Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to the Sartorialist and his readers

(it's a short letter)

I am a curvy size 0-2.

I am very small. But I have some lovely curves. Really.

Thank you very much.

The Philosophotarian

Monday, March 28, 2011


The question was whether it is better to have unrealistically high expectations or to have lowered expectations. I think the question is unclear and asked whether the question was whether it was better to have unrealistically high expectations or unrealistically low expectations, or whether the question was whether it was better to have unrealistically high expectations or lower, more realistic expecations. That clarifying question was not answered.

The next question, which I didn’t ask, is whether we are talking about a natural predisposition, or whether we are debating which kind of expecting one should cultivate. Is it better to tend toward having unrealistically high expectations or is it better to cultivate unrealistically high expectations are two different questions, both leading to very different discussions.

Given the original poster’s response, that unrealistically high expectations might be a useful coping tool, I am going to assume that we are debating the cultivation of expectations.

There is one woman who feels very strongly that lower expectations (whether lower than high and therefore more realistic, or lower than realistic was not made clear) are preferable. She claims that the person with lowered expectations will be pleasantly surprised when something better happens, but that the person with high expectations will never be satisfied.

It may be that she is thinking of her own life when she makes this claim, even as I am thinking of my own life when I take the opposite position, and so I hope to be kind and gentle. To both of us.

This woman further stipulated that one should have high expectations for oneself and low expectations of others. I don’t recall if she mentioned events or situations.

That sounds like a lot of work to think meanly of others and highly of myself. It sounds, I’ll say it, elitist: others simply cannot live up to my standards and quality and I shouldn’t expect it of them.

When I expect my colleagues to say racist things, to be unprofessional, to be petty and uncharitable, I usually find that these expectations turn out to have been very realistic. When I expect them to be interesting, well-informed, creative, and kind, I am sometimes surprised to find that these expectations were also realistic. Sometimes, at least, the expectations I cultivate reveal much more about the things to which I am paying attention, and about my attitudes and judgments about others, than they do about ‘the real nature of things.’ This isn’t to say that the racism isn’t there to be seen, but that the racism and the pettiness are not the whole story. The ways in which I frame my expectations of others can determine the kinds of story I tell about the world. They make the world more manageable by eliminating (or ameliorating) surprise: though I may be surprised when my racist colleague says something enlightened, by calling him or her (in my head) The Racist, I learn to forget to look for other parts in his or her personality. I make the world smaller instead of letting my idea of the world grow larger.

When I expect very little from my boyfriend by the way of conversation, time spent together, the desire to communicate with me and not just the me in his head, I find that I am even less satisfied with what I get. Instead of enjoying the time we have together and delighting in his company and conversation, I realize that I have been consumed with measuring that time and company and conversation. Measuring is not delightful. Lowering and lowering my expectations in this case requires constant measuring: are my expectations lower than they were yesterday? Good. Measuring and perhaps a little air of martyrdom.

When I expect very little from myself or from my life, I find that I push people away, I fall back upon rehearsed performances of anxiety, I grow envious and self pitying. No, I will never get a job. I’ll have to go into Exile. How many times have I said this? Worse, how many times have I said this when others have congratulated me for having made progress on my dissertation? How many times have I so responded when others, who have more faith in me than I do with myself, have tried very gently to remind me that the future I picture may not be accurate?

These are three things: framing the world, measurement and evaluation, and faithfulness. The expectations I have or choose to have tell a story about how I interpret and move through the world. They reveal the ways in which and the extent to which I thrust measurement and evaluation between myself and the people and situations that make up my world. They are themselves a measure of the faith or faithlessness—better, unfaithfulness—that makes up my attitude toward people and events and situations—the world.

When I expect little from others and from myself, I tell a story about all of us that turns us into the kind of people from whom little (or little good, anyway) can be expected. I tell a story about essences and about worth.

