Gotta hand it to me, at least I’m committed to curmudgeonliness.

Like Nelly during his Kelly Rowland period, I have a dilemma. It’s a dumb problem that I’m not complaining about. Humblebrag sort of shit. It’s in the same realm as those times where I have to take vacation days before I lose them and I’m all ”oh no, I need to be somewhere else in the world enjoying myself for a week.” So the qualm isn’t how do I choose between this positive or negative outcome? It’s a more Kondo Marie style ”which of these excessive privileges gives me the most joy?” Yeah, fuck me, right?

So my parents gave me money for my birthday. They told me to go blow it on something and enjoy myself. Get a nice meal, go to a hotel, buy myself something. I should be grinning and winning, right? Yes I should. Instead I’m having to reckon with how my life has become some fun black hole (to clarify, that’s a hole in my dimension that vacuums any fun with the misfortune of drifting past. Not some groovy slide to another world). I can’t think of a single thing I want. I’m a shitty capitalist who, while not overflowing with loose change, can kind of just get things without affecting my bottom line. It’s a rock solid position to be in. I’m not complaining about that. It does however steal all the fun from small windfalls.

I’m 31 years old. I have everything I need. I’m not a gadget dude or someone who wants new toys. I fucking despise clutter so I don’t want to buy shit just to have it. I mean, I already hate gifts. They’re basically just time bombs ticking down how long it’s gonna be until you can throw them out. I’m not a sentimental person who attaches significance to objects. I want functional things and experiences.

The thing about functional items? They’re the least exciting. Am I supposed to get jazzed about cutting onions with a brand new knife or getting a pan with better heat distribution? An Instant Pot would be faster than my slow cooker (could’ve guessed that from the name) but they’re so expensive and I can wait forever until they’re on sale. It’s not urgent, the slow cooker is in perfect working condition. There’s nothing out there right now that would greatly enrich my life, so none of it feels like treating myself.

Is any of this relatable whatsoever? Or am I just a spoiled dipshit?

What about some kind of nice experience? Like what? When it comes to experiential delights, everything with me boils down to food. Doing keto though has drained all the fun out of that. It’s mechanical. I’m eating to fit macros, to make sure my body is getting the necessary percentage of carbs, protein and fats. Still, one blowout can’t hurt me, right? So fucking wrong. A cheat day would most likely throw me right out of ketosis. Then I’d have to get back there, which would mean more days of keto flu, feeling fatigue, headaches, mental fogginess. It’s just not worth it. It sucks, because food is how my brain has been conditioned to celebrate. I’ve been taught that food is love in its preparation. Food is nurturing to take care of my body. Food is comfort when I’m feeling down. Food is pleasure on a basic primal level. My love of food is so gratuitous that I’m hoping this diet will help me re-learn healthy patterns of eating, to find what moderation looks like. I’m not gonna be on it forever, but maybe it’ll lead me towards some kind of balance.

Also I fucking hate hotels.

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A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

Am I too contrite to make an Aziz An-sorry pun? Looks like I’m just trite.

I want to talk about the Aziz allegations, because I think it’s worth putting thoughts out there. I’d like to emphasise that I’m not aiming to grandstand, to throw out some pointed think piece to put people in their place. My experiences aren’t relevant enough for that, there are better voices to listen to. Still, some conversation (is that what it’s called when I put words out into an echo chamber?) is better than none.

With all the allegations flying around right now, I’m sure everyone has a list. Some desert island top five of celebrities who you’re only wanting to hear squeaky clean things from. That may not even be the best way of putting it, ’cause frankly we all want to continue to believe that our faves are beyond issue. However, this ever-relevant piece by Ijeoma Oluo stands true. Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of dudes that I really, really don’t want to hear shit about. Aziz was on my list, as I’m sure he was for most. He’s made some great television, written a well-received book on dating, had compelling stand up bits and half-staked his career on the notion that he’s one of the good guys. It’s to the credit of his work that a bunch of people likely responded to his allegations with oh, is that it?

Pieces like this from the New York Times: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. Seeking to find fault in the victim’s behaviour, her lack of verbal rejection or conviction in getting the fuck out of an uncomfortable situation. Making it her problem that she wasn’t more direct in avoiding an unpleasant interaction. I get it. I want to keep on enjoying his material guilt free. The most prevalent reaction I’ve seen online has been that’s not assault. It’s just bad sex. I get it. I understand this reaction 100%. Why? Because I’ve been Aziz before.

