A.J. Jacobs

{EN} The Guinea Pig Diaries – A. J. Jacobs

1. The suggestions come with the territory. For the last fifteen years, I’ve attempted to live my life as a human guinea pig. I’ve engaged in a series of experiments on my mind and body, some of which have been fruitful, some humiliating failures. I’ve tried to understand the world by immersing myself in extraordinary circumstances. I’ve also grown a tremendously unattractive beard.

2. My ordinary life doesn’t merit a book. So I put myself into extraordinary situations, and see what happens.

3. I have a growing list of instant deal breakers:
• If the guy uses the word lady or ladies in his opening e-mail
• If the guy lists his best feature as “butt” (ironically or not)
• If the guy uses more than two exclamation points in one sentence (One enthusiast wrote: “Hello there beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!”)
• If the guy misspells the first word of his introductory essay. (“Chemestry is important.”) I don’t want to be a spelling snob, but the first word?
• If the guy’s opening photo features a shot in which his head is tilted more than 20 degrees to the left or right
• If the guy has a photo of his Jet-Ski or snowmobile on his page
• If the guy is wearing sunglasses, any hat besides a baseball cap, or is bare-chested in his main photo
• If the guy refers to female anatomy anywhere in his initial correspondence (e.g., “I’m not a professional gynecologist, but, uh, I’d be happy to take a look”)

4. Then I just get depressed and insecure. What did we say that made him blow us off? It wasn’t her looks. So it must have been our banter. Did we not talk enough about reef decay in Honduras? Dammit. My walk on the feminine side is over. My vicarious single life is dead.

5. Uh-oh. Here we go. There’s no way I can show this to Michelle. She would be mortified. I should just drop it, but I don’t. Why? To teach this cretin a lesson? Because I’m drunk with power? I’m a beautiful woman. I can make these miscreants do anything I want.

6. I can have a nice, clean division of labor: Honey will take care of my business affairs, and YMII can attend to my personal life— pay my bills, make vacation reservations, buy stuff online.

7. I think I’m in love with Honey. How can I not be? She makes my mother look unsupportive. Every day I get showered with compliments, many involving capital letters: “awesome Editor” and “Family Man.” When I confess I’m a bit tired, she tells me, “You need rest. . . . Do not to overexert yourself.” It’s constant positive feedback, like phone sex without the moaning.

8. Incidentally, Honey and Asha don’t know about each other. I’m constantly worried about getting busted for my infidelities, for my life of outsourcer bigamy. What if they run into each other at the Bangalore hardware store? What if I call Asha “Honey” and she thinks I’m hitting on her?

9. Emboldened by Mr. Naveen’s triumph with my parents, I decide to test the next logical relationship: my marriage. These arguments with my wife are killing me—partly because Julie is a much better debater than I am. Maybe Asha can do better.

10. My plan is to give Asha a list of my neuroses and a childhood anecdote or two, have her talk to my shrink for fifty minutes, then relay the advice.

11. eEverybody would be happier if we just stopped lying. Tell the truth, all the time. This would be radical enough—a world without fibs—but Blanton goes further. He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it.

12. Deceit makes our world go round. Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.

13. I still tell plenty of lies every day, but by the end of the week I’ve slashed the total by at least 40 percent. Still, the giddiness is wearing off. A life of Radical Honesty is filled with a hundred confrontations every day. They’re small, but relentless.

14. Journalism is an enemy of rationality.

15. People often choose the medium size at a restaurant even if the small would suffice—we have a fear of the extremes, so we go with the middle option.

16. I feel like Buridan’s ass. This is a donkey in a philosophical parable: He’s hungry and thirsty and standing equidistant between a bucket of water and a bucket of food. He dies deciding.

17. Not counting my year of living biblically, the Rationality Project has had the most dramatic, long-lasting effect of all my experiments.

18. Maybe there’s a sense of relief in confession. As I discovered while being radically honest, there’s freedom in keeping no secrets. Throw all the junk on the lawn and hope the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps it’s so I can beat others to the punch. You’re going to make fun of the mole on my nose? I’ve been doing it for years.

19. I do respect Mary-Louise for putting me through photographic hell. Fame is about exposure, whether it’s exposure of your medical records or your past peccadilloes or your onset tantrums. And she decided to give me a lesson in literal exposure. And I give her this: She succeeded in her goal. I can never look at a nude picture the same way. I can still admire a nude photo, but I can no longer separate it from the context in which it was created. I can’t forget, as Mary-Louise put it, the loss of control and possible objectification.

20. In one sense, task-juggling makes me feel great: busy, energized, fulfilled, like I’m living three lives in the space of one.

21. I sit. And sit, staring at the floor in the middle of the circle. I listen to the guy next to me breathe. He’s breathing loudly. Really loudly. Like Darth Vader. With asthma. During heavy fore-play.

22. This is something I notice throughout the day. Whenever Julie says something, my default setting is to argue with her. It’s (usually) not overtly hostile bickering. It’s just affectionate parrying. Verbal jujitsu.

23. Coontz writes that ancient Romans opposed gay marriage not because of homosexuality, which they had no problem with, but because “no real man would ever agree to play the subordinate role demanded of a Roman wife.”

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