Cursed With a Conscience

marvels and musings of a normal girl in a wacky world.


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The Perks of Being a Wallower

Time magazine Journalist Susan David notes: “The paradox of happiness is that deliberately striving for it is fundamentally incompatible with the nature of happiness itself.”

My interest in the enigma  of “happiness” has persisted for many years, due in large part to my excessively analytical, self-conscious, and at times melancholic personality. I constantly wonder: is happiness the mathematical product of set variables? Does it derive from life circumstances that are inherently good or bad? Are certain emotions correlates or symptoms of happiness, or it’s counterpart?

My intrigue with this subject was recently renewed when I stumbled upon an article in Time magazine called “Don’t Worry, Be Gloomy: Negative Feelings have Benefits Too”. Being one married to stress, anxiety, and all it’s relatives, I was curious to learn why these emotions might actually serve me. Was it possible that feeling  the emotions seemingly contradictory to happiness could, in fact, augment my well being?

This article, and a wealth of other research on this subject of happiness, explain how stereotypically “negative” emotions, such as anger, envy, stress, sadness, shame, anxiety and fear, can actually serve positive purposes. Psychology Today states, “Negative emotions are not only crucial to our existence but also—ironically—to feeling good. To live optimally in the world and endure its challenges, it’s necessary to engage the full range of psychological states we’ve inherited as humans.”

Anger, for example, occurs when we feel we are being undervalued. We respond with anger to prevent ourselves from being exploited; it leads us to advocate for our own well being and to assert our self-worth. According to Pyschology Today, anger also “boosts confidence, optimism and risk taking”, which can have very positive outcomes.

Anxiety can also be useful. When we are anxious, we are more active, aware, and stimulated. In addition, it can “point to ways in which we’re not being true to ourselves”, ways in which our actions “don’t align with our deepest values.” Anxiety can serve a “corrective purpose”, bringing us back on our rightful track.

Similarly advantageous, envy can make us strive to be better, and fear helps us avoid or escape danger. Shame conveys humility and remorse, which increases our likeability and often attracts compassion from others. Regret motivates corrective action and teaches us important lessons. Skepticism helps us form arguments and use unbiased reasoning.

Ultimately, Susan David reminds us that negative moods “summon a more attentive, accommodating thinking style” that leads us to “examine facts in a fresh and creative way.” She maintains: ” It’s when we’re in a bit of a funk that we focus and dig down.”

So is the state of temporary bliss really conducive to self-improvement? Personal well-being? Long-term happiness? Not necessarily. In fact, studies show that people in a state of “happiness” tend to be more gullible, accept easy answers, jump to conclusions, and avoid challenges. They also expect things that are unrealistic, resulting in disappointment and resentment.

Happiness, then, is not the result of everything going our way. It’s not the cheery outcome of avoiding challenges and tough realities. So, next time you find yourself in a funk, beset with anger, fear, shame, envy or anxiety, I invite you to find solace in these words from the infamous Mark Twain:

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

Amen. Be calm and grouch on, my friends 🙂

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Narcissism: The plague of “individualism” warping our heads and our hearts.

It is no uncertain fact that our modern generation is bleeding heart activists for, and human embodiments of, all virtues relating to “independence”, “self-improvement”, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment. The platform of The Millennials (Otherwise known as “Generation Me”) is founded on such ideals as ” you must love yourself before you can love another”, “be happy with yourself above all else”, “don’t mind what others think”, “follow your dreams”, and most importantly, a philosophy imparted by modern icon Steve Jobs himself during a Stanford University Speech, ““Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

In simpler terms: You know best, to hell with the rest.

Each of the philosophies above has legitimacy to be sure- one should certainly love who they are, strive to be happy, follow their dreams and seek their goals,  and listen to their own intuition (in certain matters) even if it results in discouragement or judgment from others.

HOWEVER, while this prevailing fixation with fulfilling the self can yield positive outcomes, at what point does this mentality cross the line? At what point does self-righteousness and soaring self- esteem mutate into what has today become a cancer within the heads and hearts of our generation. At what point does the unconditional goal of self-interest and primacy of the individual lead to the formation of a society full of narcissists?

Narcissism, in a nutshell, can be defined as an egotistical preoccupation with the self and one’s own needs, desires and successes.  Narcissists are so absorbed in their own self that they cannot empathize with others or see from multiple points of view. They believe themselves superior to others, pride themselves on having “strong” personalities (despite the often anti-social way this personality manifests), and feel entitled to happiness and success, all due to their unwavering conviction that they are special, important, and capable of anything ( regardless of empirical realities). In other words, narcissism is self-esteem on crack; a delusion. It is an individual’s self-affirming and invincible belief that he/she is special and superior and that anyone/anything that challenges that belief is inconsequential-because remember? In accordance with the doctrine of Generation Me, the opinions and judgment of others don’t matter.

