Saturday, May 30, 2009

JLK's Current Ass-Shaking Jam

Since we're on the subject of music (see covers meme below), I thought I'd share my newest, cheesy ass-shaking jam:

Covers Meme

Leigh tagged me with this awesome meme.

I could ponder this for days and come up with more options than I could possibly choose from. So instead I went with my first instinct:

Damn, he sure is nice to look at. :)

And then there's this:

I am of the firm opinion that you can ruin ANYthing.....ANYTHING by doing a country version of it. 

I tag: Psych Post Doc, PhizzleDizzle, DuWayne, Professor Anonymous, and Professor In Training. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Well, I had my phone interview for SFRSHS West today. It was an hour and a half long. I think it went really well, but of course I can't be sure. 

I did not BS her, because that's just not my style. If she asked me if I had experience with something and I didn't, I told her so. I think I did well with explaining how my work experience fits with many of the tasks that the person in this position is required to do. 

What always throws me for a loop in interviews is when I am asked a question that has an obvious "right" answer, such as "How do you find you work under pressure?" Truthfully, I am the kind of person who thrives under pressure, but when I give that answer I feel like the interviewer thinks I'm saying that because I know it's the right answer. I hate that, because I AM being honest. 

I also worry that I talk too much in phone interviews. I try to make sure that I am answering the question as clearly and completely as possible, and I also have an awareness that THIS is my chance to make an impression on this person. I find myself struggling with competing internal demands to both be concise and thorough. Thorough almost always wins out. 

I really am perfect for this position. Seriously, I'm not just saying that. I was myself throughout, I made her laugh quite a few times (assuming it wasn't just polite laughter, who knows when it's on the phone), and I think I answered her questions the best I could. I did not mention at all what this position could do for me except when I was specifically asked what my personal goals for this job would be and why I want it. 

If I had it to do over again I would probably try to be a little more concise in my answers, but it's very difficult to do that when you're being asked questions on-the-fly about something you feel very passionate about. This, I think, is a skill I will have to work on over time. 

So it's one step at a time. I think I did well enough to move on to the second round of interviews and will find out around the end of next week. But if I didn't, it will be because they have a candidate with better qualifications than mine and that's okay. 

Goddamn do I want this job. The research coming out of this lab is so GOOD and airtight and so freaking relevant to the world and the big picture! This is research that makes a difference! It would be a privilege to get exposed to this world and to be able to make valuable contributions to the research team at the institution. 

I feel like I'm on American Idol. I made it through the first round of auditions and Simon Cowell was like "This chick can sing, let's send her to Hollywood!" And I've made it past that first week of Hollywood auditions and now I'm waiting to find out if I'm in the top 10 girls. 

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moving Onward and (hopefully) Upward

Well, I did it. I told R2 that I am declining their offer of admission in favor of pursuing research this year. I feel a bit like a snob but I remain convinced that this is the best decision for me and my career goals. 

That said, an "Organizational Announcements" conference call has been scheduled at my company for tomorrow by our regional manager. Hopefully it is not a "you've all been shit-canned" call that will throw me into a full-blown panic attack at not having a back-up plan. 

My interview with SFRSHS West has been scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. After consulting with a couple of bloggers I have the utmost respect for, I think I am about as ready as I will be. It has taken a bit of cognitive effort to focus on what I have to offer them rather than relying on conveying my enthusiasm and passion and hoping that carries me through. The trickiest thing for me, I think, has been changing gears from grad admissions interviews to academic job interviews. I had to learn that they are two completely different things. Really, it is a combination of corporate job interview skills and grad school interview skills and I won't know if I have figured out the right balance of these two skillsets until tomorrow. 

I remain undecided about re-taking the GRE. In a perfect, ideal world, I will get the job at SFRSHS West and that will in turn earn me a slot in their graduate program by my kicking ass and taking names every day I show up at work. But because I did not apply to SFRSHS West last year, I don't know how similar their admissions process is to SFRSHS East and whether they use the same arbitrary cut-offs when screening applicants. This is, of course, not a question I can ask in the interview. LOL. 

The one thing I do know is that if I get this job, I will be networked with the biggest rockstars in social psychology and I should have my choice of R1 programs excluding, in all likelihood, the Ivies. I will learn methods for conducting research in my interest area from the top scholars in that area. I will gain a skillset that will be second to none. I will work my ass off because I will be doing what I love. This is not a job, this is an opportunity and a golden one at that. This is the closest thing to Phil Zimbardo's car breaking down in front of my house as I am likely to get. And actually, this is probably much, much better. 

I also have another possible option cooking at a SFRSHS in a totally unrelated field that I am just as excited about. If I were to get this particular position, I would not only get to learn invaluable research skills, I would also have a very unique scientific experience that most psych researchers would never even dream of. And I'd get to be a part of some very cool, kick-ass science that currently is conceptually way above my pay-grade. 

So that's the update. I am not in a million years expecting to get the job at SFRSHS West, but I also said that about the interview. Here's hoping that my cynicism is driving forces in the universe that are akin to reverse psychology. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Combat Psychology

The timing of this post happens to coincide with a weekend during which I am spending a lot of time on a major military base. This, to some extent, has made this issue very personal for me. 

Many of you may be familiar with the recent trial of Steven Dale Green, a 24 year-old Iraq veteran who was convicted in a civilian trial of raping and murdering a 14 year-old Iraqi girl and her family in 2005. The death penalty has been taken off the table because the jury could not unanimously agree on the sentence. He is therefore going to be sentenced to life in prison in September. 

