mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mirrorless Monday, or why it must be someone else's fault if you don't like what you see in the mirror...

I was at the gym at the university I work for a few days ago when I saw a sign that they would be celebrating "mirrorless Monday" as part of "body image week" and covering up all the mirrors in the bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as in the weightlifting areas. There are so many things wrong with this that I fear I may break my keyboard typing them. It's the kind of stupidity that can only come out of the bubble that is higher ed, where there aren't enough real problems, so instead people need to be protected from the real world.

The first is the fact that most people don't look in the mirror because they are trying to decide how they feel about themselves, but instead to solve more practical and immediate questions - like if they have a piece of this morning's breakfast stuck in their teeth or if their hair is sticking up. The reality is that we judge people by their appearance, and preventing people from looking at themselves doesn't mean that they will not be judged, but instead that they will not have the opportunity to look their best when being judged.

The second problem with this is the idea that if you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, it's the fault of society or the media or advertisers or something other than the choices that you have made in terms of diet and exercise. Feeling bad about how you look isn't a bad thing - it's a way of making you realize that maybe you should put down that third donut and spend some time on the elliptical.

Yes, I realize that part of the reason for body image week is probably because of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. But the reality is that a very, very tiny group of people suffer from those things, while most Americans are overweight or obese - 1.6% of Americans are anorexic or bulimic while 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. Rather than protecting people from feeling bad about the way they look, the University would be better served by making more people feel bad about the way they look, because chances are they SHOULD feel bad about the way they look.

The third problem I have with this is that it assumes that looking in the mirror makes you feel worse about yourself. But for many people - especially people who actually make some effort to live somewhat healthy lives - looking in the mirror is an uplifting experience, because it validates what they've been doing and lets them see the results of good choices they've made. When I look in the mirror, I do see that I could stand to lose a few more pounds and put on some more muscle - but I also see that I'm in much better shape than I was a few years back, and that I've got a little bit more muscle than I used to - and seeing that the choices I've made are working.

Is "Mirrorless Monday" the biggest problem ever? No. But I do think it illustrates an attitude that is prevalent in this country, and especially on college campuses - the idea that certain things - including physical appearance, wealth, success, intelligence - are completely outside of people's control, and if you aren't where you want to be it's not your fault and you shouldn't feel bad about.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why am I so ugly, and what can I do about it?

There's a pay dating site that I have a membership for (I had a coupon code). Let's just call it PeeHarmony. Every now and then they run promos where you can "communicate" for free, but if you aren't a paying member you can only get so far into the communication process, and non-members also can't see the pictures posted by paying members. During these promos I sneak my email address into communications so that if the person isn't a member they can get in touch with me.

I've had that happen twice recently. Both times the conversation seemed to be going OK - until they asked for a picture of me. That's the last I heard from them. And a while back I had actually met a woman in person who I had also met during a free communication event, who hadn't seen my pic but who I seemed to get along well with on the phone. Once I met her, I never heard from her again.

That makes it pretty obvious that my looks is clearly one of the major things wrong with me. Which is surprising, not because I think I'm attractive, but I figured there were many other things that are much more obviously wrong with me.

Now, I can't really blame a woman for not wanting to date someone they don't find attractive - I wouldn't either. But it does seem interesting that you will often hear women complain that all guys care about is looks, that women are more interested in things like how a man can satisfy their emotional needs or if he'd make a good father. And to that, I call bullshit.

Years ago, when I was fat, I could blame my being single on being fat. Now, I'm still a bit on chunky side (5 pounds above "normal" and into "overweight" by BMI). But it's hard to believe that if losing 95 pounds didn't make me more datable, that losing another 10 would have significant impact.

So that suggests that at least part of my lack of appeal is stuff other than weight. I did start doing a little weight training about 8 months ago in the hopes that it would help me add a little muscle and look a little better. It hasn't really made much of a difference, which means I'm either not doing enough or not pushing myself hard enough.

There are other things I can't really do anything about - I'm short, and I have a condition called Shurman's Kyphosis that gives my back a curve. AFAIK, there aren't any exercises to add height, and while back surgery is possible, it was advised against as being dangerous, painful, and not particularly effective. I also have the kind of skin that is either pale or burned. I guess I could start using spray-on tan, but I can't imagine that doing anything other than making me look even more ridiculous.

