Sunday, August 29, 2010

L'enfant

I've never been interested - not even casually - in a boy* who was substantially younger than me.  As with most women my age, I've routinely dated older men--not by design, per se, but organically so.  My first long-term relationship involved a man who was seven years older than me; my most recent was with a man three years my senior (expectedly, I've noticed that the older I get, the less that an age gap is involved).  It seems that this familiar, reliable pattern may soon undergo a profound change prompted by a chance meeting.

A couple of weeks ago, I became acquainted with a boy, nay, an infant (he can't be more than a few years out of high school, at most) who works at a local record store that I've begun to frequent.  He is a remarkably young and fresh-faced person with these searchlight blue eyes, which brilliantly shine forth when he smiles at me.  He has this unspoiled air about him-- no bullshit, no emotional wreckage, no insurmountable barriers.  His youth is nothing short of stupendous to a love-worn woman pushing thirty.**

Baring the occasional one off here and there, I haven't purchased a goodly number of new CDs in quite some time.  L'enfant happened to be working on a night that I was floating on a musical high, arising out of the ten or so albums that I had then intended to purchase.  On this particular evening, I cheerily gallivanted around his store for the better part of an hour, often summoning him for assistance in finding obscure artists and bantering with him about musical trivialities such as the evils of selecting collections over the original fully cohesive albums.  Since that night, I've returned to his store on several more occasions (coincidentally, with him working on staff each time) in order to supplement my newly flourishing collection with CDs I had forgotten to purchase earlier. 

L'enfant is so unbelievably young that he utterly fails to intimidate me.  I am my true unadulterated, goofball self when around him.  I am sarcastic, and generous, and playful all at once.  I am a connoisseur of music comfortable with other connoisseurs of music.  I. am. a. force.  Consequently, I've often wondered what would happen if I did, in fact, decide to date him.***  I have this ongoing fantasy that the interaction would somehow cleanse my love life, as easily as I might reset my laptop after it freezes up.   That I'll have some sort of highly beneficial How Stella Got Her Groove Back epiphany about the simplicity of love and romance and, thus, act accordingly.    

I am positively sure that my younger self would have wanted to date this boy.  He is knowledgeable about music (obviously - he works at a record store); he is unassuming; he is witty; he is respectful.  But he is also an awkward mess with bad skin and untamable curly hair that freely undulates atop his head.  He reminds me of our fledglings at Wild Bird Rehab - so cocksure, so filled with life, so unable to fly.  His flutterings unmoor me.  I am cast out to sea.  Possibility abounds - even so close to shore.  Luckily, I have his searchlight eyes to guide me.

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini




*Girls, yes; boys, no.

**Albeit, a woman who looks much closer to his age than her own - he flashed me an unfettered expression of astonishment when he inspected my ID and, assumedly, saw my 1981 birth year.

***According to Julia Rose - who is acutely attuned to these happenings, being a boy-crazy, hormone-addled teenager - he is most definitely interested in me.  When we last saw him (she was with me when I first met him, too), she exclaimed, "He only has eyeballs for you!  And such pretty eyeballs, too.  I'd like to scoop them out and put them in a jar, but he never even glances in my direction because he is too busy looking at you."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Visit

Have you ever had a dear, old friend propose the possibility of evolving your friendship into an amorous relationship?  That very thing happened to me this past spring.  I, to a certain extent, initially balked at the prospect for a number of reasons, which I enumerated to my romantically inclined friend (we shall call him Bruce), as follows--
  1. I did not want to damage our longstanding friendship;
  2. I had broken up with my boyfriend of four years only months before and was very much enjoying my new singledom; and
  3. I wasn't sure that the prospect made much sense given that many states separated us from our respective residences.  
Nevertheless, he wanted to visit me in the summer and he wanted me to suspend any judgment until that time, when we could revisit the subject in person and I agreed.  Over the intervening months, we did not communicate much and I assumed that this was because we were both making an effort to avoid further muddying the boundaries of our friendship.*    

***

Bruce arrived in St. Louis for his scheduled summer visit this past Friday.  I picked him up from the train station late Friday night and treated him to a midnight City Diner dinner.  While we were catching up, Bruce revealed that he had been dating someone for the past several months and that he had promised this girlfriend exclusivity just prior to the time of his departure.