The story is mainly being highlighted for its exemplification of the effects of combat stress on our young men and women. The Army is being criticized for not discharging him when he expressed homocidal thoughts and for putting his unit through in inordinate amount of strife without supervision. The story is also conjuring up mostly-forgotten  images of the horrors of Abu Ghraib. 

Which brings me to the purpose of writing this post. I am a major advocate of blurring the lines that exist between the branches of psychology. In the case of combat psychology, the primary blend that needs to occur is between social and clinical psychology. To my knowledge, the military does not recruit or train social psychologists for the purpose of caring for the troops. They do, however, actively and aggressively recruit clinical psychologists with attractive signing bonuses and salaries and fantastic internships, even when the psychologist remains a civilian employee of the military. I think this is great. 

But the problem is that clinical psychology largely focuses on issues that arise within a soldier after the fact. Clinical psychologists are great for diagnosing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illness issues that may affect soldiers. But they only have a minimal working knowledge of the types of circumstances that create these conditions and the mechanisms that underly them in terms of social climate. 

It is my belief that we cannot improve conditions for our military personnel until social psychology becomes a valuable core component of our service branches. As many of you know, Phil Zimbardo is one of my heroes. Many people find this odd given the egregious ethical breaches of his most famous research. But he discovered something incredibly important about human nature - there are social circumstances that can easily and quickly cause a normally "good" person to act in "evil" ways. The Stanford Prison Experiment is the backbone and essence of social psychology - person x situation. 

The Green case perfectly illustrates the person x situation equation. Not every soldier will commit the atrocities that this young man did. In fact, most soldiers won't. But some of the things he experienced in Iraq created a fissure in his moral core, and arguably PTSD. We cannot examine one of these components without the other. If somehow social psychologists could consistently consult with the military regarding the social conditions under which soldiers like Green operate, we could likely prevent many heinous war crimes. The clinical psychologist who treated Green and was aware of his confessed homocidal urges is quoted as saying "I had no reason to believe that he would act on them." Perhaps if she had consulted with a social psychologist, that person would have said "Given the social history of this soldier in combat and given what we know what about possible effects of this type of social history, it is my strongest recommendation that he be discharged before it escalates." 

I have mixed feelings about Green's story. I'm glad that he was sentenced to life rather than given the death penalty. It is difficult to discover where who he was initially begins and when it becomes who we created. Though I would never discount societal factors that influence murderous behavior, the military is a particularly complex case. The entire purpose of their training is murder, just framed in a different way. The military culture is a culture of violence. Without the violence, it's just the boy scouts with better uniforms and fancier patches. 

We cannot continue to ask our young men and women to sacrifice so much on our behalf without in turn giving them the best we have to offer. It is my belief that the combined resources of social and clinical psychology is something we should offer to them. Let's not continue the cycle of creating and punishing criminals.

Holy Crap!!!!

I have a phone interview for Awesome Job at SFRSHS West!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now it's a whole new ballgame. Back to on-the-spot rocking instead of spending hours perfecting cover letters. OMG. 

Advice? Anyone?

Got to see my husband today too! Freaking finally! He kicked some serious ass down here and I'm so proud of him I don't know what to do with myself. 

But driving in this city is an absolute nightmare. It seems all straightforward, but there's this whole "loop" concept that I am just not familiar with. In New England we do turnpikes and exit ramps and on-ramps. To go south on the highway, you head south and so forth. This crap is just weird. 

Okay, need to go to bed now. Like I can sleep!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have had the Mother of All Migraines since 7am this morning. I get migraines like 5-6 times a year, always with aura, but usually taking 2 Aleve at the onset of the aura makes it manageable enough for me to get through the day. 

But not today. Holy shit. I've taken 3 Aleve today because the first 2 didn't work. I've had some caffeine and that hasn't done shit. So I just took a vicodin, which I normally avoid doing, but fuckin-a do I need this thing to go away. 

This particular migraine scared the shit out of me today. My right arm went completely numb for about a half hour and at the same time my speech got all fucked up. I would be thinking the right words, but totally different words were coming out of my mouth. Like I said "computer" instead of "car." I seriously thought I was having a stroke. That has never, ever happened to me before. 

On a brighter note, I've lost 2 inches off my waist and 1.5 inches off my hips since I started the dancing at SciCurious's suggestion. I am now the biggest fan of Zumba that there ever was. I also took Sci's nutrition suggestions so I've been eating like 5 times a day instead of twice with lots of protein. My weight hasn't dropped all that much, but my abs look fantastic! Thanks, Sci!

I haven't heard anything on the job front yet - thank goodness no one called me today while I was practically speaking in tongues. I need this headache to go away so I can do something productive.....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Need This

I have spent the last 14 years of my life pursuing knowledge of psychology and the social sciences in general. It is my passion, and goddammit, I'm good at it. 

For the past few months, in the face of what seemed like a million rejection letters and an impossible uphill climb, I have wavered in my pursuit of this passion. I have thought about giving up and just staying in my boring-ass job for the rest of my life, where I would be free to just enjoy "life" in whatever way I wished. 

But just as a life without my husband is not one I want for myself, a life without psychology is also not one I want for myself. I love reading books and articles in my field, but quite frankly I'm sick of not being the one writing them. 

I have been actively seeking out paid research jobs for a couple of months now. I have not had any success. As mentioned in a previous post, I just applied for a fucking amazing job at SFRSHS West. To be frank, this particular opportunity would change my entire life. I don't think I'll get it in a million years, especially considering how widely advertised it is and the level of prestige associated with this particular university. But if I did, it really and truly would change my LIFE. 

