Ventral Striatum Stimuli

“Do you know any jokes?” – “I know one, but I forgot how it goes”. This conversation is always the same with me.  It’s annoying. I have so much useless information stored in my brain. I’m not saying a joke would contribute to the useful side, but I’d rather be able to tell a joke than list all cast members of Two Broke Girls. Or Baywatch. Or Community. All cancelled. But who knows when those might come in handy… I’ll keep them in a dusty drawer for now, just in case.

Did you know that comedy and horror are closely related? For one, in both genres, the viewer looks toward the protagonist to overcome a difficulty over the course of the movie, relatable to real life. Also, if you watch those around you if you’re not jumpy during a horror movie (like me), people usually scream, followed by a relief of laughter. We could get into the whole social function of comedy and laughter, but it would take a bit longer. The “relief theory” is quite intriguing.

But this only on the side (and in an attempt to justify my love for horror and comedy without outcasting myself). What makes me laugh and slap my knees or any knees that are available to me:

5: Any kind of comedy really. Louis C.K. is currently one of my favorites. It’s gotten so far that I’m expecting him to make me laugh and when five minutes go by and I haven’t, I’m just waiting for it… But he rarely disappoints. Physical comedy as conveyed by Jim Carrey, the late John Ritter or Robin Williams appeal to my comedic understanding like no other. I love going to comedy clubs for the entire evening experience and admire the artists for not being afraid of judgement whatsoever… Most probably are, but they’re doing a very fine job concealing/ dealing with it.

4: I’ve been looking for a certain location in LA for a few years now… four years, to be exact. For a photo! A photo that everyone has probably already taken, but I want one too, damnit! I’ve been searching whenever I saw photos taken from that location and finally figured out where it is. The photographers don’t like to reveal that spot because it is pretty sweet, and so I’ll keep the peace as well. Since I’m not there right now, and it was bugging the heck out of me, I asked a local LA friend for advice. It sounded a little bit like this: “Watch ‘Falling Down‘ with Michael Douglas… No… No… watch ‘Falling motherf*cking Down‘ with Michael Douglas””. It made me laugh out loud because it showed so much passion and conviction and was just so natural. It wasn’t the location though… but I see where he got it from.

3: Plays on words always get me. As do bad puns. In that sense, I’m a 70-year-old grandpa who desperately tries to reconnect with his grandkids through bad jokes. Exchanging the first letter of each word (which I do all the time without intention… but people don’t find this funny, it really is just me I’m afraid). I normally keep this to myself… for a reason ;).

2: Seeing or hearing other people laugh. It’s contagious. If someone has a very deep and hearty laugh, you just can’t help but chime in.

1: Whose Line Is it Anyway: I know, it should be part of number 5, but it totally deserves its own category. I adore Ryan Stiles. He doesn’t even have to say anything and my eyes start filling up with laughter tears. All performers’ timing, intonation, humor and general attitudes are just so on point. They never disappoint.

I like “clean” comedy. My friend (the one from number 4) wants to send me to see Bob Saget… I don’t think I can handle it. But I survived Tim Allen at the Laugh Factory… And I’ll watch him once more any old day, gladly. Can’t wait to hit the clubs again.

PS: The ventral striatum is the part of our brain mainly responsible for comedic understanding and laughter.

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 24: Post 5 things that make you laugh out loud

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The Paper Towel Incident

With the pace I’m holding, I’ll hopefully be done with this challenge by the end of the year. But really, I promise to be better. I truly want to write, but like a lot of writers (maybe all?), I am completely self-conscious about “just writing”. I’m still somewhat optimistic about this being resolved once I write more often, so here we go.

I’ve always wondered if there are different sized gowns at the doctor’s office, and if everyone knows which ones to hand to whom. For example, if your upper body needs to be examined, are you supposed to completely undress? And is it supposed to open in the front or in the back? Is it different for men and women? I have so many questions because I think I have an idea about how to put on the gown, but always seem to get it wrong.

