The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Spending more time working with coaching clients is fascinating. Now that I've made this decision, it will be quite telling to see what affect it has on me psychologically.


Tananarive is in Florida, taking care of her parents for a week. So Jason and I are having a Boy's Club for a while. Took him to the L.A. Zoo, and saw something horrific: out of the thousands of people there, I didn't see a single attractive body. This was blowing my mind. Everything was lumpy and chunky and squashed together, no one who could outrun a predator or run down a deer. Good lord. I was wondering if it was just me, if somehow my standards had gotten out of hand.

But then yesterday I took Jason to the Children's Museum in Pasadena...and there were the normal bodies. A nice curve of representative humanity, some fit, some not. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. What in the hell is going on? Not sure, but a big chunk of the population at the Zoo was Latino (it's near Downtown L.A.) and I suspect that many of them are recent to America. And the basic rule of the human hind brain? "Eat as much as you can, move as little as possible." And they are recent (and sometimes illegal) immigrants, who moved here for a better life. What's a "better" life? More plentiful/available/affordable food is pretty basic. And not having to expend as many calories to earn it. The result? An explosion of obesity. The folks at the Pasadena museum, I'd bet, have been in America longer (or their ancestors have) so even though the obesity rate is still too high, there have been at least SOME adjustments to the situation.



My coaching clients are diverse. One was born in India, and is having a difficult time finding an appropriate mate. One just lost a fiancee, and is heart-broken. The first guy I can't help directly without knowing more about his cultural values--what he's looking for. The second one is pretty obvious. He is insecure, and has a pattern of projecting greater confidence than he really feels. He hooks up with girls who have some wounds, but are promising. He supports them in healing, and then...they begin to withdraw. In this case, they hadn't had sex in a year, on her withdrawal. To me, a pretty clear indication that her hind brain wouldn't trust him to be a partner in raising children. And he went into a downward spiral of insecurity, leading to them becoming "friends" and her moving out. This pattern has repeated several times. This guy is smart, strong, handsome, and a good human being. But he has major abandonment issues surrounding his father, and has never gone in there and cleaned them up. In other words, he LOOKS like a man, but has no real, deep confidence.

Well, I can empathize with that. I have some major wounds there, and the answer was in not worrying too much about being a "man"--just concentrate on being an adult, and letting my genetics take it from there. In other words, handle the first three chakras: a stable income, ethically satisfying sexual needs, creating a secure nest and learning to deal with predators and fear. Keep your word and speak the truth. That, right there, will grow your ass up pretty fast.

Note: you don't have to face predators or alphas one-on-one. Betas can operate perfectly well by forming alliances with other Betas and standing together, or by electing an Alpha chief and supporting him in resisting the predators. Humanity has understood this for a very long time. We can't all be Alphas (nor do I think it would be healthy--lotsa downsides to being Alphas, unless you are the toughest Alpha around, you get your ass kicked a lot by life) but we CAN all be adults. If we avoid this responsibility, we have no business having children, or engaging in reproductive behavior.


On that...I remembered reading that the age of onset for menstruation for women has dropped from 16 to 12 in the last hundred years. This is catastrophic. The level of maturity it requires to parent a child simply isn't available to a 12 year old. And unfortunately, kids start thinking they are mature before they're out of their damned diapers. This can, and probably has, led to a deteriorating cycle, especially in areas where there are more broken families, or fewer adults taking responsibility. Say...the inner cities, for instance. And anyone arguing for the rights of 12 year olds to have children is either mentally deficient or genocidal.


Coaching Question of the day: what positive purpose is served by your worst bad habit? Trust me, some part of you considers EVERYTHING that you do to be of benefit. If you can identify what your subconscious is trying to accomplish, you can often turn a negative to a positive. So...what is that habit, and what is the positive intent?


Christian Lindke said...

On the positive side. The LA Zoo is a pretty great place to walk if you want to get in shape -- if you can avoid the fast food -- as it's good sized and filled with hilly paths.

Vincent S. Moore said...

For me, procrastination is the bad habit I'm having the hardest time kicking that appears to have positive results in my life. The main reason is that when it comes to my writing, waiting until the last possible moment seems to produce my strongest writing. Which makes developing a continuing daily writing habit an obstacle because part of my mind is always telling me that I "need" the pressure of a last minute deadline in order to write well. When I write daily, my prose feels limp and dull. When I'm crunching to generate a column the night before it is due, my writing feels electric. Any suggestions, Steve?

Mike Ralls said...

Procrastination: the positive intent is to allow something to remain this perfect ideal, instead of grubby it up with reality. Or to not have to suffer the pain of doing something I don't want to do.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'd say that the positive side of procrastination is that if I don't do something for long enough, maybe my husband will do it instead.

Shady_Grady said...

Procrastination is my worst bad habit and allows me to avoid taking greater risks.

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LaVeda H. Mason said...

Over-researching: It allows me a safe way to put off taking an action... after all, "I'm doing research!"

Learning to say, "Enough! Now jump!" has been a sticking point at times.

Mike Ralls said...

Oh, and obesity is a HUGE problem in Mexico. Its rate is second only to the United States, but because they are considerably poorer than we are, it probably effects them worse than it does us (and it hurts us pretty bad);

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

Just when you thought Couples Retreat couldn't punch any more of your buttons


Sorry man.

Marty S said...

