Feb 25 2006

Periphery

Sometimes, I follow my advice. Sometimes, I forget what I said. Last night was an example. I was logged into the office from the coffee house, getting some work done for a massively important deal I’ve been busting my ass to meet requirements. I’m between emails, kind of zoned out, thinking about the periodic freezes we’re experiencing and trying to mentally enumerate a prioritized list of potential sources for the error, when I notice a cute girl looking at me as she walks to a table near mine. I smile, she smiles, and she sits facing in my general direction.

Something jolts in my head, and I decide to try a new angle on the problem. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes later a I get rule out my solution as a viable one. I’m zoned again, and I catch her smiling toward me, and I smile again, although make note that she’s leaning in close to the boy sitting next to her. Boyfriend, methinks.

I grab a glass of Cabernet to counter the coffee zipping through my glands and settle into work again. Another half hour slips by, and I can see I’m not going to resolve this tonight. Time to meet up with the boys and see what’s happening over at the lifeguard party. Packing up, I catch her looking at me again from behind these gentle curls of sandy bland hair, still leaning in close to the boy. She entices another genuine smile out of me. Well, even if she’s with a boy, it’s nice to be appreciated.

As I’m walking out the front door, she waves, and I instinctively wave, and think “what the fuck” as I plop in my car. Of course, once I pass the threshold to the on-ramp, I realize, once again, how much of a dolt I am. That wasn’t her boyfriend, that was her study partner, and they were sharing a book. Cue the Simpson-esqe “Doh!”

This obviously isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it’s perhaps the caveat to my previous advice: don’t get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that you forget your environment. I’m not completely blind – I’m still aware of potential threats, objects, and allies, in the martial sense, and looking at whatever I’m doing from multiple angles, but I tend to to gloss over the benign, attractive, or otherwise interesting things that aren’t related to the task at hand. Perhaps evolutionarily, I have a practiced ability to to completely engross myself in all aspects of that’s either important or enjoyable, but I need to expand the awareness include that which may not be applicable to my focus. To be aware without compromising my attention, just in case I should change foci. This is where I require work.

Well, hopefully she studies there often.


Feb 24 2006

Sticky

I wish there was some sort of configurable button on my iPod, something I could press while a song is playing that I could program to cancel the random list, go straight to the album of the song, and play the whole album in order. It happens all too often that the shuffle brings up some cut I haven’t heard in years, something that I even forgot I owned. An album that, no matter what mood or where I’m headed, I can always listen to. A little slice of personal infinite. There’s supposed to be some sort of analogy here to a successful relationship, about timeless appreciation, but it’s totally undeveloped and I don’t know if I buy into the implied lack of evolution, unless it’s coupled with an evolution of understanding and interpretation of some internally consistent core … you know what? I’m not going to try to develop that stream-of-consciousness style, I suck at that at readers generally find it annoying unless you really have that knack. Okay, that’ll be a later post.

Some of the albums that still do it for me, albums that are at least a decade old, in no particular order:

  • Portishead: Dummy
  • Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine
  • New Model Army: Thunder and Consolation
  • U2: Joshua Tree
  • New Order: Substance

Oh, and a random aside: quintessential Jon Lovitz, from the Overheard in New York site:

Chick: Are you Jon Lovitz?
Jon Lovitz: Jealous?
–Union Square

Awesome.

Update: tonight may require a little debauchery for harvesting into blog-material. Uh-ohs. We’ll see how that goes.


Feb 17 2006

Self-Abrogation

Note: I am not a nutritionist, so this may not be exactly accurate, nor is it intended to be scientifically rigorous. Just what’s worked for me.

