What I Learned From A 21-Day Elimination Diet

(Not that much)

In my efforts to get closer to the solution of the chronic idiopathic constipation that’s been plaguing me for the past year, I’ve done a lot of shit (unfortunately only figuratively >.<). I’ve loaded up on fiber, (both supplemental and in fresh whole fruit and veggie smoothie form) which only exacerbated the condition. I’ve experimented with 8 glasses of water a day, undergone laxative clean-outs, visited separate gastroenterologists and collectively undergone an ultrasound, MRI and colonoscopy. I’ve chugged salt water/baking soda solutions, cupped warm tea with lemon in the mornings, and fasted. I’ve added every Top 20 “Foods That Make You Poop” on the Google searches to my diet. I’ve also tried eliminating certain known “trigger” categories for a week or so. Gluten, dairy, sugar, etc…But never at the same time. And I was asked the question, “Well, what if you didn’t remove them for long enough?” My thought-process (and what I’ve read from most Internet accounts) is once you get rid of the thing hindering your digestive process, you start to see results pretty quickly. Not like you’re-better-in-a-day quickly, but you DO see a noticeable change.

Only time I noticed a significant digestive change was when I started a Manuka honey, black seed oil, mastic gum combo to fight what I THOUGHT might be H. Pylori, although I was later tested and confirmed to NOT have it. After the colonoscopy, which came back A-OK, and while waiting for the test results from my naturopath (doctors GALORE was my strategy) I thought, what next? My bestie had recently raved about the magical healing powers of celery juice, and urged me to give that a shot. Like for a month. And I’m like, where tf am I going to get celery juice every day for a month? Do I like…MAKE it? Do I have to buy a juicer?? The Internet (no connection to the band) told me you could simply blend the stuff and strain it through a nut-milk bag. Okay cool. Time to try this new thing to add to my exhaustive list of tried things. Especially since all these bloggers swore celery juice sent them stampeding to the bathroom with its diuretic effect. I needed that.

But then, since I can’t half-ass anything, I decided, what if I did something ELSE during this period to make it more effective? Since I’d tried eliminating one food one week, another food another week, in the past, why not do ’em ALL AT THE SAME TIME and  TORTURE MYSELF EVEN MORE?

Because true healing is rough, right? And most nutritionists will say everything you eat nowadays is bad if it’s not vegetables. Everything will cause cancer. White bread? Cancer. Meat? AWFUL. Whole grains? They’re bad now. Non-organic fruits and vegetables? How dare you. Sugar? The holy grail of unhealthiness. Hell they’re even suggesting that we limit fruit now. Foods not immediately shipped to you from the local farmer McGregor’s pastures can cause brain fog and people are really seeking out these functional medicine docs and paying the $800-initial-visit and $300-follow-up-visits (that aren’t covered by health insurance) because with the brain fog, they “just don’t feel quite right.”

This is what we’re going to the doctor for now. Brain fog. Headaches. Dizziness. Although if you have all 3 of those on a regular basis, I’d be concerned if you didn’t get a CAT scan first for tumors before assuming it’s the pesticides on your apples from Key Food.

Negative bacteria is running rampant disrupting our gut microbiomes and we need to starve them out by abandoning anything delicious that we hold dear, and our bodies weren’t meant to process all the foods we eat now because Darwinian adaptation doesn’t really exist, and if you take antibiotics or eat one false thing you absolutely destroy your gut flora and all you’ve worked up to achieving it and set yourself back 1,000 steps. So no ice cream cones with your kiddies, slice of pizza with your sister, or a box of shared fries with your date. Even if it’s once in awhile.

Well then, let’s have it and see if it fixes me?

I cut out gluten, dairy and sugar for 21 days. Supposedly the 3 biggest inflammatory offenders. I had already been tested for Celiac’s, but had heard you could have a negative test and still be intolerant. Since I tend to be active (yeah, this ain’t no couch-potato constipation we’re talking about), I couldn’t COMPLETELY give up starch so I allowed for the two naturally non-gluten ones: rice and potatoes (which I’ve recently learned is actually a veggie!). Excluding rice, I gave up grains, because apparently there’s some belief going around that whole grains are now the devil. I gave up eggs because they’re kinda dairy, kinda not, and some people have problems with them. Some sites advocated giving up nightshades (which includes potatoes) but I don’t eat nightshades on the regular enough to have a need to eliminate them. No caffeine or alcohol (which induces a pretty good colon cleanout from my experience with liquor, but okay), but that was a non-issue. No processed foods or junk of any kind, which I don’t normally eat like that anyway. I skated the questionable line between beans/legumes vs no beans/legumes because they’re not part of my regular diet. I initially cut out nuts and seeds for the first week and a half or so as well, because the Internet says it’s good to, before remembering the last time I had nuts or seeds was years ago, so those definitely weren’t causing my issue. Also I was starving and needed something else to snack on besides fruit.

Yes. I was hungry. Sure there’s all these WONDERFUL VEGGIES TO INDULGE IN to replace the awful, terrible, no-good foods that you miss, but let’s get real. I ate and ate the safe foods, couldn’t tell if I was full or hungry or what for the first week. I determined that this was only because my body was craving the things I loved but couldn’t have. It cried out for more “yummies” even though it was full already. My cookies and snacks were stashed in a high cabinet where I couldn’t see them. My whey protein shakes went on hiatus. I eliminated fruit juice, and dutifully chopped up my celery stalks every morning. I added teaspoons of acacia fiber to ensure I was still getting soluble fiber.

“Breakfast” didn’t exist anymore, it became leftover-safe-foods-from-last-night. The entire first week I focused on foods not commonly in my rotation like lamb, ground turkey, sweet potatoes, applesauce, spinach. Weekends I stayed close to home because I couldn’t even eat at someone else’s house and I wouldn’t be able to grab something “quick” from outside. At one point my stove broke and needed to be replaced, so thank god for emergency Chipotle (burrito bowl without the burrito, rice, beans, chicken, COMPLIANT). I berated my boyfriend for attempting to surprise me with Japanese restaurant reservations during this period, because eating out was impossible, unless we were going to JustSalads, minus any dressing or toppings. And I hate salads.

