Saturday, November 7, 2009


You know what's been bugging me a lot lately? The concept of treats.

It seems simple enough. Treats are things you don't ordinarily get to have, but that you get to have sometimes. On, say, special occasions, or only at certain times. They're things you like a lot. They're often things that are on balance not good for you in some way -- unhealthful or expensive -- or otherwise you'd just indulge all the time and it wouldn't be a treat anymore.

But if you're like me, this "indulging all the time" tends to happen regardless. It's easy for treats to become, well, part of what you expect on any given day. After all, they're things you like and enjoy so . . . you start to expect your treats, and demand them. And from then on it's all downhill.

For instance, I recently gave up Diet Coke. For me Diet Coke started off as a kind of treat -- mmm, yay, Diet Coke! But pretty soon I drank it more and more often -- because I liked it so much. Eventually Diet Coke was like a ball and chain, because I expected to be able to have it whenever I wanted and when I couldn't I was grouchy and dissatsfied. My treat had become a misery.

I toyed with the idea of turning Diet Coke back into a treat by making a rule for myself that I could only have it occasionally, as, well, you know, a treat. But it turned out to be easier not to drink Diet Coke at all than it was to drink it only once in a while; drinking it only occasionally required too much in the way of focused self-denial. You know, "No Patricia, no Diet Coke today. It's only for special occasions." Ugh. I gave it up altogether. And now I hardly miss it at all.

It got me thinking that it's this way a lot with treats -- at least if you're not a child. If you're going to have something all the time it isn't a treat. But if you're only going to have it occasionally you're going to have to be constantly making sure you don't have it at other times. Your treat becomes a misery of self-denial.

It's not a problem for children though, because adults can control how much access they have and they don't have to suffer the self-control and self-denial problem. Maybe the moral is that treats, like huge piles of gifts under the tree, are best suited for kids and not for grownups.

It's not a paradox, the adult concept of a treat. But it sure is weird.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why Is The Female Version Always So Complicated?

Out of idle curiosity the other day I was googling "female body building." OK it wasn't just idle curiosity but you know what I mean. The first thing I learned is that the short history of female body building has been fraught with controversy over the following question: should female bodybuilders be judged on relatively objective measures like size and symmetry, as men are, or should they get extra points for femininity?

Well, color me shocked. I guess at first the competitions were judged like the mens, and then some really big women started winning, and of course some people didn't like that, so something had to be done, so there were points for not-being-too-masculine, and of course that made a lot of people mad, and so now it's all really complicated.

I know things for men are sucky in certain ways. Like in bodybuilding you have this problem about steroid use and health and so on. Big problem. What's distinctive about the suckiness for women though is that it so often has this sort of non-straightforward, divided, on two sides of the fence business.

Steroid use may be a problem but if anything it's a problem with too much straightforwardness: everyone wants the same thing, and wants to be best; everyone judges according to roughly the same criteria, leading to a classic arms race situation.

When women get involved, there's always this weird non-straightforwardness to things: We want you to be this way but could you also be, at the same time, this totally different way? And could you please work out what the perfect compromise would be -- the compromise we would like best? And could you then please instantiate just that perfect compromise? Because otherwise we're going to feel all conflicted. KTHX.

Drives me nuts.