My recent visit to my OBGYN’s office reminded me why. As I sat there in the cold plastic chair, waiting for the nurse to enter my latest information in the system and confessing that this is her second week on the job, she prompted me to undress and cover myself with the fashionable paper gown (open in the front). I did. It didn’t cover nearly enough though. I have to add that this is not a true OBGYN’s office, but a general physician’s building, so an examining chair may point in the direction of a connecting door here. I made sure to stand behind the door and not move into the compromising examining position just yet.

My general physician, a Cuban-American lady in her 50’s perhaps, opens the door and as usual, didn’t remember me. “So, you’re Lena, right?” – ­”Mm hmm”, I nodded while she breezed right past me in her high heels to look at the computer information – my paper gown swaying lightly in the wind as she passed me.

As I proceeded to lay down, I held my bathroom towelette dress shut and shimmied over to the examining table. For those of you who have not had the experience of a full paper gown, the purpose of it is that the doctor first examines your lower body while then proceeding to the upper body, and that one half is always covered and you don’t feel like a complete imbecile. That’s not how it happened though. By the way, a nurse is always in the room with an OBGYN so that you cannot claim that the doctor did something that they weren’t supposed to do, if you catch my drift (literally). Normally, they stand by your head or upper body and don’t stare at things that are none of their business. But who am I to define what is their business?!

After the doctor examined me and took all the samples that she needed, gravity won against my paper gown and I lay there sort of like a chicken without its feathers, feeling exposed as I was. The doctor didn’t hesitate for too long (just long enough for me to be cold and a tad more embarrassed) and reached down in a compartment to pull out a very large body­-sized paper towel and sort of lay it over me as if I was a dead bug. “You must be cold”­ – “Mm­hmm”.

After the exam, you usually do not get a lot of privacy to get dressed again (if any at all). Kind of like after going to bed with someone. While you’re getting dressed, you’re not really worried about them seeing you naked because they just did. So you just walk around, use the bathroom and put on the clothes that you find. I didn’t walk around the doctor’s office naked while looking for a bathroom, but as I shuffled back to the plastic chair that held my clothes (you always shove your underwear under your other clothes when putting them on the chair, right?), I felt like I had nothing to hide anymore. My doctor informed me that if I didn’t hear from her, I should just come see her in a few months for a follow-­up. I’m fairly certain that I won’t remember how to put on the paper gown for my next pap. That’s ok though… she probably won’t remember my name either.

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 11: “I’ve always wondered…”

Sometimes I Wander

There are three pieces of paper in front of me. I’ve been wanting to redesign them for a week now. I have some ideas, but I’m afraid that I might design something that is absolute crap. And then I’ll have to try again. Like everyone else. How dare I…

My half marathon training plan is located to my right. I revised it several times since it didn’t match the original version and I’m squeezing in a few more runs and races. I like running, but I hate it. When I run slowly, I feel like I could be going faster and I want to accelerate. If I go fast, I feel like I can’t keep up with myself, my breathing, my legs. I did some research on what happens in your body when you’re training. It helps, but you still have to do the work, no matter what’s going on in you.

I wander to a place where I find comfort. I’m back in LA. Way too often than I should be and than is probably good for me. It provides comfort. It’s home and I will always come back here when I feel like I need to be here… even if it’s just in my head for now.

I should be working on my website, on my business, on a research paper that I’d like to write. On an article idea that’s growing underneath all that worrying. After my internship in LA a few years back, I returned to my University to finish some classes, and I was always looking forward to our InDesign/ Desktop Publishing class. Finally, I was able to be creative and was given the tools to actually purge what was going on in my head. It has been a while, but I’m revisiting that place now and learning about design, composition, etc. It’s a great outlet to finally put some creativity to work.

I recently read a quote that pretty much hits my personal nail on the head: “If you want to know where your heart is… Look where your mind goes when it wanders”.

