Day 186: Cleanliness day.

Two hundred years ago, I’d have been a pretty clean guy. Suspiciously clean, perhaps. But by our current mysophobic and anti-dirt standards, I’m not particularly clean.

I don’t shower daily. I come close to it during the summer, but I average three showers a week during the winter. I don’t wear deodorant.

You’re probably all squirming a bit; tell people you don’t shower every day and don’t wear deodorant, and this is what they picture:

I’m not that dirty. I’m not anywhere close to that dirty. When I get that dirty — which happens, on occasion — I take a fucking shower.

I wash my hands regularly. I wash my face in the morning, and after certain meals (those meals during which I get food in my beard). I brush my damned teeth.

I took a shower today, of course, because it’s cleanliness day. I’d vaguely intended to get excessively dirty beforehand, but the most difficult thing I did all day was read Clarissa, and that didn’t make me dirty — not physically dirty, anyway. I did some jumping-jacks before showering, in an attempt to work up a sweat, but it was only sort of successful.

I cleaned myself more thoroughly than I have in a while. I washed everywhere at least twice, and with Dr Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint Soap — I came out of the shower smelling like a candy cane, and tingling like … uh, something tingly.

I’m certainly not going to start cleaning myself this thoroughly all the time — I’m just going to get dirty again, and I can’t tell any difference between today’s super-clean and my normal sort-of-clean. I guess the problem is that I wasn’t dirty enough to start with, because my normal clean always feel amazingly clean if I get into the shower caked in mud and grass and feces, which happens more than you might expect.

The secret to happiness is, after all, being really miserable before and after, so the brief moment of happiness seems that much better in comparison.


Day 174: Body hair day.

I’m a moderately hairy guy, somewhere between a male underwear model and Robin Williams.

I’m comfortable with the amount of body hair I have — happy with it, even, even the hair on my feet and toes, though my feet aren’t as hairy (or as hardy) as hobbit feet. Mostly I ignore my hair, because I try to be as low-maintenance (at least with regards to my appearance) as possible. I get a haircut — the same haircut, as it were — every six to eight weeks. I trim my beard every three or four weeks. All the other hairs get left alone.

That’s not entirely true. I trim my nose hairs. I don’t do it for aesthetic reasons, but because longer nose hairs, especially during allergy season, which is all the time when what you’re allergic to is plant life — anyway, long nose hairs accumulate mucus (boogers), which impedes the flow of air. Honestly, I know it’s time to trim the inside of my nose when I have trouble breathing through it. Now you know.

I also trim my ear hairs: I have them in the valley between the tragus and the anti-tragus (and I’m not going to lie, I had to look that up), but I also get them on my goddamned earlobes. I’ve only recently noticed them, and I am not exaggerating at all when I say I had earlobe hairs that were four inches long.

Trimming my ear hairs is — and I can say this honestly — my one act of appearance-related vanity. I mean, I like to look good, and I put a minimum amount of effort into it, but not that much. On an average morning — including the mornings of the days on which I teach, an activity for which I have to look reasonably presentable — my rolling-out-of-bed-to-dressed-and-ready-to-leave time is five minutes, and that’s only because it takes me three minutes to find my shoes. I spend more time making my morning espresso than I do on my appearance, and I’m still the most attractive person in the department (as well as the most humble, as ought to be obvious — and I’m a bit ashamed of myself for making such an passé joke, but I’m going to let it stand).

Where was I? Right, right, body hair. I’m not sure I have anything else to say. Body hair is awesome, let it grow, embrace your inner primate, &c.

Also: don’t do a google image search for “hairy” — or “hairy [noun]” — and that includes “hairy noun,” for fuck’s sake — and yes, I did several a few —— don’t search for “hairy” and expect to get much besides porn.

Now you know.

Day 139: Bleed here [so you can be cloned later].

I have no desire to be cloned.

