Archive for the 'happy things' Category

27
Sep
11

childish vs childlike

Reader S. M. writes:

People have been accusing me recently of being childish. I don’t think I’m childish; I think I’m fun. What’s the difference so I can enlighten my accusers?

Dear S.M.:

I think we need to make a distinction here between acting childlike as opposed to childish. Acting childlike includes all the things we enjoy children doing; being childish is all the crap we hate that children do. People who are childish actually can’t tell the difference. So if your accusers are childish themselves, they’re probably accusing you of the same, because they’re impatient and annoyed by anyone who isn’t in line with their ideals of adulthood.

Slide down my rainbow into my cellar door and we'll be jolly friends forevermore more

Kids love rainbows! Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my opinion, being childlike is actually ideal. In fact, various religions promote being childlike — Buddhism for one, and even Christianity with that whole “faith like a child” thing. People who are childlike are definitely fun, but also calming, innocent, and interesting.

People who are childish are not.

So here’s a list of the childlike (traits we like in children) and the childish (traits we hate in children). Check off which ones you’re showcasing at any given moment, and decide for yourself if you’re being one or the other. (If you’re being childish, you might try working on being more childlike.)

CHILDLIKE: Boundless curiosity. People who are childlike never quit asking questions about the world around them. They want to know why things are the way they are, how things work, and where things go, and every answered question leads to a million new ones. It’s a purely innocent desire to know the truth, rather than the more adult drive to prove someone else wrong.

CHILDISH: Inability to comprehend. Have you ever watched a kid just NOT get something, over and over? Something so easy to understand, like gravity or liquid volume, and yet somehow the kid just can’t change their worldview enough to grasp it. The kid has an excuse — it takes time to learn certain things, and there are stages of development. Adults, however, don’t have that excuse — we’re all capable of comprehension and learning, but many of us just avoid it. Being stuck in your own worldview with absolutely no curiosity to learn anything new is a very boring problem to have.

CHILDLIKE: Unselfconsciousness. If you ever get a chance to see really little kids (I’m talking 4-year-olds or younger) performing at a dance recital or musical, take that chance and treasure it. Kids have absolutely no concept of how dumb they look doing something, so they’ll just do it, right along with the rest of the group, as best they can. They’ll wear whatever costume you put on them and just give it a whirl.  They’ll sing their hearts out, even though it’s all off key and off beat. Childlike adults don’t care what other people think — they do what they do without batting an eyelash, whether it’s sing karaoke, wear bright colors, or dance at a wedding. They don’t care how they look; they care that they’re having fun and trying.

CHILDISH: Crippling fear. When I was about eight years old, my grandfather took my sister and I to a haunted house fundraiser for the local high school. After he’d paid our entry fee, we started to go in… and I just couldn’t. Even though I knew rationally this was a fun house built by teenagers, I couldn’t bring myself to walk through it, for fear of what lay ahead. You watch children be afraid of jumping in the pool or riding a bike and you think how much of their lives they’ll miss out on if they don’t get over that. Childish adults are crippled by this kind of fear — fear of rejection, fear of the future, fear of commitment, fear of the unknown, and even though they could probably rationally talk themselves out of it, they just can’t seem to do it.

CHILDLIKE: Selflessness. Sometimes children do the most selfless things ever, without even thinking about an impending reward. As babies, they flirt with you just to see your reaction. They share everything they have, offering you the food in their hands, just to see what happens. This is partnered with their lack of self-conciousness to make them utterly charming.

CHILDISH: Lack of empathy. Young children actually have no concept of another’s feelings or sentience, and so they can be completely, destructively selfish. They throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Kids grow out of it. Adults with no empathy readily engage in similar tantrums over not getting what they want. These are the road ragers, the guy yelling at the old man in the TSA line at the airport for not taking off his shoes, the impatient asshole in line behind you at the coffee shop. No empathy, no patience, completely childish and unbearable.

CHILDLIKE: Making everything a game. Kids just want to have fun, and therefore, they will find the fun in anything. Even in the absence of video games or technological gadgets, kids will pick up sticks, leaves, and dirt to play with, or just invent an imaginary kingdom all to themselves. They play all the time. And they laugh at everything. Childlike adults find the humor in things, and will invent fun if none exists around them.

CHILDISH: Being bored. Kids who are used to being stimulated all the time often complain of being bored. Without a video game console in front of them, they suddenly lack the imagination to make up a game of their own, and they whine about it. Adults who get bored are often similarly incapable of finding stimulation within themselves. Sometimes old adages are true: only the boring get bored.