I’ve done some research on the topic, and it turns out that there is an entire science behind the wandering mind. I didn’t want to get into it too much since my assignment for today is “just” getting these words on paper in form of a blog entry, but I find it fascinating. One hypothesis is “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”, which contradicts our previous quote (source). With a bit more research, I found this article, which claims that as much as we hope that our daily distractions keep us happy, scientific data says “they don’t”. Further, it is stated that “just like the wise traditions teach, we’re happiest when thought and action are aligned, even if they’re only aligned to wash dishes.” Of course, I’d be happier if I was thinking about LA IN LA. Then again, my mind probably wouldn’t wander there because the desire would be fulfilled, so there would be no need to wander. The science behind happiness and a wandering mind seems to be a whole other chapter now.

The good news, according to another source is that there are benefits to mind wandering. I’d like to provide the following quote from the aforementioned article:

“More to the point, mind-wandering is the by-product of two important mental capacities: the ability to disengage from perception (ignoring something that’s present), and the ability to engage in “meta-awareness” (focusing on our own thoughts). People who exercise both those capacities more regularly tend to have a more restless mind, which research has shown is linked to creativity.”

Having read a few arguments for both sides, I do identify with having a restless mind, and I like to consider myself creative. I don’t believe that a wandering mind is a negative habit as long as it’s not linked to a mental illness; that’s where my creative and believing nature is stronger than the side of me that desires to find scientific evidence. I also know that believing is seeing, so whatever helps me to believe and see, I will help my mind wander there whenever appropriate.

 

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 9: “The thing I do most often when I’m supposed to be doing something else is…”

That same ol’ Christmas song

‘Tis the Season. I’ve been waiting all year. Haven’t we all?! Pre-Halloween up to January 3rd is the best time of the year. Especially for me… basking in the land of Christmas in November and December. Germany thought it was already overdoing it with their gingerbread hearts in the supermarket shelves by the end of October. But they haven’t seen American customs and traditions (or thought the  movies are a joke). You can basically get Christmas stuff all year round – you just have to know where to look.

It really is my time of the year. You’d think I’d be the happiest little camper on earth. I woke up this Monday morning, roof over my head, steady paycheck coming in, lemon pound cake on my lap while driving to work in my little Smartie car, Grande Chestnut Praline Latte beaming in my cup holder and me – singing to the best of KOST 103.5 Christmas songs all damn day long. Lemon pound cake crumbs still hanging from the sides of my mouth. Who cares. My whole caloric intake was covered by breakfast alone and the sugar high would last well until 11 am. That’s when I crash.

In the meantime, instead of feeling happy and grateful, I feel fat and worthless, staring at that little crumb left on my lap. I haven’t found my place yet. Physically, yes (well, put the calories aside – I do work out a lot, so objectively speaking, I’m allowed to eat crap once in a while, and I will do so until… ), until when? “What’s it gonna take?” Is what I thought before meeting up with my personal trainer for the second time. The first time, he chatted me up while I was jogging outside, suggesting we should meet up. I honestly thought he was hitting on me, and he was sort of cute, so why not. In the end, I should’ve realized by the bling and fist bumps he was giving other people that he was looking to make money with his services. Can’t blame him. I’m just not the person to render them to him.

Either way, things would turn out differently in the end anyway, as they so often do.

I was supposed to go on a date this weekend. With a man I had met a couple of times before. I had decided to take a break (and he didn’t seem to object), because… well, there was no “oomph” the first few times we met. There was attraction, but no butterflies. It could’ve been alright; we could live happily ever after – if I was a different person. I liked this guy. Otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to see him again. He stood me up. Sort of.

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He made me look forward to the weekend. As I mentioned in previous posts, I don’t go out too much, so when a guy that you’re even remotely interested in asks you to go dancing, you throw on those dancing shoes. I almost bought a pair of semi-leather pants I can’t even afford. Glad I didn’t. I sent him a text asking him when to be ready, when he informed me that he forgot that his cousin was in town and I should bring a friend. Great. My friends are either pregnant (I’m not kidding- all of them!!), live abroad, are much older than I am or guys… Oh my G, I totally should’ve brought a guy!! So in-between the mid-life crisis of not even seeing a prospect of giving grandchildren to my mom and finding my place in the working world, I am left telling the guy “Sorry, I have no eligible date-friends”. That kind of settled it. That and that short-coming aspect of his not worth mentioning, but which I already mentioned to my friends (yes, girls talk). It’s just not gonna work out.