Midway through the diet, results from my naturopath came in. No dysbiosis. No helicobactor pylori or other sinister bacteria. No candida overgrowth. No parasites. No heavy metals in my blood. Nothing to indicate that I had a leaky gut or disrupted microbiome or that my diet beforehand had contributed in any sense to my condition. Nothing to confirm these fancy new diagnoses that warrant giving up pleasurable eating. But I had started this elimination diet, so I was committed to finishing it.

Two weeks in I did notice my bloating was beginning to subside. I also decided to switch back off of Miralax to magnesium supplementation instead because I hate the concept of having to stay on Miralax indefinitely. Was it the diet? Or was it the incorporation of resistant starch, the celery juicing, or finally caving and using ab machines at the gym; something I’d avoided for all my years of gymming on the basis that if I did full body workouts, I didn’t need to isolate abs.

Once I got off the Miralax, shit did get harder again (every pun intended here).

My cravings did subside…all up until maybe 5 days before the impending diet’s end. Then they came back full force, as if they could tell I’d be able to indulge soon enough. Additionally, my stools returned to little rabbit balls, even WORSE than before I’d begun the diet. :/ Eliminating grains and relying strictly on increased veggies was not healing me.

For a colonoscopy, you’re required to have a clear liquid-only diet for the entire day before the procedure. Then the night before, you take a powerful laxative to clear out all the nothing you’ve been eating (drinking?), so you can waltz in zombified the next day, lay down on the cot, have the IV inserted, and….oh shit it’s over and the nurse is giving you popcorn and apple juice in the recovery room (god damn I miss popcorn and apple juice right now). I went home that day and ordered two large pasta dishes from Seamless. Because that is what restriction can do to you.

As I write this, I crave pizza, burgers, and bullshit bodega snacks I usually don’t even notice. Shit I never even give a passing THOUGHT on a normal basis because my diet doesn’t usually consist of these things. Bagels. Wendy’s Frostys and Checker’s shakes. Lays chips and a Coke like I used to have as an after-school snack in high school (cause characters in older YA novels always had that damn snack). An ice cream with sprinkles off the truck whose jingle New Yorkers are pretty much immune to at this point. I missed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and buttered toast. This diet prompted cravings in shit I’d eat once every few months if that. Chocolate bars that I can never finish in one sitting, and usually only encounter around Halloween. My dreams involved deli cold-cut sandwiches, tortilla chips, and waffles drenched in syrup.

They say when you do an elimination diet, it’s supposed to teach you about your relationship with food. I’ve learned nothing from it besides the reinforcement that my soul is much better suited to moderation than restriction. I like snacks. I get sugar cravings. But sometimes I can go days without cookies because I DON’T always crave them. I drink 100% juice but when I pour myself a cup I pour about 8 ounces maybe, and struggle to finish it. My cousins have always made fun of me for making a 16 oz bottle of soda last for 2 days. If I get an ice cream cup, it’s always a SMALL because I know what I can finish and what I can’t.

I also lost a good 7 pounds on this diet, an unfortunate side-effect that many would cheer for, but a lamentation for someone who has always had trouble putting on weight and whose main goal of gymming is gains. They say elimination diets are not meant to be long term (Thank GOD, but jeebus look at some of the lengths on SCD and GAPs), and there’s some interweb arguments against them. That it’s not good to just eat the same ish all the time since before the advent of Whole Foods, humans didn’t have access to fresh kale and asparagus year round and our diets rotated around what crops were in season, and what resources were available. That continuously eating the same foods can lead to food intolerances (even though that’s EXACTLY what you’re doing on an elimination diet, doubling down on the shit you CAN eat, which you’re not supposed to do, so Catch-22?), or that avoiding foods can LEAD to building intolerances based on its avoidance! That nutritional deficiencies can come into play if you’re not properly replacing things you’re giving up like grains with different sources of the same nutrients.

And then there’s the pyschological aspect, that plants (haha) the notion that you’ve messed up by eating a “bad food” like a Pavlovian response. It creates an unnecessary stress factor when really, food should be inviting and one of our basic human indulgences. Hell my chiropractor was even against oatmeal because he believes all carbs are awful.

By the completion of the diet, my constipation wasn’t cured, my life wasn’t changed and I didn’t feel full of energy and superpowered like my chiro said I would be. My skin didn’t get clearer (although I had no real acne to begin with), I hadn’t been experiencing BRAIN FOG, or stomach pains, or headaches or dizziness or anything besides a slower gut before this to feel improvement for. My stomach did feel lighter, sure, but between Days 12-17, I felt bouts of lethargy which made me wonder if I was lacking in some nutrient I’d inadvertently cut out. By Day 18 I was so sick of potatoes and rice as a side that I started forgoing it, still bored with the meat and veggie options, but simply eating out of necessity just because my body needed it, and not out of any sense of satisfaction.

Food no longer made me happy.

My belief is that food needs some kind of balance. Being unable to eat at your mom’s house because the beans were cooked in butter or travel to far from your home-prepared safe food sources (guys, I didn’t even leave the borough of Manhattan) is a very militant and unhealthy relationship for myself to have with something that once gave me pleasure. And constant worrying over whether you’re consuming enough water if you’re not thirsty, to counterbalance your increased fiber definitely spiked my anxiety (I’m FULL but am I getting ENOUGH ahhhh!). I longed for the days where I didn’t have to THINK, but I also longed for a clear sign of improvement that I never got on this diet.

My reintroduction period has begun and it’s a bit more complicated than it seems. I haven’t binged through all the foods I’ve missed because you have to reintroduce just that eliminated group in its isolated form. So no pizza, because there’s gluten AND dairy, and same goes for other favorite delectables, like garlic bread, ice cream, cheeseburgers, cake, etc…For sugar i’ve reintroduced honey and juice, and dairy, milk, butter and cheese, to eliminate any possible reactions to these subsets before moving to gluten where I can have a bowl of cereal again, or a peanut butter sandwich….and COOKIES. When I reach dairy, since I had already done sugar, I was at least able to bring back Ensures (got a lotta weight recoup to work on), gluten free protein bars, ice cream, and chocolate milk. So the home stretch is even longer than one would think, but necessary to make sure you have no reactions to any “triggers” added back in from each group, which I fully expect to NOT have, as this diet has not revealed food intolerances. I ponder to at least take something away from this experience; some nuggets of acquired wisdom:

  1. I WILL continue to celery juice since I still think this can be beneficial.
  2. Resistant starch did seem to help out so i’ll continue to incorporate that one for awhile as well.
  3. I shouldn’t be afraid to eat more (chronic constipation can definitely subconsciously plant an avoidance to food, and less food is not the answer here).
  4. The Internet, with all its abundance of holistic/anecdotal/underground knowledge, can still get it wrong, and is rife with contradiction. Just like doctors.