It's hard to say which of my bad habits is the worst. I am a very bad procrastinator, but I also have this on time bug that causes me to leave ultra early for everything. This means most of the time I end up being early and arriving places before people are ready.

Anonymous said...

I'm Mexican-American, have Mexican relatives, and teach in Pacoima, one of the most Mexican parts of Los Angeles. While there are exceptions, a consistent regimen of physical training is not exactly normal in the community. Sure - if you're a high school kid on a team, or a boxer, you'll train, but most adults don't maintain these habits, if they ever had them. Also, our food tends to be fattier - pork and lard make very tasty tamales, for example. And my students love junk food and soda as much as any other kid in the U.S. And drinking is very common in Pacoima. Reps of beer curling beers is far more common than doing the same with weights!

When it comes to food quality, it isn't just the availability or cost of fresh produce either. There is a great market near my school, with a very nice produce section. The bakery section seems to get at least as much business though, and the butcher sells fragrant, fried pork rinds and similar delicacies. The Latinos that I know who work out tend to be more Americanized, and more affluent - these things often, though not always, go together. My father-in-law is Mexican and has worked out for much of his life, but he is exceptionally well-educated and has lived in the U.S. since he came here to go to college. He's also a doctor, and knows that physical training is good for him. My wife and I work out regularly, but we're pretty Americanized. Having a bit of money so that we can afford gym memberships or martial arts training certainly doesn't hurt either.

The Latinos that I see at the gym tend to be pretty Americanized. I often can't tell for sure what their ethnicity is, if they don't have strong Indian features or an accent. Many Latinos look Anglo, or like a light-skinned black, or sometimes even a bit Asian. It is an interesting phenomenon, at least to me.


BC Monkey said...

Appropriate of nothing, I have to say that Gahdaffi is one of the most bizzare cases in the world today.

Sometimes I really expect to see him do the Dr.Evil pinky finger to the corner of the mouth gesture.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

The rampant obesity among Latinos may partly be attributable to their largely Native American genetics. Many studies have shown that Amerind communities suffer disproportionately high incidences of obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes. Until just a century ago, Native Americans lived largely pastoral lives where intensive daily exertion was the norm, and subsisted on lean corn and game. This and the high obesity/diabetes incidence suggests that Amerind genetics are ill-adapted to the high calorie, sedentary lifestyle that's the current American norm. I see evidence for this in my own family, which is a mix of Black, White and Amerind. Generally, my more Amerind relatives are noticeably obese and almost invariably suffer early-onset diabetes, while those with more African or European genetics are leaner and overall healthier.

Steven Barnes said...


If you're getting the work done, what difference does it make when you do it?
On the other hand...if the procrastination is costing you balance, peace of mind, or money, then it might become necessary to do something about it. Is that the case? If so, I would suggest some serious introspection. Meditate (for instance) and perform a "Parts Party" seeking the Procrastinative part of your nature. What does it really want? Are there other ways to accomplish the desired goals? Also--try writing one essay "at the last minute" and another one with daily discipline. Get a neutral observer to read both, and get their opinion: which is better? You may be conning yourself.

Steven Barnes said...

Procrastination is cropping up here. I'm gonna jump on that...tomorrow.

bud said...

As an aside - If we postulate that there is a genetic (or cultural- it's hard to separate those influences) component to obesity, how much of the recent "obesity epidemic" (as codified in various statistical studies) is a change in "American" habits, and how much is just an artifact of the very large increase in Mexican immigrants?

And I don't call it procrastination; in my business it's known as the "Wally wait" (See Dilbert).

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"how much is just an artifact of the very large increase in Mexican immigrants?"

Outside on CA, I doubt if Mexican immigration has a significant impact on American obesity rates. Having recently moved to Nashville, TN, from Orange County, CA, I was shocked to observe the sheer ubiquity of morbid obesity in the South. Mexicans are comparatively few in TN, so the epidemic here essentially plagues Blacks and Whites. further, I'm convinced that TN obesity is principally lifestyle-related. Compare CA to TN:

1. Food: Convenience food in CA is often Asian-derived (plentiful rice with sparing meat), whereas in TN, fare such ribs and deep-fry are common.

2. Exercise: Fitness mania rules in Orange County (there's a 24HR or LA Fitness on practically every other mile), whereas gyms are few and far between in Nashville.

3. Smoking and drinking: In CA, smoking's anathema and smokers are stigmatized; in TN, seemingly half the population smokes! For every bar in the OC, there's probably 10 in Nashville.

While I appreciate Steve's observation of rotundness in LA, Californians are frankly superb physical specimens compared to Tennesseans.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

"how much is just an artifact of the very large increase in Mexican immigrants?"

The obvious test for this is to look at diabetes rates for ethnicities other than Mexican, and see whether they're increasing. For example, this URL (, discusses the rate of diabetes (and complications of diabetes) among black people. This rate is higher than the diabetes rate for white people (which could well be at least partly for genetic reasons), but also is increasing (and presumably that part isn't for genetic reasons): "National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) conducted between 1963 and 1990 show that African Americans have a rising prevalence of diabetes." So at least some significant portion of the rise in diabetes rates must be unrelated to any increase in Mexican immigration.

Here's the National Health Interview Survey page:

It could be there's more information at that page about how far the prevalence of diabetes has risen, over what time period, and among which groups. I don't have time before work to dig further, though.