The personal trainer, right… He stood me up as well. Not even a text. I had had it. I, in my German formal and calm manner (“annoyingly efficient”, someone once described me… as I throw Doritos in my Chili), I asked him what was wrong with him. I waited, he didn’t show, what’s the deal? He responded shortly after that his icloud had been hacked and all his contacts were gone (it’s really hilarious how this same exact thing had happened to someone I was seeing earlier this year). Apologetically, he tried to reschedule (definitely a personal trainer)… But he doesn’t need me. I will give it a chance – because I (!!) deserve it and I can’t afford him anyway, but the first lesson is usually not as intense anyway. It’s more of a psychology thing to reel the customer in. I know – I’ve got all my PT and life coach licenses. Just how to use them on myself… remains a mystery.

Since I’ve been here, it’s the same thing every year: I’ve felt selfish for being here, because I’m following my dream. Whatever that is. I’ve given up (for now) celebrating the Christmas season (and the holiday) with my family for being here alone. And I get stood up… But maybe it’s better this way. A friend of mine once said (he said it several times – whenever I had a lack-of-relationship crisis) that I seem to dodge the bad ones over and over, and that I should cherish the time I have to myself. It’s been very difficult to take his advice, but I would rather be alone than with hope in people who keeps standing me up – be it a professional Personal Trainer or a potential further date. I’m here for a reason, and I will find out why. Even if it takes five Christmases…

 

Whatever you do…

… don’t park underneath the cherry tree!

There’s a drought in Southern California. In every way possible. We cannot buy bottled water without feeling guilty, let alone wash a dusty car. Which is pointless anyway because it would be waking up in a cloud of dirt the next day if you park in the street (like me). I’m happy to have my car… not willing to pay almost $200 per month for a parking spot though. So I gladly take the circling around the block and the dust cloud in the morning.

After a good two months of getting my car, I decided, he must be washed. I’m a clean person and everything that goes with me must be at least mildly clean. I really did a good job and held on for two months. A long-time friend of mine, who has his own driving empire (not Uber, but something alike), was well prepared. He literally said to me “save the $20 bucks, I’ll clean your car at my place”… A new pick-up line I wasn’t aware of, apparently.

We went to his place (outside parking spot… please!!). He whipped out the duster, a non-static cleaning towel(let) and started cleaning my car. I was impressed… at first. My car was sparkling. Except the tracings of random bird droppings (on a black car) and of course the rims don’t magically clean themselves without soap and water. I drove off in a dust free, yet semi-clean car.

And I got to thinking… People do this to you all the time. They half-ass you. They try, but in the end, you’re being half-assed. That’s what they do. They promise you one thing (or you think they do), and you get half of that, done half way… so it’s a mere quarter, really.

Let’s take this random idea: You’re single and dating in Los Angeles. Wild guess: You’re attracted to someone’s online profile, yet they look nothing like it in reality… or they described themselves in a way that made them look better than they are. It’s quite disappointing and deceiving. I’ve been out with some guys from a popular dating site… and most of their complaints evolve around women lying.

No joke… So once you’re about 30 minutes into the date and you run out of natural things to talk about, you go “so, how’s your experience with this xy website?”… and you respond “yea, you know… I don’t expect much, but thought I’d give it a try… How about you?” … and you didn’t realize the can of worms you just tapped into. Turns out, guys are really pissed about girls lying about their age and weight.. and this seems to be a major issue.

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Understandably so… Why do women feel that they have to lie about their age and weight? Something must’ve told them at some point that their weight is not acceptable or that their age would not get them the audience they had hoped for.

