Monday, February 22, 2010

Introverts 101

I found a blog about introverts the other day, probably linked somewhere when I was going through Google Reader. Very very interesting--"It'll be fun!" and other extrovert lies made me laugh out loud because of my initial urge to counter with "But it's true, it will be fun!"

Introversion has caused me confusion my entire life, largely because I grew up in a family with two people that are extremely introverted and suffer from social anxiety, not that they knew this about themselves necessarily or ever explained this. Another thing about people like this is that they can be extremely different in a situation with a few people they know well than around strangers. At home, my dad was gregarious, told stories, made jokes. When he left the house for a reason other than employment (which was rare, most of our errands involved my mom, sis and I), he because a totally different person, quiet and terse. When he was like this at home, it usually meant that he was angry with us, so I spent quite a few years trying to figure out what he was mad about in public before I was old enough to figure out his introversion.

It took me even longer to discover that my sister was the same way. It wasn't until she was 18 and I was 20 that I realized that she was just like my dad in this regard. I'd taken her shopping for some school stuff (we were at the same university, she was just starting out) and we ran into one of her high school classmates in the aisles. This girl had been a cute popular cheerleader type, she was very nice and greeted my sister, tried to be really friendly, and my sister just paused and finally got out a tentative "Hi." In the car I was laying into my sis for this, like "She was being so nice to you! Why were such a bitch back?" Her response was something like "I wasn't sure why she was talking to me, I was confused and put on the spot." Then it clicked and I realized that she was just like Dad.

If it takes you 18 years of living with a sibling to realize how introverted and shy she is when in public, there is definitely need for some introvert education.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hitting the Wall

So back in December I was ranting about, well, lots of things, but all related to this random loss of appetite I'd been experiencing. It's still going on. I went back to see the doctor in January and had lost another 15 pounds since my appointment in December, so she did a bunch of blood work that all came back totally normalsauce, so no idea what's going on yet.

Here's how my day goes with eating: I wake up in the morning, I'm not hungry but want to force myself to eat something, anything. We're out of fruit that I normally can force down a few bites of, so I look at cereal. I pour myself about a third of a cup, look in the fridge for milk, and notice there's not much left, so decide to skip the cereal since I will probably only eat two bites and Brad will make better use of the milk. I look around the kitchen for anything slightly appealing, even considering snacky foods like chips and chocolate, but they all seem gross. So, breakfast is coffee, a gummy vitamin, and some omega-3 capsules.

I go to work and see bananas in the microkitchen. I grab one and make it my goal for the day--to eat this damn banana. Around noon everyone else is grabbing lunch but I'm so not hungry. Eventually I realize that I won't be and the cafeteria closes at 2 so if I wait much longer, I won't have anything to choose from but snacks. I make myself a spinach salad with cucumbers, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and eat that. I decide I want to make it to a dance class at 5:30 so I get started on the banana around 4:30. I eat half of it, and getting that much was incredibly difficult.

Go to dance class. I've been active my entire life starting with dance lessons at age 3. I enjoy exercise and do it for regularly for stress-relief/health reasons if not just for fun. Given how much trouble I have eating now, I'm petrified of losing lean mass and getting terribly out of shape, so I'm looking for ways to get exercise in that are fun and not terribly strenuous. Just get the blood flowing for a bit, have some fun. They've started offering dance lessons in a new space at work, so I'm exploring those. The one I went to last night was probably the most elementary class available, an hour of light movement with a lot of breaks and explanations, so perfect or so I thought.

After the class ended, I knew that I had hit the wall. Since I am not a marathoner or triathelete, this is a new experience for me that only has been an issue in the past couple of months. Basically you hit the wall when your body's glycogen stores are completed. Usually it takes several hours of pretty intense exercise to get to this point (marathoners tend to hit the wall at around the 20-mile point), but I guess my glycogen stores are now super-low because of what I'm eating.

I was so confused the first time this happened to me! It was after the first hour-long dance class I tried in the new space. I made it through the class which was more intense cardio than I'd bargained for, but afterwards I had to sit down in the hallway for about fifteen minutes before I could even move to back to the locker room and change. I'd planned to go back to work after the class which I did for a couple of hours but my brain was definitely slow--I remember staring at some code I was working on and being like, "Whaaaaaaaat?" so I eventually went home and laid down on the couch. I felt terrible--I was tired, naseous, dizzy, had a terrible headache, and was just completely out of it. About four or five hours later the food I ate post-workout started to kick in and I started to feel human again.

