Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 15th, 2019

Why do men have such a difficult time maintaining friendships?

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David McGinn writes in the Globe & Mail:

In the fall of 2017, after nearly 15 years of marriage and two kids, my wife and I separated. It was the most painful time of my life, but those words don’t do it justice, really. We’d been together for most of my adult life; I was 25 years old when we met, 31 when we had our daughter, 34 when we had our son. Now, at the age of 40, I was alone.

I remember the night we sat out on our porch, the night when words were put to what I had feared for a long time – it was over. The kids were asleep upstairs in a house I thought we would all live in together for years to come. The entire future I had taken for granted was suddenly gone, replaced by questions I couldn’t answer: How were we going to tell the kids? How could I tell my parents? What was life going to be now? I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep for weeks. At work, I was a mess, trying to write, yet only thinking that my life had shattered into pieces that I couldn’t put back together.

I knew, on some level, that it would help to talk to someone about what I was going through, but months after my wife and I broke up, I still hadn’t told my close friends. These were guys who, in some cases, I’d known since junior high. On those rare occasions when we got together, our conversations would revolve around the same, predictable questions: How’s it going? What’s new at work? How’s the family? In turn, we’d each give the usual, curt answers: Fine. Okay. All good. Behind those answers my friends might have been experiencing real moments of crisis – ailing parents, estranged siblings, failing marriages. But our answers revealed nothing. We’d sip our beer, watch the football game and go home.

I didn’t want to talk about it with my family, either. I didn’t want to see the look on their faces when I told them. I didn’t want to worry my parents. I didn’t want my brother to feel bad for me. I didn’t want to admit the whole messy failure. I tried to deal with it on my own, but, eventually, after waking up in the middle of the night so many times with so much on my mind, I reached a point where I could no longer deal with my feelings alone. I needed to talk to someone.

I called my friend Paul, who I’ve known since we were gangly teenagers, playing video games and drinking beer in my parents’ garage. As we got older, our friendship changed – instead of video games, we went, along with other friends, on a golf trip each year, and we played pick-up basketball regularly until I broke my foot and retired. He’s one of the few close friends who still lives in Toronto, the rest having moved out to the suburbs with their families years ago.

We met at a dark, quiet bar on Bloor Street on the west side of Toronto. Over pints of beer, he asked me what was going on. As much as I had been trying to hide it for months, he must have known something was wrong. I told him everything – how my marriage had collapsed, how confused I was, how scared I felt.

There was an awkward pause.

I worried I had saddled him with something he didn’t want to talk about, didn’t want to know. I worried that I had asked him for something he might be too uncomfortable to give – sympathy, understanding, whatever it was I needed in that moment. Instead, he told me how sorry he was, and proceeded to give his thoughts on how I should handle the situation: how to talk to my ex; how to be there for the kids and make sure they were okay, even if I was not; how to take care of myself. It was surprisingly good advice, and I told him as much. He laughed. He knew what he was talking about, he said, because he’d been through more than 100 hours of marriage counselling. This was news to me. How come he’d never told me? It’s embarrassing, he said.

We finished our beers, the conversation reverting back to the usual topics, the comforting non-talk that I was used to. I thought about that night a lot. It struck me that Paul and I had been friends for the majority of our lives, and yet we still couldn’t talk – really talk – to one another. In the days and weeks that followed, I thought a lot about my friends – the people I was supposed to be closest to – and how much of a distance there was between us.

The UCLA loneliness scale first appeared in 1978, but has been revised several times over the years. For academics who study the ways we connect with other people, it’s the standard in the field. Subjects rank statements with “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes” or “often.” Try it out:

“I lack companionship.”

“There is no one I can turn to.”

“I feel part of a group of friends.”

“There are people I feel close to.”

“My social relationships are superficial.”

“There are people who really understand me.”

“People are around me and not with me.”

