Take it easy, Charlie Sheen: what Montaigne would say

March 3, 2011 § 8 Comments

Writing this dissertation has introduced me to some fairly interesting thinkers, philosophers, and essayists. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (but all the cool scholars just call him “Montaigne”) is one of those great thinkers, philosophers, and essayists. Triple-threat, baby.

Montaigne composed a great number of essays in his lifetime, several of which I am currently reading, and a few of which I intend to include in my dissertation. Montaigne is controversial for his time (late-Renaissance France) because he understands religious views (Christianity, of course) enough to appeal to a broad enough audience and to speak intelligently about topics at the fore of Christians’ thoughts; however, Montaigne was “half pagan and less than half Christian,” according to David Frame who writes the introduction of an edition of Montaigne’s travel journal. What I like about Montaigne is that he offers a fairly practical approach to some of the most incendiary of Renaissance hot topics; rather than inciting his readers to impose a sort of Fatwa upon one another, he challenges readers to approach controversy and difference with logic. (Consider that!)

As I’ve been reading a few of Montaigne’s essays, I am deeply moved by their utter pragmatism. Yes! I want to shout in the not-so-quiet-but-oh-so-public coffee shop. This is exactly it! (The venue I choose for the shouting instead, of course, is my blog. You’re welcome, general public. My apologies, blog readers.) Montaigne had no idea that, over 430 years after he published his essays, his pragmatism and liberal concepts would still hold such topical import.

Allow me to turn, as an example, to the most recent cataclysmic debacle that is Charlie Sheen’s descent into drug-induced egotism. As we well know, Charlie Sheen has littered our airwaves with a treasure trove of brilliant gems, such as calling his two live-in girlfriends his “goddesses” and revealing that because he is such a special person he deserves special accompanying privileges to participate in a polyamorous relationship with them. Whatever. Look, what two or three or five consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their bedroom(s) is none of my business and I have absolutely no interest in passing judgment. For me, monogamy is the way to go. But maybe for someone like Charlie Sheen, he’s got to spread the love; and why not? He’s special. (And why not? Human sexuality is a complex, fluctuating, exciting tangled web.)

What does strike my ear funny, then, is the extent to which Sheen indulges his fancies. He constantly appeals to the “logic” of any who will give him a microphone that he is a special dude. But, amid all his self-aggrandizing, has Sheen lost the point of living the life of a bitchin’ Martian rock star with tiger blood and Adonis DNA, fists of fire, and the power to overcome drug addiction simply by choosing not to be addicted anymore?

I say yes, and I believe Montaigne would tend to agree. Of men who over-indulge themselves, Montaigne tells us:

“Nor do ladies titillate the man who enjoys his fill of them. He who does not give himself leisure to be thirsty cannot take pleasure in drinking.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us” (1572-4)

I love the second sentence in particular. “He who does not give himself leisure to be thirsty cannot take pleasure in drinking.” If you would please indulge me, I would like a moment to speak directly to Warlock Sheen.

Your Highness, please note that Montaigne speaks figuratively here. Obviously, as I am sure you understand with your utterly passionate, bi-winning mind, Montaigne does not imply that 1. a man should turn to drinking any substance in particular (except, perhaps, that of “life” in general) and 2. a man should binge once he has made himself thirsty.

Thanks for your consideration,
The utterly unworthy and not special A.Hab.

P.S. I also do not have the genetic code of which you yourself are capable of boasting. Please excuse any indolence in the preceding message.

P.P.S. Yes, I read the AV Club article that reminds us all to laugh a little more at your intended dark humor and sarcasm.  I get the jokes.  They’re just not that funny.


What I do believe Montaigne instructs us to do, however, is to live in moderation. Appreciate our unique Selves as far as that appreciation does not intrude upon others’ appreciation of their unique selves. When Sheen makes grandiose claims about his employers and network, he oversteps his own boundaries and ignores the victims of his vitriol their needs and desires. He utterly misinterprets what is an appeal to logic and an encouragement for medical assistance as judgment, condescension, and trauma.

Although I do believe the media is purposefully preying on the public’s fascination with a good, old-fashioned self-destructive implosion, I think what can ultimately be gleaned from all this manic nonsense is that Charlie Sheen and the media both need to back the hell up off each other. We all need a chance to feel thirsty in order to appreciate what progress Sheen makes (whether real or imagined–at this point, it doesn’t much matter to me). The media needs to stop indulging the public’s binge-drinking of Sheen’s downward spiral. And Sheen needs to stop indulging his own ego-binge as well.

