Sunday, May 25, 2008


I generally suffer from an extremely severe case of a fictitious disease which my friend Catherine and I have dubbed "New-York-itis." I also occasionally call it "The Diner-Menu Effect," and it refers to the paralysis that occurs when one is faced with way too many options.

You know... you sit down in a booth at your favorite neighborhood diner, and even though you're really hungry, you have trouble deciding what to eat because the menu is 14 pages long and has 50,000 items on it which, since you are so hungry, all sound good to you. But you don't want to get just anything, you want to get the BEST thing, that one particular food-item which will most perfectly please and nourish you. So you comb through every nook and cranny of the menu, struggling to choose The One Best Answer.

The hungrier you are, the more severe the effect. Of course, the more you peruse the menu, the hungrier you become, not just due to the passage of time, but also due to your very contemplation of the tantalizing offerings, as the last bits of blood-sugar in your system get burned up by the menu-analysis portion of your brain, leaving you in a near-catatonic stupor, unable to choose at all. The waiter comes over to take your order, so in desperation you settle for a cheeseburger deluxe, which you always get, even though you know there was something better suited to your exact desires at that exact moment, if only you could've figured out what it was. The cheeseburger is, of course, perfectly fine, as it always is, and even though eating it does restore brain function and you're able to get on with your life, you still sort of regret having ordered it, especially when you could've gotten the tuna-melt. Or the Mousaka. Or, I hear this place has great soups. Or what about French Toast? Oh god, I forgot to even consider the all-day breakfast options! Oh no. Flatline.

This was always much worse when I was stoned.

Even though everybody has some additional difficulty choosing when there are many more attractive options to choose from, I feel like I have greater difficulty than most. Now, it's not like I'm completely wishy-washy. I can be decisive. But I'm also a perfectionist and an idiot. Okay, let me back up for second... it goes back to when I was born (seriously).

I was born toward the end of the day on May 20, right on the Taurus/Gemini cusp. Astrological folk-wisdom says that if you're born on the cusp between two signs, you will likely manifest traits of both. According to my friend Christina (born May 19), having traits of those two signs, makes us both stubborn and indecisive. So, like... we don't know what we want, but we're unwilling to settle for anything else. Hah. It's pathetic, but that jokey oversimplification describes me to a shocking degree.

As I've gotten older, I've learned to work around (or grown willing/able to simply ignore) those tendencies when it comes many of the routine choices we all face each day, but when I was a little kid, I would agonize over things...

MOM: What's the matter honey?
ME: Nothing.
MOM: Why aren't you eating breakfast?
ME: I can't decide which cereal to have.
MOM: Why not? They're all fine. Just pick one.
ME: But I want the one I WANT!
MOM: Which one is that?
MOM: Here, have Rice Chex.
ME: But--
MOM: You love Rice Chex!
ME: But--
MOM: Count Dookula?
ME: Bu--
MOM: Oat knobs? Special Krap? Bits O' Stuff? Shits 'n' Giggles? Fruit Loogies? Choco-might!? Power Balls? Corn Poneys? Knobby Fruity Corny Corns? Spackle-O's? Rice-boogers? Alpha-dogs? Hitler-brains--
ME: Ma! I know what the cereals are! You aren't helping!

Eventually, I just decided to combine the cereals into SUPERcereals, and thereby not really have to choose between them. Today, I'm having bits-o-special-loogie-cornball-booger-brains!

Of course, the Diner-Menu Effect is by no means limited to food choices. Which is why we also call it "New-York-itis." Present-day New York City offers us vastly more ways to meet every conceivable human need and desire than probably any other place at any other time in human history. A blessing and a curse. We all focus on what a blessing it is. Even I do, most of the time. But when you've got a little cash in your pocket, and you feel like doing something fun with your evening, you have to choose one of the 100,000 interesting things there are to do, any given night of the week. Making matters worse, a full 10,000 of those are things you're personally interested in, and at least 1000 of those are unique events which will never happen again. Agony. Paralysis. When faced with a fresh issue of Time Out, I often circle a ton of stuff and then get woozy and have to go to sleep.

Maybe that's why so many people congeal into subcultures. If you're a Goth deciding what to do on a night out, you don't have to bother even looking at 90% of what's out there. If you only listen to twangy guitar indie-rock sung by reedy-voiced lanky white dudes, you don't have to consider anything going on above 14th street. If you're a vegan orthodox-jewish minimal-glitch-IDM lesbian bird-watcher, you don't have to do anything but blog!

Unfortunately for me, I have eclectic tastes. I've never been able to only like one kind of something the most. With only a few minor exceptions, I enjoy pretty much all kinds of everything. It's exhausting.

Due to recent discoveries about my physical health, my diet has become severely restricted. At first, this was a horrible annoyance. But now that I'm getting used to it, it has totally streamlined my day! The Diner-Menu Effect is no longer a problem in an actual Diner, because right off the bat, I have to cross off the overwhelming majority of what's there. Of course, if you're left with too few options, that's no good either. But so far I've been pretty happy with the food situation.

The part of my existence which is far and away the hardest hit by New-York-itis, is my sex life.

More on that, next time.

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