Around me and not with me. Superficial. That’s how it feels. Over the past 18 months, the men I’ve talked to about friendship, some of whom I’ve known most of my life, some of whom I’ve only known a short while, have all told me they have plenty of acquaintances but very few close friends. One guy I spoke to explained it in a way I perfectly understood: He’s got at least a dozen “buddies” he could have a beer with after work. But how many close friends could he call if he needed help moving? Maybe one or two.

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows the dire consequences of loneliness, and so researchers have become increasingly interested in studying friendship to understand the myriad ways in which it functions and affects our lives.

For instance, in one study published in 2010 in the journal Plos Medicine that looked at 148 studies on the link between social relationships and mortality, researchers at Brigham Young University found that having strong social relationships was nearly twice as beneficial as physical activity when it came to decreasing your odds of dying young. In short: Suffering from loneliness was as bad for your health as being an alcoholic or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The benefits only increase as we age.

In a pair of studies, published in the journal Personal Relationships, William Chopik, a psychology professor at Michigan State University who studies friendship, looked at more than 280,000 people between the ages 15 and 99, from almost 100 different countries.

“People who valued friendship were always happier than those who didn’t,” he says. “But then it wasn’t until midlife that the effects kept getting stronger and stronger.”

In 2017, he conducted a study to determine just how important supportive friendships are in old age. He found that they were a stronger predictor of well-being than were strong connections with siblings, spouses, children and parents. “It looks like friendship quality predicted whether or not you have things like heart attacks and strokes over time.”

These statistics included both men and women, but men, over all, are a lonelier bunch – and thus at greater risk.

The biggest reason friendship is important for men’s health, according to Dr. Chopik, comes down to stress management.

“Friendships for men reduce stress and that’s associated with better health over time,” he says. “Other relationships can just be stressful a lot of the time. But friendships just exist to make us feel better.”

That’s supposed to be the way it works, but it wasn’t for me and a lot of the men I knew. What were we doing wrong? Dr. Chopik and I discussed the different ways men and women maintain their friendships. He mentioned a study conducted by the American psychotherapist and sociologist Lillian Rubin in the 1980s.

Dr. Rubin posed the following hypothetical to her male and female study participants: Say your romantic partner comes home and says they are leaving you. Who could you turn to if this happened to you?

“Nearly every women was able to name a friend that they could go to, usually a same-sex friend,” Dr. Chopik says. “But a very, very small number of men said they could actually turn to someone.”

This was exactly my situation. Who had I turned to? Why couldn’t I open up to any of my friends? And why had I allowed my friendships to suffer for so many years?

Trevor Boin was my first best friend. We met in seventh grade, both of us newly arrived in junior high in . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting—and easily recognized.

Later in the article:

. . . He blames codes of masculinity. Being vulnerable is admitting to another person that you need something from them – their sympathy, their understanding, their forgiveness, their care, their advice, whatever it might be – and that’s particularly difficult for men since it goes against everything instilled in us about the importance of self-sufficiency, stoicism and never admitting weakness.

“As a society, maybe we could be doing more things to make deep, emotional friendships more acceptable for men,” he says. “I think that would benefit everybody.” . . .

There’s much more. Read it.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2019 at 2:27 pm

Why Jessica Biel Is Wrong about Science and Vaccines

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James Hamblin writes in the Atlantic:

One morning in 1934, panicked passengers jumped from the deck of the SS Morro Castle as it sank just off the coast of New Jersey. The ocean liner had caught fire, and the passengers had rushed to grab personal flotation devices. But some improperly wrapped the life preservers around their necks. As they fell and hit the water, the torque snapped their spines.

Personal flotation devices save exponentially more lives than they cost. Of the catastrophic boating accidents that occur daily, 84 percent of people who drown were not wearing one. But etch the details of this horrific wreck sceneinto one’s mind, and a person might become a life-preserver skeptic. Our basic tendency toward short-term thinking means we judge risk based on whatever is in front of us. We draw anxiety disproportionately from wherever we happen to be focusing our attention.