CHILDLIKE: Honesty, at the risk of sounding or looking stupid. Kids who admit they don’t know something, or don’t like something, or feel sad about something, are awesome. Adults who aren’t afraid of being honest are similarly awesome. Honesty about feelings is probably most lacking in our adult society — whether it’s love, hate, fear, or sadness we’re feeling, we often won’t express it.

CHILDISH: Lying to hide something embarrassing or incriminating. Little kids who deny that they’ve done something, even though it’s obvious to everyone around them that they did it, are vexing. Adults who do it go to jail most of the time. People who can’t own up to their mistakes just get into more trouble in the long run.

So, dear readers, what goes on your lists of childlike vs childish behavior?

26
Sep
11

romantic comedies

Reader O. B. writes:

I am a highly educated, intelligent, independent, successful, takes-shit-from-nobody woman. I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but I do agree with a lot of feminist ideals, and one of the things I find ridiculous is the obsession with romantic love and marriage that we girls are subjected to. That said, I am often completely overwhelmed by a need to watch a romantic comedy. What is wrong with me?

Dear O.B.:

There is nothing wrong with you!

Romantic comedies are like candy. In fact, that is a perfect metaphor, the more I think about it. Like candy, these movies are made exactly to speak to the parts of you that want indulgence, fantasy, and sweetness. They’re crafted to appeal to you, even though you know they’re not good for you.

And, actually, sometimes they are good for you. Just like a really good piece of chocolate (hand-crafted, high enough cocoa content, possibly from Europe) can bring you health benefits, so, too, can a good romantic comedy.

Sometimes, they just own us. Image: porbital / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But I know you’re not talking about the hand-crafted, high-cocoa-content European romantic comedies. (No, I don’t know what a high-cocoa-content would be in a movie, sorry.) You’re not even talking about the John Cusack comedies from the 80’s, which are like those Dove chocolate squares. You’re talking about peanut M&Ms. You’re talking about those new romantic comedies that are mass-produced, totally predictable, full of A-listed-yet-talentless celebrities with two-dimensional characters, and somehow even more poorly-written and -directed than the buddy comedies that our boyfriends also fall prey to.  (And yeah, I fall prey to those suckers, too. Sometimes they’re cross-over buddy comedy/romantic comedy, like “Wedding Crashers” or even “Bridesmaids”. Man, are those ever bad news!)

Yeah, we can all admit they’re bad, the same way Halloween candy is bad.

But I think it’s okay to want to watch a stupid movie from time to time, even if it’s a stupid movie that reinforces some sort of stereotype (like, “all women want to get married to prince charming and have babies”). Your brain needs some time off from all that ass-kicking you do in your regular life. Fantasy is great from time to time, just like chocolate. As long as you don’t overindulge.

Yes, sure, someone who lives in a fantasy world has got problems. If all you did was watch romantic comedies and mourn how unlike a romantic comedy your life is, I’d say you have a real problem.

But I think just the fact that you’re aware these cravings aren’t terribly healthy for you means you’re probably more capable of handling it than, say, someone who’s watching romantic comedies because she feels part of her life isn’t going well. A lot of people find solace in movies rather than fixing what’s wrong in their own lives. Not that I have any scientific evidence of this, I’ve just watched TV and movies be soma for so many of my friends and family members.

So go see a stupid romantic comedy once in a while, or read a book that doesn’t have any edifying social value. It’s okay. We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure from time to time.

25
Mar
11

spring fever

Reader F. F. writes:

I’ve got spring fever. At work, at home, everywhere. I can’t concentrate, I can’t get any work done, I can’t sit still. I just want to be outside. What should I do?

Dear F.F.:

Get the eff outside!

outside

I can't promise this will happen, but it's worth a try. Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is one time I won’t tell you to deny yourself your needs. Your body wants to be outside because it’s gorgeous out there, and your body deserves all that sunshine, vitamin D production, and fresh air. Being outside is really, really good for you. Look it up! Kids who play outside have been found less likely to have heart problems later in life; less likely to have sight problems; are less likely to be obese; have an easier time concentrating… The list goes on.

Okay, yes, this is all information about children. But there are also studies that show being outside reduces stress in adults, too. And it’s not just that it’s exercise you’re getting when you’re outside; it’s the very fact that you’re outside at all that makes it good for you.

Human bodies react positively to being in the sun and around green growing things. Period. Even if it’s cold out and still snowing in your part of the world, it ends up you’ll feel better getting a few minutes of fresh air into your system than if you stay inside sipping hot chocolate and wishing the weather would stop already.