I guess I could try to dress better, although I'm not sure what that would be. I could try a new haircut, but I'm kind of limited in options because I have a small bald spot that I need to keep covered. I could lose the goatee, but I kind of like it and have had it for years - it's kind of my signature. Same with the glasses - maybe different ones would help a little, but I like my thick black frames- they are kind of hipster - and I don't want to do contacts because I suck at putting things in my eyes - I've had to be held down to get eye drops.

I've included the pics I sent the last time- if you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know what I can do to not look so repulsive. FWIW, one was taken last year in Red Rocks outside of Vegas and the other was taken last month on a hike organized by an old college roommate. I suppose I could get a friend to take different pics, but if the point is to hide flaws I don't see as being real useful - once I meet someone in person, they will know what I look like in person.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Luckily, I don't have a personal life to get in the way of my workouts..

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the struggle that some serious fitness enthusiasts have with balancing their family lives and their workout schedules.

First of all, it's a reminder of how pathetic my workout schedule is - like the main guy profiled in the article, I typically work out 2 hours a day on weekdays (90 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training) but unlike him, I only do 2 hours a day on weekends, instead of 5 to 6. I'm hoping to bump that up as things get warmer and I can do some outdoor running to get ready for the Baltimore half-marathon this fall. But the fact that I don't do more now - when I don't have many obligations beyond work - doesn't bode well for my commitment.

But the thing is that there are other things I enjoy doing besides working out - reading, watching TV, surfing the web, spending time with friends, visiting family, going to auctions and yard sales, selling stuff on eBay and hamfests. The thing is that most of these things, compared to working out, aren't particularly noble. Cutting down on your workouts to spend more time with your family is hard to argue with. Cutting down on your workouts to, well, post on your blog - not so much. It displays weakness, a preference for doing what is enjoyable but not good rather than sacrificing enjoyment for long-term gains in health and appearance as well as towards goals like achieving a better half-marathon time or eventually doing a full marathon.

I'm also convinced that if I just worked out more and harder and ate better, I'd be attractive enough not to be single. I'm not sure this is true, but it's hard to believe I wouldn't look better if I got another 10 hours a week or so of exercise.

But if I ever did actually succeed at dating, I'd then be in the position of the people profiled in the article - having to choose between the workouts that would let me look good enough to let me be n a relationship in the first place and that relationship. Clearly, there are plenty of worthless things I could cut back on to make more time - TV, websurfing, sleeping - but at some point I would have to choose between things like my eBay side business, which brings in some extra money, or my workouts.

Maybe it's just as well that I'm single.

Out of control..

A few days ago, I found myself staring out the windows. had been predicting an 80% chance of heavy freezing rain, sleet, and ice, starting around midnight. So before I went to bed, I was peeking out the window, seeing if anything was falling, trying to get an idea of what I would wake up to - a normal day of work, a delayed opening, a day off from work. But there was nothing I could do but stare at the parking lot of my townhouse complex and wonder what, if anything, would fall from the sky while I slept.

It was a reminder that you can't control everything in life, that no matter how much you plan or how much you want or don't want certain things to happen, there truly are things that are out of your control.

The trick, of course, is figuring out what things are and aren't, and what you can control. When I was severely overweight, I had a somewhat fatalistic view of that - I tended to think that everything was out of my control and nothing was my fault. After that, I started to view things the opposite way - that if I could lose 100 pounds, much of which I had been carrying since I was just a little madanthony, then I could do anything. Of course, with power comes responsibility - if I'm in control, than anything I haven't achieved is because I haven't worked hard enough. If I'm single, it's because I haven't worked hard enough at being attractive and interesting enough to be date-able (or haven't followed the steps to being a pick up artist). If I'm not where I want to be career-wise, it must be because I don't have enough degrees or take too much time off or otherwise haven't worked hard enough to be management material.

But the reality of life is that it is a combination of luck and skill, of being at the right place and the right time and of doing the right things to put yourself in the right place. There are things we don't control - things like the weather. And also things like the economy, and our genes. For some of those things, we can try to overcome those things - forcing ourselves to be more outgoing if we are, well, me, or spending more time at the gym if we are, well, me again.

For other things, all we can do is stock up on salt and shovels and peek out the window, and set our alarms a little early in case we've got ice to scrape before we go to work.