Archive for February, 2010

Headaches in the morning

Monday, February 8th, 2010

When I was maybe 3 or 4, I saw a news story about a guy who woke up with a headache, so he took an asprin and went back to bed. He woke up several hours later, still suffering from a headache. When he looked in the mirror he found an arrow through his head. Apparently, as he slept, someone broke into his house and shot him in the head with a bow and arrow.

To this day, every time I wake up with a headache, the first thing I do is check my head for arrows.

Winning the genetic lottery or calorically inefficient?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Every once in a while, somebody comments that I seem to be one of those few people who can eat whatever they merrily please and not gain weight. Although the speaker intends it as a compliment, it makes me uncomfortable to say, “Thank you” because I to me it sounds like I’m agreeing that I am superior to them in some way. My weight isn’t the result of skill or virtue, it’s just dumb luck. I usually shrug and say something about having won the genetic lottery.

I like to think that if I were heavier, I would still be comfortable with myself, but I suspect that’s a delusion caused by privilege. Intellectually, I understand that the American idea of beauty exerts huge pressure on people to be slender, and I know that selling people – mostly women – products that will help them accomplish that is a cornerstone of our national economy. I have no reason to believe that, had I not inherited a wacky metabolism, I would be immune from that pressure. I’m grateful to have been spared that experience.

A friend and I were talking recently about how difficult it can be for some people to lose weight. As she put it, “Some people are just very calorically efficient.” The phrase interested me because I normally see efficiency as a desirable thing, whereas, under this phrasing, I am very inefficient, which is normally undesirable. I looked at it next to my usual phrase and realized that even though my intention is to downplay the other party’s assertion that thinness is desirable, I’m still calling myself a winner for attaining it with ease. Also, if I’m a winner for having a specific trait, aren’t I by implication calling those who don’t have it losers?

Momentarily disregarding the value implication, the analogy doesn’t even make sense as an analogy because we don’t all have tickets to the same lottery. I had an approximately 50-50 chance of being skinny, way better odds than any lottery I’ve ever heard of. People who come from couplings where all the dominant genes in the mix were calorically efficient have no calorically inefficient genes to possibly to “win”. We played vastly different lotteries.