I survived, and I’m glad I got this shit out the way before the delicious summertime scents take over. I proceed to move forward, this time with the exact opposite diet: low fiber, high calorie. I plan to compare how both make me feel.

Wonder which one will come out on top?

~Tael

 

Pet Rescues? Or Militant Animal Gatekeepers?

Remember the days when you decided you wanted an animal companion in your life, so you strolled down to your local shelter, filled out some paperwork, gave an optional donation, and walked out the same day with the new pet of your choosing, ready to bond and share your space with them?

They gone.

I mean, you can still do this at the pet shop with hamsters I guess. But the way adoption processes for a cat or dog are structured nowadays, you may as well toss in an application for a chance at a black market immigrant child too. You’ll probably be cleared for the human before the animal enthusiasts deem your application worthy.

Those close to me know I was once the proud owner of a beautiful orange tabby who lived to the ripe old age of 19 years. Last April, he succumbed to a thyroid issue that robbed his ability to see, and finally, eat or walk. I syringe-fed him water during his last days and a final vet visit ended in euthanization.

I was devastated, yes, but I know it was probably time cause my cat was pretty damn old. I’d watched the rapid deterioration of both my grandparents (who’d been old forever because they’re grandparents) when their time was up. One minute they seem just fine, and the next, a simple cold or digestion issue destroys their weak immune system and results in their (timely, I guess) departure. It took until the end of the year for me to finally feel ready to adopt again, with the enlightenment one gains from being a previous pet owner. I wanted two this time. Kip had been a wonderful, vocal cat, who initially meow-meowed-meowed his way through the house, to the point where we wondered if he’d ever shut up and neighbors shoved meat under our door because they thought we housed a starving animal. Two companions would keep each other company and hopefully cut down on this, and I felt a bonded pair of litter-mates would do nicely! The idea of a dog crossed my mind (and I work from home so I’d be in the best position to have one), but two cats are still less work than one dog. I was READY.

Twenty years later though, the adoption game has severely changed with the millennium, and I was not ready for the evolved difficulty in the approval process. It seemed a bunch of self-righteous animal zealots now controlled a huge chunk of the adoptable animal population, only willing to release them to those considered deserving of an pet. Oh it SEEMS great on first thought; we all want what’s best for the animals and making sure potential adopters are responsible and bringing them into a healthy, non-abusive environment is a terrific idea. But it’s that arrogant zealousness to find the “perfect” match for animals that causes “Adopt, Don’t Shop” to fail. Slate actually has a superb article that wonderfully sums up how convoluted the process has become here.

Some rejections have nothing to do with how well you can take care of and provide for an animal. Take a look at one of mine here:

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So…ya’ll not tryna have some kittens go to forever homes cause ya’ll don’t FEEL like making the drive? THANKS LYNN. Great effort!

In my personal opinion, it’s pretty damn difficult to neglect a cat. Maybe because I’ve had pets all my life that I was responsible for (hamsters, mice, rabbits, turtles, cats) so it’s a little more ingrained in me that animals need taking care of. Dogs require a bit more effort, but at the bare minimum, you give a cat food and water, change its litter and play with it some. At the bare minimum, someone walking into a pet shelter or rescue organization looking to adopt knows they have to do this. An animal-hater is not going to walk into a pet shelter interested in adoption and pay the fees required, unless some really SICK individual wants to adopt a pet to secretly torture them, but sick individuals will always find ways to do their sick things and I’m pretty sure these guys are in the isolated minority. At the very least, with any adoption, an animal gets taken from a cage or enclosed space in a shelter (I understand foster situations are different, but still) and goes to a home where they get far more attention and room to roam. It is usually going to be a better situation for them to be in. Someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, scrounging for enough money to feed their children or keep the lights on this month, is likely not going to waltz into a shelter and add a new expense of caring for an animal, no matter how cute it is. But still, financials seem to be a huge part of the application process.

References are generally required now, which is fine, however, the world knows how references work. You pick the people who will paint you to be a shining star and say whatever required to make you glow. References are kinda one of society’s biggest B.S. schemes. Even shitty pedophiles have acquaintances who will vouch the high heavens for them if given as references. Mine were apparently asked if I was economically stable enough to own a cat. What, were they going to say NO?

But really, let’s look at the economic status of the nation as a whole. The majority of the U.S. currently lives paycheck to paycheck. :/ They find a way to manage, however, this does insinuate that only the small percentage of wealthy would fit the “perfect appliCAT” adoption (see what I did there?). Most applications ask if you’d be able to afford an animal’s vet bills, but let’s not act like in today’s times, finding affordable health care for HUMANS isn’t a large task in itself already, and many millennials simply go without it!

We’re living though.

Some applications specifically ask how much would be too much a vet’s bill for you. I started putting things like $3000 because I’m not sure what they were looking for. If you can’t afford a $3000 vet bill for your cat, does that mean you shouldn’t be allowed to have one? Because a $3000 doctor’s bill for a human would wipe most people’s savings. Does this mean we should be banned from caring for them? The richest person with an endless supply of fortune could adopt and give a cat a whole wing of their mansion, vet bills pre-paid, and still only be giving the bare minimum: food, litter, a home. Doesn’t mean they’re petting the cat on a regular basis or playing with them, or giving them love. Most hire nannies for their own children, so I’m sure said nanny or housekeeper would be caring for the pet as well. And let’s be real, the wealthy usually don’t saunter into the ASPCA looking to rescue; they find a pedigreed breeder and dole out a handsome sum for a certified, purebred, exotic prize.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t take my last cat in for yearly vet check-ups. I saw no need. He was an indoor cat, had all his shots, vaccinations, and got neutered within the first year of his life. I gave him good quality food and he was not only part of my immediate family, but my extended family too. Once in awhile he got sick, just as we humans do. But most of us know you don’t immediately run to the doctor when you get sick, unless it’s serious. In fact, 75% I’ve run to the doctor for a perceived ailment, I didn’t have to GO. It was something that would have passed and I ended up with a stupid bill, a prescription for some shit I could get from Duane Reade over the counter on my own, and a “This too, shall pass” diagnosis. When he had a REAL issue, I took him. The rest of the time, he got monumental love and support from all of us.