I’ve always been a firm believer that no matter what diet you start on, you will, ultimately fail. Defeatist? No, I believe the concept of “going on a diet” entails creating a mindset of temporary change, all the while expecting permanent results. To “go on” a diet implies, at some point, you’ll be “going off” it. At that point, your old eating habits resume, and you pop up to whatever meta-stasis results from those eating habits. So you can’t go on a diet, but you can change your diet. The mindset here is that you’re something about yourself, permanently. The concept of diet changes from that which you are forcing yourself to do right now to that which comprise your natural, everyday eating habits, not some temporary mandibular lock-out. So, you can’t “go on a diet” and succeed, but you can “change your diet” and succeed.

That said, I decided back in October I need to lose some body fat – I could really care less about weight, I’m more concerning about body fat percentage. I have one of those body-fat percentage measuring scales, which, incidentally, suck. Totally inaccurate. I’ve had it fluctuate up to 4% in a given day, depending on time of day, how much salt you consumed that day (salt affects the conductivity of water in your system), how hydrated you are, and apparently, what celestial house your rising star is in. I’ve verified the total suckiness of this scale by asking nutritionist friends what they thought of them (thumbs down) and by having a semi-accurate caliper test done (the calipers said I was at 20% body fat of 205 lbs, scale was over by 2%).[1] I got this scale years ago, so perhaps there’s better technology out by now, but I don’t want to spend money on a new one, nor do I want to pay to get water displacement body fat tests done, which are really the only way to get an accurate reading. (Ask at your local gym about caliper tests – accuracy between that of the scales and water displacement, but frequently they’ll do them for free.)

So I decided to take a cue from the The Hacker’s Diet and reverse engineer the process (or, in ninjitsu terms, turn the world upside down.) According to the first law of thermodynamics, you cannot create mass from nothing, so if you take in less calories than you expend in a given time period, you must lose weight. Duh. Sounds simple. So, the apparent solution is to count calories. Well, counting calories is boring, time-consuming, and error-prone, so let’s figure out a better way. Well, the better way is thus: instead of measuring the input of the function (calories, or more accurately, Calories), measure the output (weight, which more accurately, should be mass. Crazy Americans.) From the output you can use basic math to figure out the input. If, over the course of a week, you’ve gained one pound, then you’ve ingested an extra 3500 calories (3500 C == 1 lb). So you ate, on average, and extra 500 calories per day.

Since your weight can vary by several pounds each day, the way to track it is to plot it out and apply an exponentially smoothed weighted averaging routine over the data. Don’t worry about what that entails, just go download the excel spreadsheets or palm pilot application that’ll do it for you, from the above site.[2] Now I know the trend my eating habits take me on, and I’m re-training my stomach to talk to me more – what I consider “full” is now a substantially smaller quantity of food. The little “don’t need any more mass” trigger goes off earlier. And I’m losing weight, and I’m not hungry. Took time, but it’s working.

Wait, wait, you’re talking about weight again, what about body fat percentage? Well, my line of thinking goes, if I maintain my already very active lifestyle (10-20 of martial arts per week + some gym time), and eating less calories than I consume, the calorie deficit that’s being burned should be coming predominantly from fat. Since I’m not starving myself, just eating healthier and a little less, my body isn’t in starvation mode. Starvation mode is when you’re body starts burning easily-convertible muscle mass to fuel itself instead of the hard-to-convert fat, since you’ve cued your body that it’s not getting regular food, it needs to conserve it’s valuable fat stores. To the contrary, I’m building muscle mass from my workouts.

So, if I weight less, and I’m burning mostly fat, my body fat percentage must be going down. I don’t know what the number is, but it must be less than 20%. The prompting for this post? This morning when I weighed myself: 189.5. Holy crap! I haven’t weighed less than 190 since Junior year of high school (I’m second from the left), when I was doing 20 hours of tennis and 10 of martial arts every week. And I was two inches shorter.

This time, I reminded myself something. I’m in control of myself. That’s cool. Oh, and I need new pants, my 34’s are way too big. That’s cool too.

[1] 2% doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re not expecting your body fat percentage to change more than 5%, that’s a lot. Read the note below for details.