The epidemic of narcissim we are facing today is so profound, and so common, that psychologists have deemed this condition an actual personality disorder. It is indisputable that the mentality of narcissism, which has spawned from an era of Millennials raised with fragile egos and illusions of self-importance, is extremely dangerous to the future of society and the individuals it afflicts.

What I think has gone wrong with our modern attitude is that we have warped the notion of what self-esteem is. Self- esteem should be an outcome of one’s achievement, good character, and hard work- not something one is unconditionally pumped with from parents, schools, or media propaganda. It is an outcome of success, not a cause for it. As a result of self- esteem and self-love propaganda saturating children’s books, magazines, and television ads from sports to cereal, we have become infected with the delirium that we are awesome, unique, special, and a complete army of one, and as long as we believe that unconditionally, we will be happy and successful. And ONLY after we solidify this profound love for our self, can we think about caring for others.

My personal opinion? This mindset I’ve described above is ignorant, conceited, and ruinous to the individual, and eventually the society to which he/she belongs. Here are some reasons:

  1. Unconditional or undeserved validation is harmful to the individual, because it cheapens the praise and intrinsic satisfaction EARNED when one truly achieves something great. It’s the modern issue of the boy who cried wolf. It’s the parent who cried “you’re the best!” The teacher who cried, “A’s for everyone!” What about when you truly do hit a home run? You’re going to get the same feedback as you did the time you didn’t try or struck out.
  2. Inflated self-esteem is harmful to the individual because it teaches us that happiness and self-worth are staked on one’s unquestioning belief in a cereal-box slogan, or a fortune cookie prophesy ( “You’re special the way you are!” “You will achieve great things and win the admiration of others!”) rather than the result of doing something truly special, or earning that reputation through actual merit. In reality, excessive self-esteem can actually hinder ones motivation to achieve. After all, for better or for worse, human beings are motivated by a healthy degree of external pressure and stress. Sometimes we only act out of necessity, or even civic duty- take that necessity away, that urgency to really and truly earn our successes and good rapport, and the good deed goes along with it.
  3. Disregarding the opinions of others, or denying they should have any bearing on our actions or self-concept, harms the individual as well. It prevents the individual from facing reality, which is that we live in a world composed of 7 billion other people and their personal views. These are people we love, depend on, and work closely with every day. If we cannot view things, and ourselves, from their perspective when the occasion warrants, we will live our lives in ignorance. And the bottom line is that it DOES matter what others think. We are one life in a much larger eco-system, and we depend on that ecosystem for existence. No job, no friends, no family, no services that only others can provide? Self-esteem won’t help much when it’s blead you dry of all social capital.
  4. The ego-centric compulsion to ALWAYS succeed and be on the top of the ladder is harmful to the individual because it prevents them from attempting anything they might not be good at. They would rather preserve their self-esteem then attempt a truly rewarding, but risky task. No risk=no progress.

I suppose what I have come to conclude is that Narcissism is a dangerous trend that is on the rise because of this simple reason: it promotes the paradox that we are all special, and as such, better than all others. The glitch? How can you and I both be special if technically from the perspective of 7 billon others we are inferior? Solve that riddle.

Without criticism, competition, objective self-reflection, and the humility to admit when we’ve failed, we cannot truly relish our real successes, which are a natural, non-manufactured, source of self-esteem.

With all of this in mind, I’ve now begun to really ask myself what would society look like if people truly cared for themselves above all else?

Well, I’d imagine it’d look a lot like selfie-ridden facebook feeds peppered with self-congratulations and public denunciations. It’d look like a planet in an environmental crisis that individually wraps the straws we put in the water that we waste; a 50% divorce rate within the modern family, and a sea of singles who cannot find a partner without “commitment issues” or a need to “focus on me first.” It would look like children who are handed the world so they can “have a better life than their parents”, the effect of which is their embitterment and disappointment when “having it all” does not make them happy. It looks like kids who can’t focus on one task for more than 10 minutes, because self-control and discipline have been replaced by self-acceptance and self-indulgence. Children now have the power to negotiate with elders. They are calling the shots now, and the adults step aside so that young ones can become “unique”, “creative”, and unfettered by the restrictions of tradition and social etiquette.