I've spent a lot of time picking apart my CV, my qualifications, my experience, trying to figure out which part of the package I'm missing. It might be my GRE quant score. It might be the fact that I have not spent any time caring for dying children in Africa. It might be that I finished my undergrad too quickly. It might simply be a matter of never being in the right place at the right time. 

I have tried with each job application to convey my level of enthusiasm for and dedication to my field while still maintaining professionalism. As much as I would love to write "I'm fucking PERFECT for this job, can't you see that???" I have managed to restrain myself. 

But I need this. I need to be in research. I need to get that leg up somehow. It can't be as simple as a math GRE score, unless the system really and truly is that fucked up. I refuse to be shut out of the ranks of the top scholars in my field. If SFRSHS East gets sick of seeing my name on job applications, so be it. But at least they'll KNOW my name. 

All I need from you, Academia, is a chance. Let the stars align perfectly or whatever needs to happen - I don't care - but just give me that chance. I'm doing what I can here, but if you could just cut me a little bit of slack that would be fantastic. I feel like I'm just waiting to be discovered, waiting to get in front of just the right person. It seems to me that academia is a lot like the entertainment industry - it's not just about having talent, it's about stumbling across that golden opportunity at just the right time. 

Actually, Academic Universe, if you could somehow arrange it so that Phil Zimbardo's car breaks down on my street and he needs to use my phone, that would be Awesome. 

But in the meantime I'll keep applying for every RA job that comes up. I'll keep studying the social psych literature and looking for opportunities to network. I'll keep plugging away. 

Because I need this. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Doing the Bullet Thing

  • Exactly one week from today, I get to see my husband again! Yippee! 
  • Last night, per SciCurious's suggestion, I took up Latin Dancing as an alternative to the god-forsaken treadmill. It was a blast! Turns out I'm really good at merengue, salsa, cumbia, and rhumba, but I absolutely suck at calypso and reggaeton and something else I can't remember what it's called. Oh well. 
  • Today I applied for an awesome position at SFRSHS West (I'm so vague, aren't I? lol). Hopefully they don't hate me as much as SFRSHS East apparently does. 
  • No progress on the GRE front. I still haven't decided if I'm going to put myself through that hell again. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Artifical Sweeteners & The Like

I don't think anyone has a fucking clue when it comes to weight loss and such, scientist or not. I think there is too much individual variation in this world to make generalizations of what is "good" or "bad" for people as a whole. I could even make an argument that smoking is neutral, but I'm going to keep my mouth shut on that. 

But for now, the subject is artifical sweetener, from here on referred to solely as Splenda, my sweetener of choice. I'm going to stick to beverages here, as that is the only form in which I consume Splenda.

Basically, there is an argument going out there that Splenda can make you fatter, less healthy, etc. Supposedly, your brain is tricked into thinking that you're drinking something sweet, but when it doesn't get actual sweetness in your digestive system, it makes you crave something sweet. 

This doesn't make sense to me, but I am open to hearing explanations. My take on it is thus: if your brain continuously gets signals that you are drinking something sweet, but nothing sweet ends up in your stomach, eventually your body habituates and figures out that tasting something sweet does not mean it needs to produce insulin. In effect, I have rendered my "sweet" taste buds obsolete in the digestive process through habituation. Diet drinks do not make me hungrier, or crave any sort of food. My body, I believe, treats them like carbonated water. I drink it and piss it out, and that's the end of that. But I've been drinking diet sodas for a very long time and using splenda in my coffee for years. 

The problem, I think, is with suddenly switching from regular soda to diet or vice versa. I believe that if I suddenly started consuming sugar in my beverages, I would gain weight very quickly because my body is not used to getting liquid calories. But this belief that splenda can make you fatter - I'm not sure I'm buying it. Not unless someone can provide me with some evidence. 

If a calorie deficit = weight loss, then I don't see how drinking diet beverages could negatively impact weight loss results. If it makes you crave sweets, but you don't eat those sweets, then where is the negative impact? 

I'm not saying the opposite argument is wrong, I am just looking to understand the logic and science behind it. Thoughts?

Eggs & MiLs

I've got a couple of things going on that don't necessarily warrant their own posts, so I figured I would just combine them here. 

First, I am being asked to undergo another egg donation cycle that is covered under the same contract (which means I don't get $$ this time). I'm torn about this. I really don't want to let the intended parents down, but after the hell I went through last time I'm not sure I can do this. They keep telling me "It shouldn't happen again because now the clinic knows to give you less of the medication." To which I reply, "It wasn't supposed to happen LAST time, either. It was supposedly a 'remote possibility.'" Problem is, once you go into hyperstimulation, it can't be reversed. They can stop the cycle, which is incredibly dangerous, or you can ride the thing out. They want to do this toward the end of the summer, when my husband will still be gone. I sure as hell don't want to do it when he gets back, but I also don't want to be writhing in pain on the floor again, BY MYSELF. It sounds really shitty (and is troll-fuel), but if they were paying me this time I would be more inclined to do it, because then my potential suffering would at least finance a trip to Europe for me and my husband. In other words, it would provide a light at the end of the tunnel. I hate myself for feeling that way, but it's a lot of physical anguish to go through for people you've never met. Think of it like bone marrow donation - you are more likely to go through it voluntarily for a friend or a family member's benefit, but who would put themselves through that for a stranger? (Besides Will Smith in Seven Pounds.) I feel like I was lucky last time that no permanent damage happened. I feel like doing it a second time is pressing that luck. 