I will not lie; my first thought was "Hey man, nice shot!  You pierced me straight through my treasured ego."  Here I was fretting this entire time--wondering what was going to happen, what his expectations were, and how to best maintain our friendship while attempting to negotiate this unfamiliar situation.  Meanwhile, he was busily hooking up with a girl who had played fast and loose with his heart once before and who had subsequently proven to be quite the flake (in my somewhat embittered estimation). 

Of course, I was also hurt.  When Bruce first made overtures toward me in the springtime (of his voodoo), I had discussed the situation with a mutual friend of ours.  She had known Bruce for as long as I had and she was very fond of him.  She thought we would make a great couple and she wanted me to pursue the relationship.  Moreover, she felt that he was an upstanding guy who would never purposefully treat me poorly.  Essentially, she felt that I could trust him, which was of the utmost importance.

Rightly or wrongly, I'm having some difficulty in trusting him at this point.  It goes without saying that I did not appreciate his springing this girlfriend news on me unexpectedly.  Instead, he should have been forthright with me from the very start of his nascent reattachment to his ex.  That is what an upstanding guy would have done not waited to see which relationship would work out in his favor.  It seemed to me, on some level, that he was simply keeping me on the back burner as a Plan B in case Girl A didn't pan out.  Still, I determined not to let his big reveal ruin our long awaited weekend together; after all, he was still my old, dear friend.

Hence, things proceeded as originally planned.  We enjoyed spending time with friends of ours; we went caving on the countryside; we visited the botanical gardens, et cetera.  Last night, we had several rounds of beer at a local Vietnamese restaurant and then returned to my place to listen to some music.  We shared songs with each other and discussed the merits of select musicians.  We drank late into the night (or early into the morning, as the case may be).  Eventually, my alcohol soaked brain started to wind down into sleepiness.  Bruce was sitting on the couch next to me so I maneuvered my body into a reclined position without laying in his lap (ever mindful of the girlfriend in his home state).  In response, he softly chuckled at my posturing and said, "Jen, you're pretty amusing in your attempt not to lay in my lap."     

I took his comment as an invitation to his lap and promptly repositioned myself there (keeping a proper distance from his naughty bits).  I was convinced that this was okay - it was okay for me to lay in my friend's lap, as long as it went no further than that.  Shortly thereafter, Bruce began to yawn and so I asked him if he wanted to lay down with me (and only to sleep -- not to be intimate).  Being the intelligent man that he is, he respectfully declined.  He felt that it would violate the spirit of his monogamy agreement with his girlfriend (which was probably correct).  He couldn't help but regretfully add that things would have progressed much differently between us had he not committed himself to her.
      
I should say, Bruce reads my blog on occasion (although, I doubt he'll weigh in on the subject here).  Maybe his young girlfriend could locate and read my blog, too, if she bothered to investigate the few people he follows on Twitter.  If she is reading this, she can rest assured that her boyfriend was on his very best behavior throughout the entirety of his visit.

Oh, and also, don't fuck with his heart this time.


Om shanti.




*He, on the other hand, has since explained that he had wholly accepted my initial protest and had consequently given up the prospect of a romantic encounter with me.  I truly do not understand how this miscommunication arose.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Coagulation

This evening, a couple of friends took me out for some fine dining at my favorite St. Louis trattoria on The Hill.  We started with a brisk, Italian, sparkling white wine, and then segued into a sultry, Argentinian red (the equivalent of a California Cabernet but, in my estimation, less rusty tasting).  As we were busily scrutinizing the menu for our entree selections, the following short exchange occurred--

Donna:  Do you think the [name of some ostentatious meat dish I can't remember] is pork or veal?

Jeff:  Well, considering that it is priced at $27.50, I'm guessing it is veal.

Donna:  Great!  Then I'm ordering it, if it is indeed veal.

Me:  You know, Donna, if your daughter [a radical animals' rights activist] finds out about this, you are dead meat (no pun intended).

Donna:  I just don't pay attention to that sort of thing [the controversy surrounding veal] and don't you tell my daughter, either!

 ***

When I was thirteen, I had the youthful insolence to lecture my father about the evils of industrialized farming while he was making himself a cold-cut sandwich.  As I was finishing some particularly truculent rant about how outrageously chickens are raised, my father silently turned to me and smacked me in the face with a slice of ham.  I still viscerally remember the greasy feeling that the meat juices left on my cheek.  That little happening cured me of lecturing meat-eaters about the evils of their diet whilst they were actually consuming it.  Thus, I did not have the stomach to criticize Donna's selection outright.  I could only look on in helpless dismay and incredulous bemusement as she ordered her veal.   