Let’s move from the financial aspect. Many applications ask if I have kids or plan to. Umm…shit, what if I did? It could happen in the future, as I am…an adult woman with working ovaries. Can cats and kids not live together? Do families not have pets? Okay, maybe they’re just screening so they can let you know which of their adoptables don’t do well with children. Understandable! But then they proceed to ask if you DID have a kid, what would you do with your cat? Umm I’d have my kid. And I’d have my cat? “What if you moved? Would you take your cat?” No, I’d leave it in the empty apartment and hope the super overheard the hungry yowls eventually. *Sarcasm alert.*

wallstreetcatguy“Will you ever let the cat outside?” I mean, in a carrier, unless I travel to a family or friend’s house that has an enclosed backyard maybe? What, you think I’m going to walk outside down a New York City block with my cat in my arms? Maybe someone who had a damn good trained cat could do that, like the one who used to show up around Wall Street. But most indoor cats would likely claw the shit out of you if you tried to take them outside in your arms amidst honking horns and barking dogs. Most owners know this. Why the hell would someone who lives in a New York City apartment let their cat outside unless it’s a bodega or apartment complex cat? Common sense. Sure, there’s the cat leash movement going on but I have only come across ONE urban cat-walker in my New York City life. Why are we asking this question like it’s a common thing lol.

“How many hours the cat will be left alone during the day?” Well that’s pretty easy to ascertain if the person has a standard fucking 9-5 job. That they’ll need to have in order to be financially stable enough to adopt the damn cat in the first place and afford those $3000 vet bills, right?

“We require a home visit.” This one may be the most invasive of them all. What’chu mean you wanna come to my HOUSE? And see if it’s SUITABLE for a cat? Some folk are sensitive about their small spaces, or day-to-day messies. What if the “inspector” is a Trump supporter wearing a red #MAGA cap and I have an Obama “Yes We Can” fleece throw on my couch? I’m probably not getting that damn cat.

One place tried to call my apartment management company to verify pets were allowed and ended up getting a new girl that gave her the runaround. I was surprised my management company even answered the phone. You know how hard it is for ME to get ahold of someone there? But trust me, I doubt most New Yorkers would be willing to take in an animal if they weren’t allowed. Especially when it’s rent-stabilized. We ain’t risking that. But what if someone rescued an animal off the street and hid it from their management company? More power to them! We can’t say it doesn’t help the rescue plight.

Through all this, you have the rescues and shelters posting desperate pleas for animal adopters and fosters NEEDED NOW, because the shelters are overflowing, and animals are getting euthanized or remaining unadopted for lengthy periods; all the while simultaneously calling for “A+ adopters ONLY and if you have to ask what it is, you’re not one” (because only the cream of the crop will do and we’re not really here to educate potential adopters >.>) or criticizing potential adopters for having preferences, such as color or age, which is RIDICULOUS! If someone wants an orange cat, let them hunt for an orange cat! If a person loves a certain breed and sees they’re available for adoption with you, what’s the issue? If they prefer a kitten over an adult cat like I do (because I prefer to raise them myself and have an earlier bond), are they less of an animal-lover because of this? And then the raging fan, and I’ll quite bluntly call them “dickriding” comments that back up these ridiculous critiques, solidify the existence of an entire Internet club of perceived cat activists, who must ALL be perfect adopters who take their cats (and they all BETTER have cats lol) for biyearly dental cleanings, consider Fancy Feast actual gourmet cat food, and live for putting down “B-” cat owners on social media.

“Adopt, Don’t Shop” is easier said then done, especially when potential adopters need to pass a figurative bar exam from the gatekeepers to adopt. They are looking for perfect adopters but “perfection” doesn’t exist. I was damn near ready to go through a back-alley CraigsList kitten transaction (because when you want an animal, you WILL get an animal) when a ray of light appeared in my path.

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I spotted this adorable little face on the ‘gram. And some brief reviewing revealed he had siblings! I DM-ed them to inquire and messaged with Holland, a sweet breath of fresh air who communicated with life and feeling and energy, unlike many of the of the short, brusque, almost exhausted-sounding responses from the other places I’d looked into. I was directed to their website, https://catcastlenyc.org where I filled out a simple, non-invasive application and saw that part of their goal is non-discriminatory adoption! She sent me pics of the little guy’s siblings and I decided I wanted his brother too, and within two days she showed up at my apartment to deliver the little darlings. While this could also be construed as a home visit, it wasn’t the same in my eyes, because I was already approved for the adoption, whereas other places use the home visit to further render judgment on your approval.

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Spike and Vash

I am now the proud owner of two rambunctious bonded brothers born with little bent tails, who I’ve spent the last week spoiling with holistic cat food, organic rotisserie chicken, more toys on the way, and that cat condo I’ve always wanted. For my cats. >.>’ We’re working on getting them comfortable being held while standing, but for now they crawl into my lap for cuddles, are no longer afraid when the front door opens, and tear around the house chasing and wrestling each other before falling asleep together in a kitty hug. I make them little aluminum foil balls to play with, tossed a blanket on the floor of my closet because I know they like to nap there sometimes, and now have to carefully roll my office chair out because they like to hang out under there while I’m sitting in it at my computer.

