There was a short story someone once wrote which began with a yearly checkup at a doctors office for a 20-something girl.  In it, the doctor states that she will grow three inches and only fall in love once.  I have no idea what happened to, or in,  this story.  I encountered it as part of a writer’s workshop and the writer had not yet finished it at the time we read the first sections.  Still, the idea was intriguing – not only that a woman would grow at such an astounding rate in her later years, but that both her height and her heart were things predictable, were outcomes to be expected rather than hidden and unknowable futures.

I doubt that it is really possible for us to tell how much someone will grow.  I’m sure there are tests that can be done – on the growing spaces of our young bones, or in our calcium intake – and some reliable predictions might be made about our eventual height based on our family histories and statistical modeling.  But to truly anticipate a rapid spurt of growth seems somewhat fantastical and odd.  Still, it is possibly knowable within the realm of science.

At times I wish the other was.  At times, i would like to be able to say, based on my condition in life, my natural inclinations, my personality and my appearance, I will fall in love X number of times and then be done with the whole mess.  Whether that mess would end on a positive note or not would, of course, be entirely up to fate, but the idea of accurate predictions in such situations is reassuring.  But then, that takes something away as well.  Some of the magic of certain moments, the vitality of two people interacting in unknown proportions, would be drain away by reliable individual statistics.  Sure, there are numbers that say X many relationships or marriages fail, but that’s not quite the same as saying an individual or a certain group is more likely to fall in love a certain number of times.  On the whole, I think I like that variability.  It allows for the freedom of movement of the heart.

After 40 years, I want my half.

In just over 10 days, my parents will celebrate their 30th anniversary.  I wonder about this.  It’s an odd thought, as I have not lived with anyone for 30 years, including myself.  What does that DO to you, being around the same person for such a span of time?  I can’t imagine – it has to be something shaping and profound.  The two of them probably don’t understand it completely themselves.

And yet, even in such lengthy entanglements, there’s still a distinctive ‘I’.  People still get divorced, maybe only staying together until the children are grown.  People still get remarried, even when there may not be 30 (or 40) years left to enjoy one another’s company.  What does this mean?  Are we all just lonely?  Are we all just bad-tempered enough that eventually we can’t get along?

In Cambodia, for one couple, the ‘get away’ urge was overpowering.  After the couple separated (they did not legally divorce), the husband physically removed his possessions – including half of the house – to get away from his wife.  Drastic, yes.  Necessary?  I wouldn’t claim to know.

I’m sure it was a move somewhat precipitated by anger and bitterness.  I’m sure it’s something he will later regret.  A house, once split, doesn’t reunite cleanly, and I’m sure having only half a house detracts from the value of each half.  What do you do when it rains, and you’re missing walls?  But then again, what do you do when you can no longer peacefully coexist with your wife of 40 years?

My brain, your brain.

I barely remember the one college Calculus class I was required to take to complete my undergraduate degree.  I could say it’s because I wasn’t really interested in the class – it was only a requirement, not a passion.  I could say it was because i wasn’t applying myself, or because the lecturer who taught it was from Eastern Europe and i missed half of what he said in trying to puzzle out the first half of the words coming out of his mouth.  I could say it was because my first semester of college I barely slept and calc was just another place to rest my head for a few weary minutes.  But the truth is something far more far-reaching – I never saw math as a worthwhile skill.

I have a poet’s soul.  I can listen to a physics professor talk about the wonders of the universe or an inventor talk about his new Idea, or a designer talk about a current project and be totally enthralled.  But I am more enthralled with the words, the person, and the passion they show than the ideas behind them.  I do have my own curiosity and love of learning.  I do still have some interest in the less word-oriented aspects of life.  But to me they remain subject matter, rather than goals in and of themselves.

A part of this preference is probably due to old prejudices.  Language is a female sphere.  Hard sciences are male.  Despite the growing numbers of girl students doing just as well as boys in analytical subjects such as math, there remain underlying preferences that are not necessarily based on ‘natural’ tendencies.

