Category Archives: friendship

Personal Peanut Allergy

Recently, I was thinking about bias. You know, when you meet someone that you just don’t like, and there’s no logical reason.

I mean, there isn’t one if you actually sat yourself down and thought about it

But most of the time, you don’t think about it; you go by your “gut.”

And sometimes, that’s okay. Maybe your gut is remembering that the creepy dude at the bar looks like a wanted poster you saw recently.

So obviously, I’m not talking about those potentially life threatening instances. I’m talking about those random moments, when you meet someone and just don’t like that person, even though you know that they are harmless.

Here’s the thing about being human ; if we don’t have a good reason, we will make one up. We will imagine an insult, or decide that person talks too loud, or is too much of a pushover. Pretty much anything to vilify (even slightly) the other person so that we don’t have to admit that we have no real reason.

The problem with irrational biases, is they are about as difficult to overcome as they are unfair. Perhaps you really don’t like that person because he reminds you of the kid who bullied you in third grade. Or you’ve never liked tall people because they make you feel short, and you were picked on for being short.

These examples sound ridiculous, except that not everyone knows or remembers the origins of their likes and dislikes; they simply all get bundled into the general business of living.

The first step to trying to overcome irrational biases, is of course, to acknowledge that you have them. Most people don’t like to admit that they’re biased, much less irrational. But perhaps it would make you feel better to know that just about everyone is irrational about something; it’s a side effect of being alive.

Obviously, if you’re irrationally biased about entire groups of people, you really should work on it.

But what if it’s just something mild? Like you don’t hate the person, but he has an annoying tic that drives you up the wall? What then? It’s not like you’re unaware that this is an irrational bias, but if you have to hear this dude chewing loudly one more time, you’re afraid you will punch him.

If you’re like me, this kind of awareness often comes with a heaping dose of guilt. What does it say about you, that you cannot overlook this admittedly minor fault? What if you know said loud chewer regularly donates his time to saving puppies? You must be a terribly petty person! Which is another reason to dislike this person! He makes you feel petty!

This is how I manage it.

Try to think of your dynamic with this person as, say, a peanut allergy. There’s is nothing inherently wrong with peanuts. In fact, you would be the first to acknowledge that the peanut is an amazing source of low cost protein, as well as a beloved addition to chocolate and many baked goods.

But unfortunately, you’re allergic.

Not deathly allergic, but certainly enough that you need to be aware of it and limit your exposure.

What would be irrational is to blame the peanut for your allergy. The peanut simply is, it hasn’t done anything wrong. Your allergy is your responsibly to manage.*

Realizing that you are not required to like everyone, but you should show a basic level of civility (be responsible for your own reactions) is very freeing.

It also makes it feel much less personal when you realize someone doesn’t seem to like you through no reason you can fathom. Perhaps you are their peanut allergy!

There’s only a problem when people act like they’re going to go into encephalitic shock when running into someone. I do think some people really are toxic** to each other; and my advice is to never invite them to the same party.

Or if you must, see if you can also invite your social equivalent of an epi-pen.

*It occurs to me that I enjoy using food as analogies for emotional states. It gives a whole new spin to emotional eating, I suppose.

**Always keep in mind, there are also those unfortunate people who are more like arsenic, or one is bleach and the other is ammonia; two things that should never be mixed in close proximity. Avoiding these people is not cruelty; it is self preservation. Just make sure to at least ask the question: arsenic or peanuts?



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So that’s what that song was all about!

Tony Bennett sang about leaving his heart in San Francisco and every time I heard that song, I felt a little bit of smug warmth that this city was my home.

But I’m leaving, and while San Francisco will stay frozen in time for me; its people and streets will continue changing. Eventually, when  I come back to visit, it will treat me with the long suffering patience of a dismissive teenager who has no interest in hearing how I knew them when they were “still in diapers!”

What I expect to remain constant are the winding streets, the bridges, the views from Coit Tower. I thought that the cold foggy summers would also remain, but honestly, this year hasn’t been so bad.

