Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Putting the Sham in Shampoo

Studies have shown that people who are told their placebo is more expensive experience greater placebo effects.

Like, let that sink in for a minute. It is literally mind-boggling. I think most people would read that and think, What?! Surely that would never work on me. I am way too smart/sensible/whatever I tell myself to get through the day to fall for a price tag, let alone on a placebo!

I know I definitely had that reaction. And it was an easy thing to tell myself, given that I have never participated in any clinical trials for Parkinson's disease (... for instance). But then one day in the shower I realized: if I actually believed what my shampoo was telling me, I would not in a million years use the leftover suds to wash the ol' pits & bits.

Just think about all the things your shampoo promises you: thicker... fuller... shinier... for the love of Pete, enhanced curls? This thought now consumes my every shower. It's antithetical to every grooming objective I enforce from my eyebrows on down, and still my shower is stocked with mega bottles of salon product so ridiculously expensive that I secretly sniff my kids' hair - under the pretext of "Give mommy a hug!" - to make sure they're not using it. (Don't judge me - it's way out of their pay grade.)

I swear that this shampoo makes my head hair better, while at the same time having no discernible effects on, say, my leg hair.  

The shampoo conundrum haunts me because it's such a blatant example of my own dissonant beliefs, all wrapped up in a tidy mint-green bottle**: I have to look at the bottle every day and be angry at myself for spending so much money on it, yet I still manage to feel good about putting it in my hair, yet somehow completely neutral about allowing the magical suds to trickle down my ass crack, purportedly enhancing volume and curls all the way. The whole situation completely defies logic.

**Actually, it's a pair of bottles: I have the conditioner, too. Heaven help me, I let that trickle down as well.

**Aaaaactually, it's a quartet: I also have two bottles of matching product, but since I don't apply those - actively or passively - to the rest of my body, I seem to experience less internal struggle over their mystical claims.

Oh shit - I just realized something truly terrible. *checks knuckle hair* Okay, nevermind. No worse than usual.

My brain has a little battle with itself over this issue basically every time I have a shower, and each time reaches only a strained detente thanks to one tiny, hopeful nugget: the products smell really good.

Tiny, niggling brain voice: Like... $300 good?

Louder brain voice: STFU, brain. I'm sick of justifying everything to you.

Nose: OH MAN THIS SHIT SMELLS AMAZING AMIRITE?

All the brains: Aaaaaahhhhh...

Nose (quietly): Until tomorrow, you crazy bastards.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Girlfriend Experience

I have this terrible habit of forgetting the joke that goes along with the punchline. Here's one of my favourite disembodied punchlines: "If I had known we had more time, darling, I would have taken off my pantyhose." It's a great punchline, right? Too bad I have no idea what the hell it's about.

I also experience this problem with advertisements. I'm probably an advertiser's worst nightmare, actually. For instance, there used to be this ad on TV with the tagline, "One is often enough." It was a long time ago and I can't actually remember the product being peddled - pain medication seems likely, or maybe an antacid? - but for years I have heard that fellow's voice in my head whenever I've experienced things that I'm not interested in experiencing ever again: "One is often enough."

Divorce is one of the things that I was convinced I'd had enough of after just a single try, and DH and I are not married for exactly this reason: can't get divorced if you were never married in the first place! He says I have a bad attitude, with the possible implication that I also have bad logic, but I contend I simply have a high degree of self-awareness around how many divorces I'm able to cope with in my lifetime. "One is often enough." (Maybe it was an ad for a divorce lawyer...?)

I suspect DH is secretly disappointed in this situation, so I try to point out the positives to him. I recently learned of a thing called "the girlfriend experience" which seemed very positive to me. I learned about it by reading Craigslist personal ads, which are utterly chock-a-block with fascinating insights into humanity. Plus some pretty disturbing insights... I've also learned to check Urban Dictionary first to find out whether I really want to Google a term/acronym/euphemism, as some things can't be unseen. (Silly me, I thought that poor M4M 52 was seeking some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy!)