I personally believe everybody lies on their online dating profile… you have to… If you want to attract what’s not meant for you… Because you think you’re not meeting the minimum you’re hoping for. The important detail is not to lie about the essential, underlying things. Like your looks, age, weight, education, job, income. Talk about your job or your income for all I care, but don’t pretend you’re making 100,000 a year and then come out and confess you’re barely making minimum wage in a shipping facility (just sayin’).

Don’t post pictures from 10 years ago, 20 pounds lighter, and show up to the date two kids later, with stretch marks, and bags under your eyes. The disappointment will be quite evident. If you think you won’t attract anyone… or anyone special, just be courageous, and be yourself anyway. It’s the only way of finding your match (or one of many matches). Even if it takes a lifetime.

On my last encounter, my date had told me that one of his previous dates had contracted a non-terminal disease, but since it’s non-terminal, their opinion was “you can share it”. Needless to say I sat there with my jaw on the table (no worries, this was a public situation, innocent non-alcoholic drinks and nowhere near an intimate get-together). One of the previous women he had dated was bisexual and had contracted the disease from another woman (or so they said).

You know, this takes all the fun out of the whole dating-game. I had just come around going out again and meeting different people (there aren’t even any second dates at this time, let alone intimate secrets or bed-time), but just hearing about how filthy people are takes all the fun out of getting to know them. How much lying there is going on- it’s really appalling. And how much I’ve really tried to cover up my facial impurities to perfection in order to please someone who is happy to have gotten out of an STD situation… priceless.

Which brings me back to the drought in California. I finally convinced myself to spend the $10 bucks and have my car hand-washed (on a Monday… half price!). It’s all shiny and new. They even vacuumed it. Something you can do with your profile and your car, but only you know what it used to look like…

I drove home and was almost ecstatic to find a parking spot close to my house at this hour. I parked, locked the car and walked home. Little did I realize, I parked underneath a cherry tree. A couple of months ago, I parked underneath a conifer. The next day, I had been surprised with a windshield full of tree gum. This night, I parked under the cherry tree… no gum!

Just like your online dating profile, you can clean up your car, make it look all nice and shiny and new, but if you park underneath a cherry tree… you will get pooped on. That’s a guarantee! And it’s not even the regular black-and-white poop… it’s the one with the cherry stones that drop onto your roof like rocks, and the red residue that just eats itself into your car paint. So make an effort: Clean up (yourself, your profile and your car), care for yourself (your profile and your car), be considerate (of yourself, others, and your car), most of all: have fun, be smart and whatever you do… please… don’t park underneath the cherry tree!

Well, I never

None of us are free of judgment. I think the greatest compliment I’ve ever received was from a Spanish roommate I had in Madrid. She described me to her friend on the phone and said “she’s cool – she’s one of the few people who doesn’t judge”. I liked that. I thought about it, and I didn’t believe it was true, but perhaps it is.

It’s easy to judge others, forming our opinion of someone’s clothes, way of talking, walking, looking, anything. We’ve never walked a day in someone else’s shoes, and maybe that’s a good thing. It makes us use our brains and understanding a bit more. It all goes back to the nature vs. nurture topic. Do we learn to judge? Are we like Maybelline and just born with it?

I decided to get a tattoo when I was 18. I thought I would never… I was always the good girl, afraid to go out of the ordinary. Or do something that I may be punished for. Something wrong. But it felt right. The tattoo depicts an angel with devil horns. It’s more than the conglomerate of good and evil – it actually means ying and yang. The fact that every situation, no matter how bad and hopeless it seems, has something positive – something we can learn from. And that every person, no matter how good they seem, how perfect their lives, their looks, their talks may be… they have their horns. And it’s good that way. Perfect imperfects belong to everyone.

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I think we judge to compare – to see if we are still “ok”. If we are “with it”. If we can measure up. Otherwise it’s simply observing (no feelings, just facts). Judging is not a bad thing unless we turn it into an action such as bullying, which is one of the lowest forms of being. Treating someone as if they were of less value than you or made less perfect than you is simply unacceptable and will haunt you one way or another – you won’t even see it coming.