A clone of me would not be me, any more than identical twins are the same person. If there was (is?) already a clone of me out there – one that I didn’t know about, for some reason – and we met on the street, we would be total strangers. Strangers who looked extremely similar, yes, but still strangers. Doppelgängers. It would probably be an unpleasant meeting…

What do I gain by being cloned at some future point, after I’m dead? Nothing. I don’t lose anything, either: it’s happening after I’m dead, and the clone is – not to beat a dead horse – a totally different person. A clone of me a few hundred years hence will mean nothing more to me – and I nothing more to him – than my great-great-great-grandchildren will: to wit, nothing.

If someone clones me while I’m alive, that might be an issue: what if my clone tries to kill me and take over my life? Or: What if I’m the clone, and I’ve killed myself and taken over my life? OR: What if I’m merely one in an endless sequence of clones? What if none of this is real? Any of these scenarios is less than ideal. On the other hand, if my clone just wanted to be his own dude, and have his own life and job and name and car and et cetera, that would be totally fine. It might even be cool to have a beer with myself occasionally, under those circumstances.

People who want to be cloned after death are seeking some odd sort of vicarious immortality: they’re living forever, somehow, because their genetic material has been reconstituted and is walking around and talking and eating and shitting and doing whatever people will be doing for entertainment in the future.

There’s a better and more efficient way to have your genetic material walking around hundreds of years in the future: have children, and lots of them. Of course, this is only more efficient if you don’t raise the children yourself – because actually raising them is a lot more labor-intensive than just producing them, especially for the father – and so this strategy really only works for men (sorry, ladies). For men, though, it’s just a matter of impregnating as many women as possible – and in these days of paternity tests and child support and whatnot, as anonymously as possible – scattering children across the country (or the world?), in order to ensure that a reasonable number of one’s ‘illegitimate’ offspring survive to reproduce as well, thus propagating your genetic material downstream in the gene, uh, pool.

It’s what your genes want, after all.

Day 123: Learn an emergency medical procedure.

Some number of years ago, when I was unattached and foolhardier than I am now, I took a break from my life and went on a cross-country backpacking trip. I had a big frame-pack, a one-person tent, an all-seasons sleeping bag, et cetera. I meandered across the countryside, without any sort of agenda, camping out in fields when I couldn’t find a campground, doing an occasional bit of day labor when I pass through a town.

Passing through one of those towns, I met a… let’s call her a traveling companion. We got to talking over drinks; turned out she was doing the same sort of thing I was, wandering the country aimlessly. We decided to wander together for a while.

I had some cash, so we got a room at a cheap motel – partly because it was getting late to find a place to pitch the tent, but mostly because I hadn’t showered in several weeks. (I would ‘have a bathe’ when I found a decent creek or cow pond, but that’s not the same as hot running water.) The next morning, we set off: I’d wandered in from the south-east, and she’d come from the north-east, so it seemed only right – though hopelessly cliché at the same time – that we went west.

Things were good for a few weeks: it was nice having someone to travel with, someone to talk to – someone funny and kind and incredibly attractive. We hiked through some beautiful country, too; sparsely populated, but we kept running across farmers and their salt-of-the-earth farmer’s wives, and they all insisted on putting us up for the night and feeding us – and holy shit, the eggs and the bacon and the steaks, best food I’ve ever eaten – and sending us off the next day laden down with food.

At some point we passed through a town: it had a bar, we had some cash, so we had a few drinks – by which I mean ‘a few too many’. We stumbled back to the tent, which we’d had the foresight to pitch in a wooded area on the outskirts of town. Crawled into our sleeping bags, fumbled around drunkenly for a bit, passed out.

It was still dark out when she woke me up, shaking me none too gently. She had a bottle of tequila; no idea where it came from.

“Drink this,” she said, pouring tequila into my mouth.

I was still half-asleep, and more than half-drunk, and so the only thing that came out of my mouth (aside from a fair amount of the tequila) was incoherent noise.

“I have to circumcise you,” she said.

That didn’t really register, and so I didn’t struggle when she started removing my pants. When she dumped tequila on my penis, though, I started to wonder what was going on – and when she pulled the knife out, well, I started to flip the fuck out.

