Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Non-sexual Physical Touch: Just Do It!

When I was in my early twenties, I didn't like giving hugs to anyone but family and guys I was dating. That might not seem strange to a lot of Americans, but in the deep South, that just didn't fly. Southerners hug everyone.

I also didn't like sharing a bed with my sister because she's like a snake and will basically tightly wrap herself around anyone, so that it's nigh impossible to get her off. As a teenager, I would kick her during the night, if she snuggled up to me.

Boy, have I come a long way in the last 15 years. In fact, I just came home from a 90-minute massage. Who'd have thought that 90 minutes of physical touch would almost put me to sleep? (Honestly, I was afraid I was starting to drool.) Gone are the days of shying away from hugs and snuggles. Now, I welcome them. This is thanks in large part to my old friend Taylor. (I've blogged about him before; see What's In a Hug?)

So what, besides Taylor, changed things for me? Well, I can tell you that as a single person, I am starved of good ol' non-sexual touch. As a single person who lives alone, I'm even more starved of it. I often go days without a hug, and it can be weeks and weeks before someone pats me on the back or the arm or flicks my ponytail. Even just bumping into someone can be nice because physical touch is so rare.

What I've learned from this is that science is right: Touch is critical to socioemotional and physical well-being. We've long known that babies who are deprived of touch become developmentally delayed, but we are also learning that touch decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the "stress hormone" that causes weight gain, slow healing, and decreased libido, to name a few symptoms) and increases oxytocin (the "love hormone" involved in sexual arousal, recognition, trust, and mother-infant bonding). We are learning that touch does so much more than just make people feel good––it makes people healthy! Late last year, The New York Times published a great article on touch that I think should be required reading for every person on the planet, especially parents: The Power of Touch, Especially for Men. In it, the author reviews the biological benefits of touch, but he also digs into the perhaps causal relationship between the lack of platonic touch among American men and particularly high levels of stress:
"If this cowboy approach strengthened men mentally and emotionally, it wouldn’t be a problem. But the weight of having to suppress stress and the resulting emotions that are perceived as unmanly — “gender role stress,” Dr. Zur calls it — doesn’t make men more resilient. It makes them more vulnerable, triggering anxiety and depression, he says. It also prevents them from feeling that they have permission to seek mental health help. A 2000 study by U.C.L.A. researchers finds that “Men are more likely than women to respond to stressful experiences by developing certain stress-related disorders,” such as hypertension, alcohol and drug abuse."

So. What is my point, you ask? It's that platonic touch is, again, critical to socioemotional and physical wellbeing. Let's all start being a little softer, a little gentler. Hug your children as much as you can, and pat them on the back often. Don't assume that just because your kids drive you crazy, they wouldn't be welcome to crawl all over a single or elderly person. Let those people hold your babies and let them walk with your kids hand in hand. Hold your spouse's hand and cuddle while you watch a movie. And hug! Hug as many people as you can, as often as you can.

There's just no substitute for physical touch. It's so important. Make it a part of your life.

Thing I'm thankful for: free/low-cost academic articles

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Perfect Body, According to Men and Women

In a recent poll by lingerie shop Bluebella.com, men and women were asked to create the perfect male and female bodies using celebrity images.

The results? Well, women see the perfect female body as slender. Men, on the other hand, like a curvy woman. Similarly, women see the perfect male body as lean. Sure, they want muscle, but men imagine significantly larger muscles and broader shoulders.

Here, see for yourself: How Men and Women Differ When Drawing Up the "Perfect Body."

I suppose the results are not that surprising, but they're still extremely fascinating.

Thing I'm thankful for: hot showers

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

I Like People.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point in recent history, people became blatant in their dislike for other people. Or they've jumped on the "I'm an introvert" train and misrepresented it as meaning, "I don't like people." Here, I'll give you some examples of what I see on social media:

I never hit "Like" on these posts because here's what: They're not funny. They're rude, insulting, and arrogant. As someone slightly introverted, I understand what it feels like to be emotionally drained after a party. I get what it's like to need alone time. I don't, however, understand how anyone can sincerely dislike people, and I don't understand the desire to express such a feeling publicly.

People are spectacular. From the lowliest to the loftiest, people are fascinating beings worthy of attention and love. At the very least, they are worthy of respect.

I had planned on saying a lot more on the topic, but I think less is more here, so I'll just end by saying that I love people. People make life worth living, and there's nothing cool about pretending that they don't.

Thing I'm thankful for: Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Tumor Update

Back in January, I told you all that I have a tumor on my left adrenal gland that may or may not be cancerous. (See A Belated Merry Christmas.) What I didn't tell you was that I had an uneasy feeling about my urologist. I thought he was an alright doctor, but young and inexperienced. He said a few things that tipped me off, and though I won't mention the particulars here, I'll say that when I left his office that week before Christmas, I had a nagging feeling that said, "Prepare yourself for surgery because this isn't over yet."

I also had the thought to get a second opinion. So I texted my doctor-friend Nick to see if he knew of a good urologist in Salt Lake City, and he immediately referred me to Dr. Jay Bishoff.