Sometimes, it’s difficult not to judge. You are overcome by the amount of stupidity, thoughtlessness and simple carelessness of some people. But you’re not them. You don’t know what they’ve been through. No, they had no right to talk to you like that or to treat you that certain way, and you should definitely always stand up for yourself. However, judgment has nothing to do with how others treat you. It’s only how you perceive yourself in the presence of others. Do you feel threatened? Jealous? Envious? Sad? Or the opposite? Superior? Better looking? Richer? Well, good for you… take it in, leave it at that.

Well, I never thought I would write about judging. A good friend of mine studies law in Germany – I think it took her nearly ten years to complete (not sure if she’s even done now at 30). I admire her. Judging on a professional level seems impossible to me. But then again, I never thought I’d write about judging.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

They say it’s imitation. I’m more offended when someone imitates me -like they’re trying to take something away from me. It goes back to those cruel kindergarten days when imitation would involve pointing fingers and laughing behind a hand held to your mouth while someone else walks your walk or talks your talk. I’m not saying I’ve never done it – we all have. It’s that feeling of belonging. The group/peer pressure that shows you, you’re part of “them”, “it”, whatever.

To me, the sincerest form of flattery is something unexpected. It’s different for every occasion: you can have a terrible day, scuffle to the grocery store in your sweat pants after a workout, feel disgusting and uncomfortable, and the guy who packs your groceries just smiles and says “I always love how fit you are”.

It’s something that you don’t expect of yourself. The way you never see yourself. Of course there are also those who always see themselves as perfect, but I also believe that it’s a facade. Nobody can be 100% happy and satisfied with themselves all the time. And if they are, I applaud them. At the same time, they have nothing more to strive for. This little nick (or big breach) of imperfection keeps you going. After you sat down, wallowed in self-pity or anger for someone who has done you wrong or something bad happened that you couldn’t control, you think about what you can do better.

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It’s the person asking you if you want to step ahead in line since you’re by yourself. Or someone taking a genuine interest in how your day has been.

The woman who’s walking her dog on a busy street after work, and she’s smiling at you – not afraid or anxious to see if you’d approve or smile back. She just does it.

The guy taking a chance because he feels like it. He’ll take that new job, go on a date with a person who’s not his type or leave work early to be with his friends/ do something fun.

We all have expectations (which can be a killer, but also a motivator on how to do things better or differently in the future) – but acting without expecting anything in return (like a smile) and brightening someone’s day (by letting them cut in line or giving them the right of way on the freeway although it’s clearly not their turn) – that, to me, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Paint the Town

Ever wondered what it’s like to go out in Hollywood as a single 30-something? Don’t… I did this for the sake of research (really) and am still somewhat confused. The expression “paint the town” doesn’t really go for Hollywood. You paint nothing. You just stand there with your brush and expectations feeling like an idiot.

In a mere moment of mental derangement and in an attempt to peel myself off the couch, socialize, mingle and tear myself away from Netflix, I decided, I must go out. I have a group of German gals to hang out with and, perhaps, when things become unbearable, at least I thought we can put it into our own cultural thoughts and opinions (mind you: we all live here now and left our country for different reasons ;) ).

I was invited to a night out at a club in Hollywood. The girls organized the meet-up and reassured me that everything was taken care of by a promoter. Drinks, entry, body-scan and judgmental looks are absolutely free of charge, you just have to wear a short dress. Well there goes my bikini-body-attempt number 32 (yes, I’ve been trying since I was born). I own exactly 4 dresses – one of them I grew out of (“grew” being the operative word… I like to see it as “I trained myself out of it”), the other one reminds me of a terrible networking event I once went to and the remaining two are Sunday-wavy-beach-dresses.

No chance of turning back now. I threw on a little black dress, held my breath for three hours and walked down Hollywood Boulevard in sit-down shoes (high heels that are mainly meant to sit and look nice in… plus, the whole longer legs thing… the dress, remember?!).