There have always been questions as to whether or not boys are predispositioned or socially conditioned toward certain subject matter.  Obviously boys and girls are biologically different.  Most likely certain parts of our brains either start out different as well, or at least adapt differently due to slightly different bodily functions.  At the same time, there are countless ways in which that brain function is identical, or at least very similar, between a wide variety of individuals.  What then does it mean that most engineers are still men?  What does it mean that I consider myself a nerd, but still feel superior to the science nerd?

If there is a brain difference between girls and boys that makes one or the other less strong in certain sciences, that’s one thing.  There will always be outliers anyway.  But I would guess the difference is more ‘personal preference’ than actual skill.  And if so, are we as a society telling our sons and daughters to value very different skills and even modes of thinking?

My secret? I love my blog.

There are certain standards of polite society regarding what you can tell on a first date, and what you maybe should hold back.  When someone tells you about their mental instability and/or depression on a first date, it’s a dealbreaker, no matter how good the fit.  The same thing goes for certain diseases, physical disorders, family or relationship problems, and emotional outbursts.  Most of us have some of these at one time or another, but for a first date, it’s really too much to handle.

At the same time, there comes a certain point in the dating environment when trust becomes at issue if you don’t tell your questionable secrets.  Eventually, all those not-so-nice parts of our lives that we cope with are going to come out.  The question is when to bring them out.  After a few dates?  Once some sort of compatibility has been established?

My own secret is a little more obvious.  In the world of online dating, networking, and generally hanging out, having a blog is something of a risk.  What if potential (or current) employers stumble upon and see something (gasp!) unprofessional?  What if potential dates stumble upon it, especially if you happen to talk about them?  At the same time, my blog tells a great deal about who I am.  It shows many of those aspects of my personality that are not evident on the first, second, or nth date.  And that’s a plus.  It gives something that just a chat over coffee won’t ever show.

At the same time, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to put myself out there so much.  Sure, I’m already ‘out there’, purging myself to the world wide web, but most of the people who come here are either complete strangers or already know me pretty well.  There’s not much local-area viewing of this blog (at least that I’ve been able to determine thus far).  But do i bare my innermost soul to those I am dating, in the hopes that something good will come of it?  Or do I refrain, at least for a time, from giving that more intimate perspective of me?

My father, the robot

There are two universal rules of fathers with daughters.  1) They will try to scare the crap out of your boyfriend.  2) They will, at some point, be utter balls of corn.  No matter if your father walked out on you at the age of three or is the most mild-mannered accountant the world has seen, your boyfriend will ignite the inner concerned and rampaging defensive parent.  No matter if your father was at one time funny or is a cold-blooded killer, he will at some point break into utter ridiculousness.

Take my father’s reaction to my boyfriend’s recent birthday.  My parents sent him a card.  They even sent him a book.  However (and here’s where the corniness and threats come in), my father also left a voicemail message for Mike.  The content of the message was simple enough: “Happy Birthday, young man.”  However, it was said with a tone of voice that some may consider ominous.  When taken with the fact that my dad was calling from his cell phone, which Mike doesn’t have the number for (unlike my parent’s landline at home, which he has in his phone), it makes me wonder if he intended that ominous note.  Perhaps he even intended that Mike would ask me what strange man from the 317 area code would know when his birthday was.  Perhaps it was simply a fringe benefit.

The unintended consequence was Mike’s assumption that my father’s voice was that of a robot.  Mike thought that the message had to be one of those online programs you can have a specific voice or weird synthetically produced voice say the text you enter on someone’s voicemail.  I’m thinking specifically of Samuel L. Jackson and Snakes on a Plane here, and some of the hype that went on for that.  It took me 15 minutes just to convince Mike that yes, I could recognize my father’s voice as recorded on his phone.  Even then, it was really my friend Gina’s corroborating opinion that got Mike to believe.

Regardless of how much the man who gave me half of my genes to me sounds like a robot, he’s still a father with a daughter.  He still will try to intimidate boyfriends and will be occasionally reduced corniness.  And now I have the proof recorded on voicemail.