I’ll leave this entry on another couple of thoughts by Montaigne:

“There is nothing so hampering, so cloying, as abundance. […] And besides, I believe that this luster of greatness brings no slight drawbacks to the enjoyment of the sweeter pleasures: they are too much in the limelight and exposed to view.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us,” 1572-4

And perhaps not to empathize with Sheen more than is deserved but more to understand our fascination with celebrity:

“And, I know not why, the great are more obliged than we to hide and cover up their faults. For what in us is indiscretion, in them the people judge to be tyranny, contempt, and disdain for the laws; and it is true that besides their normal pleasure from vice, it seems that they take an added pleasure in insulting public observances and trampling them underfoot.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us,” 1572-4

(and both a response to Montaigne and taking it one little step further…which is what I’ve been saying from the very beginning of this nonsense.)

Another shorty

February 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here it is: I don’t feel well. 😦 I am currently fighting off a cold, but I am absolutely drained. Rather than break my week up into 2 pages a day, I decided to go ahead and finish my four pages for today and tomorrow so that I would still complete the ten for this week while giving myself an opportunity to rest tomorrow.

I hate that I am feeling so gross today. I think I am trying to fight off a head cold, and I am trying very hard not to let it develop into a sinus infection or bronchitis. But, I suppose, if it must, then at least I’ve finished my ten pages for the week. Particularly crummy with not feeling well is that it makes getting up at 5:50 a.m. that much more difficult. As someone who absolutely despises mornings (with a ferocity second only to Garfield), having to wake up before the sunrise while feeling ill is just not…encouraging.

Tomorrow’s class should be interesting, though. We’ll go over the paper assignment a little bit more (it’s due two weeks from tomorrow), and then we’ll discuss Pushkin and the formation of a Russian identity during a time of social upheaval. I think a lot of my students can relate to social upheaval and revolution, which…is a little surprising and disheartening to me. When I was learning about the French Revolution, for instance, I wasn’t drawn to make comments like, “Yeah, they had the right idea.” I thought the revolutionaries had gone too far and were really rather frightening. (I mean, the Parisian streets themselves bled!) Although I have truly enjoyed my class this semester, I do find myself struggling to get them to understand that this was not the kind of political tummy ache that America is currently experiencing. This was dangerous. People were being killed–by their government, by their neighbors.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes; we’ll be discussing the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 a little bit more.

That’s all I have energy for tonight, folks. My apologies for a lame entry. Hopefully I’ll feel well enough tomorrow to top this one. Otherwise, at least you’ve been warned enough to expect another weak entry.

Not quite there yet…the quest for 10,000 words continues

January 30, 2011 § 6 Comments

Today I spent the entire morning (literally from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) finishing my scans, printing, labeling, and organizing. This leaves me with a clear desk, clear shelves, and a clear mind. Tomorrow will be better because I have 10,000 words to hit, and I actually know now which articles I’ve read and which are still in need of a review.

I spent the better part of my afternoon wandering around Walgreens, waiting on Robert’s prescriptions. He has suddenly and without any warning whatsoever been knocked down with bronchitis. At first, we thought it was a regular little ol’ head cold, but this thing turned nasty quick, forcing him to go to the doctor today (thank God for Urgent Care’s Sunday hours). We were both surprised by the diagnosis…and the cost of the prescriptions. But it’s worth it if it means he’ll be feeling better soon. While I might be an okay nurse (although…my method is to treat the symptoms as best as I can…but with very little sympathy…let my children never be ill because I don’t tolerate illness well…as Robert can attest…poor thing), I am a terrible patient. Robert has essentially been quarantined. Sure, we share the same common area…sort of. I’ll sit in the living room with him (when I haven’t been scanning, which has been only a few minutes in the past few days), but he sleeps in the guest room. I truly appreciate this because, as I explained to one of my friends today, I do not have time to get sick right now. My body and I tend to come to agreements when I’m under the gun for big deadlines or major life experiences. I simply do not allow myself to get sick. (This means that when I do feel sneezy or ticklish in my throat, I push through and ignore it…terrible.) I am an awful patient. The worst kind. I will push Robert through the doctor’s doors, praising the wonders of medicine. But when it comes to my own illness? I ignore the symptoms, swearing they’re not as bad as they sound/look/feel. I pretend doctors don’t exist, that there’s no use in medicating me because I won’t be sick very long.

Yes. I am a health hypocrite.

But, just for the record: I am not going to catch this bug. Just not. At all. Because I’m writing a dissertation. If bronchitis wants to come a-callin’ after August 7th (the day after graduation), then that’s perfectly fine. But before that date, it better leave me alone.

…maybe during my hour-long walking tour of Walgreens I should have considered buying a medical mask…hmmm….

You Don’t Own Me: a review of The Black Swan

January 17, 2011 § 8 Comments

Be advised: if you have not yet seen The Black Swan, best not be reading on. There are all sorts of spoilers ahead.
« Read the rest of this entry »

Losing weight: time for accountability

January 6, 2011 § 12 Comments

My monthly weight loss goals--here we go!