Everyone wants to be their own boss. Nobody wants to be told what to do, even if it’s somebody with more expertise who also signs their paychecks.

In truth, I have always adhered to the belief that the individual is in charge (somewhat) of his/her destiny. One can secure happiness and fulfillment if they take the personal responsibility to do so. Happiness and positive self -image is, in fact, an attitude and outlook of our choosing, it does not have to be a reflection of how others see us. However, it must be an attitude that we sincerely feel. Being told we are special, or arriving at that conclusion without actual enlightenment, introspect, or actualization of goals, will lead to narcissism. Earning that opinion of our selves through grit, determination and self-discipline, will create citizens who are confident, powerful and self-sufficient.


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The Allure of the Forbidden Fruit: Why we don’t get what we want.

So I’ve been having the most curious yearnings to watch a dodo bird hunt an extinct harelip sucker fish on a cold day in hell with pigs flying overhead. While riding a unicorn.

Huh? you say. Why ever would I crave such an absurd and outlandish thing? Well, that’s easy! Because it’s unattainable. It’s the fruit upon the uppermost branch of the tallest tree in the forbidden forest. And I want it. So why is it exactly that our minds work in this way? Why do we always seek the treacherous and sometimes toxic fruits, like Adam and Eve, instead of the ripe, low hanging fruit dangling right before our faces?

Because we are a warped, demented and masochistic people with an affinity for suffering and misery, and terrible taste in fruit….. Offered royal blue, we want mud brown. Filet mignon for dinner? Nope, we’ll take tuna helper. If the snaggletooth weirdo we’ve never looked twice at in our life told us to eat shit and die, we’d be smitten.

And this “grass is greener” mentality, which I hate with every fiber of my being in principle, but fall invariably captive to in practice, is what makes us seemingly magnetizing to all we do not want but repulsive to everything that we do.

it is on account of an impossibly annoying and uncanny sequence of failed conquests for things I desire that I’ve resorted to the desperate and admittedly melodramatic recourse of google searching a diagnosis for my grave condition. I embarked upon this quest to find a clear and satisfying answer to the haunting question of why I always want what the fuck I can’t have. Why sad, pathetic humans like myself become ensnared in the fruitless quest for the forbidden fruit -against our strongest sense and logic. Below are some surprisingly compelling theories my brief and half-witted research unearthed:

  1. Information gap theory- when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know, curiosity is born. Curiosity fuels the desire to take any action necessary to bridge the gap and find the way through the fog. This explains why we love to desire from afar (celebrity crushes and the guy that sits in the back of class that we are content to stare at and never talk to) and are attracted to mystery and unpredictability.
  2. Delayed gratification- the longer it takes to fulfill one’s desires, the more dopamine is produced. Dopamine is the “pleasure chemical” of the brain. So, getting something right away produces the minimal pleasure in our sick, twisted minds. What really tickles us is waiting endlessly for something with little to no assurance we will actually get it. Go figure.
  3. Principles of economics: Guess what? They apply as much to our hearts as our heads. Here are a few:
  4. Unavailability- When something is temporarily unavailable it makes it more enticing for consumers. It convinces them that this something, regardless of actual value, is worth waiting for, begging for, or seeking after at any expense.
  5. Scarcity- when something is considered finite or in short supply, it is coveted and desired by all merely because all cannot have it. It becomes a competition, or a race. It makes one unique and special to have something that others can’t obtain.
  6. Competition- we all want to win. If someone doesn’t want what we’re selling, or someone doesn’t want to sell what we’re buying, our mercantile mindset chalks it up to a big, epic, devestating #fail.
  7. “Partial Reinforcement”- if results of an action are unpredictable or inconsistent in producing rewards, people will try harder and more persistently because they never know which attempt, or how many it will take, until they get the reward they are seeking. According to studies of lab rats, who scientists have deemed similar in intelligence and behavior to human beings ( insulting for the human or the rat?) , repeat and predictable success breeds laziness. Who the hell wants that? Boring. I’d rather chase my tail!
  8. Unexpectedness- given two options that are unequal in value, people will have stronger reactions towards getting the result they don’t anticipate than getting the thing they actually want. In other words, the unexpected reward is the exciting one. Unpredictability is more satisfying than preference. I would much rather find an unexpected penny on the street than receive my bi-weekly paycheck (that contains at least five times that amount!) that arrives boringly and predictably. Wouldn’t you?
  9. Heightened attention: When something is forbidden or difficult to attain you pay more attention to it. You always wind up craving the one entrée they JUST took off the menu; that delicious meatloaf you’ve heard was terrible and don’t technically eat because your vegetarian. But this time you really wanted it! And this was the meatloaf that got away….
  10. Control- humans do not want to be told they cannot do or have something. Whether or not we really want the thing is irrelevant- what we really seek is the option of having it and the agency in getting it. So don’t ever tell me, I can’t learn to play the harmonica. Watch me.

