read various chapters of this autobiography by going to the Individual Stories menu to the right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Mountain climbing, fitness, pluralism and who I would date or marry

Fitness and Academia

During my last five years living in Little Rock Arkansas (1989-1994), I had a ritual for first dates with new love interests. I would suggest we go to Pinnacle Mountain State Park [link] and climb the mountain. The climb is 2 1/2 miles and an elevation gain of 1000 feet. Pinnacle is on the western edge of Little Rock, an easy drive, and a common activity for people in the area.

I used Pinnacle as a filter. If the person I was on the date with couldn't climb it easily, there was no second date. I even had a specific criteria: they had to have climbed it without stopping for a break on the way to the top.

I had, and still have, a simple goal and vision of myself in old age -I want to be fit enough to go on a hike mountain trails or bike 20 miles without any trouble or soreness. Whatever my last decade is -60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or greater- I want it to be as a fit person. When I was in my 20's a friend of my mom's family, I knew him only as "Brother Louis", climbed straight up Pinnacle without slowing down once. He was 96.

I am currently 58 as of this writing, and just did a 30 mile bike ride with no effort, and 20 miles the next day, again no effort. I did not do any biking in the weeks before that. So I am on track to living up to my expectations.

I intend to be like that in my last years. And of course I wanted whoever I shared my life with to be somewhat capable of accompanying me in such an active lifestyle.

I should back up mention in 1989 I began studying weightlifting and nutrition, and within a year I was a certified fitness instructor at the YMCA in downtown Little Rock (an iconic institution now closed, in the time I was there it was the gym of the the top politicians, lawyers and business people in the state, including Bill and Hillary Clinton). I went on to work at the Gold's Gym in west Little Rock (clientele were a lot of true bodybuilders, I learned a lot). During those years I also started and did very well in college, majoring in history and political science and making as high as 4.0 a semester. I credited mastering weightlifting as the genesis of my turn towards academia: no physical fitness = no academic ability. Just like the ancient Greeks.

Seattle and Encountering Overweight-Pride

While in Arkansas I had no problem dating women that fit this idea. Its when I moved to Seattle that things started to breakdown. Warning: this is complicated, and gets into more things than just fitness.

In Little Rock the progressive and educated embraced physical fitness. The jogging culture there was over the top. In Seattle there are comparatively fewer joggers. On top of that in Seattle was my first contact with overweight-pride. The culture shock spun my head around, confused me.

Overweight-pride shamed my preference for athletic women. Enough so that in 1999 I asked a pear shaped and very not athletic Lex Sp___ out for a date. We dated regularly for a few months, though it was somewhat long distance because she had just moved to Olympia WA to go to Evergreen State College. A few months into our relationship I asked to break up, saying we had little in common. I don't why, but it took a whole year to get her to stop considering us a couple.

Pluralism Misapplied

I believe in pluralistic world, diversity, whatever you want to call it. Not due to the typical social justice angle, rather I believe in diverse communities because they are more exciting, stimulating, healthy, resilient and so forth. 

Because...I just like them more.

When I was first thinking of dating Lex Sp___ I recall one time being very aware this was a mistake, and wondered why I was doing it. Now I know it was the shaming of my preferences by the overweight-pride memes, and also a bizarre psychological tendency: I would tend to pursue women I had less in common with. Women who I had a lot in common with, and compatible in things like being a morning person, and that I was attracted to, etc etc...I wouldn't reinforce the relationship. I wouldn't get more friendly or personable with them, and I certainly wouldn't ask them on a date.

It's a bit late in the game to fully figure all this out now. I wished I had been more of a writer back in those years, putting what is in my head out onto textual media seems to be the only way I can work through my worst psychological pitfalls.

So I was trying to be good by some abstract standard in the sky,trying to be good by sacrificing my desires and preferences on the alter of fitting in. Fitting in with whom...what group? I can answer that with surprising precision. The group of people who love what Dustin Hoffman said in an interview about the movie Tootsie. In the video Hoffman says:

"it was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying, talking to my wife. And I said I have to make this picture, and she said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn't fulfill physically the demands that we're brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out. She says, 'What are you saying?'"

Fighting back tears, Hoffman continues: "I said, 'There's too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. That ['Tootsie'] was never a comedy for me."

Brainwashed works in both directions. I was brainwashed to resist the dominant paradigm, and did damage at least in the form of confusion and wasting valuable lifetime (for the person I was dating) by "being a better man" than the norm.

There is an even larger object lesson in this tale. It is common for people to praise "being good", to praise pushing one's moral standards or conduct or whatever up a notch. I did that. And it created confusion and misery, in a number of relationships especially including my first wife and mother of my son.

Watch out -while you are truly thinking for yourself, knowing yourself, and have perfectly reasonable and doable preferences in life- there will be social movements and armies of memes out there working around the clock send you the message you are wrong. I'll say it again because it can never be over-emphasized: if you are truly thinking for yourself, knowing yourself, and have perfectly reasonable and doable preferences in are absolutely right, and the opposing social movements and armies of memes are wrong...for you.