All right gang, what you’re looking at here are my weight loss goals. My goal is to lose 2 pounds a week until February 2012. If I do that, then I will get down to my goal weight of 135 pounds. My starting weight is 238, taken this morning at 8 a.m. Essentially, that’s just over 100 pounds in 13 months, which by my calculations is fairly healthy. The bars are color-coded:

Dark Blue = Week One Goal
Red = Week One Actual
Green = Week Two Goal
Light Blue = Week Three Goal
Periwinkle = Week Four Goal

Here’s what’s happening. On The Today Show the other day, one of their fitness experts (I’m blanking on who now) suggested creating a spreadsheet with goals for each week or month or whatever to keep you on track. Which is what I’ve done. I do have an Excel spreadsheet prepared: on it, I have listed my weekly goals for weigh-ins as well as spaces for the actual weight at weigh-in. I have also listed my weekly exercise goals as well as spaces for the actual amount of exercise I did that week. At the end of each month, I will create and share that month’s chart to show you how the progress is going.

Now, before anyone starts to exclaim in alarm about anything at all, I want to assure you that I am doing this healthfully. This is not about becoming a little twig. I am 5’4″. Technically 135 is on the high end of “normal weight” (taken from the National Institute of Health’s website). By comparison, if I wanted to be on the lowest end of “normal weight” for my height, I would have to weigh 108 pounds. Just seeing myself type out that sentence makes my heart race in panic. I haven’t weighed 108 pounds since sixth grade, and I have absolutely ZERO desire to get there again. Ever. I was TWELVE when I weighed 108 pounds. Why would I want my twelve-year-old body again? Absolutely not. I want my young woman’s body back. I weighed between 135 and 140 when I was in college six years ago, and I was abso-freaking-lutely adorable. Like, doable. I’m a curvy woman. I have good strong hips. I have huge breasts. I have a pronounced ass. I have a short torso but “long” legs. Now, if you were to ask any heterosexual man to describe his dream woman (as I have done with a few males I’ve encountered in my life once I gained interest in those sorts of things), he will likely describe a woman with those characteristics. Rarely do you come across a man who wants a twig on his arm. You hear things like, “I want a woman who is huggable. A woman who has something to hold onto.”

And you know what? I do too. I want to be a huggable woman. I want to be a woman that has something to hold onto. I like the way that body type looks. It’s a strong, capable, voluptuous type.

I realize that on a level this sounds shallow. But believe me that I am concerned about my health primarily. I have no idea what dress size I will be when I get down to 135 pounds. The only reason I chose that number is because when I look back at those pictures of me in college, that’s the weight I was. And that’s the body I want to get back…so…naturally, I chose 135.

Primarily, though, I want to feel better. I want to eat better. I want to exercise more. I want to look on the outside as good as I feel on the inside. I want to be proud when I look at myself in pictures. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with the reflection. As it is, I cannot look at myself in the mirror. Gloriously, the mirror steams up so that I don’t have to face myself as I emerge from the shower. And I do not glance at myself when I disrobe and enter the shower. It’s bad enough looking down at myself from the neck down when I wash.

And I realize how horrible saying all of that is…but this is where I’ve been for a number of years. I don’t know when the last time was that I actually took a full look at my naked body in the mirror. It has to have been years. When I am forced to look at myself, I see my body in sections. Those are my eyes. Those are my cheeks. Those are my breasts. There’s my stomach. And my thighs. And my feet. My arms. My frizzy hair. I don’t see my body as a single unit. I don’t remember the last time I saw my body as a single unit…but I do know that from a very early age, I began to parse my body apart (and those of my playmates).

I am scared. I am scared that this is something deeply rooted within me. I didn’t hit 200 pounds until I was in graduate school in 2004. This body I currently live in is a new body. I am not home in this body. But have I ever been home in my body? I am afraid that when I get to 135, I will still see only pieces of myself and never the whole. And if that happens…will I let myself go back to 238 or worse?

But I also know that I can’t live wrapped up in that fear. Here’s what’s different now:

Robert is here now.

The love of my life is here now. Someone, besides my family, who loves me in spite of anything and everything is here now. Does Robert want me to get to a healthy weight so that I am no longer on any dangerous borderline? Of course he does. Does he want me to love my body and feel confident? Of course he does. Does he want me to enjoy shopping and not come home with just another purse because that’s the only thing that fits me? Of course he does. Does he love me no matter what? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have said “I do” if he didn’t. I have to have confidence in this difference. I have to believe that because he’s here now, then that difference is enough to help pull me out of the destructive rut I’ve been in.

So, look forward to monthly updates on weight loss. Also: I am not going to torture myself if I don’t lose 2 pounds a week steadily. Instead, I will own whatever I am able to accomplish and assess when I might need to make a change. Our bodies plateau because they become “accustomed to” what we’re doing. I do expect the plateaus, and when they come I plan to make the necessary changes.

In advance: thank you for your support! 🙂

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