So, Hallelujiah! I’ve found the delightful and theraputic answers to my nagging questions. Now that I understand that I’m neurologically wired and predestined to be thwarted in all attempts to get what I want, and will inherently seek things I don’t really want but my brain thinks I want because of nonsensical correlations between pleasure and unpredictable and inconsistent rewards, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted! Now I can be contentedly discontent, and I hope after reading this article you can to. Have a great day, everyone! And remember: all you have to do to get what you want is to stop wanting it. Now go do it!


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Stereotypes, Hasty Generalizations, and Other Truths of a Restaurant

As any sap who has ever worked in a restaurant can tell you, there are an infinite number of stereotypes (people and situations) that present themselves each and every day, to amuse, abuse and confuse us; but most of all, to reinforce the eternal trueness of these stereotypes, which I will detail below for my readership. Characters, antics, one-liners, bad tippers, they are all part of the wonderful world in which we serve. The following list includes just a few of my favorite stereotypes, that for better (but usually worse), seem to stand the test of time:
1. The “Doing too much-er” – This is a character who is actually more amusing to me than irritating, so don’t feel overly ashamed if you a perpetrator of the “doing too much” shtick. It looks like this:
The over-doer walks slowly into the restaurant scanning the area like a sniper. He/ she eventually zero’s in on the target, which is you, the nearest server in uniform, and makes a beeline over, interrupting whatever task you are urgently performing to pose any one of the following general, and absurdly basic queries: “Soooo how does this work?”Is it seat yourselves? What are your specials? Do you serve drinks? If we sit down, will someone come take our order? Where’s your bathroom?”
Whoaaa turbo, caaaaalm down- You’re doin too much. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you hadn’t bull rushed the service staff within 6 seconds of walking in, practically knocking over the “please seat yourself sign” in doing so, you may have found the answers written on the wall-literally.
Here’s the approach that many normal (if I can use the term here) diners find successful: Take a seat, open a menu. Look for clues in said menu, such as a section titled “cocktails” or “happy hour specials” to address such burning questions as “do you serve cocktails” and “are there any specials.” Chances are, if you have a question, the answer will present itself in this document, and it will do so in 14 point font, Standard English, at a third grade reading level. Trust me, these things have been covered. Remember, dear customer: When all else fails, and it all just seems like too much, you may defer to the rule of thumb: Read the menu.
2. The “Stand-Here-While- I-Decide-ers”
Much like the Doing- too- mucher’s, these Type A zealots come rip roarin into the restaurant, guns smoking, searching anxiously for anyone and everyone to come to their table to get things started. After aimlessly soliciting anyone in apparent uniform ( the host, chef, busser, dishwasher, the girl who works next door) they finally see you (the actual server) and zero in. Never mind that you’re cleaning a table, putting an order into the computer, or walking past with a tray of drinks; they stop you dead in your tracks to come wait on them. So, you dutifully race over to their table, graciously apologize for their 10 second wait, and jump right into action to service their (apparently) burning needs:
“What can I get for you guys?” you ask, pen and paper positioned and ready for expedient jotting.
**Er, What? Oh. Yes, yes, of course. Ummm. Hmm. I’m not sure, Dan do you know what you want sweetheart?
And with that, the bitter truth sets in: These “give-me-now’ers” haven’t the slightest idea of what they actually want- they just know damn well they want “it” now.
To avoid seeming unprepared or stupefied by menu ignorance, the more confident of the two folds their hands over the menu and asks the sweeping question, “what do you have?” The other, feeling temporarily relieved to be out of the spotlight, flips through the menu mindlessly, landing randomly in the dessert section, or skimming the menu upside down in distracted efforts to look busy. WhiIe the seemingly endless questions and blundering continues on, I , the server, stand and I wait.
Meanwhile, fires are burning in all corners of the restaurant where guests are awaiting drink refills, their checks, delivery of their food, and what was once their ice cream, that is now a melted puddle on the kitchen counter; the clean-up of which will now become part of my sidework.

3. “What do you guys have?” Alluded to above, this question, perhaps the most irritating of all I encounter in the business, is as common as it is obvious. What do we have? A menu. You should check it out sometime.