I don’t think I qualify as an “A+ adopter,” and I’m not sure I’d even want to. I’m much happier being the imperfect human I am that loves animals and takes damn good care of her pets, happily welcoming a saved life into my imperfect world. I love that Cat Castle NYC deviated from the drill sergeant adoption routine, and equally loved being able to support a warm, friendly, up-and-coming, humble rescue, who really just seem to want to sincerely help connect cats with homes, and not play militant adoption gods who collect multiple applications on single pets in their adoption arena to determine the winner. I highly recommend and encourage other potential adopters who know they’re responsible enough to take an animal under their wing without having a snotty judge referee with a static checklist whether they truly are to check them out!

~Tael

*See You Space Cowboy*

Platonicity

Ahhh, the age-old question: Are you capable of being pals with members of the opposite gender in a completely non-sexual manner?

OF COURSE it’s possible to “just be friends” with the other sex. And not just the non-good-looking ones either. Because, little known fact, you can actually acknowledge someone’s attractiveness without feeling any desire to sleep with them whatsoever. You know, like how a girlfriend can introduce you to her new lover and you rehash with her and the rest of the crew later about how cute he was. Cute meaning, you’re glad she has someone who’s not hard on the eyes, but not like you’d immediately like to hop in bed with him if he wasn’t off-limits.

Most can’t though.

I’ve seen a lot of people say, “Yeah, of course! He’s like a brother to me!” Then somewhere down the line they’re stammering an incestuous explanation of how they “accidentally” slept with the guy and “Omg, how did this happen??”

Depends on what your degree of platonicity was to begin with. Did you initiate a friendship with someone because they were cute and you were hoping something would happen, and it hasn’t happened yet but you’re still holding out that it will? In that case, you’d better damn well be sure your platonicity gauge is on point, because if they’re not feeling the same, you could be in for quite a blunder.

I have never seen so many previously-thought-to-be-platonic “lurkers” come out of the woodwork as I have the past couple of years. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t been single in so long that there hadn’t been an opportunity for them to send their darts flying. And miss the bulls-eye. But even DURING my last relationship, I had a long-time college buddy (over 10 YEARS!) basically ask if I would be willing to “entertain two suitors.” Newsflash: WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE.

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My legit reaction to this request.

Not only was I extremely uncomfortable with this solicitation, but I was also highly offended! He’d known me for over a decade, had played Prince of Persia and Super Smash Bros. with me late into the nights, had been part of the circle of friends I’d embraced in my SUNY years, had shared numerous insights on sex and relationships as friends do, still connected occasionally on gamer memes and updates, and had NEVER made a pass at me WHATSOEVER. Now he was suddenly asking me to cheat on my boyfriend with him. This AFTER we’d had a lovely talk about our current romantic interests, sharing our stories about our feelings about them! WHICH WERE GOOD FEELINGS.

If you’ve known me for that long, you should know better than that. You should know my character. You should know that if we’ve been friends for THAT long, the sexual window has long passed and our relationship has solidified to an amicable closeness. And dammit your platonicity radar should be able to pick up the disinterest AND the discomfort as a result of the annoying, persistent come-ons.

It stings a bit when long-time friends are the ones making these requests. Because we believe those who’ve known you the longest should also know you the most. When I met up for drinks with yet another long-time buddy from college, one who I’d also spent hours with having deep conversations, gaming with, AND who had hung out with both me and my ex-husband together time and again, it was brought up whether I’d sleep with him.  I dunno about the rest of you, but I feel like most women have a deep appreciation for those situations where you can let your guard down with the opposite gender, connecting as fellow humans without fear of ulterior motives, like the sandbox days before we discovered the joys of sex. The comfort of an old friend with whom you’ve already established the boundaries of friendship and friendship-only so there’s no need to have the awkward “I’m not into you” conversation and possibly the lengthy “Okay here’s why I’m not and please stop trying, it’s not going to work” speech for the more aggressive pursuant, is a delight.

So when you have to push the old college buddy’s heavy, liquor-laden body off of yours as he leans in to make his proposition which, once again, has NEVER come up before now, you question these connections you made so long ago. The ones you thought were so secure because of the length of time you’ve known the individual.

Even one of my previously gay acquaintances (and I say “previously” because look what’s coming) of about 2 years admitted, as I was indulging him with my dating app tales, that he had always felt something for me and was interested in pursuing something now that I was single.

What…?

“I think you’ve misunderstood. I’m not GAY, gay. More like sexually fluid and attracted to energies.”

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NoOoooOoOoOOOOOOoO!!!!

Doushite? You can’t be my gay friend and then evolve to my formerly-known-as-gay lover. It can’t work like that.

Back to the friendships you created because you hoped something would happen. Maybe. I’ve done this. Twice. And I ended up in relationships with both of them. It’s great to be friends first before a relationship. However, my platonicity radar was on point each time. I felt the reciprocal feelings developing. But had I not, I was willing to take my feelings for them to my GRAVE. Because if the other person’s platonicity level is higher than yours, your feelings can become a wearisome burden for them. And if you aggressively try to push them, it’s even worse. So unless you’re a well-mastered vibe-artist with wizard-like intuition, and you know for a fact the buddy you’ve been into is also digging you too, DON’T DO IT…Don’t do it unless you know for sure where they are on the meter.

My cache of sandbox friendships with males runs low. Although I do know I can still count on at least one solid one who I’ve known for 18 years, who has been there for the relationship tears, the drunken chats, has met my friends and family, DESTROYS me at both Smash AND MarioKart (DAMMIT), who I probably suck unlimited hours of what should probably be paid IT work out of (gomen nasai!! >.<) and who seems to truly understand the bond of a comrade. And if he ever changes this, I will strangle him.

And while today’s social culture tends to burn the “friend-zone” concept at the stake, it makes me wonder…when did having a friend you didn’t sleep with become a problem? Why don’t we want friends anymore? Maybe I’m just getting old… -.-‘

~Tael

 

The IMPerfect Guide (Or FAQ)

I remember the very first video game guide I ever set eyes on. It was the Perfect Guide for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And it was beautiful. I carried this book with me everywhere, delighted by the whimsical, high-quality images and the nerdy-yet-awesome writing style. It was riddled with jokes that even I could pick up on at that age, snarky at times, other times conveying an array of emotions from shock to disgust to adoration at the game’s moments. I felt like I was carrying around my friends in this glossy magazine.