Also, A and I have been talking about starting to try to get pregnant this fall when he comes back. If I undergo the cycle in late August, it means pushing back any attempts by at least 8 weeks unless I want to risk an ectopic pregnancy or, even worse, twins. I'm also pretty sure that the major contributer to my weight gain over the past year was due to the last cycle. Not to mention the fact that in the middle of my last hormone-induced psychosis, I decided it would be a good idea to leave my husband. As you can imagine, he's not entirely thrilled about the idea of me doing this again. Lots of thinking to do....

The other issue is my mother in-law. I've written about this before, how I used to be extremely close with her and my FIL until last year when I moved out. A bombarded her with his impressions of what was going on - that I was having an affair, that I was lying to him, etc. She was given a lot of wrong information that has shaped her current negative feelings toward me. We've been emailing back and forth since he left. I asked to come and see her so we could talk, but she said she wasn't ready for that. I want so badly to explain things, even knowing that she isn't likely to believe me. I know she's pissed, but I want to be like "Listen! Don't you think you got some seriously biased information??? Do you think A would have gotten back together with me if all of that shit was true???"

But I can't do that. I am now outside the Circle of Trust. On some levels, I deserve to be where I am. I did choose to leave her son, after all. But she believes that I left her son for someone else, which isn't true. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe that has nothing to do with it and even knowing that's not true won't change her anger. Sometimes I feel like it's selfish and a waste to try to explain myself to her. Maybe I shouldn't even bother. 

She has offered to go to dinner the weekend we'll be visiting A at the base. It will just be me and her. I have no idea what to expect or how much pain I'm going to endure. I'm not sure I even know what to say. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

WTF, Seriously.

I have found something new to bitch about. Just ask PhizzleDizzle - poor thing has been listening to me whine about this for like a week now. 

I am getting tired of all the conflicting information to be found on the internet and elsewhere regarding weight loss, nutrition, and exercise. It's all Big Business, especially since the so-called Obesity Epidemic took hold of the media. Which means I can't believe a fucking thing I read anywhere. So I am turning to you, science blogosphere, to help me make heads or tails of this shit. 

Here's where I'm at and why I'm doing this: I am not overweight by BMI or any other standard. However, I have been slowly creeping up to that margin for a couple years now. I figured this out by noticing that many of my pants stopped fitting me the way they used to, and many of them no longer fit me at all since last summer. I have much more junk in my trunk right now than I would like. This is NOT about trying to shrink into an ideal body shape - this is about getting back to where I was. 

I have gone from doing pretty much nothing to working out 6 days a week. I have cut calories not by eating less but by eating smarter. For example, instead of chowing down on a half a bag of Doritos, I have traded them in for whole-grain tortilla chips with sea salt and fresh salsa. Or salad. Or cucumbers and celery. Instead of eating frozen pizza for dinner, I make a sandwich with whole grain bread, lean turkey or chicken, some mayo, lettuce, and a pickle. 

In terms of exercise, I went from nothing to doing 3 miles every other day on the treadmill - my goal was just to get to 3 miles, so if I was hating it I had motivation to do it as fast as possible, ie., spend more time jogging or running than walking. On average, I've been doing those 3 miles in 45 mins. (Remember, I'm a smoker.) On the off days I've been combining power yoga with situps, pushups, weights for my arms, some Pilates moves, and occasionally chin-ups. 

I've been doing this for about 5 weeks now. I was seeing my weight fluctuate by 3lbs nearly every day, so I bought a new scale in case my old one was fucked up. Switched from analog to digital this weekend. If the new scale is accurate (which it should be), my old scale was off by 5lbs and I am actually 5lbs heavier than I thought I was. (You can imagine how happy I was to find that out.) Which means that now I have no idea if I made any progress AT ALL over the last 5 weeks, whereas I had thought that I had lost 2lbs for good before the fluctuations started. 

So I talked to Phizzle about my frustration. She tells me that in terms of calories burned, my treadmill has been lying to me. So when it says 450 calories for 3 miles, it's probably more like 300. Fuck! My first thought: "But still, I went from nothing to 300 calories burned - doesn't that count for something???" So I started looking shit up. I found an article at Runner's World that said running burns more calories than walking, despite the widespread belief that no matter how fast you go, you're still burning 100 calories per mile. I was like "Yay!" until I realized that meant I needed to jog and run more. "Booooo!"

I hate the treadmill. (See my last post.) So my mission this past weekend was to find some new activities. I narrowed it down to either a stationary bike or rollerblades. I love skating and according to the internet it burns many more calories than biking and works muscles that no other exercise gets to. I bought some sweet-ass rollerblades friday night, bought the new scale yesterday. I also borrowed my mom's Wii Fit last night. 

When I came home from my mom's, I changed into some lightweight clothes, set up the Wii and was weighed by it, then got on the scale. The numbers were EXACTLY the same, down to a tenth of a lb. (Mind, you, the scale read 2lbs less than it said before I left to go to my mom's, before eating filet mignon and then skating with my brother for 20 mins). I was like "shit, that's fine with me."

So I turn off the Wii Fit, grab my skates, and go out skating for another 35 mins. I come home and get on the Wii Fit for a full hour. I did every single activity on there at least once, including all the strength training and aerobics. During the hour and a half of exercise I consumed about 15oz of water. When I'm done on the Wii, I have it weigh me again. It tells me I've lost 1.5lbs since 9pm before I went skating. I get on the scale, and it tells me I've GAINED 3lbs since before I went skating and worked out. WTF, seriously?? (Same clothes, just in case you were wondering.)