[2] Yes, I know I could use exponential smoothing weighted averages to smooth out body fat percentage readouts, but consider this: +/- 2 pounds comprises about 13% of a realistically attainable 30 pound weight range (180-210) for myself, while +/- 2% body fat comprises about 80% of a realistically attainable 5% body fat range (15-20%). So, I don’t think it’s worth measuring with the scale.


Feb 16 2006

Incompatible

After reflecting on the coinciding phrases from the previous post, I found myself thinking about another synthesis of past and present. One of the big things between A– and I concerned our respective outlooks on the world. A– prefers to be completely engrossed, the entire self lost in the moment, submitting to blinding passion. While I respect that and think it’s entirely valid and enjoyable, I have different outlook, as alluded to in this post. I’m half in the moment, and half observing myself in the moment. Both parts of me are there, present, at time same time, but with two points of view. After enough practice, you find it happens without cerebral pressuring, it just happens. Or, perhaps, you just slip fluidly between states, however you want to apply linearity to the brain. Doesn’t really matter, it’s the effect, the manifestation, the affectation of perception, that’s important. To me, this is trying to “gather more of the world, to experience more, to suck more marrow out of everything.”* Experiencing the world from the outside and the inside at the same time, opening myself up to more of the world. I do not see this as a lesser experience, merely a different one, one which leads to richer experiences from my perspective. After A– read this post, she told me she laughed out loud. I thought she’d find it funny, considering our divergent paths on the issue. I brushed it off.

When I look back on recent events such at this, I realize that I’m a little frustrated with A– that she doesn’t even see such a fundamental part of myself as valid. Normally it wouldn’t bother me, but she’s still important to me and her opinion counts, and I dislike having her discount the way I experience the world, that somehow I’m “not really here” or that everyone else is picking up some depth of emotion or existence that I’m continually and voluntarily missing. Particularly when it appears to manifest in such a manner that other people notice indicators that I’m not missing the world, in fact, I appear to be quite engrossed in it (the previous post isn’t the only example, but is the only one I’ve blogged about), enough that I don’t think I’m just a crazy nut-job. I think that this way works (for me), is valid (for me), but make no claims about it (for any one but me.) But at least give me a little credit (for what works for me.) I give you credit for what works (for you.)

And, since I know A– reads this, I’ll probably be getting a call tonight. :)

* Yeah, I’m lame and I quoted myself from Shinsei Blossom, but I don’t expect you to read to whole damn thing to get to that part.


Feb 15 2006

Skin

After the Fashion Whore show on Saturday, I met up with Frenchie and Lutz and The Pub to hang for a few. It was already late, closing in on midnight, and the two were already well on their way to blotto. I’d had a couple beers over the last few hours, but was otherwise sober and starting to tucker out. Lutz nudges my elbow.

“Yo, Barclay, go talk to those girls. Those four over there.”

I make a quick scan. Two reasonably cute girls and two not so cute girls. “Me? Why me?”

“‘Cause you got game, man, you got game.”

“No, I don’t have game. I have anything but game.

Lutz is swaying, and slurring a bit. “No, you’re right, you don’t have game. But you know what? You’re comfortable in your own skin. Girls like that, you’re comfortable in your own skin.” He says it simply, without production or drama, just his own little observation.

I was immediately swept back to the first time I met A–‘s father, who, contrasting me with A–‘s previous boyfriend, said to A– that “Barclay’s comfortably in his own skin, isn’t he?” The exact same words. Something poignant about that, hearing it again from a completely different source, someone antipodal to A–‘s father’s personality.

But I don’t usually think about it. It took someone, or two people, to remind me that with a little luck and a lot of work, I actually am comfortable with myself (or the evolution thereof). So next time you’re thinking some kind thought about someone, tell them, plainly and simply, and it’ll probably penetrate farther than you expect.


