is, where she fits, what her capabilities are, and will be at ease with this knowledge.
Many put this mixing off for years for fear they will be at the bottom of the pecking order. True, when she walks into a group of singles (depending how close she is to being top chicken right off), there will be some turmoil and possibly even some hostility for a while until it is determined whose boyfriend or desirable type you might run off with.
   Once this is all settled down, and it is determined just where you fit and who you are, then you finally become accepted. The thing to remember is that it does take time for other singles to get to know you, and for you and them to determine where you fit in the pecking order. Soon you will radiate confidence and by simply walking into a room; you will know almost immediately where you fit within that group.
   This is one of the reasons we suggest you force yourself to go back with a group and socialize at least three times. It is a good way to meet and mingle with a relatively large percentage of the group (there rarely is over 25 % at say one function), and you and they learn to put your bristled feathers down and will no longer detect the certain air of hostility of unfamiliarity.

   You will soon gain enough confidence to outdo some of the top chickens without any real sweat on your part. You will learn by trying which of the desirables of the opposite sex you can attract, and which ones you can be out?done for by a chicken who is a little more experienced or has that certain charisma that puts them further up in the pecking order. Soon you will be able to walk into a room, as I said before, and almost instantly know whether you are top chicken or not.

   The quicker you get out and establish where you are, the easier and more enjoyable single life will be for you. Some self?discipline is necessary to force yourself to go out and mix ? it would be much easier and much less hassle to stay home and watch the TV. Don't allow yourself excuses to not go out.

   Initially, go and mix every waking hour you can. Instead of taking months or years of turmoil, just get into the hen house seeing and being seen by all the other chickens, talking with and getting acquainted with as many other chickens as possible in as short a time as possible. Once you know where you are and others accept you and your capabilities in the single world, the more at ease you will be and the happier single life you will have.

[issue 397]


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