I was early. Surprised? :D

I waited in the lobby of the W Hotel, our meeting point, and spotted two familiar faces about twenty minutes later (there’s only so many times you can refresh your facebook feed to keep you busy). Honestly, I already felt like a hooker in my dress, sitting in a hotel lobby, trying not to judge those that walked by me. The girls looked stunning… as did the other teenag… I mean, 21-year-olds that entered the lobby, dressed in nothing but their underwear. I’m kidding. I’m sure they spent lots of shopping afternoons and their parents’ hard-earned money for the dresses and somebody at some point must have told them in an abandoned H&M, “you absolutely HAAAVEEE to get this “dress” “. I saw things that I don’t ever want to see again. And finally it dawned on me what I had gotten myself into: Hollywood nightlife. For 21-year-old me. 11 years too late.

The promoter lead us from the hotel to the club (strange- I always thought it was the other way around) and we got to pass by everyone else, show our ID’s (hahahahaha) and enter this dark room of terrible noise. At least there is no smoking, so the air was fairly breathable.

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We, the beautiful, sexy, audience-engaging audience were draped on top of a sofa (why sit ON the sofa? Seems irrelevant) for a group photo. Which website exactly it was released on, I’m not so sure of. Drinks were passed around (I was driving, so I had juice – well, sugar water), and the club started to fill. 20-somethings everywhere. I felt old… oh God, did I feel old. Then the men entered… 40-somethings looking for a good time, the one who actually approached me was gay.

Then my friend, a 20-something, who had done this before, directed my attention to my right and explained to me”Oh, and that’s the waitress”.

– “Which one?”, I screamed over the music.

-“The one with the garter belts”.

Pause.

She shot me an expectant look.

I burst out laughing. And I didn’t even need a drink for that.

Just considering the circumstances, it was too hilarious not to just enjoy the moment. 80% of the club was female. The only guys were some of the boyfriends, the bouncers, the DJ’s and the actual performance act (tonight it was supposed to be Chris Brown, but more on that later)… and not to forget, the gay guy.

The girls lead me onto the dancefloor (I really am not a big fan of rap music, but what can you do)… two Japanese girls were offended by our dancing next to them and decided to Britney-Spears-crazy-perform and shoot us dirty looks. Meanwhile, I only spotted bra-less breasts in halter tops and bare butts in too-short-skirts bouncing left and right. Do their parents know about this?

Oh boy, I need to get out more. Did we dress like that 10 years ago? Probably… same, same, but different. I felt like Jaime Lee Curtis in “Freaky Friday” when she had miraculously switched bodies with Lindsay Lohan, looks at herself in the mirror in surprise and exclaims “Oh, I’m like the Crypt Keeper”. (Forward to 2:05 in the clip).

Yep. Exactly the same.

After an hour on the dancefloor, I looked at my phone, listened to my feet, and decided, it was time to go. The crowd started to get much more dense, and I’m really not a fan of crowds. Forgot about that minor detail when I rsvp’d. Oh, and I do not care for Chris Brown. I’ll let another pair of breasts and butts take over my spot.

I excused myself from the girls, thanked them for the opportunity, but admitted, it was really not my place.

And so I took my Stuart Weitzmans, wobbled (with class) to my car parked a little way back on Hollywood Blvd., and wondered what the other 30-something singles in LA are doing right now. It’s Tuesday, so they’re probably doing what every normal 30-something would do – curling up on the couch, glass of wine, netflix or a book. Done.

I really wish I had contemplated more or made it more dramatic, but all I could think of on the way back was how much my feet hurt and how not worth it it was to go out that night. Perhaps it was. It was just reassuring to know that I’m absolutely not missing a thing if I keep on doing what I’m doing, and that you can be fabulous and attract the right kind of people doing exactly what you’re doing. And staying true to yourself. Or finding new friends. I’ll see how that goes.