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I wore it down to tattered pages, the spine dislocated, the creases permanent. Because I’d studied the guide so much, I could probably still do an Ocarina of Time run-through with 100% completion off-top.

But once you start, 100% completion haunts you.

While Zelda isn’t technically an RPG, it has mucho similar elements. RPGs have always been vast worlds that maybe started out with a 20-25 hour running time, and can now amass over a whopping 100-hours of gameplay when you factor in sidequests, unlockable bosses, highest weapon attained, etc… No complaints here. But somewhere along the way these clever additions became cruel tricks. Missable sidequests if you don’t talk to this specific person in this one town directly after an event happens. Ridiculous formulas that involve gathering/fighting/completing tasks in a maze-like way to open a secret path.zoot3d-link-and-fairy-bow Bosses that can’t be beaten unless you’ve mastered a certain skill paired with a specific type of armor with a 7% reflective rate, so you just hope you’re in the lucky 7% (which you wouldn’t have figured out without seeking help online). That Shuttle Crash site battle with the suicide android in Tales of Graces? THAT WAS MEAN. The Land of Canaan in Tales of Xillia 2? The most sadistic dungeon I have ever countered. So much so that it makes the infamous water temples in Zelda look like wading pools. And let’s face it, the raising and lowering of the water temples in Ocarina of Time was a difficulty beyond its time. Would anyone nowadays have the patience and focus to figure that out with no outside assistance? (I’m familiar with the younger generation and based on their social media trends, I HIGHLY doubt it).

Thankfully, accessing a guide, or FAQ, when things get rough is only a Google click away from your fingertips. Stuck on a boss? FAQ it. Can’t find the next town? Look it up. That final mushroom needed to make that healing nectar for the sick boy in the forest town eluding you? Search it. The convenience in these answers is a gift, but the curse lies in the necessity to look it up anyway to progress.

After I fell in love with the perfect guide, before I’d start an RPG, I’d have the FAQ bookmarked and ready. I’d consult it before every move I made. I beat Tales of Symphonia easily enough on my own, but when I discovered the guide later I realized I missed out on SO MUCH SHIT. And I’m one who knows to explore every path, click every crevice and talk to every person in town. Somehow I’d still missed out on a good 30-40% of the game! Who could have known how to meet Abyssion on their own? I don’t believe you. And let’s face it; Majora’s Mask was in no way completable without the use of a guide. The Kafei sidequest? Yeah the fuck right. The game was an ingenious concept, but it was TOO SMART. The difficulty level certainly landed it on many’s Most Hated Zelda Games lists. And Skies of Arcadia…while the main story was achievable enough on your own, find me someone who actually discovered the Wanderbirds on their own (unless it was by pure, dumb-luck accident). These development choices almost had me entirely dependent on FAQs.

Almost.

One day I realized I wasn’t having as much fun consulting a guide for every move and double-checking every step I took to make sure I didn’t miss anything. If 100% completion was going to drive me to madness, then maybe it wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t let a goal like that ruin the lighthearted reason why I play in the first place.Link&amp;Epona

Have I abandoned FAQs completely? Absolutely not. But they’re not the same friends I carried around in my backpack so long ago, reading and re-reading with joy. Most of them are clones of one another. The writing doesn’t pulse with a vibrant personality. Unless it’s a leader like IGN, it probably wasn’t done by someone with writing skill, meant to entertain and feel like you’re conversing with them.

I reverted to playing to the best of my ability, scrounging in every corner, busting into everybody’s house and talking to every single person. And if I get too stuck, like I’ve-struggled-for-hours-and-I’m-at-my-wit’s-end stuck, I look it up. But I try not to do it often because I love the sense of accomplishment I feel at finally figuring out what I was struggling with, using my own brain and not the Internet’s. I consulted an FAQ for Twilight Princess just once, and felt supremely proud of myself. Since Symphonia 2, I’ve traversed through subsequent Tales games without an online “map,” back to old-school roots. Like when there weren’t save points. And when you were stuck on something, you could only find out the solution by pouring in hours of puzzle-solving, or getting lucky by knowing a friend of a friend, (or cousin) who knew the answer. If they say there’s two kinds of players, there’s gotta be a happy medium between them. Where you can hunt and gather, but also have fun doing it.

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The latest thing is 100% IV in Pokemon GO. I don’t use an external IV app for the very same reason. Landing a 100% IV Pokemon is 100% luck. You have 0 control over it. I’d rather play a game I love and be happy with whatever I do accomplish, than stress myself out trying to attain something I have absolutely no control over. If it’s meant to come, then it will.

100% completion is to achieve perfection. I no longer beat myself up over not achieving perfection. And I think I’m better off for it.

~Tael

Waxing Experimental

Nope, I didn’t try a Brazilian. I’m not THAT fearless.

I did, however, attempt an ongoing wax-only regimen at the start of spring to those other places we ladies regularly shave: legs, underarms, bikini.

I’m not a stranger to leg-waxing. My best friend started me out way back in high school, on her kitchen floor, with my face jammed in a pillow to muffle the screams so no one would think I was being murdered behind closed doors. Since then, every summer I’ve returned to leg-waxing in my living room, convinced that I was reaping the benefits that come along with it, then gone back to shaving in the cooler months.

Only, if you do a quick Google search on Waxing vs Shaving and why one is better, you’ll find that you are cautioned not to mix methods and encouraged to leave it up to the professionals. The jillions of blog posts on the subject overwhelmingly agree that if you shave in between waxing, you’re erasing your waxing progress, and that the ONLY way to reap full benefits is to stick to a strict waxing schedule year-round, even in the winter when you’re not showing off your skin. Harsh, huh? Welp, I decided to drop the razor for awhile and try out some professionals while adhering to a schedule.

Fast forward to September. I’ve abandoned leg-waxing.

The benefits don’t outweigh the effort put in or the stress endured. A full-leg wax is the most expensive single body part order on any waxing menu, and it also takes the longest. It doesn’t seem like it’s possible to really get…ALL THE HAIR…Yes, I know about differing hair-growth cycles and how it takes a few sessions for them to catch up to one other in perfect alignment for a clean rip-off, but when you think about it, extracting every individual hair from one’s skin surface is a tall order, even for an experienced professional. Sure, I had one lady with an offer that if you discovered any missed hairs to come back within a week for a free touch-up, but who really wants to do that? No one ENJOYS this process. We just want it over with.