Feb 14 2006

Turn Around, The World Just Got Smaller

Brief “shrinking world” anecdotes: Saturday was a bin full o’ art, starting with the Ray at Night art walk. There was a giant robotic walking giraffe, replete with blinking lights and electronic music – sort of a raver version of SRL. Of course, I said hi to Amy and hung out for a bit (her evolutions in wood-burned/epoxied/waxed pieces are phenomenal – get a website already, Amy!) Aileen also had some wonderful new photos up, and a beautifully disgusting close up of someone licking an ice-cream cone of yogurt, hair, corn, and all sorts of revolting things combined.

I ran into a student (this keeps happening more and more) who was wandering around the galleries – not one, were I required to guess, who I would peg as an art lover – but that’s why I love San Diego. Once you get past the tanned silicon, there’s really fantastically surprising crowd down here.

Shortely thereafter, I ran into a girl I’ve been out with once and have been talking on the phone with lately, or rather, she ran into me. I was hunched over flipping through the portfolio of a great nature and landscape photographer showing at Warp 9 when she came up behind me and tickled my head. Strange thing was that she appeared to be hanging out with a few people: a mutual acquaintance, a friend that just moved down to SD, and someone I could swear she was on a date with. (Who caresses a girls forearm when asking them what to do unless you have some degree of romantic interest flowing?) Anyway, it was a little bit of a relief for me, as I was starting to think that all the phone time put in on my behalf was imbuing some sort of “more into you than I really am” sort of connection when I’m really thinking more along the lines of “we seem to have fun when we’re out, but it’s not like we’re exclusive.” (I’ve never really been one for the phone. I’d rather just use it to set up some time to meet in person.) Cool. Maybe we’ll hagn out again. Anyway, after introductions and a brief conversation, I flew home to grab some grub and pick up a jacket.

On to the meat: I head over to the San Diego Sports Club in Hillcrest for the “Fashion Whore” fashion show, where the (very cute) Ginger is doing some body painting. Saunter up, grab a Guinness, and she asks if I have my gear in the car.

“Of course.”

“Want to shoot candid pre-show and the show?”

I scan the room: dimly lit, there are a couple other photographers wandering and shooting, but the room is dominated by a professional and his lighting gear. He needs it, there room is horribly lit, with neon, fluorescence, mirrors and spinning reflective things, etc. Very inconsistent with extremely hight contrast. Ouch.

“I guess I’ll try. No promises.”

I do a bunch of the pre-show, and meet the other photogs, who seem nice enough. I think I’m the only one (aside from random models’ and designers’ friends with point-and-shoots) that shot the show. The pro only agreed to the pre-show, and I can see why: the show room was even harder to shoot than the prep room, with very little space for yourself much less auxiliary gear. Given the conditions, I opted to take advantage of having to bump the ISO up to 1600, and shot harsher without a bounce on the flash even with my 50mm f/1.8. Kind of a gritty Nan Goldin underbelly at the bar sort of look. Still culling the photos, we’ll see what comes up.

But, yeah, I hung out with a bunch of hot girls in various states of undress and photographed them. Unfortunately, as soon as my eye hits the viewfinder, I end up entering “pro” mode (hah!), and am really only seeing composition, lighting, and shapes of the human body. Even though the photos may ultimately passionate emotion, the models had turned into subjects, and I was no longer seeing them outside of the frame. Fun regardless, and perhaps some portfolio work there.


Feb 9 2006

Wookin’ Pa Nub

Recently I’ve gotten sucked into a guilty pleasure – one akin to reading the Missed Connections on craigslist – dating-centric blogs. Of course, this meshes with half my posts, so I’ll throw out a couple I’ve frequented:

It’s like listening to half a phone conversation. You can let your imagination run wild, creating the “other half” of the story and filling in blanks. I let my mind create little back-stories while I’m reading the posts, under constant revision, letting the candor of the writer mold it as necessary. And of course, there’s plenty of advice, from both authors and commentators, as to what to do and not do in the dating arena. I’m just a little worried when each mini-series reaches its climax. Will we have “Almost 40-Year-Old That’s Slept With Exactly One Person”? “Sober and Married in NYC,” “Nice Guys Only Date Supermodel Intelligentsia,” and “Charming, In A Stable Relationship”? (As much as I wish the best of luck for everyone listed above, that sounds like it would make for horribly boring reads.) In any case, I’ll proffer up my unsolicited advice to the collective blog-world, probably oriented toward guys meetings girls although the vice-versa symmetry applies as well. Input welcome from the ladies. (I have no idea what qualifies me to give it, except that’s it’s appeared to work for myself, to some degree or another.) It’s really quite simple.