Of course, if you’ve got a 9-5 job like many of us do, you’re going to have a harder time spending time outdoors than, say, the guy who works for the Park Service. If your boss doesn’t believe scientific research, you’re probably not going to be able to sell her on your plan to go outside to read a few of those studies you’ve got to ingest for the meeting tomorrow.

So here are a few ideas to help you exercise your right to spring fever if your boss won’t let you “work outside”:

Bike to work. Yes, it’s probably going to be a lot of work, and you’ll probably have to leave earlier than you’d like. But this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone: you’ll be spending a good amount of time outside and getting in a daily workout. Plus you’ll be saving money on gas and, you know, helping the environment or something. Do not give me excuses about not having a bike or it being too far. You can overcome these. I promise.

Walk to work instead of taking the bus or your normal transit. This, like biking, will take you longer and may interrupt your normal routine, but it will be so worth it in the end. You don’t have to do it every day, either — just once a week or even every other week.

Go for a walk at lunch. Even if you don’t get a lunch break, I believe most states require that a worker be allowed a certain number of 5-15 minute breaks during the day. Use this time to go for a walk. Or even just stand outside your building for a few minutes. You’ll be much better off than if you just stay in front of your desk Googling yourself all day. Your boss may notice the improvement in your performance, too.

Eat a few meals outside. If you’ve got a patio or a porch, this is easy. Take your cereal out and hang with the birds for breakfast. Or take your lunch outside when you’re at work. Even if the company doesn’t provide a picnic table, you can bring your own blanket to sit on. You can probably find a restaurant nearby that has outdoor seating, so hit that up at some point. Or make a great evening out of it and have dinner in the park. Take a picnic basket and a bottle of wine and enjoy yourself.

Move your workout outside. This is what most people will probably do. Skip the crowded, cramped, stinky gym and go outside to work out. Take your yoga mat to the park or just run a few laps around the block. Exercise + the great outdoors = super happy fun time.

Roll your windows down on your way to/from work. This is seriously a last ditch effort at getting some fresh air in, but you’ll feel somewhat better if you choose real air over the air conditioning when it’s really nice out.

Happy Friday, boys and girls. Now get off your computer and go outside!

07
Mar
11

great hair

Reader H. C. writes:

I would like to have great hair. What do you suggest I do?

Dear H.C.:

Well, that’s an open-ended question if I ever read one. But here are a few tips for having, as you call it, “great hair”:

1. Get a good stylist.

There is a huge difference between a $10 haircut and a $30 haircut. It may sound snobby and uneconomical, but it’s true. Unless you happen to be one of those lucky people who knows a girl who studied at beauty school and just gives her talents away to friends for kicks, you’re going

hair

Probably not a good idea to do this. Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

to have to shell out for a great haircut. Furthermore, you’re going to have to shop around to find the stylist that’s right for you, and keep going back to that stylist for as long as you possibly can. And it’ll probably cost you more money than you’d pay at SuperCuts. This is not to say there aren’t great stylists at SuperCuts. There are diamonds in every rough. And not to say just because you pay more for a haircut, it’s going to be super awesome. My best advice? When you see a girl who’s got the look you want, ask her where she gets her hair did. She’ll probably be thrilled to tell you, and I’ll bet her stylist will give her a price break for the reference if you’re nice enough to bring it up. Don’t just keep going to someone because you’ve heard they were good, either; if you don’t like what they’re doing to your hair, find someone new.

2. Get good hair products.

This doesn’t necessarily have to cost you an arm and a leg, but the cheap shampoo at Walgreens isn’t necessarily the best thing for your scalp. There are many who argue shampoo in general is bad news bears, and will tell you how to wash your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. It’s really just that easy, actually — you lather up with some baking soda and apple cider vinegar and wash it out. Gets the oil out. May not smell as nice as your Herbal Essences Floral Orgasm, but you can always put some lavender oil on the tips. Also, this route apparently takes a few days to work, so you may have some oil leftovers for a while. If you’re not up for the hippy dippy route, there are good shampoos out there that won’t dry out your hair. Most salon products tend to be a notch above drugstore, and some of them won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Ask your trusted stylist what she thinks you need.