She was kneeling on my legs, which made it hard to move, and she worked fast – I’m not sure I want to know where she learned to do what she did – but she sliced my foreskin off before I had time to put up a fight. She poured some more tequila on it – which burned like lemon juice in a paper cut, except a lot fucking worse – threw a towel on my bloody, boozy junk, and walked away from the tent quickly and purposefully, a bloody knife in her right hand, my bloody foreskin in her left.

I’m not sure why – or how, really – I followed her, but I did, naked from the waist down, barefoot, bloody towel clutched to my crotch. She stopped a few hundred yards from the tent, and I stopped maybe a dozen yards behind her. There was a man there, a big dude, lots of hair, beard so massive it looked like a bear cub attached to his face. I nearly shit myself, which would have been fine at that point, since I had no pants on.

She threw the foreskin – my foreskin – at the dude’s feet, turned around, and walked silently back to the tent. If she saw me, and she must have, she didn’t acknowledge me. Dude and I stared at each other for a long moment, then he gave the slightest of smiles, turned, and walked off into the night. Away from the town, not toward it. I stood there a while longer, then went back to the tent. The bleeding had stopped – it hadn’t bled much, actually, she did a good job – so I put clothes back on, finished off the tequila, and went back to sleep.

We didn’t talk about what had happened, the next morning or any time after. About a week after that, uh, incident, I decided to head home. Our parting was unceremonious, and I never saw her again.

I miss my foreskin to this day, and I still have no idea what the fuck actually happened that night.

Day 103: Cleanse your bowels today.

WARNING: This post is fairly graphic, even by the standards of this blog. It’s about enemas – self-administered enemas, at that – and will therefore involve the sorts of things that enemas involve. If you don’t want to read about it, now is the time to turn away and pretend I just didn’t write a post today.

We have one of those showerheads that’s at the end of a long-ish hose, the kind that is great for washing one’s feet off when one steps in dog shit, and for washing the dogs just because they hate it and one is mad because one stepped in their shit, and for spraying one’s spouse when said spouse laughs at the whole dogs-and-shit-and-dirty-feet ordeal.

The Book’s self-enema instructions require such a showerhead – or, rather, they require the hose. I unscrewed the showerhead part, greased up the hose, and – per the Book’s instructions – inserted it into my anus. Then I turned the water on.

I realized, almost instantly, that I’d forgotten to get the water to a comfortable temperature first – and almost as instantly turned the water off and removed the hose (a bit too quickly) – but I still learned what it feels like to have very cold water in one’s large intestine. Unpleasant, if you were curious.

So: got the water warm, but not hot; turned it off again; reinserted the hose; turned the water back on; allowed my bowels to fill with water. Thought: why the fuck am I doing this?

The Book recommends holding the water in for fifteen minutes before “letting it flow out” – sounds so natural and gentle, right? – but I wasn’t sure I could make it that long. I wanted to try, certainly, but I also wanted to be prepared for the worst – and so, after filling my colon with water, I stood naked in the bathtub, a timer running on my phone, ready to move to the toilet in a deliberate-but-not-hasty way when the time came.

The five-minute mark rolled by; I felt pretty good – well, physically I felt somewhat uncomfortable, and a bit like Steve Martin in LA Story – but I felt good in the sense that I thought I was going to make it a full fifteen minutes with a gallon of water in my gut. Why I felt good about that, I have no idea.

Then— well, then bad things happened. I was having to work – not hard, mind you, but keeping all that water in required some focus and some muscle control – and then something distracted me. I don’t know what; a noise in another part of the house, a dog barking, a car backfiring. It barely registered, but it broke my concentration just enough that I lost control of my sphincter.

Well, you can guess what happened: water and shit came gushing out of my asshole, all over my legs, all over the bathtub. More shit-water than I thought possible. Gallons and gallons of shit-water. My asshole produced a veritable Niagara Falls of shit-water. I ought to be dead, I lost so much fluid. Fluid mixed with shit, that is.

