4.18.2015

this is quitting coffee

Ever since I quit drinking coffee, I've had to reconfigure my daily routine. Before, I could count on getting fresh air first thing in the morning during my 1.5 minute walk to a nearby coffee shop, where, due to the congeniality of a friend who works there, I received free coffee at least three days out of the week, a 20-oz thermos filled with coffee, glugged down slowly over the course of the morning. I sincerely believed I needed that beverage to stimulate and awaken, a pathology that manifested itself physically when, in the first two days after I quit coffee, my head throbbed even while lying in my bed and the smell of coffee lurked in waiting around every city corner. In forsaking coffee, I lost one of my favorite morning occurrences, which is the small talk that happens between barista and customer. That particular type of small talk might bother some people, but because it happens within a bounded and predictable space, without any expectations of depth or chemistry, it is actually rather enjoyable to me. There's no sense that we need to talk about a meaningful subject. Shooting the shit about weather is perfectly acceptable. Having the same conversation five days in a row is okay too. It's the kind of easy small talk in which you don't need to judge the quality of the conversation, or scrutinize the affability of another human being. It's perfunctory enough that it feels like a morning calisthenic, whetting your social appetite for the day. Of course, there are baristas I prefer to banter with. Who doesn't like a warm and smiling barista? In this city you'll rarely err on the side of being fawning or excessively enthusiastic, as a barista. You just don't see that kind of behavior. But the barista whose eyes are daggers, whose mouth is pursed, whose judgment and disdain seeps out from her nostrils, is certainly not a pleasant person to encounter in the morning, and that I do not miss. But still, the coffee shop in the city is a crucial hub because it's a reliable place to be around people. Even the mere noise and the faint chatter and the grinding hum of the coffee beans will ameliorate acute pangs of aloneness, at least for a little while.

4.09.2015

this is overeagerness

"Overeager" is a derogatory term, "over" implying excessive and "eager" denoting strong and unfeigned interest. When someone is "overeager," is that a factor of timing, verbosity, posture, or language? Is self-protection so engrained in human psychology that our scorn of "overeagerness" is our way of warding off the intensity of desire? Say you meet someone whom you are interested in getting to know better, and you decide to solicit the person for drinks. Your perceived "eagerness" is determined by a few things: how much time has passed between seeing the person and soliciting them (e.g. texting five minutes after you first met could be interpreted as "overeager"), how much effort you put into "connecting" with said person (e.g. following them on every social network they are on), the language used in communication (e.g. "Hey! I think we really hit it off when we met, and I want to take you out for dinner. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night work for me, and we could do drinks after dinner too, and maybe a movie? Let me know what you think. I'm really excited about this!"—is probably perceived as overeager—the tone and verbosity of this text reflect this), one's availability (see aforementioned example), and the level to which one's desire is reciprocated (some men will always be perceived as assertive rather than overeager; perhaps this is the male version of je ne sais quoi).

When did aloofness become a virtue? Why does mystery entice us so? There's a deep thrill in being the one-who-desires, perhaps moreso than being the desired. The horizon line is still far away; there's something to swim toward—somewhere beyond your reach. Our society is as mannered as the Whartonian world, in which social cues were clearly patterned and understood but not necessarily spoken of. Our behavior is still governed by ideas: not of respectability now, necessarily, but of what is deemed "cool." But one more thing: the attention we pay to the way we interact extends beyond face-to-fact contact: now our selves inhabit technological spheres and social networks and Google-searched images on global platforms, and we must heed social norms there too. We must calculate our airs and our advances. We are not overeager, perhaps, but we are overgroomed. Perhaps overeagerness is actually a moment of vulnerability, of completely diminished pretension, of social cues being dropped for one second; a desire not manicured or tamed but freely aired. For that level of earnestness, I surrender all disdain—I welcome your overeagerness.

update: uncannily found this whip-smart essay on this (at least tangential) topic, and a rebuttal to it (also worth reading)

4.07.2015

this is how to win friends and influence people

When strategizing how to "hang out" with someone, might you employ a salesperson pitch instead of skulking around?