3. You don’t have to wash and style your hair every day.

This depends entirely on your hair type, oil production, how often you dye or style your hair, the climate in which you live, and how much you sweat or exercise on a given day, but don’t be afraid to let the locks go without shampoo for a day (or two!). We of the west tend to over do it on the cleaning products on our bodies. You’re supposed to produce some oil, so let your body do its job to your hair. In fact, I like to give my ‘do an olive oil treatment every once in a while, especially in the winter. I just rub some into the ends (or my scalp if I’m feeling extra sassy) and give it a night to soak in. Extra shiny! If your locks do get greasy in between washings, it may be because you’re stripping the oil out by washing it too much and your scalp is overcompensating. Try a dry or waterless shampoo (you can even make your own! [link via eHow.com]).

4. Cut early, cut often.

Even if you’re growing your hair out, it’s a good idea to get a trim. For shorter hair styles (e.g. dudes), I recommend once every three to four weeks to maintain a shape; for longer hair, six weeks is a good timeline. If you are dyeing your hair, you’re going to have to keep up those roots — four to six weeks minimum for a re-dye job. Otherwise you’ll look, as my mother says, “tacky”.

Now I know I’ve got some stylists among my readership. Got any tips you wanna’ share?

10
Feb
11

the dreaded vday

Reader E. G. writes:

I’m the single girl yet again for Valentine’s Day this year. What’s the best way to get through the holiday without wanting to kill myself?

Dear E.G.:

arrow and heart

Sometimes we'd all like to murder Valentine's Day. Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have to throw it out there that I love Valentine’s Day, not because of the commercialized nonsense of it all or the chocolate or the flowers or whatever, but because it’s basically the first day of the year when you realize the sun has started to come back and is setting later. And that, my dear, is how I have come to cope with Valentine’s Day, whether I’m single or not.

What I’m saying is: you’ve got to reframe it. It seems like our society has given us two ways to look at Valentine’s Day. Either it’s a stress-inducing event for all couples to try and prove how they feel to each other and the world, or it’s a pity party for single people. Those are not the only options. You have to find a way to look at Valentine’s Day that suits your needs and doesn’t get you down. The world has made a holiday of it, but you can celebrate it for your own reasons. Think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love — all love, from familial to friendly to love of nature to love of whatever else — and couch it in your terms.

Some great ideas I have:

Show your love for humanity.

Make VDay a service day this year so you’re not thinking about how lonely you are. You could go all out and volunteer your evening at a homeless shelter. Or give blood at a local clinic. Imagine all the folks at “old folks homes” who happen to have lost their beloved, or perhaps never had one. They could use your love on a day like today. Take yourself outside of your head and put yourself to work for someone else.

Show your love for your friends and family.

Instead of focusing on your lack of a partner, rejoice in your friendships. Regardless of whether I’m single or not, I always try to send Valentine’s to a few of my friends, particularly anyone who’s been having a rough year. One year I sent hand-painted cards to all of my girlfriends, my sisters, and my mom. (Just the ladies!) I’ve sent flowers to friends who were bummed about being single. It doesn’t have to be heart-shaped or dipped in chocolate. Just show the people you love your appreciation for their existence. If you put some real time and effort into it, I promise you’ll be pleased at how well things turn out.

Show your love for nature.

Get out and hang with the trees and the birds, even if it is freezing out. Just get a little sunshine in and marvel at how this world works regardless of human intervention. It’ll get your mind off the goopy gunk going on in the commercial world. Remind yourself that a commercial holiday has nothing to do with your worth as a person.

Show your love for yourself.

Take yourself out for a treat. Get a facial and a massage, or get your toenails done. Get a new haircut. Buy yourself the flowers you want or a new piece of jewelry you’d like to have. Remember that being in a couple isn’t all fun and games, especially not on pressure-filled Valentine’s Day. Revel in the fact that you’re not expected to get anyone a present or enjoy their company on this day. You’re free to do whatever you want with yourself.

Enjoy the longer days and the love for things other than commercial romance you already have in your heart. That’s what makes VDay livable, in my opinion.

25
Jan
11

how belated is too belated

Reader B.P. writes:

I’m clearly a bit late on the Christmas gift thing this year. Do you think it would be worth it to get my friends gifts anyway, or would it just look tacky?

Dear B.P.:

Once again, my tried and true method with gifts is: if you feel like giving a gift, do it. Regardless of when you get the feeling, or what you get the feeling for.

Most people genuinely enjoy getting gifts. Even if it’s the ugly sweater from Aunt Mildred, there is a certain joy in having something handed to you that is meant specifically for you from someone who claims to love you in some form or another. In fact, getting a gift  when it’s not a gift-specified season (e.g. birthday, anniversary, Christmas) can be twice as exhilarating because it is so unexpected.

ewwww

Belated or not, I would not recommend giving a half-eaten apple. Image: Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what I say is: ditch the Christmas pretense in this case, and give them gifts when (and if) you feel like doing so. You may, if you’d like, say, “This was supposed to be your Christmas present,” upon presenting the present in, say, March. Or you could say “Happy Easter!” or “Happy Passover!” or something for the spring holidays. There’s a Catholic saint for every day of the year, so you could always use that as an excuse to give a gift. That is, if you must have a “holiday” reason for giving a gift.