Reality Check

It seems that recently I’ve had less sympathy for the lovelorn.  Perhaps it’s my own comfort with my current relationship, or even my own security with my friends in not having to make as much effort to secure their affections.  Another part of it might be the slothful side of my nature coming out.  Why feign interest in other people’s romantic strife as long as it’s short-lived?  Why not try to keep more of an even keel, rather than following the ups and downs of dating?

However, among certain friends this is seen as potentially negative.  If I’m not excited for you when you’re super-excited about some new guy or gal, what kind of friend am I, anyway?  The ups and downs are LIFE, and if I’m not living them vicariously through my friends, then I’m not really living.  In addition, to be so emotionally even is cold, almost inhuman, even for a New Englander.  Is my tragic flaw to be a lack of sympathy?  Am I really heartless?

To test myself, I used the Puppy Check:

Nope, still adorable.  I must have feelings left in there somewhere.

As of now, I’m loved.

I happened to be browsing the ‘Current Events’ section of the interweb and came upon another article on Facebook.  Despite the fact that this social site has basically taken over my life due to Scrabulous, I sometimes wonder at what other people are doing with/on it.  I mean, if you don’t have about half your work day to squander playing online, when do you find the time for this stuff?  Of course, many users are young college students with plenty of time to squander.  Still, I was quite surprised at the article, which focuses on relationships and Facebook as the real way to know you’re in one.  Interesting.

I understand the appeal of Facebook as a means to keep in touch with people.  It’s great for keeping up ties if you’re living far from your friends, or extended family.  It offers a variety of services (such as ‘events’ or ‘notes’ or ‘mini-feed’) that allow users to keep up on the happenings and mundane details of a range of acquaintances.  It’s a tool that begs to be used.  But at the same time, like other innovations of the internet, it allows communication to become increasingly indirect.  When you can avoid discussing being in a relationship and what that implies  by simply posting it on Facebook and waiting for a confirmation, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  It reverts our social growth to the note-passing we did in middle school to ask people out, fearful of a direct rejection.  It dehumanizes a part of what should be a close and personal bond between two people.

I must admit, I was only recently aware that the ‘in a relationship with______’ function required authentication form the other party.  I had changed my status sometime last year to reflect that I was serious about Mike, and then promptly put the whole thing out of my head.  He only recently accepted the modification, possibly because he’s one of those who is rarely on the site what with his ‘real job’ and all.  What if I had been asking him out with that little change?  Would the consequent lack of response spawned negativity and confusion?  I hope not.  After all, a relationship should at least be more serious than the click of a mouse.

The ‘International Language’

Some people may think the only international language is love.   Wrongo, punks.  What kind of person loves someone they can’t even talk to?

Nope, the real international language is art.  Some of it is international because without words it expresses a deeply held belief or invokes a powerful emotion.  Some of it is international because it has value and meaning to a wide variety of cultures and countries around the globe, even if that meaning is not exactly the same everywhere.  Some of it is international because no one really understands it, in any country.  Regardless, art serves to connect us, whether through response to it, esteem for it, or rejection of it.

A more specific  example can be seen here, relating to the specific art of classical music.  Now, whether or not you are a fan of classical music (or of the NY Philharmonic), the idea of a symphony being a bridge between two very different and often opposed cultures is inspiring to me.  it reminds me of that famous World War Christmas, when both sides stopped fighting and just sang carols back and forth in their disparate languages.  There is a respite, a gift, and a connection we share in music that has power and deep meaning, something of significance that I hope we can learn to develop.

There are studies that show calming effects due to music, and it is also thought to improve brain function in the elderly by stretching parts of the brain that are not typically or as frequently exercised. There has even been some success in the area of music therapy and Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.  Finally, this article paints an even more hopeful picture of the relationship between sound and better health.  Too bad I didn’t see this long one first.

Though it seems like similar types of music are processed by various people in similar ways, musical taste remains a hallmark of individual personality.  Why is this?  Is preference in some way linked to who we are, or who we want to be?  Does the emotion/memory/endorphin rush sparked by music look the same, or mostly the same, in all of us?  Or is some part of that response to music colored by our own preferences, or tastes?  Could music, over time, affect who we are, and if so, does it provide some evidence to a true ‘generation gap’ due to what type of music is popular in our culture at a given time?