When I measure my interactions with others and when I try to scrupulously measure my own responses and beliefs, I substitute my measurements for people and events and situations and even, sometimes for myself. I don’t respond to a friend as my friend, but as a quantity of experiences which I then judge. I become my friends’ and lover’s judge and set myself up as arbitor of reality and of goodness.

I am unfaithful to my colleagues, acquaintances, family and friends when I expect very little out of them. I am unfaithful to my boyfriend when I expect very little from him. I am unfaithful to myself when I expect very little from myself now or in the future.

Given this, I am lead to believe that I must carefully craft my expectations based upon the love I wish to bear. Not even upon the love I do currently bear, because that love is tainted with the ghosts of previous determinations and judgments and infidelities and despair. The love I wish to bear is free from these things. It is upon this love that I will build my expectations.

Friday, March 25, 2011

possibly the best dream ever

Jesus (who was kind of small and scrawny but only sometimes) had a sidekick named Watson.

Why have I never thought of this before?

Don't steal my idea, people. Way not cool. Supersleuth Jesus and Supersidekick Watson will hunt you down. With Chuck Norris. Who is probably watching you right now.

Think of it: The Casebook of Jesus and Watson.

1. The Curious Case of the Fishes and Loaves

"But, Jesus, how did you do it?"

"Elementary, Watson. I merely rearranged the laws of matter and physics to create more matter out of some matter. You know my methods."

"When you explain it that way, Jesus, it all seems so simple, and yet I am sure I couldn't do it."

Monday, March 21, 2011

But I'm still re-reading it.

On the one hand, Jane Eyre is a super role-model, and I couldn't properly appreciate that until just now. I didn't have the appropriate Romantic, post-Enlightenment, modern, feminist, ontological, or social tools to appreciate (and perhaps even question) Jane's insistence upon sexless, genderless justice, egalitarianism and equity, and authenticity to self.

(I also didn't see how completely unsubtle Charlotte Bronte was in her pictures of the adult Eliza and Georgiana Reed. Wow.)

On the other hand, Mr. Rochester, for all his romantic meltingness, is so obviously a projection of female desire, that the relationship between Jane and Edward is not one of equality, of two spirits meeting above and beyond the mediators of flesh and of morality. Instead, we get an enviably individual, authentic Jane and an Mr. Rochester who is the imagined but not real ideal lover for her.

I need a better Jane Eyre--the book, not the character. Keep Jane as is and make Jane more believable.

Friday, March 18, 2011

the philosophotarian is growing her hair

For most of my life, my hair-styling efforts have been aimed at preventing people from seeing what my hair actually looks like.

My hair is very fine, rather thin, and, when clean but un-styled, hangs limply from my head. It's not terribly flattering.

For years I have kept my hair very short. When it is very short, I can make it look a lot thicker than it is with little effort: a little thickening goo, a blow dryer, a flat-iron, some texturizing paste, and about fifteen minutes and I'm done.

When I was very small and suffered from severe acne, my parents would take me to an aunt's house and we would perm my hair to dry it out and give it some body. (It was the 80s. That should explain a lot.) When I got a little older and my skin had cleared up, I still curled and teased and sprayed it to create the illusion of more hair.

I've not stopped putting the goo in my hair. I still blow-dry it, run the flat-iron through it, and add a little paste for texture. But my hair is lying closer to my head than it has in years. This makes me nervous.

I feel more naked with smaller hair than I do with no clothes on. I feel exposed, as though, in some way, I am revealing my limitedness. I am only so much and no more.

I feel less attractive but slightly more honest. I've also been wearing more (and brighter) lipstick. Make of that what you will.

