Like a good earworm, there are some things you hear that you just can’t shake. And that was especially true for us this year when we heard all kinds of insightful, odd and irreverent pieces of information that either fundamentally changed how we looked at the world, or at the very least, gave us something to talk about at parties. Either way, such facts and pieces of advice will be forever lodged in our memory banks. Such as…
There’s A British Academic Who Studies the Practice of Men Spitting in Urinals
It’s not advice per se, but I can’t stop thinking about what I learned when I pitched a story idea so dumb, it’s frankly a miracle that writer Brian VanHooker turned it into something so fascinating. Basically, as a Brit, I wondered why I rarely saw American men spit in the urinal when they peed (all British men do this. ALL OF THEM). I hadn’t even questioned why I did it until I saw other men not doing it. Hence this lofty treatise: “What Is It With Men and Spitting in the Urinal?”
As it turns out, the practice has a long and storied history, but the part that blew my mind was the fact that there’s a British academic who has been studying this topic for years. Having mostly focused on European and Asian men, said academic was utterly disbelieving of the idea that American dudes don’t spit every time they piss, causing VanHooker to spend a good (or perhaps, bad) part of a day lurking in the men’s bathroom in Grand Central Station, watching a hoard of New York commuters urinate, and more importantly, not spit (for the most part).
So the parts I can’t shake are these: A) if you look hard enough, you really can find an expert in just about anything; and B) I come from a nation of needlessly gross toilet-gobbers. It’s always nice to learn something new about yourself. —Nick Leftley, Senior Editor
Putting Your Fork Back Down on the Table Between Bites Will Completely Change Your Relationship With Food — And Stress
This might sound frivolous, but my relationship with food (and stress) was greatly improved when Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, recommended that I simply put down my fork in between bites. Previously, I zoomed through meals, anxious to get on with whatever I was doing before breakfast, lunch or dinner. Not only did such ravenous eating probably mess with my insides, it also meant that I never really enjoyed what I was eating and didn’t use mealtimes as a chance to take a much-needed break from my busy lifestyle. The simple suggestion to put down my fork in between bites, however, has since reminded me not only that I can step away from my computer to eat my goddamn salad, but also that I deserve to do so. — Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer
You’re Allowed to Admit When You Feel Like Shit
It’s easy to believe that the weird things that go on inside my brain are something strange or “wrong” about me. When those moments flare up, I try to remind myself that other people have the same weird hang-ups and insecurities. And in 2018, Andrew W.K. helped me remember because it became part of the conversation we had.
Over the phone, I interviewed the musician to discuss his new album, You’re Not Alone, and early on in our talk, he opened up about how bad he was feeling:
Today has been a real ordeal for me … because I’ve been feeling extraordinarily frustrated and unhappy with how I’ve been describing even what we’re talking about now. That begins to become a vicious cycle too, because the more I try to talk about it, the more frustrated I get at my inability to express myself properly. And then I begin to second-guess what I said, and then I think back to what I said earlier today [in other interviews] and can’t believe that I’m messing up again in the same way. And then I get frustrated — I get sidetracked by these thoughts — and it descends into madness. I have to, at some point, set all that aside and still do the work.
I’ve done a lot of interviews, but that was the first time the person I was interviewing admitted that he was, basically, having a minor freakout — that he was feeling insecure about how he sounded and couldn’t shake the feeling that he was screwing up.
It was such a human moment, but it’s not one I often see in a professional capacity. We all walk around like nothing’s bothering us and that we’re super-awesome-fine 24/7. He was owning up to the fact that that’s a lie. Normally, we’re barely holding it together. It’s a miracle any of us get anything done. — Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor
You Can Shrink Your Ejaculate
I spend a lot of time speaking with urologists. I guess you could call it my beat. That’s why the best piece of advice of I’ve been given this year comes by way of Jamin Brahmbhatt, a certified urologist and MEL’s all-things-dick expert. So what did he say that really stuck with me? If I want my ejaculate to get smaller, the only healthy way to do it is by having more sex. That is all. — Andrew Fiouzi, Staff Writer
Jordan Peterson Has Been Right About At Least One Thing
Reading the various “Bro Bibles” for our summer reading series — you know, the toxic books your worst ex-boyfriend adores — gave me a lot of junk food for thought. They served as compelling advice by way of negative example: Don’t behave like this, and never write this way. Among the worst was the first book I reviewed for the series, Jordan Peterson’s depressingly popular 12 Rules for Life. When he’s not summarizing sections of the Bible or trashing his own therapy patients, Peterson does dole out acceptable (if boring) guidelines for improving the human experience, none of which have much to do with his hostile, reactionary politics. In fact, his best rule is the one that sets him off on a rant about tampons and birth control, and I remember it because it is so divorced from the actual text of the chapter. Ready for it? Here you go: “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.” Still no idea how he got from there to the anti-feminist stuff, but hey, it’s pretty good advice! Keep up the good work, doc. — Miles Klee, Staff Writer
Anarchists Re-Build, Not Tear Down, Communities
I wasn’t sure what kind of so-called “anarchists” I’d meet while reporting my story on the modern world of political anarchy — perhaps some guys who had punched a racist shitbag at a white nationalist rally, or folks who ranted long and hard about the need to dismantle America’s iteration of representative democracy. But anarchists today, many of them young millennials, are fundamentally challenging the way we build and assist our communities — and doing so in exceedingly peaceful ways, “anarchist” misconceptions be damned.
