Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Confession

This feels like a confession so I’ll just say it plainly: I am not yet in love with Owen. I could lie. I could say I fell in love when I saw him emerge with his vernix sheen. And I swear (with my hand on my heart) I believe in love at first sight. It happened to me before—twenty-three years ago, to be precise, on the first day of my sophomore year at Wissahickon, when I turned a corner and glimpsed for the first time my future wife, Karen Magowan.

But I did not fall in love with Owen—or Ella, for that matter—at first sight. Perhaps a mother’s love is immediate. Perhaps a father falls in love in fits and starts. When Karen wakes at three in the morning to nurse Owen, I wake too, but not with her sense of serenity. Nursing in the middle of the night, she smiles with a radiance not unlike the happily drugged. She likes the night light. I hate it. So a bit dazed, a bit annoyed, I throw my t-shirt over my face, try to ignore Owen’s glugging, Karen’s wakefulness: her iPhone glow, her feet rubbing together.

Thankfully, I’ve been through this before. Looking at Ella now, I can scarcely fathom a time when the mere thought of her did not mobilize my senses.

Everything for her, I think and feel. And her mother. Karen—who I miss now in my selfish way. Karen—the women I’d share a bed with, alone if not for Owen.

 And everything for Ella's brother, Owen, I suppose I should say.

Fits and starts. At least this is my experience.

Or perhaps this is my own preposterous flaw. I’m hesitant to Google it. I’d hate to discover I’m a monster.

In my defense, I can pinpoint my most recent fit. This morning I put Owen in the nook of my arm and whispered in his ear, “Relax, son.” It was the first time I had addressed him so: son. He was crying, as he does, with his breathtaking lip quiver. Or so it felt to me: breathtaking. So I whispered again (with my hand on my heart), “Relax, son. Daddy loves you.” And who knows, perhaps I was telling the truth—in a way I do not yet understand.

Originally posted on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fran Lebowitz on Men Wearing Shorts

"I have to say that one of the biggest changes in my lifetime, is the phenomenon of men wearing shorts. Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I'd just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It's disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they're wearing shorts? It's repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can't take them seriously." 

 ~Fran Lebowitz

What was that you said, Fran Lebowitz?

Read: 'Yoga Pants are Ruining Women' and Other Style Advice from Fran Lebowitz

Related: "The Short Swimsuit: A Personal & Historical Account"

And: "A Good Drunken Sleep on the Beach: A Men's Summer Style Guide"

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

John Jeremiah Sullivan on the "Weird Implicit Enmity" of American Males in Crowds

"I've been to a lot of huge public events in this country during the past five years, writing about sports or whatever, and one thing they all had in common was this weird implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them much of the time. Call it a laughable generalization, fine, but if you spend enough late afternoons in stadium concourses, you feel it, something darker than machismo. Something a little wounded, and a little sneering, and just plain ready for bad things to happen."

 ~John Jeremiah Sullivan from his essay, "Upon This Rock."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Miranda July on Motherhood

"But as the sun rose I crested the mountain of my self-pity and remembered I was always going to die at the end of this life anyway. What did it really matter if I spent it like this—caring for this boy—as opposed to some other way? I would always be earthbound; he hadn’t robbed me of my ability to fly or to liver forever… If you were wise enough to know that this life would consist mostly of letting go of things you wanted, then why not get good at the letting go, rather than the trying to have? These exotic revelations bubbled up involuntarily and I began to understand that the sleeplessness and vigilance and constant feedings were a form of brainwashing, a process by which my old self was being molded, slowly but with a steady force, into a new shape: a mother."

~Miranda July from her novel, The First Bad Man

Miranda July and her family [Source]

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Reasonable New Year's Resolution: Enjoy Your Food

The New Year is a time of optimism and hope. Just visit your local gym. You'll be sure to see a crowd of "resolutionists" courageously weightlifting, cycling, and running their way to the new, healthy person they'd promised to be. Unfortunately, we know from our own experience as well as scientific studies that most people will relapse into bad habits. As Maria Konnikova wrote in the The New Yorker last year:

"When the psychologist John Norcross researched New Year’s resolutions, in the nineteen-eighties, he found that more than fifty per cent of Americans made some sort of resolution. After six months, only forty per cent had stuck with it. When Norcross followed up two years later, the number had dropped to nineteen per cent."

So why do we feel so compelled to make New Year's resolutions--and why do we so often fail? In her post "Why We Make Resolutions (and Why They Fail)," Konnikova writes about timing and optimism. Apparently, as Konnikova writes, "The beginning of a week, a month, or a year forms what the psychologist Richard Thaler calls a notational boundary"--a turning point or new beginning.

The beginning of weeks and months inspire optimism for many people, and the beginning of a new year inspires extreme optimism for most people. Unfortunately, this optimism is hard to sustain. And so many people end up failing. Why? Well, too often we're "too positive." We set unreachable expectations, and condemn ourselves to failure. As Konnikova writes,

"Many backsliders relapse because they have overestimated their own abilities, underestimated the time and effort involved in staying the course, or have an exaggerated view of the effect that the change would have on their lives."

Overestimating abilities. Underestimating time and effort. An exaggerated view of change. I find these qualities often apply to people who, for whatever reason, wish to change their relationship with food. Unfortunately, instead of making subtle common-sense changes that we can easily maintain, we often shoot for the moon with all-or-nothing diets, extreme fasts, and/or expensive cleanses. The problem with these approaches, as most of us have experienced, is backsliding--we just can’t maintain our enthusiasm.

Or perhaps lack of enthusiasm is not the problem. We’re humans, after all, and our relationship with food is governed by nuanced emotions and shared memories--qualities that most "diets" completely neglect. Let’s face it: almost all "diets" present emotionless views of food and eating.

I have a tremendously complicated relationship with food--a relationship defined as much by illness as joy. What I’ve learned from exploring this relationship, if anything, is that truly nourishing food is about pleasure. In my opinion, an Epic Bar eaten in penance is not as healthy as a piece of chocolate eaten with reverence and joy.