4. The “Let’s sit at a dirty table-ers”: Allow me to clear up this common misconception: when you, dear customer, walk through the door looking for a table and I say that you can sit anywhere, I am not referring to the ONE dirty table in the entire restaurant covered in plates, glassware, napkins and cheerios the baby threw up all over the floor. I am referring to any one of the other 13 tables that are pristinely cleaned, set up, size appropriate, and ready to go. What is it about a dirty table that is so enticing to people? I believe it could be the 8th wonder of the world…
5. Autistic table syndrome- We’ve all had these tables. The enigma of the raucous, loud, sociable group that becomes deaf, blind and mute the moment you address them for their order.
Me: Hi guys!! How are you doin today?
** crickets
Me: Ok cool! Can I get you guys some drinks started?
** more crickets, they all bury their face in the menus.
Me: Alrighty then! Do you guys need a few mintutes?
** everyone looks shyly around at each other, uttering an assortment of uneasy grunts and murmurs of indecision. One person finally speaks- “ill have a pizza.”
Me: Ok, great. So we’re ready for food then?
**silence
Me: Not quite? Looks like not everyone’s quite ready. How about some drinks first?
** more crickets.
Me: How about this? I’m gonna go get some waters for everyone and be right back!
# fail.
6. The” 0-60’ers”. Ooooh the 0-60’ers. The people to whom you provide attentive, timely service all throughout the evening, anticipating their wants and needs and repeatedly checking if they “would like another glass?” or are “interested in dessert”, or “ready for the check”, to which they pleasantly respond “I think we’re fine for now.”
And then inexplicably, it all changes. Like a colicky baby at 7 o’clock, like werewolves at the dawning of a full moon, or Cinderella as the clock strikes midnight, the metamorphous suddenly occurs. In the blink of an eye, this table is ready for their check. They’ve finished their last drop of beer, and now, by God, they are ready to leave. Never mind the fact that now you are in the middle of singing happy birthday to another table, or just got sat a table of 12 who are frantically waving you down- the 0-60’s are ready to leave NOW- and they’re not trying to sit in traffic.
7. The Hyper-Modifiers: Here’s a riddle- if you have a burger, and you sub the buns for lettuce, meat for veggies, avocado on the side, no grease please, and you hate pickles- what do you have? Hint: it’s no longer a burger. Please, next time do us and yourself a favor: just order the house salad…
4. Id check antics- You will never see a smile on my face so wooden as when I am indulging any smart aleck version of the following when asking to check an id: “How old do you think I am?” “You make me feel young again!” “I’m 15!” “That’s a fake!” “You’re not going to check mine? I’m offended!”. My God people, JUST SHOW THE ID. Any “witty” or charming thing you could possibly feel inclined to blurt out in this situation, I would bet my life that I’ve already heard not once, but 50 times before. And guess what? It wasn’t funny then, and it is much less funny now. I think a true id check should test who is mature enough to show their id without making an asinine little wisecrack. Those who don’t pass don’t need to have their idiocy exacerbated by alcohol consumption.

Friends With Benefits- But not the sexual kind

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It has become increasingly more obvious to me in recent years that the common belief that women and men “can’t be just friends” is a fact of life as truth-filled as it is tragic. Even if men and women agree upon the title of being “just friends”, there always seems to be at least one person who feels more deeply for the other. One person, if not both, with expectations or intentions that exceed those of the other. Despite inward denial or stubborn claims to the contrary, this person might truthfully view the  friendship as an obstacle course that must be conquered to gain the ultimate prize. He/she humors the friendship as a temporary phase, and plays by its rules only until the romantic feelings are  realized, and (hopefully) returned, by the other person. At this point, the obstacle course is completed, and the trophy seized.

This individual views the friendship zone as a sort of a purgatory; a Hellish place where he/she festers in lovesick angst waiting for their friend to finally break up with his/her significant other, or give up their stubborn devotion to a first love, and see clearly enough at long last to reevaluate the nature of the friendship. 

In the final case, and probably the most common, two people begin as friends, and through getting to know one another (and a disastrous combination of too little discipline and too many drinks on one blurry night) Voila! The dynamic suddenly changes. Whatever fragile resistance was previously combatting the magnetic forces of male/female attraction fails, and the superior forces of human lust triumph.