Another thing. You will find a general consensus that waxing lasts about a month. Yes, the wax does last longer than a shave, BUT, your hair also needs to be a certain length to be waxed again.

Week 1, you’re smooth.
Week 2, the hairs are growing back in, lighter and finer, yes, but they’re still there.
Week 3, oh they’re THERE and there’s nothing you can do about it because it’s too early for the next wax but it’s blazing hip-hop & RnB out there in the summertime so unless you’re covering up in pants or leggings and risking a heatstroke the regrowth remains exposed to the world. Lighter? Yes. But still there. I asked my bestie what do seasoned waxers do during this period. Her answer, “Pray no one notices, lol.”

Grrrrrr….

The last time I saw her, I observed her legs in the hair regrowth stage. After 10+ years of waxing, the hair growth is absolutely lighter and finer, but it’s still there. And going through a summer with halfway-hairy legs half of the time has not been an ideal experience for me, especially after sitting through an hour of rippage, coughing up a $125 bill each time, planning all your summer trips around your waxing schedule that you can’t break to shave, and hoping the guy across from you on the train can’t see your new growth under that florescent lighting.

I can’t live that life. Give me back my freedom of razor. I never had a problem with shaving. A Venus razor and shaving cream always gave me results that last a few days and no trouble with ingrowns. NO STRESS.

I WILL say that I IMMEDIATELY noticed a difference with underarm waxing and it changed my life. You barely notice the regrowth and even after 3 weeks you have to look closely to tell that it’s there. It also takes literally 5 minutes or less to wax and costs like $15. I will absolutely continue that, as well as bikini.

And I prefer this form of legwear anyway.

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Wackawackawackawackawackawackawackawackawacka.

~Tael

 

 

Weird Things that Bug New Yorkers

New Yorkers get a bad rap for being unfriendly people. But it’s not that. It’s that because we have a higher population, the odds for more assholes-per-square-inch increase, because, math. And then the rest of us New Yorkers have to deal with the more-assholes-per-square-inch ourselves, so we become accustomed to encountering and dealing with them, and then we believe they’re everywhere here too, which creates a spiraling domino effect that results in the “New York State of Mind.” And if the following things bug you, then congratulations; you’ve officially evolved to an authentic New York State of Mind. 🙂

1. When someone sits directly next to you on a virtually empty train or bus.

New Yorkers are used to people always being around at any given moment, but when it’s not rush hour or a busy period, we grab that moment of solitude and hold on tight.

SidebySide

There is a rule: You do NOT sit next to someone if there’s an available seat NOT sitting next to someone. You do NOT enter the train and sit at the closest available seat next to someone, just because it’s close! You scan the aisle, take a leisurely stroll through the moving car, core engaged (because this will help your subway surfing skills) and pick a nice empty space keeping up the yin/yang of passenger-empty seat-passenger-empty seat. You ONLY break this balance if there is no other option. And if you DO break the balance, and there ARE other options, then yes, those strange waves of vengeful resentment you might be feeling are absolutely directed at you.

2. When someone walks parallel on the sidewalk at the same speed as you.

You’re not friends. You’re not acquainted. And yet, you may as well be holding hands with them. And then you try to speed up, and then they kind of speed up too, and then the awkward level rises…and then the anger level rises cause it’s awkward. And then you need to cross the street because the angry awkwardness is overwhelming you.

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And then you need to hope they aren’t also crossing the street too. Which leads to…

3. Coincidentally walking the same route as another person.

I’m sure in small towns, you both would giggle and make a joke about how one’s stalking the other, or even strike up some small talk about where you both are going. But in New York, if you’re playing the “Pass That Person” game on the street, but then you both end up waiting at the curb side-by-side for the Walk signal to turn, cross the same street, both turn right, stop at the same bodega for only one thing so you both pay quickly and leave at the same time, and then turn LEFT together (this happened on my walk to the gym this morning, I kid you not) and cruise up the next block trying to act like you don’t realize the other person is still there, or suspecting that they were paid to keep tabs on you…

I don’t like it.

4. Speeding up to cut me off and then immediately walking slowly.

This is most agonizing on stairs. Like if you’re exiting the train and you want to ninja-rush up in double-time, but someone darts in front of you, then proceeds to lumber their way up at an excruciating pace. WHY DID YOU CUT ME OFF THEN? Why was it so important to cut me off so that you could walk slowly?

Your hurried MOVEMENTS do not mean you are progressing quickly.

And then when you try to scurry around them, a barrage of people come trailing down on the other side. Then you and the rest of the line are stuck matching the pace of the lumberer for the whole walk up. And I telepathically communicate to the people behind me, “I would have done better for you.”

5. Sidewalk-spreading.

I chalk this up to some sort of Narcissus complex. You, strolling down the street like you don’t have to get to work, or like it’s not raining really hard, with your arms outstretched (mentally). And maybe your right-hand man is right beside you, but only kind-of sort-of, because you both have to stretch out to make sure you’re taking up the entirety of the sidewalk, and yell your comments to one another across the space in “conversation” as you both saunter your way, making it highly difficult for anyone to zip around you from either side. It’s a declaration. A declaration that you are not aware of anything going on around you.

6. Those who stand on the left side of the escalator.

My very own boyfriend, who is not from New York, told me that outside of the city, the notion that there is a standing side on the escalator AND a walking side is unheard of.

I mean, I get it. Technically, I guess the entire concept of an escalator is so you DON’T have to walk up it at all. You stand and check your phone and have a chat, feet firmly planted as it delivers you to your final destination. But goddammit, this is a city of movers. And if i’m on an escalator, it’s because I have somewhere to be. And in New York, escalators are advanced stairs. And if someone forgets the rule of the standing side and the walking side…well, you could say “Excuse me,” I suppose, and hope they hear you (I have a low voice). BUT HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW THE CODE?? The I-don’t-feel-like-walking people are lining up on the right for a reason. If you’re not, then you’re an obstruction. And I might have to break out the nonchalant bravado and bypass the escalator for the stairs because you’re choosing to be an obstruction.