How could the numbers go from matching exactly to showing a 4.5lb difference in a matter of hours? How am I supposed to keep track of progress if the numbers aren't consistent?

I read online that a person burns 1 calorie for each liter of oxygen consumed. I hypothesize from this that a smoker would then burn more calories than a non-smoker because we need more oxygen to do the same workout. I have no idea if this is true or not. Does anyone know?

I can't possibly cut down my calorie intake any more than I already have without starving myself. I cut out all of my empty-calorie booze after I figured out I was consuming about 3,000 calories per week of Smirnoff Ice. I don't drink any soda that isn't diet and I always use splenda in my coffee. I eat a hell of a lot more fiber than the average person my age. I eat a lot of vegetables and only eat red meat on special occasions. I drink a decent amount of iced green tea. I drink water. I generally don't eat a lot of refined carbs, only the whole-grain variety. 

I really don't know wtf else to do. I have never in my life had this problem. 3 years ago, I dropped 5lbs and 2 inches off my waist by speedwalking on the treadmill for 35mins every other day before my wedding. I once lost 3lbs just by adding Benefiber to my coffee every day. 

Why might I be stuck? I need some science here, not dieting tips. The only thing I can think of is that I'm not eating ENOUGH calories every day, and my body is hoarding them instead of burning them because of all the exercise. But if I start eating more, that renders the supposed rule of losing weight (burn more calories than you consume) entirely bullshit. I can tell that my metabolism has sped up - I'll be hungry after I'm done on the treadmill regardless of what I had for dinner, so I eat a salad. By the time I go to bed, my tummy is growling again, but I ignore it until morning. 

Seriously, science. Why isn't any of this working?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

JLK On The Treadmill

Brain: "Alright, I can totally do this. I can totally run for this whole song! This isn't so bad..."

Lungs: "Are you fucking kidding me?? Make it stop! Please, I beg you.....make it STOP! It huuurrrrtttsss!!!"

Brain: "But it's GOOD for you! You should love this! We're clearing out all the crap you've accumulated so you can breathe again!"

Lungs: "Breathe? You're a smoker for fuck's sake! Now stop screwing around and get off this thing so we can go have a cigarette."

Brain: "No. Keep going."

Heart: "You asshole. I hate you. I HATE YOU! Do you hear me???"

Brain: "I'm sorry, but it's good for you too. Can't you just cooperate with me?"

Heart: "Fuck you. So help me god, if you don't turn this thing down to 3mph RIGHT NOW I will kill you where you stand!"

Brain: "Noooooo goddammit! 45 more seconds! FUCK!"

Heart: "THUMP THUMP THUMP......that's your death march sounding, jackass...."

Brain: "Aaaah.......see? That wasn't so bad, was it? All done now!"

Heart: "Fuck you, JLK. Fuck you in the neck."

Lungs: "I hope you choke. In fact, here's a little help...."

Yup. Every other night I go through this shit. But this is my first screenplay on the subject.

It's The Little Things

So I'm reading this book, right. It's called Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones (author of Darwin's Ghost). 

Suddenly, I have a rip-roaring interest in reproductive biology. Weird, huh?

Anyway, so I've learned a lot of this stuff before. (If by "learned" you mean memorized it until I didn't need to know it anymore and then "poof," out it went.)

But holy shit, man! I'm reading about all the stuff that sperm has to get through in order to fertilize an egg, and all I can picture is like a scene from Indiana Jones! Flames, tumbling boulders, snake pits, oh my! 

And it's so stupid because like I said, I KNOW how all of this works - but no biology teacher of mine ever described how the immune system attacks sperm because it's a foreign invader, and that all these sperm cells get stuck to the walls of the reproductive tract while others lose their protective sheath and keep going, and when they get to the egg they have to penetrate it in just the right spot otherwise it doesn't work, and then once inside the egg releases a hormone or something that creates like a force field of (calcium?) ions so no other sperm can get inside, and if 2 sperm cells DO get inside, everything DIES!

Seriously, blew my fucking mind. 

I know most of you are in biomed and the like and are probably thinking "Really? This girl made it through college without knowing this shit?" In my defense, my biology courses were always super concerned with photosynthesis, cell respiration, meiosis and mitosis, etc. My best mental representation of reproductive biology came from the movie Look Who's Talking. Remember that movie?

Clip #1: Until now, that was the most vivid scene of reproduction I've ever had in my head. 

Compare that to this:

Clip #2: An accurate representation of JLK's instruction in reproductive biology. LAME!!!!

It's really too bad that I didn't take more than 2 biology courses in college, because right now I am so tempted to switch over to fertility studies. 

Monday, May 4, 2009


A refreshingly short post. 

A quote from my 65 year-old father:

"I wish I could have a sex change so I could marry Rachel Maddow."

Going Out as a Married Woman

Friday night my sister had a birthday thing at a bar that I've only been to once before. It's in a college town and this particular place is always loaded with coeds looking to get laid. It's the kind of place that makes me feel really old. 

So I brought friends along, who happen to be a married couple. I dressed up kind of cute, but nothing sexy unless you counted my shoes, which were mostly hidden by my jeans anyway. My engagement ring and wedding band were sparklingly obvious on my left hand. Apparently, that doesn't matter. 

We had been there for maybe an hour when some guy comes up to me and says "Hey, could I have a drag of your cigarette?" I gave him a weird look - I mean, who DOES that?? Then I politely said "No, I'd rather not."