Although I’ve experienced each one of these scenarios at one time or another, and don’t disagree that these phenomena are a realistic part of being human, I honestly think it’s a shame that men and women can’t see the benefit, or the value, in keeping one anther as friends. I usually value my friends even more than any fling or crush I might have at a given time, and certainly keep friends in my life for longer. Realistically, flings only last until they fizzle, and relationships until they fallout; yet friendships last a lifetime. Friends can share every bit as much intimacy as lovers, with the obvious physical exceptions. Of the three relationships humans can share, friendships are arguably the best route for keeping somebody close for an extended length of time. So why is it considered such a disgrace to be considered “just a friend” to someone of the opposite sex? Here are some of my theories:

Myth #1 – If someone isn’t attracted to you, it’s because you’re not attractive.

Rebuttal: If somebody isn’t attracted to you on a romantic level, then it’s probably because not every human being on earth is the perfect soul mate for every other. If every attractive, intelligent, funny, and worthy individual were to date every other person with these qualities, fidelity rates would be even worse than they are now. The fact is, attraction is very complex. It’s apples and oranges; neither is necessarily better or worse, just different. Some apples like apples, some oranges like pears. It should not feel like a personal slight if not every person is attracted to you, just as i’m sure you’re not attracted to every person. Bottom line: the laws of attraction are more deep and diverse than many of us assume, and depend on much more more than looks or intelligence. If someone isn’t attracted to you, it is not because you are unattractive. It’s because you’re a mango, not an orange.

Myth #2- If everybody says “you two would be so cute together”, you should trust their judgment.

Rebuttal: We’ve all done it. Pestered and teased and pressured our friends to date that one really cute guy they’ve been friends with since childhood. “It would be a storybook romance!” “He’s the one who’s been there all along!” “He knows you better than anybody!” Allow me to invoke my previous point: If you’re not attracted, you’re not attracted! It doesn’t have to make sense, there doesn’t have to be a reason why not to date him- most important is your reason why to date him. And if your best reason is that it’s comfortable and if you date him maybe your friends will shut up and stop bugging you, you might want to re-evaluate. Keeping your childhood friend at a romantic distance will preserve the friendship; and lord knows if the attraction had been there all along one or both of you would have acted by now. Let’s be honest, even the most repressed and pious of us can’t hold back for 15 years.p>

Myth #3- If I don’t go after him/her, I might lose them to someone else

Rebuttal: This one is actually true. When you forego the chance to be the apple of someone’s eye, you’re doing so with the bitter understanding that somebody else will eventually take your place. It is human nature that we want to be adored, loved, and most of all, chased. It is natural for us to vie for the affection of others- even if we don’t necessarily want the affection, or feel it in return. We have to accept this about ourselves, and allow others to find their soul mate if it isn’t us. A true friendship will withstand this process, and your demotion from object of adoration to friend will preserve the friendship and be fair and healthy for both of you in the long term.

Myth #4- fun and friendly means flirty, and flirting constitutes interest.

Rebuttal: I think the biggest reason men and women cannot be friends owes to the above misconception. Many people make the mistake of interpreting an outgoing, friendly, or playful personality type as a “flirtatious” one, and therefore see interest where none exists. Some people behave in this manner indiscriminately, towards everybody, and do not intend playful or friendly antics as methods of flirting, or implying interest. Before interpreting somebody’s demeanor towards you as one way or another, it is important to see first how the other person acts in their natural environment. Some reserve flirtatious or playful behavior exclusively for those they have romantic interest in, others are more animated on a constant basis, and bring enthusiasm and engagement to every encounter, whether there is an undercurrent of lust there or not. It is very important to distinguish between friendly and flirty, and granted, not always easy. If ever unsure, put away the decoder, the flirting dictionary, and your preconceived judgments, and wait until that person makes a clear move- because if they are truly interested, this type of person is not afraid to show it.

Bottom line: Opposite sex friendships can be fun! And they should be simple. When we can appreciate friendships for what they are instead of what they could be, would be or might be, they are enjoyable for everybody. Over- analyzing male/female relationships is dangerous; it produces confusion and complication, where one or both people scrutinizes for underlying motives, coy antics, and ambiguous signals where none should exist. These things, as well as yielding to peer pressure and our own egotism, will muddle our friendships, making them seem impossible to maintain.

But they’re not. And we need to seriously shift our prejudices and misconceptions about having friends of the opposite gender. These friendships can truly have many benefits- and not one of them involving sex.