Or you could be even classier and make up your own holiday, which is what a dear friend and I once did. True, the original goal of our holiday was to be a religious-sounding reason to get the friend out of having to play tennis with a coworker, but it turned into a gift-giving experience, too. We called it “El Día de No Jugar con Pecado” (the day of no playing with sin) and bought each other little gifts and drank a lot.

The absolute best thing to do, though, is just give the gift when the moment is right, probably right after you buy it. If you bought gifts before Christmas and just failed to send them, by all means send them now and allow the belatedness to be part of your charm. I once found a stash of Christmas cards I’d written and forgotten about from a few years previous, and sent them out to the addressees as part of a “blast from the past”. It was like sending out a time capsule.

It certainly is the thought that counts, and not necessarily the timing. If your friends or family care more about when you give than the fact that you’re giving at all, they’re lame, and that’s not going to change whether you give them gifts or not.

22
Sep
10

soul mates

Reader W. J. writes:

Sometimes I will meet someone for the first time and feel a very deep connection with them.  It’s not romantic, per se, but it is definitely almost other-worldly, if you know what I mean.  I feel like either I have known them all my life or somewhere before.  I also feel a deep need to get to know them a lot better.  Like soul mates, but not necessarily someone you have to marry and be with forever. I don’t know.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s like a crush, but for a different reason.  I wanted to know what your take on this was.  Do you ever feel it too?

Dear W.J.:

Not to be a total buzz kill, but as a fancy pants atheist (as opposed to a regular atheist or an agnostic), I don’t actually believe in souls. Therefore, I don’t actually believe in soul mates.

foot

Yes but are you SOLE mates? Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


But I do believe that human brains are really good at seeing patterns, even when there aren’t patterns, and at interpreting coincidences and chemicals as signs and making meaning out of it. So to that extent, I believe in the idea of soul mates, or at least I believe that human beings can interpret the things they feel for someone else as being “destiny” or “fate”. And who am I to tell them they’re wrong?

I’m no biologist, but there are certain chemicals we all have racing through our bodies. These hormones control our sleep patterns, our hunger patterns, and to some extent, our emotional patterns. Sometimes when you meet someone, you have a chemical reaction to them that could be lust, or love, or just kinship. It could be due to the fact that the person is fun, and in a good mood, and standing in just the right light. Or it could be due to pheromones. You’ll probably never know what it is that makes someone attractive or lovely to you, but it’ll happen, and your brain will interpret it. After a while of laughing and enjoying yourself and building up oxytocin and bonding chemicals in your body from all this enjoyment you’re having, you’re probably going to feel drawn to this person. And if you have enough in common, you’re going to feel like soul mates.

And that is, I think, a very fun feeling. (Atheists have feelings too.) (Men don’t, though, as we all know.)

So yes, I’ve felt the soul mates phenomenon. It’s the people you find yourself talking to until well past your bedtime or the bar has closed, and when you wake up the next morning you can’t even remember what you were talking about anyway. It’s due to a mixture of things — similar outlooks on life, similar upbringings, and aforementioned good lighting and hormones.

But it doesn’t matter what it’s based on. It’s there, and you feel it, and it’s fun, and yeah you should definitely pursue friendship with someone like that.

Also, it’s totally natural to have a crush on someone. The thing about crushes is that they’re completely innocent, and totally honest. You just genuinely like someone, whether it’s sexual or otherwise. You don’t care how they feel back. You’ve got a crush. It’s almost all-consuming, even if it’s just friendly. I think crushes get rarer and rarer as we get older, but they never quite lose their awesome powers.

I have this funny thing I discovered with some of my girlfriends. We all have a single freckle on the bottoms of one of our feet. The coincidence has increased our bond as friends. We all know it doesn’t mean anything. But it makes us feel like we belong together. And sometimes that feeling is all that matters.

Even as an atheist, I know that feelings and rationality are two completely different things and don’t always inform each other. But they should be equally important in your life. Feelings matter.

So yes, I think you should definitely pursue spending time with people who make you feel like you’ve known them for a long time, even if it is just chemicals and coincidence. Who cares? It’s how you feel. If they make you feel good and right and loved and stimulated… well, what else could you ask for?




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