The girlfriend experience of course means a certain thing, but for DH's benefit I've decided to ascribe my own meaning to it: since we aren't married you could feasibly call me his girlfriend, in which case everything I do qualifies as this much-sought-after Girlfriend Experience! Lucky him!

He couldn't sleep because I was snoring? Girlfriend experience! Long orange hairs clogging the drains? Couldn't get that experience without a girlfriend, could ya? Infuriatingly obtuse anti-logical arguments? People pay good money for that kind of thing, you know!

The possibility exists that I am a total pain in the ass to live with, but I contend that it's simply my way of ensuring DH never has the energy or inclination to pursue any "extracurriculars" on Craigslist or otherwise: The Girlfriend Experience - One is Often Enough.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

#whogivesashit

Judging by what I see on the internet, "meal prepping" is all the rage these days. In case you haven't heard of meal prepping, it goes like this: people cook food, then put the food into containers to eat later in the week. Oh yeah, then they take photos of the food-in-containers and post the photos on social media with a stupid hashtag, to much admiration and "Liking" from their peers.

I'm having one of those milestone sorts of birthdays this year so it pains me slightly to have to say this, but - social media aspect aside - back in my day we called that "leftovers." I think it's well understood that every generation believes they've invented sex, but it boggles the mind to think an entire generation seriously believes they invented leftovers. Even more so that anyone else would care to see your leftovers in their Instagram feed, or that you are somehow deserving of praise for the blindingly obvious time- and cost-saving measure of producing said leftovers. My foolish young friends: what do you think you were eating for lunch the next day your whole childhood?

Can you just envision our pioneer forebears, kneading up the week's bread and being all like, "Hashtag MealPrepMonday!" Then maybe getting out a sketchbook to draw each step from three different angles and write a smarmy blog a mile long before finally giving you the damn bread recipe. Hell, maybe some did, and so quickly succumbed to natural selection pressures that no one's heard of them...

I like to think about all the things that, in retrospect, will be understood to have been signs of the pending fall of modern civilisation. We've heard about the excess of the Romans and the environmental collapse of the Mayans; what will our downfall be? The more time I spend on Reddit et al. the more I think the pointless farming of Likes/upvotes/etc. by whatever ridiculous trendy means necessary is a serious contender for the honour - the only people left after the fall will be the ones who had been successfully eating meatloaf sandwiches for lunch the next day without ever having taken a photo or said a damn thing about it to anyone. Because #honestlywhowouldevencareaboutmyleftovers?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What's for Supper?

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status seeking someone who would like to rent a room from him. It was one of those everyday things that unexpectedly captures the imagination, and I've been thinking about the room ever since.

Realistically, the room is probably 8x10' with low-pile beige carpet and plastic blinds, but I prefer to envision it as a spa-like space: airy fabrics; delicious herbal teas that sell for like $36 dollars a box; soft nature-ish music with some sort of... panflute? softly tootling along with the birds. Or sometimes I see it more like Pinterest's idea of an opium den: rich brocades; moody lighting; a metric pantload of pillows. Regardless of the decor, someone is usually rubbing my feet in my imaginings of this room.

My favourite design feature, however, is that no one would ask me what's for supper in the room. I get asked about supper a lot. (Also breakfast, lunch, and multiple snacks every day - not that I'm counting.) If I had a secret room somewhere, no one could saunter into it and say, "What's for supper?" as if I was not presently working at my job and no one else in the house could possibly be capable of defrosting a pound of beef without my managerial involvement.

"What's for supper?" follows me on family vacation, too. I seem to be only person on vacation that is consistently assumed not to be on vacation - or not really, because obviously no one else in the house is capable of meal planning or preparation without my managerial involvement. They just stare at me with their mouths open all day, like hungry nestlings. "Hop to it, lady. We're not gonna feed ourselves."

I like to leverage my resentment at being the only person who has both paid for the vacation and is expected to continue to provide service to everyone else while on the vacation, into ostensible "couple's time." In fact, it accounts for several of my Top Ten Couple's Activities to Help Keep the Magic Alive During a Family Vacation:

10. Make a grocery list together. I have to use my brain on vacation? Well guess what, dear, now you bloody well do, too. Get your thinking cap on mofo, 'cause we all need to eat.