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The Weird Sh** We Do

Being the deeply complex and unique members of the human race that we are, you and I have a variety of eccentricities that set us apart from our peers- both in ways that win us praise, and the occasional eye-brow raise. On the flip side, we also do a lot of the same shit as everyone else, without ever thinking twice about it. With that said, I’ve found that it’s actually quite hilarious to sit down and really contemplate the weird shit we do; the ridiculous, irrational, dysfunctional and hilariously nonsensical way we live our lives daily. The list to follow are several of the weirder human tendencies that I’ve noted throughout the years, most of which I myself am a perpetrator. Perhaps you won’t agree with all of them, but I guarantee even the most closeted weirdos among you could add a few gems to this list. Enjoy!

1. Refusing to bring a sweater at all costs: ok, this one might be more common among my San Diegan sista’s, but nonetheless should earn some “amen’s” across the board. So anyone who’s spent a week in SD is clued into the weather patterns: the cloudy mornings, clear and warm afternoons, somewhat chilly evenings, and FREEZING COLD nights- and this applies nearly year around. Of any geographic population on earth, we blessed San Diegans have the least excuse for being burned by mother nature- or frozen in this case. Despite our forecasting privileges, it nevertheless remains to be true that through hell, high water, and routine 15 degree temperature drops, we San Diegans utterly refuse to haul around a sweater with us. Without failure, we depart our house late morning basking in the warm sunlight, ignoring our crumpled sweaters sitting in the closet, refusing to consider that by the time the sun begins to slink away at late afternoon we will become freezing, goose-bump infested, whining, cold bitches. But bring a sweater? Hell no. We’d rather suffer.

2. Refusing to go back inside for something we forgot: Let me set up the scene for this one: We’re hauling ass around the house, stirring up a tornado of chaos in every room we pass through in an attempt to get ready for school, work, night out, what have you. At long last we make peace with our ill-preparedness and leave the house anyway, praying we haven’t forgotten anything crucial. We walk the three blocks to where our car is (Bingo!) right where we (vaguely) remember leaving it- and, Hooray! It’s also unticketed. Thus relieved, we leap into the car and rev the engine, ready to book it outta there. And then, boom! We realize we’ve forgotten the lunch we made, the coffee thermos we prepared, and the SDGE bill we desperately needed to mail. What do we do? Instead of running back inside the house to get it, we peel outta there and cut our losses. We endure the 10 dollar expense of buying coffee and lunch at school, and miss the bill deadline, risking having our electricity shut off just so we won’t have to spend fifteen seconds running back inside. Two steps forward, three steps back- the college two-step. Don’t lie…we’ve all done the dance.

3. The “pick-at-your-food” diet. If ol’ Rob Atkins has built a legacy convincing dieters they’ll shed pounds eating a juicy steak instead of a slice of bread, I should really trademark my winning diet method. This method is an effective diet strategy 90% of the time, 0% of the time- but it’s got dieters like me swooning. It’s genius rests on a modern eating philosophy, which maintains that a whole pie is more unhealthy than the sum of its parts- because our psychology says so. What follows, is that 15 juicy forkfuls eaten straight from the pie pan is less shameful than eating one of those telltale triangles that announces devilishly “I am a whole slice; if you eat me, you are a pig.” In this way, the “pick-at-your-food” diet defies the measurement methods that tell us we have eaten too much, leaving us guilt-free to nibble away at a buffet of sweets, blissfully non-committal; consuming as much as we want without the horror of knowing we’ve eaten an entire, grotesque, hateful slice to ourselves. I ate a “section”, yes, but not a slice. In the modern eating world, we have abandoned the outdated pie formula, which states that 1 slice of pie is 3.14259 days of guilt. So nibble on, my friends!

4. Getting the basket instead of the cart: Enough said.

5. Going to bed drunk and unjustifiably pissed:….and waking up not caring at all. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve fallen asleep gravely depressed, fuming angry, stubbornly self-righteous, or convinced of some other conspiracy of nonsense while drunk, i’d be a rich woman. Time after time, we go home in a fit of some emotion or another, convinced on our drunken high horse that we’ve been victim of a terrible wrong, and wake up completely at peace, or even embarrassed, at our previous opinion. To make matters worse, I can even account for times on such nights night that I’ve literally hoped to wake up the next day still upset, thinking it would be cheating myself out of justifiable misery to sleep it off and reconsider the situation sober. Yet it never fails: the next morning, somehow that ho stepping on your foot with her high heel and your boy forgetting to put a smiley face at the end of a goodnight text just doesn’t seem so wickedly offensive. #Goddamnit

These are just a few idiosyncrasies that I’ve picked up on through observing other people (once in a great, greeeeeat while on a relatable basis;). If you guys can think of any others, please share. I love analyzing our weird/psychotic human nature. At least we’re not alone!