Being a professed vegetarian for the better part of two decades,* I've never actually eaten with someone who had the audacity (or complete indifference, as was the case with Donna) to unabashedly order veal in my presence.  In a moment of marked dissolution, I found myself quite curious to see what this much maligned dish looked like in living color.  Shortly before our meal was served, our waiter bestowed upon Donna a golden, ritualistic-appearing, dining implement--similar to an elongated, rectangular-shaped spoon--explaining that it allowed easy access to the marrow of the veal.  At this point, I began to feel a little queasy in anticipation of what seeming horror was to come next.  However, when the dish actually arrived at our table, it appeared as any other meat dish would appear to a non-meat eater - neither delightful nor grotesque.

I attentively monitored my friend as she enjoyed her dish, but she never picked up her "sacrificial marrow spoon" (which is what I had come to call it in my mind).  Eventually, she'd had her fill of dinner and pushed the plate away in abject satisfaction.  Jeff then asked her, with some confusion, why she hadn't eaten, or even tasted, the marrow.  She replied that it held no appeal for her and gamely scootched her dish in front of him so that he could partake in what he considered to be "the best part" of her meal.  

Both Donna and I watched Jeff in open fascination as he dug into the bone with that bizarre utensil.  He triumphantly extracted a brackish looking, almost black substance and then inserted the heaping spoonful into his mouth.  He dug in again and again before finally pronouncing ecstatically that, as soon as it touched his tongue, the marrow seemed to "coagulate" in his mouth**.  Apparently, this was a very good thing.  We segued into a discussion of fats in foods (as this marrow was obviously pure fat) and how folks like the taste of fat and so it made sense that Jeff would enjoy this aspect of the dish so much (in uncomfortable situations I tend to intellectualize).

We concluded our meal with shared succulent tiramisu, creme brulee, and no further incidents.  All in all, it was... educational :)       

Om shanti.


*Of late, I've begun eating fish, on occasion, but that isn't entirely relevant to this story.

**I'm guessing the word he was actually looking for was "liquefy" (it's nice to not be the only dyslexic at the table :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Illusion of Control

My father, for all intents and purposes, has always been a troubled sleeper.  When I was a very young girl, my circadian rhythm synched up with his oddball internal time-clock and I joined him in nightly wakefulness.  In an effort to cope with the tedious sameness of those early morning hours, my dad would habitually listen to talk radio - predominantly that of the AM variety.  Most often, he tuned-in to sports talk, although he appreciated other types of late-night shows, as well.

Among those programs we enjoyed in shared wakefulness was //deep breath// Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM, the mother of all conspiracy programs (originating in 1984 and still on the air today).  I recall being entertained by all sorts of wild assertions relating to remote viewing, alien abductions, metaphysics, and the like.  I accepted much of the material whole cloth, in a way that only a child could.  My best friend surely could relate some embarrassing stories from that time regarding my fanciful thought process surrounding remote viewing and the US government's "collusion" in connection with same*.

***

About a year ago, I developed something of a crush on a man with whom I had become acquainted.  He had the memory of an elephant, a maddeningly quick wit, and an enchanting love of the natural world.  We went through a brief, yet intense, getting-to-know-you phase where we heatedly discussed our respective positions regarding religion, politics, science and other "hot button" topics.  I remember friends giving us a wide berth when we became embattled because we were so fervently focused on our debates.  Oddly enough, with his views on the far right (read: libertarian) and mine on the far left (read: progressive), we often found common ground--with our respective polarities on the spectrum meeting full circle (rather than, as I see it falsely conceptualized, extending linearly into the furthest outreaches of the political nether).

Unfortunately, the prospect of anything more substantial fizzled (for me, at least) after my crush expressed his belief in Velikovsky's wacky contentions concerning the planet Venus' supposed involvement in the formation of our solar system as we know it.  Being a student of astrophysics, my interest was initially peaked (given that I had heard not a whisper of this theory over the course of my extensive home studies), but after some cursory research--which conclusively demonstrated that there was no scientific basis in the theory whatsoever--I determined that Velikovsky was nothing more than a misguided conspiracy theorist.

After my mini-investigation, I sent my crush a Scientific American article I'd happened upon explaining why people find these sorts of conspiracy theories so compelling.  I thought it might give him something to consider and that perhaps he would ultimately come around to my more scientifically-minded method of evaluating information.  Unfortunately, he completely refused to read the short article.  It was around that time that he stated to me something approximate to "I know the truth when I am confronted by it.  I feel it in my bones."  That sentiment clinched my poor opinion of his intellect and thus distanced me from him -- an otherwise perfectly attractive and kindhearted person.