(Nomenclature: don’t be offended by me frequently using “girls” instead of “ladies” or “women” – after all, I often use “boys” for “guys” or “men”.)

How to find girls:
Find something you like, and find other people that do it. Skiing? Tennis? Video Games? Photography? Writing? Chess? Avant-garde Macaroni Sculptures? Go out and do it, find a group that meets to do it, take some classes related to it, you get the idea. Whatever it is, they’ll probably be girls there as well. And even if there aren’t, you’re having fun doing something you like, getting better at it, and gaining confidence. Don’t like to do anything? Find the local Apathy Brigade and hang out with them. Oops, now you’re doing something.

How to introduce yourself to a girl:
Say “Hello” and ask them a question that you’re genuinely interested in knowing the answer to. Nothing fancy. I’ll usually open with “Hi, my name’s Barclay, what’s yours?” Really. If at a concert, perhaps ask how they like the music or if they saw the band play last week down at club-so-and-so. What about all those things you like to do? I bet she likes to do things as well. Ask what they are. Be a curious person.

How to “act” when introducing yourself to a girl:
Remember that confidence you gained above? Well, pretend you’re doing whatever that is and let that show through. I’ve never met a girl that said self-confidence (different from over-confidence) was a turn off. That said, you don’t know this girl yet and they don’t know you, so stop with the whole “could this be the one?” inner monologue. Don’t imagine marriage and kids and a white picket fence, or whatever your fantasy involves. You’re not there yet. Don’t worry about it, just enjoy yourself and her company.

How to handle rejection:
Sack up, nancy-boy. No, really, I mean it. Do you like every girl you see? And do you expect every girl to like you? Just because she’s not interested in you doesn’t mean no one else is, no matter how long your dry streak has been. There’s others that will be extremely enamored of you. Who cares if the guys in the corner of the pub are laughing? They didn’t even have the cajones to step up. What if you see her everyday? Well, you see her everyday. She knows you were interested, and she wasn’t, so that’s that. Stop fixating. Know how to stop fixating? How about going out and doing all those things you love to do? If that’s not possible, just look at it as practice, not a personal slight – remember, she doesn’t even know you.

How to arrange you social calender:
However you want. Seriously. Figure out what the hell you want to, and do it. “Hey, Jane, there’s this art exhibition next Friday, this new up-and-coming artist, would you like to go?” When it comes down to it, she either goes with you, you do something else with her, or you go alone. Why cancel if you really wanted to go? Guess what – yup – they’ll be girls at the exhibition as well, who’re interested in the same subject matter you are. And, you’re gaining comfort in your surroundings, which leads to confidence.

Summary:

  1. Do stuff you like. Have fun.
  2. There’ll be girls there. Talk to them.
  3. Goto (1)

Eventually, you might even end up in a long term relationship with some person you’ve already shared significant experiences and passions.


Feb 8 2006

Abort!

Fits and starts. A jerky, spasmodic evening of false starts. Saturday night started with a trip downtown to Rouge (the old Hustler bar) to check out some local artists, including Ginger’s: DJ’s, belly dancers, body painting, bondage art and performance, all sort of interesting things to view.