9. Go grocery shopping together. Oooh, we left the kids at home! Now it's like a real date! Isn't grocery shopping on vacation fun?

8. Cook breakfast together.

7. Cook lunch together.

6. Decide where to go out for supper together because you're both already sick of cooking while on vacation and it's only been two days.

5. Put the big one in charge of the little one out on the beach, and retreat inside to have a nice nap together.

4. Check how bad the weather is back home each morning, then enjoy the sunrise on the dock with a cup of coffee and bask in your mutual sense of having achieved excellent value-for-money.

3a. Sensually Liberally apply sunscreen to exposed areas, and you had better not miss any spots! Get under those straps! Did you rub it in?

3b. Sensually Gingerly apply Solarcaine to affected areas. (Optional: bring up how you told him he should have put on sunscreen, too.)

2. Offer to pee on your significant other's jellyfish stings. I say "offer" because apparently, it's not necessarily something your significant other will be interested in taking you up on. No, not even the one on his arm just to see if it really works, and not even for science, and definitely not the one on his face you fucking pervert what is wrong with you quit cackling like a maniac.

1. Check each other for sand infestations.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Peach Beach

Since it's mostly my friends and family who read these posts, you probably already know I got back from vacation a few days ago. It was a real beach vacation, in the sense that there wasn't much to do besides find ourselves a new beach to hang out at each day, so that's what we did. Shout out to the Bahamian out-islands: each beach was more beautiful than the last, yet we hardly saw another person at any of them. Overall I would characterize the trip as "therapeutic", because I don't feel words like "relaxing" or "nice" really get at the experience: I slept well, I stressed zero, I didn't check my email for almost three full weeks. My blood pressure literally dropped ten points! 10/10 would recommend.

I've been on vacations where beaches were involved, but I've never had a truly beach-centric vacation like that before. One thing that occuurred to me as my thoughts swam dreamily past was that, in all the "summer reading"-type novels I have read - admit it, you know what I mean - I don't think the authors have been entirely honest about the invasive properties of sand.

There was, like, a lot of sand. Everywhere - sand. An infestation of sand, really. There was sand in the beds, sand in the furniture, sand somehow in the dinners I lovingly and (I swear!) hygienically prepared. I would peel off my swimsuit at the end of each day and find I was wearing a swimsuit-shaped garment of sand underneath. Sand was in places it shouldn't ever be (see title) and lemme tell you, it was reluctant to be evicted. We had been home three days when Small Fry found sand still in his ear. I'm not even going to tell you where I found some.

Maybe you've been reading different summer novels than I have so this was perfectly apparent to you, but I felt slightly deceived by all those romantic portrayals of beach houses and summer flings. Sand is not just not romantic, it is anti-romantic (some things don't need exfoliating!). And for a clean-floors afficionado like myself, it is also a little bit anti-sanity - if I had to live with it every day and couldn't simply remind myself that it was only a temporary situation, it would be a lot anti-sanity.

I'm convinced the whole reason behind that laid-back "island vibe" people talk about is that if you walk too quickly, you're going to get sand everywhere. Or maybe it already is everywhere and you're (rightly) concerned about chafing key anatomical regions... either way, sand is the driver. Conversely, the reason behind the brisk-and-stressed vibe back home is that if you walk too slowly, you're going to freeze to death.

Which reminds me: I got a sand-load of feedback from y'all regarding my last post. For those of you who were offended by DH's desire for poor home weather while we were away, you should know that we came back to one of his least-favourite things in the world: shoveling snow. Our first morning home I gave him a cheery, "Morning, dear!" To which he replied, "Shoveling snow can kiss my ass," and slammed the door.