I've joked for years and to many people that I am terrified of anything having anything to do with commitment. Of course I commit to things all the time. Sometimes I commit to silly things, or to things that require little to no thought. Sometimes I commit to things without realizing it (or without realizing it right away, or without having made a prior and conscious choice). It isn't commitment (like having to commit to my dissertation and the fact that I chose to get a Ph.D. in philosophy) that bothers me, actually. What terrifies me is disclosure. Exposure. Revelation. Being identified as a particular something or someone. Committing to myself, to being a self. That makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I wouldn't say I hide. Not exactly. I don't usually mind sharing all kinds of things about myself. I quite enjoy giving my opinion and pronouncing judgments, when I have them. Doling myself out--on purpose, in ways I can see and measure and evaluate--is not a problem. Being identified or identifiable in ways I can't see as well, don't know, cannot evaluate provides a seemingly endless source of anxiety.

I've preferred being a potential someone to becoming a particular person. Found it safer anyway.

I'm sure there are a lot of things I could suggest as catalysts for the growing conviction that there is no real safety in potentiality. That the safety I sought there was only ever illusory. I won't try to determine precisely why or how it is that just now I have felt burdened by the need to become something particular.

My hair is growing. I'm not sure it's the only thing that is changing or has been changing. But I can see it, keep my eye on it, and that's a bit of a comfort.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

not the post I promised. Still a new post, though

There was a fire today just down the street, just a block from my place, in a building I pass on my way to work. When I got outside this morning, I could hear shouting. After a few minutes, I realized someone was shouting for help. I didn’t think much of it right away: there is often a lot of shouting in my neighborhood. But the shouting didn’t stop, so I started looking for the source. I don’t know which I saw first, the smoke or the two men leaning out of an open window shouting for help.

Three people were on the phone to 911 as I passed, so I continued on to work. By the time I was a block past the fire, you could see the smoke blocks away. One fire engine screamed past me on its way to the building. For the next twenty minutes or so, I kept hearing more and more sirens.

I was tingling with nerves by the time I got to the office. My boss reminded me that I could check the breaking news on the Tribune page. I did, and got the news as it arrived. At least eleven hurt. At least two jumped. No one seems to have died.

I was a little surprised at how upset I was. I can’t imagine how I would react if I were trapped in a burning building. Would I shout for help? Would I be as calm as one of the men in the building seemed to have been? Would I try to save anything other than my flash drive? Would I jump? I can’t imagine jumping. Jumping seems like death, even if it’s not that high.

When I imagined myself in the same situation as those trapped men, I couldn't keep from thinking that their most pressing thought, behind the cries for help, must have been, “I might die today. In minutes. Soon. Today.” We all know that any day could be our dying day; something like a fire a few doors down makes that thought a bit less abstract than it usually is.

I felt terribly weak for leaving, for walking away while those men shouted and shouted and shouted. There was nothing I could do. Three people were on the phone calling 911. I would have been in the way. And still. Perhaps I could have talked to them until the engines arrived. Encouraged them to keep from panicking. Assured them that engines and ambulances were on their way and that they would be rescued. I could have done that. I didn’t do that. I am ashamed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


things that I have no good reason for disliking but dislike anyway:

  • water anywhere near my eyes
  • when a wet shower curtain touches my body
  • cheerios
  • the word 'armpit'
  • cremini mushrooms
  • feet, generally speaking
  • the feeling of two fingers rubbing together, as when one tries to snap
  • eyelids
  • plain green tea
  • exposing my knees
  • black shoes
  • toothbrushes
  • exercising
  • making phone calls
  • yellow gold
  • sardines
  • blue ink
  • couscous
  • white rice
  • parties

Friday, March 4, 2011

new post in the works

For now:

thou shalt not place periods after subtitles

thou shalt not type subheadings in UPPER CASE LETTERS

thou shalt not create new heading hierarchies for each chapter

thou shalt not capitalize the word following a colon in a sentence

thou shalt not type table titles in _italics_

thou shalt not neglect to indent run-over lines in the TOC

thou shalt not use more than one typeface in your dissertation

thou shalt not place commas or periods outside quotation marks

thou shalt not use quotation marks for epigraphs or block quotes

thou shalt not use hyphens in place of an em dash

thou shalt not make an en dash do the work of an em dash

thou shalt not neglect the left parenthesis in a run-in list