You see, wary of my own susceptibility to this all-too-human manner of analysis, I'd previously resolved to battle all superstitious, emotional reasoning and other such manifestations of our "demon-haunted" society.  For example, as many of you know, I've had a certain propensity toward mysticism at points in my life.  Despite my academic and philosophical adherence to atheism and agnosticism, a younger me routinely made statements dangerously similar to what my crush had said about the nature of truth.  At this point, I'm not sure if the human perception of truthfulness is born out of energy, per se, or spirit (doubtful), or simply the very human ability to plug into the motivations of the people around us.  Regardless, I once believed that the intent to truth was readily discernible to an attentive observer.  Today, I recognize that some truths are not at all intuitive.

Frequently, truth is nearly as incredible as untruth.  Case in point, wave-particle duality.  Originally, light was conceived as particle-based (hence the name photon).  Then, Young's double slit experiment suggested that light was in fact wave-like in nature.  Scientists ultimately concluded that photons posses both wave and particle characteristics (and they still don't completely understand why).  Now, if even in the hardest of sciences (ie physics) truth is not readily discernible, how on earth could an unassisted, untrained person intuit the truth? The prospect strikes me as downright ludicrous.  Of course, there is a difference b/t understanding the truth of a physical phenomenon and evaluating truth involved in interpersonal relations.  Still, if there was some reliable and valid way to discern if a person was telling the truth, we wouldn't need courts or trials - the prosecutor could simply ask the defendant if he or she was being completely honest and then they could check their gut emotional response--if their "bones" didn't register truth, than the defendant would be found guilty.

***

Jennifer Whitson and her colleague Adam Galinsky, in their 2008 study entitled "Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception" (published in Science), defined "illusory pattern perception" as follows:
"the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli...(such as the tendency to perceive false correlations, see imaginary figures [ie: in ink-blot tests], form superstitious rituals, and embrace conspiracy beliefs, among others)."  The researchers thesis was that "when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively, they will try to gain it perceptually."  As Whitson explained the psychology, "Feelings of control are essential for our well-being -- we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control.  Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctively seek patterns to regain control -- even if those patterns are illusory." -Michael Shermer, Scientific American (Feb. 2010)
***

I later discovered that my crush was a fan of more troubling, modern conspiracy theorists including Alex Jones, who has been described as "your typical irascible, bombastic radio shock jock" who "replaces the ordinary vulgarities and titillations with preposterous conspiracy theories" - which I would say is a more than fair characterization.  As you can see, to the right of this post, I succinctly describe myself as being "open-minded" (among other attributes). I would like to think that the fans of Alex Jones are simply amused by him--that they are similar to the people who read horoscopes for entertainment value alone.  It may be that this interpretation is correct, but it seems that it is more likely that followers of conspiracy theorists and astrology are actually seeking control in an otherwise chaotic world.

As excerpted above, it seems that is healthy for individuals to seek control in this manner--in that it mitigates the damage that results from being helpless.  In that respect, I am hesitant to disabuse anyone of patently false notions that would otherwise help them to properly function.  Nevertheless, I also strongly feel that knowledge is power.  That knowledge is a more sustainable base of control than illusory pattern perception.  However, I am not so naive that I believe that knowledge is equally available to all.  There is a reason that it was forbidden to teach slaves to read.  Perhaps (now, I'm going to be the one reminiscent of a conspiracy theorist), those in power would rather that the masses be fed bullshit conspiracy theories (tea party, anyone?) than knowledge that would allow them to rise up against oppression and subjugation in a meaningful manner.

OM shanti.


*Interestingly enough, it turns out the the US government did spend some $20 million dollars researching psychic phenomena in the early 90's, including remote viewing, but the program was axed after it proved to be a complete failure in generating any usable intelligence 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Primaries

I just voted "no" on Prop C (the one that attempts to undermine Obamacare) and "yes" on Prop S (the one that attempts to support the City's public schools) only moments before the polls closed.  Having executed my civic duty, on what may be the hottest election day ever in the S-T-L (100+ degrees outside), I am presently luxuriating semi-nude on my sea green, comfy couch, with an "I voted" sticker prominently adhered to the bare skin of my chest.  Ain't democracy grand?

OM shanti, fellow citizens :)

PS  I now turn my attention to an unpublished blog entry that I've been fiddling with for the past week.  Hopefully, I'll be able to make it over into something presentable....