Instead of "hanging out," why don't you say "exciting opportunity"?
Instead of proposing to "hang out" amorphously, subliminally, abstractly, passively, why don't you provide six specific "exciting opportunities"?

Prosperous friendships shall ensue. You will win friends and influence people.

See below for a real-life example, which occurred at 6:03 PM on Monday, April 6.


*phone rings*

me: Hello?

M: Hello. I have some exciting opportunities for us.

me: What?

M: First, I propose a walk this afternoon.

me: No, I --

M: Second, I propose a meeting at Atlas Cafe where I eat a beet-loaf sandwich.

me: No, I--

M: Third, I propose yoga at 7:30. Fourth, I propose coffee tomorrow at 5.

me: Are you done yet?

M: The fifth exciting opportunity is our scheduled hang-out and yoga session at 6 tomorrow.

me: What's the sixth?

M: I only have five.

me: I decline the first four exciting opportunities, but I will accept the fifth.

M: Great.

me: Looking forward to our exciting opportunity. 

M: Very exciting opportunities.

me: I propose we refer to all of the time we spend together as "exciting opportunities," instead of "hanging out," which has some kind of weird connotations.

M: Exciting Opportunities is much more fitting.

me: Agreed. Goodbye.

M: Goodbye.

4.06.2015

"Champagne" by Laura Kasischke

A cold wind, later, but no rain.
A bus breathing heavily at the station.
Beggars at the gate, and the moon
like one bright horn of a white
cow up there in space. But

really, must I think about all this
a second time in this short life?
This crescent moon, like a bit
of ancient punctuation. This

pause in the transience of all things.

Up there, Ishtar in the ship
of life he’s sailing.  Has

he ripped open again his sack of grain?
Spilled it all over the place?
Bubbles rising to the surface, breaking.

Beside our sharpened blades, they’ve
set down our glasses of champagne.
A joke is made.  But, really, must

I hear this joke again?

Must I watch the spluttering
light of this specific flame? Must I
consider forever the permanent
transience of all things:

The bus, breathing at the station.
The beggars at the gate.
The girl I was.
Both pregnant and chaste.
The cold wind, that crescent moon.
No rain. What difference

can it possibly make, that
pain, now that not a single
anguished cry of it remains?

Really, must I grieve it all again
a second time, and why tonight
of all the nights, and just
as I’m about to raise, with the
blissful others, my

glass to the silvery, liquid
chandelier above us?

4.05.2015

this is exhaustion

If I could reify my exhaustion, it would look something like a shackle chained to a heavy steel ball, I a prisoner of myself and of my bodily limits. By my attitude toward exhaustion, you can tell how much I loathe being tired. Tiredness feels like tar, and it also feels like emptiness, forlorn and accidental, when all strength and energy and willpower has drained out. Tiredness often feels like the opposite of consciousness; I’m both physically and mentally stuck, unable to make decisions and disinterested in action. Also highly vulnerable to angst, despair, and loneliness. If ‘perforated’ could describe a state of being, that might be the most accurate adjective.

It’s both a symptom and consequence of my neuroticism that I count depletion an imperfection. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I expect in myself the consistency and infallibility that I expect of machines. Even machines burn out though—my seven-year-old hair dryer started whirring and smoking yesterday, and I thought, “I guess it’s about time”—but we expect that anything functioning under the algorithmic architecture of codes, programmed inputs, and scientific wiring to achieve impermeability—maybe even immortality. That I desire perfection is not the problem; that I feel less worthy and less able for inhabiting my imperfections is. A machine is reliable and manageable, and it also does not have a soul, which is that spontaneous, desirous, capricious proof-of-being that carries with it an awareness of self as it relates to the world; also gives us the capacity to believe, love, give. After years of battling perfectionism in the form of tangible afflictions and self-inflictions, I'm still learning to encounter the humanity in myself; it's okay to want and need and to be hungry. It's okay to feel exhausted and weak. When tired, rest. When hungry, eat. It should be as easy as that, right?