Ever tried to beat the escalator riders by showing them you can use your legs on the stairs and making it to the top before them?

Ever done it at the Exchange Place Light Rail station in Jersey City?

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My bravado really took a toll on my lungs that time.

Not everyone has a New York State of Mind. The OGs are now outnumbered.

~Tael (OG New Yorker)

The Non-Instagram Parts of Fitness

Fitspiration and #BodyGoals are everywhere. Some authentic, some Photoshopped. All waxed, polished, enhanced with make-up and flaws removed with hair perfectly straightened (seriously, who doesn’t tie their hair up while working out?). The glamorous part of fitness is plastered all over Instagram. Color-coordinated workout ensembles at $129.99 an outfit, toned and airbrushed tushies nestling Brazilian-cut thongs, and spreads of fruit platters, photogenic and supposedly low-calorie chocolate desserts, and delicious-LOOKING green-smoothies that MUST be healthy because an Instagram fitness model posted it (FYI, I’ve had a real kale/veggie/fruit smoothie blended for me by my bestie with no additives or sugar; it was a horrific green sludge that I struggled to choke down).

But when the average I’m-gonna-start-going-to-the-gym-it’s-my-new-years-resolution gal begins a fitness journey, she’ll encounter some things you won’t find on social media. I certainly wasn’t ready for or expecting the following:

1) You can outgrow your wardrobe.

If you’re looking to build muscle mass (as opposed to losing weight, which, actually, everyone should aim for because even for those aiming to lose weight, ideally you should be gaining muscle mass) you want those GAINS. But this means you might go up a size in your clothes. Sounds counter-intuitive, huh? I remember when I learned the truth about “toning.” It’s kind of a myth. You must build muscle in order to “tone.” There’s no other way. You might think, oh, i’m just replacing fat with muscle, but muscle is stronger and denser than fat (and it also lays on top of it), so while sliding slender, jiggly thighs into those tight skinny jeans was once easy, forcing that same denim over thicker muscle becomes more of a challenge. I had never experienced my thighs rubbing together before in shorts (thigh gaps are stupid anyway). I had to buy all new jeans or else risk discomfort and chronic yeast infections. :/

2) DOMS HURTS.

I remember good ol’ Joe Mango from my last job, who religiously woke up at 4:20am (this time means nothing to him, it’s a total coincidence) four days a week to visit the gym before work. Sometimes I’d see him walk slowly down the long hallway to and from the kitchen, with a slightly pronounced pimp-swagger. Now I know the reason. If you’re strength-training your legs, approximately 24 hours later, that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness kicks in and YOU FEEL IT. Sitting hurts. Standing up from sitting hurts. Walking after standing up from sitting for a prolonged period of time HURTS. You may have to start off with a duck-waddle to get the right momentum going. You eventually forget the hurt if you keep moving, but movement after a time of rest makes your muscles remember, and that memory is brutal and can last for days. #PainzisGainz

3) You will want to eat all the time. And little salad diets won’t cut it.

Not knocking salads (actually, yes I am, I hate those things lol). But, especially the next 24 hours after your gym session, a voracious appetite will visit you that’ll make you want to devour a whole pizza. Which you could, but probably wouldn’t want that to be the meal of choice after a gym session, ey? Note: I have an odd relationship with pizza. 

Good ol’ Joe Mango and fellow muscle-ridden lifter bro Vadim were the human garbage disposals of our old department. Anything we didn’t want, or couldn’t finish, was handed to them to be swiftly decimated. Leftover Chinese? Catch guys. Half-eaten muffin? Here ya go. Spare California rolls or miso soup/salad that came automatically with the lunch special? Delivered to them on a side plate. They never declined our offers. Sometimes they’d battle to the death over our scraps (j/k, j/k, they were gentlemen about it). Once I started gymming, I understood. You gain a Godzilla appetite that must be satiated immediately with something filling. Your body craves protein and hearty repasts; you naturally crave a higher caloric-intake to keep up with your routine and what you’re burning off. And since you NEED those extra calories, including carbs, if you’re strength-training, dieting isn’t an ideal option. The better option is to switch up what you eat so you can consume more of it. #CaloricSurplusisGainz

4) You will stress about working out if you’ve gotten a fresh new tattoo.

I’ll be the first to admit I was raised by a mother who exhibits extreme symptoms of paranoia often, and some of that paranoia surfaces in myself as a result. When I get a new tattoo, I don’t want to move my arm, I don’t wanna flex, I don’t wanna lean on it, sleep on it, bump it, breathe on it. Hell, some sites even caution you to avoid HOT, SWEATY SEX, just for the initial healing process, and they’re right, you can ignore some sensual pangs for a lil’ bit to avoid ruining something you’re etching on your skin for life. Going to the gym with a new tat feels akin to bringing a new baby with you. The gym is filled with bacteria, sweat, potential for infection, what if the weight knocks against it, what if it gets rubbed while I squat, what if I stretch my joint too far and it breaks the scabbing before it’s ready to come off, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR IT TO GET STRETCHED WITH MY STRETCHING, let me check it every 5 minutes to look for signs of ruination but it’s already scabby and peely anyway so if I’ve fucked it up then I won’t know until A MONTH LATER AFTER HEALING’S COMPLETE ANYWAYAHHHHHH.

Extreme paranoia makes me push back my workout sessions 1-2 weeks during the tattoo healing phase.

And also sex.

Social media doesn’t show the whole process. So the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram and pause at that *highly-likely* Photo-shopped model gazing wistfully off a Victorian terrace with a gorgeous tropical island backdrop on her tip-toes like it’s casual but it’s not really cause she’s posing, wearing a designer cropped sweatshirt and cheeky panties with zero cellulite and a practically concave belly, remember the truth behind the glamour.

If it’s natural (or as natural as one can get what with social media’s filters and teeth-brightener/wrinkle-reducing/stretch-mark removing apps and what-not) she likely goes through one of these. And if it’s not natural and simply #adobegains then…these don’t apply.

But shhh…it’s a secret. <.<

~Tael