Notes on Immortality and Terrible Dates
Plus some potent creativity boosts.
Back in the before times, maybe six years ago, I had a first (and last) date with a man at the wine bar near my apartment. It’s a perfect place to cross from online to human dating. The lighting there is almost as flattering as a digital filter. Plus, they only serve “small plates” (which is Brooklynese for very expensive toast); this means there’s no awkward decision about whether to commit to a real dinner.
The man, let’s call him Terry, was a fit, compact guy with a vestigial ponytail. I think he was a roadie or a musician, but I could just be remembering the wardrobe. He looked at the menu of tiny toasts with cheese, tiny toasts with charcuterie, and larger toasts with creamy toppings, shook his head, and ordered a glass of wine.
When the server left, Terry leaned in to tell me about his nutritional assault on aging. He took collagen for hair, something to keep his joints from eroding, an amino acid for memory, flaxseeds to combat cholesterol, and something with grape skins against cancer.
It sounded awful. But Terry insisted this routine was easy because he’d discovered a “personal blender,” the Nutribullet 900, which makes a single smoothie that you drink right of the blender cup! He put his supplement powders in there with frozen mango and kale, and voila.
For a minute, I thought the date was actually a pitch for a multilevel marketing scheme. But no, he was just evangelical about his health routine, a new convert. You know what I mean. “I’m all about the Bullet,” he said like a man on the verge of immortality.
When I stood up to go to the restroom, Terry turned his full attention to me which was unfortunate.
“Oh, hey! You’re in pretty good shape yourself! How about a little 360,” he said. Then he made a motion with his hand like he was stirring cake batter. And may the sisterhood forgive me, I almost complied before wobbling to a halt mid-turn. (When my daughter read that last sentence, she was so horrified that I didn’t walk out right then, I almost took it out of this piece.)
I didn’t see that guy again. But I couldn’t stop thinking, is what happens when middle-aged people date, they talk about antioxidants? It was like an episode of Sex and the City: Senior Edition. I wasn’t ready. (Though lord help us, there is now a SATC reboot in which a widowed Carrie goes on a dating app and talks about her aching hip. And I watch it.)
Naturally, I ordered a Nutribullet. Maybe he scared me into trying to hold off ailments I didn’t have yet. But mostly, it was because I have an abiding love of gadgets. The Bullet is small, sleek, and more like a silver egg than a bullet. (Though why do marketing people insist on giving lethal names to otherwise innocent household objects?)
Then, this summer, my doctor told me my cholesterol was high, and my vitamin D was low. Then I twisted my knee. And just like that, I was online researching supplements manically. I am now Terry minus the jeans jacket. But who among us hasn’t looked twice at ads promising to preventify our memory loss and plumpify our wrinkles?
I got a vat of turmeric in the mail yesterday, and I’ve already forgotten how it’s supposed to help me. I have no idea where this is going. Or maybe I do. The trail leads right to my Uncle Bear. He was portly, cheerful, and Rabelaisian in his appetites for steak, scotch, and vitamins. At 80, he would sit at his kitchen island, commander of a vast arsenal of nutrition supplements and vitamins laid out in front of him in rows like soldiers.
It would take Bear hours after he got up to have breakfast and go through his meds and vitamins. He’d start by taking an industrial-size carton of half-and-half out of the fridge, pouring some into his coffee, and even more of it into his cereal bowl. It wasn’t rational. But he was so happy with himself. And who’s rational lately anyway? We want to believe in magic bullets.
Whenever we left Bear’s house, he’d go to his warehouse-like stash, pull out a few vials of liquid vitamin B-12 and press them into our hands like good luck talismans. And that’s exactly what they were.
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Images from the week that was.
And for those who asked about my mother after reading last week’s column on learning to love what we inherit, here we are, somewhere in Germany…
“You will have merely to let yourself be progressively invaded by a serene afternoon sleep, like the spiritual drop of anisette of your soul rising in the cube of sugar of your body."
Photographer James Van Der Zee chronicled life in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s. His images are now on exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. And in an accompanying podcast episode, journalist and musician Celeste Headlee discusses the portrait above and how it evokes the sounds of Harlem.
Kathryn Schulz, a Pulitzer prize-winning writer at The New Yorker, has a funny, tender, illuminating new memoir. Lost & Found is about grief, the miracle of being found, and the way joys and losses tend to happen at the same time. (Also: check out this video interview with Schulz and author Anne Lamott.) Schulz writes:
"A lost wallet, a lost treasure, a lost father, a lost species: as different as these were, they and every other missing thing suddenly seemed fundamental to the problem of how to live—seemed, in being gone, to have something urgent to say about being here."
Choose Carefully: We make choices all the time, and we may think we’re making them freely. But the Hidden Brain podcast spoke to psychologist Eric Johnson who says there’s an invisible architecture behind the way choices are presented to us, and this can influence decisions large and small. For example, researchers found people were more likely to donate to climate change causes if the temperature in the room was raised.
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It’s Not Just You by Susanna Schrobsdorff is essays, recommendations, advice, weekly delights, and, most importantly, a community of thousands of readers around the world. Consider supporting it with a paid subscription.