I stood there in shock for a bit. Half an hour, maybe, covered from the ass down in shit-water.

Then I reattached the showerhead and started cleaning myself and the bathtub. Used a lot of soap, most of a gallon of bleach, some garlic. Eventually I felt clean, sort of. Physically clean, yes; mentally, emotionally, not so much.

That shit-water is going to haunt my dreams.

Day 88: Measure your biceps today.

I do not have biceps like the Batman at right. Hell, that Batman’s biceps are nearly as thick as my torso. At 6′ and 150 pounds, I’m what people call “lanky.” Michelangelo’s David has a few pounds on me, sure, and better hair, but I can swing a sledgehammer and wield a post-hole digger (and thank God I don’t have to do either for a living).

I lacked the two things that would have made my doing of this task more accurate: a measuring tape of the sort used by tailors, and someone to do the measuring for me.

So, I improvised: I used a sheet of paper – 8 1/2 x 11 inches – and from an article on the “awry and squint” nature of Donne’s “Holy Sonnets,” no less – to estimate the girth of my biceps. It was awkward, sure, and not as accurate as it could have been. I’d say that it was the most creative use to which anyone’s ever put a printout of this article – written by Richard Strier, published in the May 1989 issue of Modern Philology, if anyone cares – but that’s probably not true, both because it wasn’t particularly creative, and also because people do strange things with academic articles. We don’t need to go into it here, though; just use your imaginations.

…right, moving on. The approximate measurement of my biceps (the right one, by the way) at which I arrived? Between eleven and twelves inches – which, according to the Book, puts me comfortably in the “normal” range, at least in terms of girth of biceps, for males. Apparently one goes from “sand-in-the-face wimp” to “normal” at nine inches of biceps – then there’s a range of “pretty damn impressive” in the twenties of inches range – and then, above 30 inches, one gets into “huge arms but small penis” territory.

I don’t think I’d say that to Batman, though.

Day 82: Sit in the lotus position for 30 minutes.

I did this yesterday, actually, because my Wednesdays are full enough that I don’t have a half-hour anywhere in which to sit in an uncomfortable position and not do anything else. Also it meant that my wife was around to witness my completion of this task, should her testimony prove necessary.

The first five minutes were fine, though they went slower than I thought they should have. After the five-minute mark, though, my back started to hurt: a fairly acute cramping in the right-middle section of my back, which eventually settled into a dull ache. Once that hurdle was passed, things went smoothly until about 23 minutes, when my left leg started aching. It had fallen asleep by 25 minutes, and at 27 minutes I was ready to quit, but my wife shamed me into toughing it out until the end.

Aside from the physical discomfort, though, it was actually an enjoyable exercise.

Okay, so “enjoyable” is probably too strong a word. At the time, I found it refreshing to spend thirty minutes both not doing anything and not trying to distract myself with technology, which is what I normally do when I’m not doing anything. It was a space of time in which I was engaged in the present (because it required engagement and effort to stay in the correct position), and free at the same time to let (part of) my mind wander.

When I phrase it like that, though, I realize that I do that twice a day, three days a week, driving between Sherman and Plano – and it’s (at least) forty-five minutes each way, not a mere thirty. Why do yoga when you can drive around?

Something like that, anyway.

It was not, at the time, anything like my commute, despite the fact that the two activities can be described in similar terms. The difference – one of them, anyway, and an important one – is that commuting involves motion, even though the body remains still relative to the vehicle, while the lotus position involves stillness, relative to all of one’s surroundings. I was in the same place when I stood up and tried to walk as I’d been when I sat down and contorted myself into a passable imitation of the Buddha.

That was what made it refreshing: being still, intentionally, consciously. Of course, the kitchen was clean, the towels were folded and put away, Lorna was doing the laundry – so I could justify taking half an hour to not do anything. Sort of, anyway, because there’s always something to do, and never enough time in which to get it all done.

Being uncomfortable just for the sake of being uncomfortable is not a luxury I can afford on a daily basis – which is why I don’t do yoga.