Well, I finally saw Dr. Bishoff this week, and what can I say? I instantly felt a wash of trust and confidence in this doctor. He listened to me intently, told me about his experience with adrenal tumors, and explained everything to me in detail. At one point, he said, "Pull your chair over here and look at these CT scans with me." He then went through the images, one by one, and showed me where my tumor was and explained why he thought it should be removed. Here's what I understand from our conversation:

  1. A tumor that is 4cm is much too big for waiting and watching, as my first urologist suggested.
  2. Metabolically inactive tumors (tumors that increase or decrease the production of certain hormones) may or may not suggest cancer because only 25% of cancerous adrenal tumors are metabolically active. It's always important to test the metabolism of the tumor, though, because if it is active, then medications have to be taken to prepare for surgery. Thankfully, my tumor is inactive, which means I don't have to wait to have surgery.
  3. My tumor has some necrosis, or dead tissue, which suggests cancer.
  4. For unknown reasons, adrenal tumors are especially aggressive (fast-growing) in women my age.

So what does this all mean? It means that in about a month, I'll have this sucker removed. Dr. Bishoff said he'll know more once he cuts me open, but until then, he's treating my tumor as though it is cancerous because it very likely could be.

Here's the thing: Although nobody ever likes to hear that they have cancer, my situation feels about as good as it can because 1) It seems likely that it's a simple matter of removing it, and 2) I have nothing but confidence in my doctor. He was careful to explain everything to me, from where he would make the laparoscopic incisions to how he would perform the surgery. He also told me to ask questions whenever I didn't understand something, and as an extremely curious person, I appreciated that. When he left the examination room, the medical assistant who was taking copious notes said, "I've worked with a lot of doctors, and he really is the best."

So how am I feeling? I'm actually feeling relieved. I couldn't ask for a better doctor, and I feel good that there's a plan. I also feel good about getting this thing out of me. Finally, I hope this explains why I've been exhausted and even fatigued for the last six months.

I'll keep you updated, of course, but your well-wishes and prayers are much appreciated.

Thing I'm thankful for: my pre-med classes in undergrad

Monday, February 26, 2018

Oscar-nominated Shorts, or The Film Industry's Best Kept Secret

Every February for the last decade, I've looked forward to watching the Oscar-nominated live action short films. I tend to take Oscar nods with a grain of salt (See Movie Review: The Artist), but when it comes to the Oscar-nominated shorts, I am all eyes and ears. Because they are not mainstream and because they are often directed by new filmmakers, I think short films have more latitude in tone and plot. The Academy's pet is Best Picture, and as such, they don't have time to be as pretentious about the side act that is Best Short Film (Live Action).

Here's the thing, though: Short films––live action or animated––are amazing. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a strong independent theater or film society, you should take advantage of the fact that they will play the Oscar-nominated short films. Occasionally, you can find the films online, but more often than not, they are not easily available. February may be the only time you can watch them.

If you're not familiar with short films, let me tell you how it works: Short films, or "shorts," are films no longer than 40 minutes, and I'd say they are usually 10-20 minutes. So when you see the Oscar-nominated shorts at a theater, you'll sit in your seat for about an hour and a half or two, but you'll see five consecutive films that are each about 10–20 minutes long. You can choose to see the live action shorts, which are made with actors and actresses, or you can see the animated shorts, which are animations, of course. You can also see both! (But you will have to get separate tickets.)

To whet your appetite for short films, I've compiled a list of my favorites over the years:

*It looks like these are no longer free. "Auf der Strecke" is available for $1.99 on YouTube, and I'm not sure where to find "God of Love."

Thing I'm thankful for: imagination

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Winter Wonderland, Pt. 2

I'm convinced that one of life's finest pleasures is taking a midnight stroll through snow. It's been a few years since my last really good quiet walk, but tonight, I had to make time.

The Beehive House always seems to get the best icicles. (In case you can't tell, the longest icicle is about two feet long!)



The prettiest little snow-covered tree

More icicles!

What a funny-looking organization of snow!

I didn't understand powdery snow until I came to Utah. It really is like powder! It is dry and light and fluffy. You know that fake snow you can buy from craft stores? It's just like that! Truly!

And it glitters. :)

(See Winter Wonderland for more snow thoughts and pictures.)

Thing I'm thankful for: warm socks and hardy boots

Saturday, January 20, 2018


I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats to know what I thought of "Stranger Things," but this post is not about that TV show––it's about another one. It's about my second favorite show of all-time.*

Lovesick is a British sitcom that centers around three best friends in their twenties. One of the friends gets an STD and must contact his ex-lovers to tell them the news. (The original title of the show was "Scrotal Recall." Ha.) It sounds raunchy, but I promise it's not. It's lovely. And witty and realistic and unconventional. Here, let the writer of the show, Tom Edge, speak for himself:
"I think we always knew the chlamydia and exes track-down was a nice hook for the show. We knew it was exhaustible at the same time [. . .] It felt to us, organically, the right way to take the show [was] to begin to wind down that format and lead us into the trickier questions of long-term relationships and unpacking the complexities between people." (Metro)
And it's true––while the show is laugh-out-loud funny, it's also emotionally sensitive, and the characters are complex without being contrived. I think American TV is often simplistic and slapstick, while British TV––and "Lovesick" especially––is thoughtful and intelligently humorous. It doesn't get caught up in ratings but instead lets the plot go naturally where it should. And bonus:
  1. The music is fantastic!
  2. The characters look like they've been taken out of real life and not dolled-up to look like the most perfect people you've ever seen.

I could go on and on about all the ways in which I love this show, but ultimately what I'm saying is . . . Just watch it. It's so, so good.

*I loved "Stranger Things," and my favorite show of all-time is "Seinfeld."

Thing I'm thankful for: Rebecca, who introduced me to "Lovesick" in the first place.