I can recall a number of times in my early sexual experiences where I entirely ignored clues of disinterest. Whether this was out of ignorance or wilful desire, there’s no question that I was placing my wants over the comfort of others. Taking a soft “no” as a “not right now”. Slipping my hand between a partner’s legs and being rebuffed, only to try again ten minutes later. Pushing for sex when I got the sense she wasn’t interested, but I was. I don’t think I ever pressured a partner enough that she relented and gave in to get it over with. I did, however, fail to create a sexual environment where enthusiastic consent was imperative. I’m certain that I’m not the only guy who could admit as much. In fact, I’m quite sure that similar stories are likely more of the norm than we’d care to admit. I’m sure many guys wouldn’t even see fault with my behaviour. That’s why there’s fault in how Aziz acted. That’s why the culture of sexual consent in our society needs a major restructuring.

My initial response to the Aziz allegations was resigned frustration. As I said above, I’ve been there before. I’d hoped that someone like Aziz would be better than that, which clearly was hoping for too much. I was embarrassed that Aziz, who was 33 at the time, was behaving like a 21 year old. I was embarrassed that this behaviour in my mind was classified as that of a typical 21 year old. Unlike most of the allegations that’ve come out, this one has resonated with me the most. Why? Because these aren’t the shocking actions of a serial abuser like Harvey Weinstein. According to many of the female voices I’ve heard, they’re pretty run of the mill. That’s why it’s important men listen to what’s being said and swim in how it makes them feel.

If they’re not embarrassed or frustrated, maybe they should look at why that is. This movement marks a departure from what we all considered normal and a necessity to explore past experiences for egregious activity. We need to look at what we’ve done in order to learn how to be better. It’s important to sit with guilt, to use it to recalibrate both expectations and behaviour. The system is broken and fixing it is gonna take wilful intention and education.

Do I think Aziz is a monster who deserves to be stripped of his career? Honestly, despite what I’ve said today, I don’t. I think his story deserves to be out there as a cultural learning moment. I think he needs to have a long look at his past experiences and create meaningful change from here on out. I think if his heart is really where he’s made it out to be, that he should use his platform to admit fault and be a role model for the great many men who think he did nothing wrong.

As for me, I’ve spent years trying to unlearn what I took for granted. I’m not done yet. The movement may be called Time’s Up, but for a bunch of us it’s just begun.

More like High Confide-lity.

It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.

I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.

Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.

Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.

Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.

I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.

Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?

They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?

Sadly the “ketogeneric” line was the standout here.

The more that I try to think about what to write about other than keto, everything circles back to keto. Is this some kind of mental trick? Like “don’t think about X” means that “X” filters all other thoughts and as such, just forces you to think about X more? I can’t be bothered filtering and there’s very little else going on in my life at the moment, so you’re getting more keto content. I guess you could say we’ve reached a ketogeneric state?

Dumb puns aside (there goes my entire arsenal -Ed), I’m finding this whole process interesting (even if none of you are). It’s causing me to look at everything I ingest under a magnifying glass, which is another way of saying I’m obsessing. I pissed onto a small stick today, like some faux pregnancy. They’re called Keto Sticks and they’re used for measuring the ketones in your urine. Unlike the pregnancy test, there’s a colour scale. It’s not like you can be kind of pregnant, but you can be in varying degrees of ketosis. My reading (which was hilarious to do. As I peed on the little stick it boinged back and forth like one of those door stopper springs) said I have trace amounts of ketones in my body. Trace amounts? I figured my past week’s fanaticism deserved more than trace amounts. I wanna be pissing ketones out the wazoo (otherwise known as my urethra). On the other hand, according to a bunch of threads I read, the sticks aren’t super accurate and being overly hydrated (or dehydrated) could affect the reading. They universally said to check first thing in the morning. So first thing in the AM I’m gonna check my pee-M.

Secondly, broth. I’ve got chicken broth bubbling away in the slow cooker. It smelled amazing when I left this morning and it’s only gonna get better. I’m no stranger to chicken soup and it’s wondrous panacea qualities. It’s one of my favourite foods, no joke (also that’d be a pretty tepid joke at best, even if I was leaning against an exposed brick wall for authenticity’s sake). Bone broth is a whole different endeavour. It’s quite possibly one of those hipster health movements, but maybe it’ll help encourage some healthy movements in my bowels. I don’t think that’s one of its benefits, but I’ll try most anything at this point. N. E. Way. I threw in the corpses of two whole chickens, plus some apple cider vinegar yesterday evening. They cooked all night and this morning I added chopped carrots, onion, garlic and celery. By the time I get home tonight, I should have a savoury gelatinous mass that I can melt down into a rich broth. I can wait (and I’ll have to) but I don’t want to.