(Yay global warming?)

Living in San Francisco as long as I have, it’s impossible to name any one thing that I will miss the most. There are places I used to go all the time but that I haven’t been to in years. I will miss those places as much as my new favorite place that I just discovered last week.

There are the iconic destinations where all tourists go; Golden Gate Bridge, Ferry Market, the Chinatown gate, the cable car turnabout at the end of Powell. So ubiquitous that for locals, they are simply a backdrop to our lives. But still, once in awhile, when running some banal errand, I’ll catch a glimpse of the bridge, and be delighted. Seeing that bridge always made me feel lucky, and I will always miss it.

Of course, what makes a place special is the friends I’ve made while living there. And often, I know that what I miss, is not really the place itself, but the specific point of time that I was there with a particular friend. I miss the moments.

Some of those friends haven’t lived in San Francisco for years. But when I pass by the places we used to hang out, I like to pretend that they’re still there, and maybe I’ll drop by in a bit and catch up like we used to.

Of course, what I’m really doing is pretending that I don’t miss them.

So to my dear, dear friends who remain in this beautiful city, here are the places you should pretend I’m still around. I know you’re busy right now, but you know, when you’re done with that errand, shoot me a text and let’s grab a quick cup of tea.

Maybe at Samovar in Hayes valley, Leland Tea Company, or if you’re feeling swank, the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus? Afterward, would you mind if we stopped by the Fatted Calf so I can pick up some rillettes, and Isotope for comic books?

Next weekend, let’s grab dim-sum at Ton Kiang and we can go to the DeYoung or Legion of Honor, then wander around Clement in Green Apple Books and perhaps dinner at Spices or Burma Superstar.

Or if it’s nice out, we can walk along the beach, past the windmills, and out to the Cliff House, all the way to Lands’ End. We can stop by Java Beach for coffee or Devil’s Teeth Bakery– if we make it there before it closes at four.

There’s a show at The Marsh that I’ve been wanting to see, and we can hipster watch at Ritual or Four Barrel, after window shopping along Valencia, and buying something vaguely morbid but cool, at Paxton’s Gate

We have all the time in the world…so just look for me.

Of course, I will leave my heart in San Francisco. But the truth is that I’ve left pieces of my heart behind in everything I’ve ever loved.

Because If you are lucky enough to have loved any place or anyone, a part of you will always be missing it. After all, nothing truly good and honest in life is replaceable, you simply add it to the bank of things that you’ve been fortunate enough experience.

Just as there is no substitute for sitting in the Cours Marly at the Louvre in Paris, there is no substitute for watching the fog roll in over the bay from the top of Fillmore hill in San Francisco. This is not a bad thing; it means there is a lot to discover and love in the world, always and every day.

Goodbye San Francisco, I love you!

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Why it’s good to have smart friends with lousy memories

I once had a friend who could casually drop quotes from a famous astrophysicist, segue into a comment about Germany in the 30s, and end with his ideas about Harry Potter.

But while his memory for facts and figures was phenomenal, he had a TERRIBLE memory for personal details, about himself, about those around him, about what time he was supposed to show up for his own parties…

He continually made clever observations which he would never remember making.

So I would often impress him with his own words from previous conversations.

It generally went something like this:

ME: Yeah. I met a guy who is a spherical bastard.*

HIM: Wow! I love that quote from Zwicky! I didn’t know you were into astrophysics!

ME: I’m not. You told me about him last week.

HIM: Oh.

A few weeks later…

ME: Ok, so that guy wasn’t so much a spherical bastard, as a cubical one…**

HIM: Ha! I love Zwicky! I didn’t know you were into astrophysics!

ME: …

I haven’t seen the guy for years, but I’m sure that he still remembers me as more intelligent than I am.

I doubt he’ll remember why though.

*someone who is a bastard no matter what angle you look at him
**when I come across a good description, I tend to overuse it, like a much loved t-shirt

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