I hope that warms your heart, if not your toes.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Schadenfreudish

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

Not for myself, as I will be on a beach for two weeks, but for everyone else back home. And the whiter the better, really - a blizzard would be ideal. Get a week or so of -30C temps in while we're away; ratchet the relative humidity down to sinus-scorching lows; remind Calgarians how to drive in snow so there's no annual (or would it be perennial?) confusion on this topic still lingering upon our return. No offense or ill wishes intended, it's just that it genuinely helps DH enjoy vacation more when the home weather is lousy: he feels he's really getting his money's worth that way, and we all know how he likes to get his money's worth on vacations.

DH is like the keystone species in the emotional ecosystem of our family: the happier DH is, the less work I have to do to keep the family afloat on a sea of holiday endorphins, and the less bickering goes on amongst the rank and file. (Or maybe I just don't notice it as much if I'm not already irritated by having to be Mary Poppins all the frigging time? Possible.) Either way, the happier DH is, the more vacation-y everyone else's vacation seems to become. Which is good, because I want my money's worth as well, and if I don't get a goodly helping of peacefully sipping rum-based beverages while my family bloody well shuts up and gets along, I am going to go all keystone species on everyone's ass.

(Can there be two keystones...? Or like, one keystone that is sortof baseline grumpy all the time and another one that will only burn it all down if it is provoked while on vacation? I don't remember this part from ecology class.)

I'm not sure if DH's wanting the weather to be poor at home while he's away on vacation really counts as schadenfreude because I don't think he cares at all whether anyone else is suffering through the weather - I just think he wants to be extra not-suffering. In fact, the pleasure he takes in poor home weather is so independent of the suffering of others that I think it might be straight-up hedonism, or perhaps a little-known subspecies of hedonism that is unusually weather-dependent.

Either way, a massive dump of winter weather at home will directly improve - without actually affecting in any way - the "climate" my family is experiencing in the Caribbean. So please take one for the team and have yourselves a really, really white Christmas, eh? It's the least you guys could do to help us out on our vacation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

BrandStand

A good friend of mine was telling me about her (and by association, her family's) personal brand recently. I paid close attention because personal branding is apparently a Thing these days, and I guess in this brave new world of personalizing your professional life (and/or vice versa?) I should as a businessperson at least consider what kind of brand I am presenting.

Hers an appealing brand that I fully admire, yet am unable to subscribe to personally as it seems to involve more photographs than I am comfortable with taking/sharing. I accidentally signed up for Instagram a little while ago and developed an immediate, visceral hatred of it. I also despise Facebook and LinkedIn, but it took me slightly longer to cultivate my hatred of them so I'm guessing that photos are just really not my thing. For the record, I also hate Pinterest (on principle: it pisses me off to no end that you have to sign up to even peek at a recipe that's posted on their site) and Reddit (HOW does it eat up so much of my life... oooh, r/teefies!), and I have abstained from all other social media sites because my track record suggests that I would probably both hate them and waste my life on them if I did sign up.

So, aside from hating social media, what is my "brand"? Setting aside the question of whether a non-photogenic person can even have a brand - and if so, if anyone would be interested in it - I have developed a few ideas about what my brand might entail:

First of all, my brand is obviously word-based and not photo-based, because here we are on my blog and emphatically not on my ill-fated Instagram account. It's also very family-oriented (although not necessarily family-friendly, due largely to certain frequently occurring words), and although it loves its line of work, it works to live rather than living to work - for example, my out-of-office reply will be happy to take your inquiry while I'm away on Christmas vacation.

My brand is organized A.F. and enjoys cooking. It used to also enjoy baking until its significant other stopped eating gluten, The Magic Ingredient (turns out it wasn't love that made everything good after all). My brand likes taking frequent, measured risks to keep life interesting, such as "I don't need directions"; "I'm just gonna wing this"; "Welp, let's see what my hair gets up to today"; and "People are coming over for dinner, I think I'll try a bunch of new recipes!"

My brand has its own laugh track, which is just me laughing at things all the time, so don't worry about whether you like my brand or not because it is having enough fun without you.

My brand will not be doing any public speaking, ever, so don't even ask.       

Finally, my brand has a small oversharing problem. However, this might be a positive thing if I understand this personal branding thing correctly - one might even call me a pioneer in the field of personal-professional partitional porosity. I'm so putting that on my resume...