He offered to buy me a drink in exchange for the drag, so I said sure and let him have a drag. This came only moments after a conversation I had in which I said "If someone asks me if they can bum a cigarette, I'm going to make them give me a dollar for it. These fuckin things are too expensive to just give away to strangers."

Anyway, so then he says "Do you remember my name?" I said no, and wondered if we had met before. Maybe he went to my high school or something, I have no idea. He says "It's Nick, I talked to you like 2 hours ago." Um, no you didn't, because I wasn't HERE 2 hours ago. He's obviously wasted and my response must have made him realize that, so he wandered off. 

He comes back an hour or so later and asks for another drag. I said "Where the fuck's my drink?" He said he'd go get it right away, asked again what was I drinking. I told him. He has a hand on my fucking lower back and I'm just waiting for him to try something so I can deck him. He took my cigarette, took a drag off of it and handed it back. He asks what kind of shot I want. I replied, "I'm driving, kid. No shots for me." So he asks what I want instead. I show him the bottle I'm holding.....

The fucker GRABS the bottle from my hand and fucking CHUGS like half of it! Had I not been completely stunned I would've broken the fucking thing over his head!

He puts it down on the table and walks away again. I was seriously shocked. All I could think was "He's not even fucking CUTE!!!" My friends look at me expectantly, waiting to see what I'm going to do. I wiped the mouth of the bottle with my shirt (there was still half a bottle left), made a disgusted face, and drank it, saying "Well, I'm probably gonna get swine flu now....."

They were like EWWWWW I can't believe you did that! I know, it was fucking gross. But I missed the chance to break it over his head, so I figured I might as well drink it. 

He comes back a third time when I'm in the middle of a conversation. I was preparing to punch him in the face as soon as I was done listening to the person I was talking to. Before I could, the husband of the friend I was talking to apparently was like "Where the fuck is her drink? You don't get to speak to her again until you come back with a brand new bottle in your hand for her." I guess he used many more choice words than that, but I only got the brief recap. He left me alone for the rest of the night. 

As I was settling out my tab at last call, I noticed him sitting next to me at the bar talking to two girls. I hear one of them say "You look like the kid from American Pie, you know, the one who liked to stick his dick in food products! Why don't you go home and find yourself some mashed potatoes?" I laughed my ass off. I am never that clever in the moment. 

Another guy came up to me at some point in the night and started a conversation. He had been at the door talking to the bouncer when I came in and had told me to smile. He starts talking about how he's from more than a few towns away and was only up there because his friend is one of the bouncers. He shows me a picture of his 4 year-old son, starts talking to my friends as well. I convinced him to go up on the mike and wish my sister a happy birthday from me. It was pretty funny. 

Anyway, so he notices the rings on my finger and asks if I'm married. I say yes, then he asks my friends if they're also married (which they are). Then he starts lecturing us about how we should have kids because they're the greatest things in the world and blah blah blah. I never really got the sense that he was hitting on me, but if he was hoping to start something he sure as hell had a much better game going than the asshole with the cigarettes. My friend's opinion was that he was hoping to hit on me until he found out I was married, but after that point it just became conversation. 

When I was single, guys never ever approached me at bars, clubs, anywhere in public really. I mean, I met my husband by showing up at his house with some friends one night. But once I got engaged it was like all bets were off. Guys started crawling out of the woodwork. At first it puzzled me. 

My friends and I talked about it after we got back from the bar that night. Husband Friend said "I think it's an attitude thing. Girls who go out to bars looking to get hit on carry themselves completely differently than the girls who are married or engaged."

True, because I don't give a fuck. I have a wonderful husband, I'm head over heels in love, and I couldn't give a flying fuck less what anyone in that bar thought of me. I made an effort to look nice, but I certainly wasn't trying to flaunt anything. But it's still amazing to me how that works. 

And most single women, the ones who really want to meet someone, also don't seem to get how it works. But maybe it's impossible to have the "I'm married" air when you're not married. But it's interesting how so many young women believe that guys only want sex and not a relationship, when the girls who go to bars dressed like sluts are largely ignored by most of the guys there. I notice this now that I'm married - when I was younger and single I also saw a completely different scene. I saw these girls talking to the hottest guys in the place and assumed that the guys came up to them. Now from a detached perspective, I see that it's the girls going up to the guys - and the men walk away as soon as they have a chance. 

There are so many girls out there who believe that they must sell their sex on an open market in order to find a guy. But most guys aren't buying. 

My husband dated a girl while we were separated who is about 4 sizes smaller than I am, who actually has a chest to speak of, and who shares tons of little things in common with him. Like his tv shows that I consider to be incredibly stupid. Heroes, for example. She's not what I would call beautiful, but she's not unattractive either. She is, however, what I would consider a "club slut." One of those girls who tries too hard, who thinks that sleeping with someone quickly increases the chance of keeping him around. 

He ended it with her "because she couldn't carry on a conversation." She was devastated when he told her that he was getting back with me, and responded by saying "Does that mean I can't come home with you tonight?" Yeah, he told me this. I asked. 