Moving back to the movements, I got myself some psyllium husk powder in the hopes that it’d ease my struggles. Holy coprophilia, Batman, does that ever taste foul? Nobody told me it doesn’t easily dissolve in cold water, so the first few times I tried it there were little orbs of repugnant gel in a viscous liquid. Even after figuring that out, the stuff is nigh inedible without gagging. Like some form of rotting mushrooms, it’s fucking hard to get down your gullet. Then again, I figure that’s the point of this biological equivalent of drain cleaner. It terrifies everything clogging up your pipes, which rushes to the exit. So far I’ve had middling results, but here’s looking up. I’m increasing my dosage day by day as it suggests, which seems to merely be upping my revulsion. Positive signs?

Worth mentioning is that last night featured exceedingly the best meal I’ve had since I started this bloody diet. Emphasis on bloody, because I had roasted strip loin done pretty rare. It was divine and so goddamn simple. Down to $3/lb from $12/lb, I felt pretty chuffed to have a high quality meat cut for once. I cranked the oven to 450°F and put on a dry rub. I tossed it in for 15 minutes, turned it to 350° for 35 minutes, then took the slab out and rested it for 20 minutes. That was it. I flanked my steak with a heaping of silverbeet (known as Swiss Chard over this side of the pond. Silverbeet’s a better name) and cabbage. While luxurious, it was also the most normal meal of my past week. Nothing in it felt like I was pandering to the diet. No extra fats added in order to hit macros, just a glorious and delectable dish.

Have I bored you enough with the comings and goings of my intestinal tract? Like I give a shit.

🙂

Whether you Winfrey or Losefrey, some games shouldn’t be played.

Would I like Oprah to be the next president of the United States? Most definitely not. Would she be leagues better than Trump? Most assuredly so. Is there more to it than that? Well I’d hope so.

A few months back I realised that I knew very little about Oprah. I knew she was part of the elusive Single Name Club with Prince and Adele. I knew she once gave away cars to the audience, and took another audience to Australia. I knew she was immensely popular, enough to have her own magazine, television network and book club. I knew she often shilled products, perhaps not as repulsively as Gwyneth Paltrow, but enough for it to bring in significant amounts of cash each year. I knew where Oprah had gone, but I didn’t know where she’d come from. Was she ever Jenny from the Block?

It turns out Oprah’s rise to fame was actually badass. Born to a broken home, she was tossed around various family members throughout her childhood. Over this time she was molested by multiple family members. After she’d had enough, she left home at the age of 13. She became pregnant at 14, but her son was premature and passed away shortly after. She eventually moved back in with a family member who pushed her back towards education. She flourished and got top marks, earned a scholarship, etc. She went into communications and entered a career first as a radio newscaster, then onto television news. This led to talk show work and I’m sure you can guess the rest.

Oprah struggled throughout her life and learned resolve. She had to fight to get to where she is and she’s become an industry. Donald Trump probably never even learned to spell the word adversity. He was born into a family of excessive wealth and ushered through life on a figurative palanquin. Even when the Vietnam war loomed, he managed to dodge being drafted multiple times, no doubt because of family connections greasing the wheels. Trump started his adult life with a loan of one million dollars.

Oprah is an articulate and experienced public speaker. She’s experienced real loss and met others who have. She’s had to be compassionate and warm to get to where she is. Trump is an ageing buffoon who stumbled his way through a presidential run, buoyed by the mantra of “anyone but her.” He’s in no way fit to lead the Western World’s economic superpower.

You know what though? I still don’t think Oprah should be president. I don’t think Kanye should be president. I don’t think we should be looking to celebrities and opinion leaders to the head of a nation. Of course it’s not unprecedented (unpresidented? -Ed), but that doesn’t entirely justify it. Politics, like any other career, has steps of experience and skills to learn. I’m sure Oprah has a vast array of skills at her disposal and, at her prime, would’ve had the thrust to take on such a role. Thing is, Oprah isn’t at her prime. She’s become too large. She’s too much of a persona with the constant drone of yes-men buzzing around her. She’s a corporation and, as we’ve learned with Trump, a corporation should not be President of the United States. I have tons of respect for Oprah and her journey. I just don’t see it leading to The White House.

Frankly, I don’t know if she’d want to take the pay cut.