Like the men and women at Trumbullplex, a community in Detroit that offers affordable housing, an arts center and a neighborhood library for all. Or Portland Anarchist Road Care, a squad of masked individuals who venture out into the night to fix potholes where the city has ignored them. Or Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, which fights to empower victims and leaders in disaster areas beyond the strings-attached, politicized financial aid of the federal government. As former British-diplomat-turned-anarchist Carne Ross told me, “What all anarchists have in common is a rejection of one person having power over another. And that’s a profound and important idea for us to wrangle with.” This is especially true, perhaps, amid the banal chaos and narcissism of American politics in 2018. — Eddie Kim, Staff Writer
House Slippers Are the Key to Good Feet, Which Are the Key to a Good Life
“Your feet are filthy,” scolded Glendora Strickland, owner and operator of Ms. Glen’s Therapeutic Manicures and Pedicures, when I presented them to her in March at the beginning of a 90-minute “Ultimate Spa Pedicure” geared toward “feet in need of serious TLC.” Ms. Glen has tended to men’s nasty feet for nearly a half century and explained my filthy paws were typical for a dude. She insisted I stop walking around my apartment in bare feet — something I’ve done all my life — since floors suck all the moisture out and lead to cracked, infected heels (something I’ve also experienced all my life). As directed, I purchased my first pair of house slippers — UGG Men’s Ascot Slipper ($109), which make getting up to pee in the middle of the night (something I’m doing with ever more frequency) a delightful nocturnal jaunt. “Feet are crucial,” Ms.Glen cautioned. “Pay attention to them.” — C. Brian Smith, Staff Writer
The Only Thing Better Than Sitting Down in the Shower Is Holding An Orange While Doing So
Having just quit a job where I tricked myself into thinking I was Very Busy with Very Important Work (I wasn’t, and it wasn’t), I found myself often panicking that I wasn’t being productive — if I wasn’t writing or applying to jobs, I should be working out or logging how much water I’m drinking or doing something. Turns out, doing nothing is actually doing something — advice I learned after interviewing former workaholics and CEOs to fact-check Elon Musk’s weeping claim about working 120 hours a week.
One of the entrepreneurs, Ketan Kapoor, told me that no matter how hard he worked, or how productive he was, an even bigger to-do list awaited him the next day, and the next day, until months had passed and he realized he was barely eating, let alone sleeping or seeing friends and family. His mental health deteriorated, and everything around him followed suit.
So without getting caught up in dogmatic self-improvement thanks to the deluge of internet hustle porn, know that sometimes, the best thing you can do is sit down in the shower, peel an orange, scrub your asshole and do nothing. — Quinn Myers, Staff Writer
Breakup Counseling Is the New Marriage Counseling
I’ve written so much about relationships that I generally never come across anything I haven’t heard about, at least in part. But this year, I discovered two resources I’d never been privy to, and that I still can’t believe I wasn’t aware of. One is something called discernment counseling, which is a process couples who aren’t sure if they want to stay together undergo. Unlike traditional counseling, it’s not meant to save the relationship; it’s only meant to help you decide if there’s anything worth saving. It’s forced me to think about how many people likely go through marital or couples counseling only to end up frustrated and guilty about wanting to split, when they could’ve saved everyone the trouble in the first place.
The second resource is I had no idea there is therapy to help you decide if you want to become a parent. So many people struggle with the decision, and the biggest myth about that struggle is that it’s a decision you should make as a couple. Interviewing Ann Davidman, who works quite a bit with men who aren’t sure about fatherhood, showed me that each individual person should arrive at their own feelings about parenting and not let those be swayed by anyone.
Last but not least: I learned in interviewing spider expert Rod Crawford that some spiders are actually supposed to live inside, and that they’re called house spiders because they’ve never lived outside in their lives. So if you find a spider inside and feel tempted to “save it” by shooing it out the door, you’re probably sending it to certain death. Crawford says you should simply wave at it instead. — Tracy Moore, Staff Writer
Winning Is Indeed Everything — Especially to Toddlers
I do a lot of parenting pieces here, but one that still sticks with me is when I looked into a study at Aarhus University that found that toddlers as young as 18 months prefer winners over losers. As I was learning more about this study, I decided to ask the professors who conducted it if a toddler’s preference for winners may carry over to their relationships with their parents, and if they may prefer the “winner” of the couple over the “loser.” While it wasn’t within the scope of their study, one of the cognitive science professors who conducted it speculated that this may indeed relate to the parents as well. One way that this might manifest itself, she said, would be during a disagreement between the parents. Naturally drawn to the winner, the toddler would likely side with the parent who they perceive as the winner in that relationship.
As a father of a three-year-old, I got to thinking about the times I’ve heard my child say, “Daddy, you’re wrong, mommy is right,” when we’re arguing in front of her. We try not to fight in front of our kid, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and on those occasions that we do disagree, I’d say that my daughter takes my wife’s side at least 90 percent of the time.
So yeah, the expert advice that stuck with me this year is that I’m a total loser. Go me. — Brian VanHooker, Contributing Writer