The same psychology applies throughout public health. At the moment, much attention in the U.S. is being paid to vaccines—rather than the diseases they prevent. This week, the actor Jessica Biel drew fiery eyes for lobbyinglegislators in California to kill a bill that would standardize the process of exempting children from required vaccinations. Biel, perhaps best known for her leading role in 2006’s The Illusionist, expressed concern for the well-being of a friend’s child. She has responded to accusations of being “anti-vax” by contending in an Instagram post that she “believes in vaccinations,” but wants to protect personal freedom: “I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients.”

Like life preservers and everything else, vaccines do come with some fleeting risk of unintended adverse outcomes: mostly rashes or fevers, and in extremely rare cases, seizures. But these risks pale in comparison with those of the diseases vaccines prevent. Before the advent of vaccination, measles alone killed some 6,000 children in the United States every year.

This year has already seen more measles cases than any other since the disease was declared eliminated two decades ago. The trend stems from low rates of vaccination, which are making exemptions from vaccine requirements a flash point. California has triggered a reckoning with why exemptions exist at all—and why belief came to factor so heavily into a question of science. When is a health issue a matter of belief, and when is it simply wrong? When is it so wrong that it’s neglect?

No federal law requires vaccination. But every state mandates that in order to send a child to public school—to have that child sit in close quarters with other children all day, every day—parents must take preventive measures to ensure the child does not carry certain dangerous infections. Requirements are implicit in the legal precedent that withholding vaccination constitutes “medical neglect” of a child. Legally, for example, it’s considered neglect to let a cut on a child’s arm get infected and then refuse antibiotics. If that infection had been airborne, as with measles, declining treatment as a child gasps for air would also be textbook neglect. It has been deemed neglect in cases where infectious diseases could have been easily prevented, but weren’t.

Researchers at Ohio State recently reviewed cases across the country from 1905 to 2016 and found that a majority of the time, refusing vaccination was found to be neglect. There was a curious caveat, though. In states with “religious exemptions,” parents did not have to follow public-health mandates to vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases if the parents cited “genuine and sincere religious beliefs.” The Ohio State researchers found that in these states, vaccine refusal did not constitute neglect—or it was considered neglect only if someone’s belief was deemed insufficiently “sincere.”

Religious exemptions have slowly expanded in the United States, to the point that now, in almost every state, parents can opt out of school requirements—and leave a child open to catching and spreading lethal diseases to other children—if doing so is guided by what the state considers a sincere belief. In such cases, the same behavior is not neglect.

Exemptions have expanded to include “personal or philosophical belief” exemptions as well, which are currently offered in 17 states. When the standard is sincerity of belief, the thinking goes, it shouldn’t have to be drawn from a major religion (or even a minor one).

Accordingly, the number of people taking up belief-based exemptions has been steadily increasing, and rates of vaccination declining. The constitutionality of vaccine requirements is well established, and courts have found states are not obligated to grant religious exemptions. Nevertheless, the overall effect of such respect for the concept of personal belief has been that, gradually, vaccine requirements have become requirements in name only.

The return of measles, though, is forcing a breaking point. In 2015, a measles outbreak was traced back to a single child at Disneyland. California health officials saw that the outbreak happened not simply because of one unvaccinated child, but because only 90 percent of kindergartners in the state were fully immunized. To establish herd immunity for measles, a community needs 94 percent of people on board. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including the rise of rogue doctors who sell immunization exemptions.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2019 at 1:40 pm

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with

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The BBC has an amazing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring John Hannah and Maxine Peake. The link is to the Amazon.com streaming version, so if you have Amazon Prime, do watch it. Wow! It’s also on BritBox.com, in case you subscribe to that.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2019 at 8:09 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Lavender & Lilac greet the morning

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Mama Bear’s wonderful shave sticks are always a pleasure, and this floral number seemed right for a mid-June morning. Chiseled Face offered this brush briefly some years back, and I enjoy it a lot, and the lather that it made today was fine-grained, fragrant, and of a perfect consistency.

Three passes with the excellent Maggard Version 2 open-comb head, here mounted on a Maggard stainless-steel handle, left my face totally smooth and feeling good, and a splash of D.R. Harris Old English Lavender Water finished the shave in fine style.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2019 at 8:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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