I learned my lesson from that episode, so ever since I've been trying to make sure that I eat something substantial (banana, pack of almonds) before I try a workout. Since doing that I haven't had issues as severe as the first time, but this is still an issue. From some experimenting I've determined that I'm fine as long as I limit my workouts to around 40 minutes. Last week I was on the elliptical machine and lost track of time from being distracted by a conversation with my trainer who was waiting for his next client. I was fine one second, then got hit with a wave of chills and nausea and immediately stopped--it was almost exactly at the 50 minute mark. It took me a couple of hours after returning to my desk and eating something to be back to 100% mentally.

I guess I just have to watch it from now on--take the classes I want to take but peace out after about 40 minutes. I'm going to hate doing this though, it feels soooo awkward. Will the teacher be offended, thinking I don't like her class? Will everyone be staring at me thinking I'm this awful out-of-shape chubby person who can't even finish? (Not to mention that sometimes I'm having fun and don't WANT to have to stop.)

Most of the time I appreciate how physically demanding workout classes offered are, but right now intense calorie burning is pretty much the last thing I want from a class. I wonder if there's a local senior center that'll let me drop in on their aqua-aerobics classes? (Joking. Kinda.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Males, Females, and Ratios

An article from the NY Times about the female:male ratio at the University of North Carolina has been mentioned on at least three blogs on my Google Reader with various opinions about the topic. The article itself is pretty silly but I find the general topic fascinating.

You don't have to have a demographically-verified highly skewed ratio to hear similar complaints to those voiced in the article. Every person I talk to who is single and looking for a partner will eventually say "It sucks being a single (man/woman) in (college/neighborhood/city/greater metro area) because..." In large metropolitan areas on the east coast, single women significantly outnumber single men, so they cite that ratio. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the number of single men is much higher than that of single women, but there are still reasons to complain. "Nothing but nerds and sociopaths" is the best complaint I've ever heard voiced about dating in Silicon Valley from a woman's perspective. (When said by my friend in her charming French accent, it came across as adorable instead of bitter.)

From my male friends, the complaints are usually about the difficulty of getting a woman to give them the time of day, particularly on online dating sites. I love reading OKCupid's analyses of online dating trends, and find it very interesting that the metrics they use to measure "success" in that world are quite different for men and women. Women are successful based on number of new contacts per month. Men are successful based on the ratio of women who respond to them per contact attempt.

Given my gender and experiences, I naturally sympathize more with women's complaints, but cannot argue with the evidence to support complaints from men. After all, only 40 percent of human men who have ever lived got the chance to reproduce, while 80 percent of women have. From the UNC article (emphasis added by me):
Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said.

I found the claim that 50% of the men around would even be options quite generous. While running the numbers on the two biggest deal-breakers/filters I applied when dating, these two alone eliminated all but 1 or 2% of men from consideration. For anyone curious those two factors are height (I'm taller than 50% of American men, and cultural pressures and my own insecurity made me very reluctant to consider dating anyone shorter) and intelligence (again, being reluctant to date anyone who could not match wits with me--arguably a less shallow criteria than the height thing although I've come to the conclusion that exceptional intelligence is just as much a matter of hitting the genetic lottery as possessing movie star looks). So yeah, it's tough out there for men too.

I think that the largest frustration I encountered when dating was learning that things that I thought should be advantages (being smart, successful, and independent) turned out to be disadvantages in the dating market as a female. I was commiserating about this with my hairstylist a few years ago when we were both single--she was half-jokingly considering telling men she met that she worked a minimum wage job and had tens of thousands of dollars of debt since most men ran the other direction when they found out that she was a successful business owner who had her life together.

Seeing this site about dating Googlers last week brought this subject to mind again. After going on and on about their dating service and how to verify yourself as a Googler, there's this lovely bit at the end:
Date a Googler welcomes female Googlers looking for men, as well as same sex relationships, but cannot offer the same benefits/dynamics for these groups.

Fantastic. After thinking about this issue for a while, my best theory about why men are turned off by successful women is similar to the reason that I avoid dating short men. I know there are fantastic guys out there who are shorter than I am, but cultural expectations have programmed me to associate femininity with smallness, and masculinity with tallness. If I'm in a relationship with a man shorter than me, I will feel uncomfortable and unfeminine any time we leave the house together--"They're staring at us because I'm a freaking giant over here." But they're probably not even starting at us. Culture puts a lot of expectations on men too. They have to be tall, strong, smart, successful, and able to protect and provide. If they are in a relationship with a woman who doesn't need to be provided for, maybe it feels similar to the way I feel with a shorter guy.

But I am not a guy so I have no clue, that's just my guess. And, hey, I found a great guy who loves how smart I am so everything worked out in the end. At the end of the day it's not about ratios and playing games to make yourself more attractive to a larger percentage of available people of your preferred gender. You only have to find one.