Advice: If you don’t love it, leave it

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Peer, parental, or professional advice can be wonderful sources of wisdom for a lost soul in need of guidance, or one seeking a second opinion on a subject outside of their expertise. On the contrary, all advice is not created equal. Sometimes internalizing the wrong words at the wrong time can create only doubt and confusion for the recipient, when he/she is much better off following the wisest prophet of all: the self.

For many of us, seeking the opinions of well-meaning others is just what we need to illuminate a perspective not yet considered, or debunk an idiotic line of thinking that if continued, would only lead to our ruin. Looking for outside perspectives can, in many cases, assist our process of well-thought-out decision making; especially if we are the hopelessly indecisive sort (yours truly), or prone to exercising bad judgment.

However, falling prey to the persuasion of others is a double edge sword: in rare cases, listening to another voice too closely can drown out our own intuition, shoot down our morale, or derail us from a track of confident decision making by flinging doubt and distraction into our path. Sometimes, too many outside opinions compounding on one another can snowball into the very iceberg that sinks our ship. No expert, friend or even parent, after all, knows us better than we know our self.

I’ve been recently seeking advice from my friends and family to guide me through the agonizing life chapter the popular cliché dubs, the “real world”. I’ve made my way through life thus far with a relaxed, “go with the flow” attitude, which has enabled me to take things in stride and be flexible with my goals and agendas, avoiding the pressures of rigid expectations. However, I’ve now reached a fork in the river, and unless I pick up an oar and commit to a direction, i’m in for an ugly shipwreck.

What i’m learning more and more is that the decision to go right or left at the fork must be made for oneself. It can be tempting to let the current sweep you along, or let somebody else do the paddling, but eventually we need to seize control of the oar and steer ourselves to safety. As i’m entering this phase of self-reliance, advice is beginning to lose its appeal. It now brings me anxiety, undercutting my own judgment and freedom to engage a unique process of self-discovery. The adage goes: Flip a coin to make a decision, and you will know what you want while it’s in the air. In reality, nobody really wants the penny to dictate the outcome of their life- it is sometimes just the exercise of flipping it that helps us uncover our true feelings. In the past few weeks, i’ve come to look at advice giving and receiving in a different light. I feel that we need to come to our own conclusions- especially when the consequences affect us alone. Advice should not beguile or coerce us, or redirect us down a path oppositional or counterintuitive to one we would choose on our own. If given and received effectively, advice should guide us to our own discoveries and realizations through asking important questions, highlighting new perspectives, encouraging creative solutions, and creating a space for dialogue that that might help summon our subconscious thoughts.

When I first set out to receive advice about what I should do post-college (a HUGE decision), I yearned for a voice to project from the sky, booming down the answers I needed to hear. I was inclined to follow the process i’d been trained to do through years and years of schooling: receiving a task or set of instructions, and successfully completing it to make a grade. However, the “real world” is different; it’s a new game now. The variety of decisions we need to be making in our post-college life are ones we should be making independently, because at this stage we are logical, reasonable, insightful and intuitive people who have a knowledge and understanding of our selves that others don’t. We are no longer invalids who need to rely on more acute wisdom from others- sometimes we hold the key to our own success. If you find yourself waffling, backpedaling or riding the fence constantly, and the barrage of outside opinions coming your way are only leaving you more confused, TUNE THEM OUT. Listen to your heart, make a choice with the best information and sense of purpose you feel at the time, and dedicate yourself to making your choice one from which you can either triumph, or learn something valuable for the future. If your remain optimistic and open-minded, your choice will lead to something productive even if it is not exactly the outcome you had in mind. Often times we don’t know what we want anyway, and life has wonderful things in store for us we could have never have imagined, or known to strive for. The point is to not to fear tackling big decisions. We hold the power of making decisions and living with them happily. We can learn from any situation, transcend any degree of hardship, and eliminate indecision by simply acting. From there, we can view any outcome optimistically if we commit ourselves to the practice. Decisions like which career to choose should be looked at as an exciting opportunity; an avenue of new and challenging possibilities. There is no right or wrong choice as long as you make the best of what you’ve picked, and follow the route that aligns with your most clear and profound goals and desires for fulfillment. Advice can help provoke our thoughts and tease out tangles, but it should never be used as a crutch, or a replacement for our own judgment. Take control of your life, be strong and adaptive, and remain positive through it all- decisions made with good intent and sound purpose should never be regretted.