Sure, on some level I hate her. But mostly I feel sorry for her. You won't find love by pushing your tits up and strutting your shit in a bar. By caking on the makeup and wearing shoes you can't walk in. Women have created this world for themselves in which they believe they need to be every man's fantasy in order to find a boyfriend or a husband. But men want a woman who is REAL. They're not as stupid as many girls think they are - they know Playboys are airbrushed, that Victoria's Secret models have sacrificed brain cells for big boobs. The real male fantasy of the 80's was Cindy Crawford - the brilliant woman who also happened to be beautiful. Men like Angelina Jolie because they believe they can perceive her personality - a sexy, smart, no-nonsense kind of gal with a rebellious streak. It's no coincidence that she landed Brad Pitt, a man who literally could have any woman in the world. I guarantee she didn't meet him at an LA club while wearing a leather corset and stilettos. 

Today's men, I believe, want a woman who can hold her own. She can get and keep her shit together and doesn't really give a fuck what anyone thinks. The kind of woman who can walk into a bar, club, restaurant, wherever, by herself and be perfectly confident of that fact. I think that's what us married women give off that attracts men so much. It is obvious that we have a life and thoughts and opinions beyond wherever we happen to be in that moment. 

The funny thing is, even when a group of married women go out together as a group, all dolled up and ready to party - they are STILL the first group to get hit on. It never fails! There is something about the fact that they aren't looking around, scoping guys and adjusting their cleavage constantly that makes them attractive. 

I don't mean to imply that self-confidence comes from being married. But there is some underlying anxiety that seems to dissipate when one gets engaged and ties the knot. I often have the thought that "I was chosen and I also chose." And I do think that this is freeing and your body language, manner of speaking, and the way you carry yourself are all affected by that sense of freedom. 

I wonder how much more successful these young women would be at meeting and dating someone if they could stop trying to force themselves into a mold of what they falsely believe men want. It reminds me of that hip-hop adage: "We want a lady in the street and a freak in the bed." 

I don't know. Thoughts on this?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Backlash by Susan Faludi: The Full Review

I finally finished it last night, and I'm tired of whining about grad school. So here it is. 

Backlash by Susan Faludi, copyright 1991. 

Faludi's book is about what she calles the "Backlash Era" of the 1980's. Her thesis is basically that all of the strides the women's movement made in the 1970's were met with a fierce backlash in the following decade that spread throughout all facets of American life in an attempt to undo all of the progress that women had made. 

It was a bit surreal for me to read this book. I was born in the early 80's, and therefore I was largely blind to everything about the world I grew up in. When you're 4 years old, no one is talking to you about a woman somewhere who was forced to undergo a c-section after a court decided that the rights of her fetus prevailed over her own. At 5 years old, I wasn't flipping through Vogue magazine and seeing all of the ridiculous little-girl fashions that designers were trying to force on women. At 6 and 7 years old, I was not aware of lawsuits being brought against chemical companies that forbid women to work unless they were sterilized because of supposed fetal risks. In other words, this book introduced me to a world I didn't know existed. 

Faludi appears to be incredibly comprehensive and thorough in her examination of women's rights and issues in the 80's and prior. In places, the book hammers you over the head with the same point so many times that you begin to feel dizzy. If she were making a case in a courtroom about whether this backlash existed, an opposing attorney would have a hell of a time proving her wrong. 

I spent many moments in incredible anger and bewilderment while reading this book. She shows instead of tells the hypocrisy of many of the public fugures that played prominently in the backlash. For example, she interviews a man who spent years trying to convince the public that women belong in domestic roles only and should defer to their husbands in all matters. When Faludi visits him at home, she describes how he must negotiate childcare with his wife, who works full-time, and as he sits there and tries to convince her that men should never perform domestic chores, his young son comes in the room with a frying pan and begs his father to show him how to cook an egg (or something), until the father gets up, dons an apron, and saunters into the other room to cook. All the while his wife is sitting there saying how she supports her husband's work. Faludi doesn't comment on this in the book - she doesn't need to. She brilliantly puts it all out there for us without casting her own judgment on the situation, and rests assured that we are all thinking "How do these people reconcile their beliefs with their reality?"

I was frustrated while reading this book. Throughout the entire thing I felt desperate for her to either write a new, updated edition, or write another book that looks at what has happened in the past 20 years. I wanted to know what I have been missing this whole time. I thought to myself "No woman would ever lose a lawsuit nowadays over being forced into sterilization only to lose her job anyway." But am I right? Do I actually know this to be true? No, I guess I don't. 

I wanted her analysis of the life I have known, not the life that came before my awareness of the public sphere. In the 80's, clothing companies and fashion designers suffered because they couldn't get women to wear the feminine clothes they refused to stop producing. Jockey for Women came out in response to female feedback that said they wanted comfort and practicality, not lace and bows, and the company took the vast majority share of the market because they listened. But I think about life now, and the women I know. Many of us eventually gave in - but how and when did that happen? Did it actually happen, or did we just compromise somehow?

I look at my closet, for example, and I see a decent amount of sexy, feminine clothing. I think to myself, "Yeah, we must have given in." But when I look at what I actually wear - tailored suits, jeans, basic cotton shirts, capri pants that are the most comfortable things I've ever worn in my life - what I'm wearing right now and what has become my at-home uniform: sweatpants and a t-shirt - I think "Have we really given in? Or have we just taken it as an option?"

I think about the election last year. A woman ran for president and had a very real chance of winning. I didn't vote for her in the primary because I didn't believe that she was the most qualified person for the job. But I was proud that she was in the race. I don't believe she lost because she was a woman - I believe she lost because when all was said and done, we just liked Obama a hell of a lot better. I think about Sarah Palin. I don't believe she was railed against because she was a woman. I think she was railed against because she is a fucking idiot, and we all saw through what the Republican party was trying to do by putting her on the ticket for VP. Did she face sexism? Yeah, of course. But we didn't vote for her and McCain because she did not represent us - she was against abortion rights and spoke about traditional values even as she supported her deadbeat husband. She represented to us all of the things that are wrong with the right-wing - if abstinence is the only way to go, for example, why is your teenage daughter knocked up and being forced to marry her high school boyfriend? 