A moment in your day

I was curious to see how the company works that organized some of the events I have been attending, so I decided to volunteer for them. I got to meet some very cool people, and for the first time, had a walkie-talkie attached to my belt and an ear-piece in my ear to be able to communicate with the rest of the team. That in itself made my day. I ended up directing traffic, which I had never done before, and it was everything I expected it to be :D. Really.

I mean, people know where to go. At some point, I was just having fun with it – directing them to one parking lot or another (“das verdammte Ding passt :D “), and eventually, the lot was full and the sun started to set. So there I was, standing in a dark parking lot without a flashlight, and directing… well, nothing really.

But I went around the corner to discover a magical view of Downtown Los Angeles and a sunset behind the palm trees. That and the walkie-talkie made this experience completely worth it.

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Follow your nose

Scents have this incredible power to bring us back to a snapshot of the past. They leave a good or bad impression when we meet someone new. And they help us to avoid bad situations that we associate with equally bad memories. Have you ever noticed how if you’re not on the same frequency as another person, you also can’t smell them or their smell is unpleasant to you? It’s not a coincidence. Our sense of smell works in an incredible way to help us attain a better judgment, when head and heart are at war (it happens), among other things.

The odor molecules that we breathe in (yes, absolutely everything in our world is made up of molecules), pass receptor cells in our body which then generate an impulse (http://bit.ly/1EYOSZy). A couple of steps and an olfactory nerve later, the impulse(s) pass the smell information to the olfactory bulb which is responsible for processing the signal. All of these stages are linked to the parts of our brain that feel, judge, and remember.

Smell and memory are thus closely linked. According to some sources, they are even more connected than any other two senses. Smells evoke emotions, which may lead to actions. This is what the perfume industry counts on with their marketing strategy. We’re essentially being manipulated– surprise! According to them, you can be a sexy man-eating vamp, an innocent flower-girl enjoying the summer breeze on a swing hung from a tree (too vivid?), a virile power house in a 2009 Mercedes SLR (think black and white) or coolness personified, riding a horse and smell like the reincarnation of the Marlboro man (without a side of smoke). Fascinating. Still, if you’ve noticed – the same scent has a different note on each person – ah, the beauty of individuality.

Floral scents are actually mood-manipulators, according to a research study at the University of Pennsylvania (http://bit.ly/1mPRPhi). It found that due to our better mood as a result of smelling flours, our memory is actively searching for a connection in its dusty shelf to match that mood. Furthermore, they found that floral odors can not only make you happy, but as a consequence, they promote social interaction. Now don’t go running to the next Sephora in search for last year’s Kenzo. Your choice of smell may evoke a reaction in others that you may not have intended – at the work place, for instance. In a different study, results showed that male co-workers devalued the candidate’s job related activities when they wore perfume (http://1.usa.gov/1zNHNLf).

The smell of a spiced pumpkin candle can be overwhelming. Or in my case, it makes me feel at home. Since I have a strong affinity to Halloween and Christmas, I place all smells that I remotely associate with these holidays in my comfort zone. I also decide very quickly if I like a person or not based on their smell. Very rarely does a person not have a smell to them – and it’s up to your brain to decide whether it’s a GO or a NOOOOO…. but you will KNOWWW (sorry, I’m on a roll)!

The sensation of nostalgia and smell being linked is basically due to our learning process. Pavlov’s classic bell and saliva generation. We’ve been trained in a certain way to associate memories with a smell. “It’s often said that a person is the sum of their memories. Your memory and recall is what makes you who you are” (http://bit.ly/19iu81z). Of course, the human memory system is more complicated than just the sum of the smells it has once inhaled. The olfactory-evoked recall is what we call a memory evoked by a scent, and idealized in that sense (http://bbc.in/1dOJqyv). We drown out the negative memory because the smell we remember was filtered through our memory and eliminated:  poof – bad memory be gone.

It’s all the nicer that we can create new memories with new smells right now – being in a certain situation for the first time, meeting a person for the first time, visiting a place for the first time. All of these first times may be future memories that your brain will remember. And while you inhale that day’s memory,  you just think to yourself “Oh, as if it were yesterday”.