Sort of. Ok, I dig some of Ginger’s work, but since I’ve photographed half of it, I was going more for moral support on her behalf and to check out the other artists. Most interesting were the nudes painted on the husks of giant palms, the the dim but variable lighting casting an erotic wave to the figures emerging from the undulating husks. Pretty cool. And there were some reasonably interesting abstracts in the back room. Unfortunately, that’s just about when I mentally checked out.

Out of the rest of the work, I was thoroughly unimpressed. The bondage art pieces were without depth or nuance, just far enough from flat to remove the impression of cartoon and not nearly close enough to indicate any understanding of light or perspective. The themes were entirely too literal and transparent, and the people were ill-formed but without suggestion of eros or disgust. Very emotionless pieces; exactly what I would not expect for bondage art.

There was also a photographer/model duo displaying various pieces, of which I really only enjoyed one piece – although that one piece was quite good. The rest of the shots were decent, but reeked of lighting and composition compensation via Photoshop filters. I could walk up to just about and piece and pull it apart, e.g., “yup, this one was shot digital, the depth of field is all off so they blew out the lighting in the background and ran the watercolor filter over the whole thing, and they printed it larger than the resolution of the camera can support.” Now I have no problem with digital (I shoot digital) or photo manipulation (I do that as well), but for the most part, it’s really hard to make a bad photo good, but really easy to make a good photo worse. It was a more subtle version of what you see over the net: a decent photo/rendering that’s had lens flare, ripple, and spherize effects dumped on top.

After speaking with half the duo, I believe they could do much better leaving the effects at home and learning how to use a camera. Most where shot of a little point and shoot digital, which while fine for snapshots, did not allow for the control required to get what could be a great shot: you could tell just from the contrast that the camera’s metering was off. The potential is there, but the filters killed it for me.

I said goodbye to Ginger, and bailed.

I was to meet up at En Fuego in Del Mar with Chris+Sarah, Mike+Stacey, Brett+Lisa, and Frenchie for a little birthday celebration for Brett. A nice, enjoyable, uncharacteristically mellow time. Frenchie spots two cuties ordering drinks at the upstairs bar near our table.

“Go talk to them.”

My beer’s empty to I saunter up beside them and place my order, nodding hello and attempting to introduce myself. I’m cut short with a disinterested “hi” before she turns to her girlfriend, blocking me out with body language. I pay for my beer and return to our table.

Frenchie looking at me incredulously. “What happened?”

“She wasn’t interested. She and her friend were actually whispering about some hot guy here I can only assume isn’t me. Nothin’ I can do about that.”

“Aww, shit. Oh well.”

Later in the evening Frenchie saddles up to a table with a Lone Lady at the adjacent table. We’re all watching surreptitiously under our conversation, as Frenchie is solid once he’s on the date, but not so good at the introductions. It appears he’s doing alright. Until Lone Lady’s boyfriend comes back and sits down next to Frenchie. And quietly stares at him.

Our table’s alternating between laughing, crying, and huffing “abort” underneath coughs.

But Frenchie doesn’t leave. He keeps on with the conversation, five, ten, twenty minutes with the girl.

After LL and boyfriend leave, Frenchie slides back over to our table.

“Dude, you guys are supposed to tell me when there’s a boyfriend!”

“Frenchie, remember that time a few months ago when I cut you off from hitting on my friend at The Pub after about thirty seconds? The one that was married? Whose husband wasn’t there because he’s deployed? As an active duty Navy Seal?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, aside from the ring, there’s no way you could’ve known she was married. But when the boyfriend is sitting right next to you, well, you’re on your own. You gotta know when to fold ‘em, or at least, exit gracefully.”

Note: Frenchie’s really a great guy, but exiting a relationship of several years, he just kinda lost that “go right up and talk to girls” attitude. But, it does provide us with some great entertainment. We luv ya’, Frenchie.


Feb 7 2006

Perception

I showed up at The Pub halfway through the Superbowl to catch the last two quarters and have a couple beers with some friends gathered there. (I was studying for my Japanese midterm through the morning and early afternoon.) After Seattle gives up a 90 yard drive with an interception at the four yard line (doh!), I meet a charming girl who’s convinced she’s met me before. I have my doubts, but roll with it. She’s even able to point out where we met (at this Pub, in the corner that’s my regular spot.)