As I read the book I wanted to know what Faludi thought of all this. I wanted to know - does all of the progress I believe women have made since I was a child really exist? We're not even remotely there yet - true equality is a long way off. But are we at least still moving in the right direction?

I highly recommend that everyone read this book if you haven't already. It casts light on all the ways in which women's rights can and have been challenged, and will hopefully make us all more vigilant. It's not a man-bashing book. It does not call out any specific enemy that we need to fight. Indeed, she says multiple times that the backlash was not a conspiracy. But she says at the end of the book that the backlash occured because the men knew just how much power the women were gaining and how their world could have been overthrown had we remained organized and focused. The problem, she says sadly, is that the only people who were unaware of this power were the women themselves. 

I finished this book feeling stirred, angry, and hopeful. If we want government-mandated paid family leave policies, we need to fight for them. If we want goverment-sponsored daycare and in-house nannies, we need to fight for it. If we want equal pay for equal work, we need to fight for it. The book reminded me that we are half the population, and the only thing that keeps us from having the things we want and need is ourselves. 

The takeaway message from this book, for me, was to stop being afraid to be labeled a feminist, and to recognize that push-back is a sign of progress. I think we all need to be reminded of that every so often. So do yourself a favor and go get your hands on a copy of this book. Maybe you will be the one to write the next installment. 

As for me, once I finish reading the book I am on right now, I will move on to Stiffed - also by Faludi only the focus this time is on the men. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Welcome to JLK's Pity Party - Seating for One?

***Disclaimer - I've been watching the HBO show In Treatment religiously lately, which is totally fucking with my head. I love it, but damn, it is not The Office.***

So I realized the other night that I pretty much hate myself. I hate myself for nearly all of the choices I've made, the things I've done, and the things I haven't done. Not exactly the most healthy state of mind. 

I hate myself most for what I did to my husband last year, right around this time. I hate that I didn't try, that I was so angry that I didn't give a fuck about anything or anyone but myself. I hate the person I was just a year ago. 

And now this has flooded into everything else. I can't really make a decision about grad school or anything, really, while I feel this way. 

The thing is, I am paralyzed by regrets. I can't think of any decision I have ever made that I haven't regretted, even if only for a short time. Let's look at the examples (starting at age 18 only):

- I regret dropping out of college instead of appealing my loss of financial aid. I just gave up, because I never thought I'd win the appeal. 

- I regret the decision not to fight a professor at university #1 who falsely accused me of plagiarizing a paper I wrote, despite my history of A papers in her course. I didn't know that there was a board of students and professors who review cases like that. Instead, I withdrew from the course on the last possible day and pretended it never happened. I hate that bitch to this day. 

- I regret the reaction I had to my mother's second marriage that caused me to freak out about my own impending matrimony, leading my husband to think I was cheating on him. 

- I regret deciding to go to MRU for undergrad for only one reason - it was the cheapest option. Had I gone to Little Ivies #1, 2, or 3 I might be in a much better position today, with much better relationships with mentors. 

- I regret everything about my decision to leave my husband last year. All the events surrounding it, the things I said, the things I did. I was a total fucking monster selfish bitch. And now and forever I get to live with the knowledge of the two girls that my husband was "with" while we were apart. FUCK it pisses me off. But it was my own fault. 

- I regret my unwillingness to re-take the GRE last year before applying to grad school. I convinced myself that my verbal score was good enough to make up for the disappointing math score. I really believed I had a shot at these SFRSHS schools. 

- I regret changing the focus of my applications to psych and law programs largely due to the influence of someone I was spending way too much time with then. I fucked myself over. Seriously. 

- I regret turning down a Fulbright scholar nomination at my MRU because my stupid ass was too overwhelmed by the Oxford admissions process and couldn't find the time to figure out how to justify doing my research abroad. I was lazy and convinced I wouldn't get it, so I didn't even try. 

I have reached the point where I am afraid to make any decisions, lest I regret them later on. I yearn to give up the responsibility to someone else, anyone else. When I was debating the timing of having kids, I flirted with the idea of just stopping the pill to "see what would happen." 

But more than anything else, I regret what I did to my husband. It colors my view of everything now. I'm not a martyr - I won't let him punish me, but I will sure as fuck punish myself every chance I get. So in his absence I drink too much, smoke too much, get on the treadmill until it hurts, sit around watching tv and tell myself that I deserve to be this miserable and depressed. I do deserve it. Actually, I deserve much worse. I deserved him telling me "Fuck you, I hate you" when I told him I missed him and that I wanted him back. If I were him, that's exactly what I would've said. But he's a much better person than I will ever be. 

Yeah, I'm fucked up. My mother's affair, my parents' divorce - all of that fucked me up. But it's no excuse for the things I've done. I never learn from my mistakes. Now I wonder how much of this whole R2 thing is about preserving my relationship at the cost of sacrificing my career goals because of how I neglected my husband for the sake of getting straight A's. Maybe if I had gotten into Yale, where we wouldn't have to move and he could be with his friends and family, I would've felt it was worth it. But all of that rejection was the biggest "Fuck you" that could ever have been thrown in my face. "No, JLK, nothing you did was worth it. Because you could've cared about something other than school and still been where you are today."

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