But, when she tells me she’s sure I was wearing a red or orange cap, that’s when I know she’s off base. I don’t own any baseball caps. Later, after I throw on my knit hat (beanie, watchman’s hat, whatever) because my head’s getting cold, it trigger’s some sort of faux-memory and blurts out “That’s right, you never wear beanies!”

Honey, that’s all I wear on my head.

But, she’s cute, a bit drunk, and we’ve had some interesting conversation, so I just smile amusedly. And trade numbers. Perhaps we’ll go out sometime and forge some real memories.

And hopefully next time I’m drunk and absolutely sure of something, I’ll think of her, and reign in my assertions.


Feb 3 2006

C.O.C.L.

Everyone knows the stereotype of the Creepy Old Cat Lady – the one that lives down the street whose husband died decades ago, or was just never married/involved/whatever, and started conversing more with her one cat than people, and next thing you know, she’s staring down the barrel of retirement with only two dozen felines to keep her company.

The girls I’ve been going out with lately are no where near old (between 23 and 37), nor have they been creepy, but I assume at one point in Creepy Old Cat Lady’s past, she was also a nubile young woman with only one or two pets, some fulfilling career and/or hobbies, and hopefully a couple of suitors. Where’s the inflection point? Where does it go from loved familiar to menagerie? Desk photos from boy/girl-friends and parents to a litter of longhairs? When does reciprocal conversation get replaced with baby-talk and purrs?

Why do I even care?

Because every girl I’ve gone out with lately have one thing in common: A cat. Every. Single. One. Not 80 or 90 percent, no, a solid 100 percent. Perfect. Impeccable. Faultless.

I’m allergic to cats.

Not in that “oh, my nose is sniffly, can we get the cat off the bed?” sort of way. I mean, I’ve been to the emergency room, twice, because my throat has swollen shut preventing me from breathing. Any idea what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night because your brain is starving for air? Uncomfortable, to say the least. And when you’re slamming on your roommate’s door to wake him up and take him to ER, you notice that your balance isn’t quite what it used to be, and it takes extraordinary effort form even short sentences. When I’d stay at my ex-girlfriend’s in Oakland, sometimes I’d have to walk around the block a few times to get fresh air in my lungs and allow my throat to re-open. Yeah, that’s right, a lone white guy wandering around the block in Oakland at 2am in slippers and a robe. It’s that bad.

But you just have to deal with it. When I’ve said in the past, at that delicate point where a series of dates threatens to pivot to a fledgling relationship, “look, you know how I’m deathly allergic to cats, so, ah, it’s kinda either me or tabby, or we never stay at your house,” I’ve received nothing short of caustic stares of disbelief and angry protestations. “I’ve had him longer than I’ve know you!” “Deal with it!” “You’re a man aren’t you? Sack up!”

Because, when it comes down to it, the cat is still more important than I am. But I don’t get to be the more important part until I’ve demonstrated my love and proven my worthiness – at which I’ve been living with a cuddle-bug of a dander-factory constricting the enjoyment out of my life faster than the latest Police Academy offering. So you just have to grin and bear it.

I wonder if, when these short relationships end, am I contributing to the probability that she becomes Creepy Old Cat Lady, am I reinforcing some sort of “Tabby doesn’t give me ultimatums, Tabby is better than men” sort of mentality. It’s some sort of immature visualization of a grand scale, a writhing mass of cats on the right and a series of allergic ex-boyfriends on the left: too many allergic boys, and she’s gotta hang out with the kitties to keep everything on an even keel.

And what’s the analogous stereotype for men? Creepy Old Drunk Bar Guy? Creepy Bizarre Hobby Collector Guy? Creepy Agoraphobic Internet Guy?

Where’s my scale?