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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

Caring for the body by CJ Q. '23

health, am i right?

Content warning: overt sexual content, reference to suicide.

Last night I watched the MIT Monologues, formerly known as the Vagina Monologues, a yearly production run by campus group The F-Word. It’s a series of pieces, delivered by individuals or small groups of actors, talking about life as not-a-cis-man. All pieces were written by members of the MIT community, for members of the MIT community. This was my first year watching the Monologues, because I think it’s also the first year that I know so many people involved with the production.

I cried, I froze, and I laughed, a lot. Laughed so much, in fact, that my friends sitting nearby told me that they appreciated hearing my laughter. I was surprised by how much I related to many of the topics discussed, like exploring sexuality or being asexual. Of course, I also learned a lot about, you know, being not-a-cis-man. The production’s still going, and I recommend watching it.

One of the things I found valuable about the Monologues was hearing some thoughts I’ve had about things vocalized, especially topics that people didn’t talk about. This is a post about health, and my complicated relationship with it.

Finally, I’d hate it if you only learn about my experiences, when the experiences MIT community members have are so wide and varied! So yes, the MIT Monologues.

Diet. I’m self-conscious about what my body looks like, or, how fat I feel. It’s not something that I’ve heard people talk about, what with being a Mathematics and Computer Science major, given how “superficial” of a topic it is. But every time I step on a scale, I find myself doing the BMI calculation in my head, and seeing that it’s overweight.

I once made a post documenting everything I ate for a week. That also made me self-conscious, this time of what I was eating. If I did that again now, I feel like I’d think of myself as unhealthy. Like, maybe 80% of what I eat is carbs. I only eat vegetables out of guilt, maybe once or twice a week, and sometimes it’s only the lettuce from Chipotle. I tell myself that I compensate by eating fruit and drinking Soylent, because that’s how nutrition works, right?

But also, I’m not sure how much I actually want to change this. Back when I still lived with my parents, I probably ate “healthier” food more often, like actually eating vegetables daily, if only because I wasn’t cooking. The only difference I feel is that, well, I’m heavier now. Fatter now. I keep getting this nagging feeling that it’ll bite me later, but I also can’t bring myself to care? Which maybe is bad.

Exercise. Here’s another thing I can’t bring myself to care about, at least, care about enough to change something. The extent of my deliberate exercise is going square dancing at Tech Squares every week, which is about, I dunno, walking at a moderate pace for maybe an hour or so.

I’m not a fit person. My resting heart rate is about 85 bpm. I can walk up maybe five flights of stairs before panting. It’d take me about seven minutes to run a kilometer. And don’t get me started on how bad I am at lifting things. And sure, I can take long walks, but I don’t even have to walk much to get around campus, I take the elevator up for anything more than two floors, and I spent most of my day sitting or lying down. And because of that, exercise feels even worse, making it a vicious circle.

When it comes to the consequences of being less fit, I always hear things like, a higher risk of heart disease, or diabetes, or cancer. In general, a shorter lifespan. But I’ve never found that a convincing reason to get more exercise, because I keep thinking, well, it’s not that I want to keep living. It’s not that I want to live longer. Part of it is in that morbid, gen Z way of treating mortality light-heartedly. But sometimes, part of it comes from legitimately feeling that I can’t imagine living for much longer than a few years, if not a few months, or a few weeks.

Will I actually get more exercise? Probably not. I’m struggling to think of what would actually convince me to get more exercise.

Drugs. When it comes to vices, well. I drink alcohol, and I used to drink it more often, but not as much now. Massachusetts has legalized cannabis for recreational, adult-use purposes, and I’ve tried edibles. I don’t smoke, nor do I have plans to. I’m probably genetically predisposed to being addicted to it; three of my four grandparents died to lung cancer from smoking.

Hygiene. I’m bad with personal hygiene. I wash my hands. I trim my nails weekly-ish. I, uh, clear out earwax from time-to-time—sometimes I get buildup that lasts for days and affects my hearing and doesn’t come out on its own. That’s it.

I’m bad at showering. When I feel okay about myself, I shower maybe twice or thrice a week. But when I get more depressive symptoms, I go for days, sometimes weeks without showering. Sometimes I wonder if people around me notice that I don’t shower. I’d shower more, but I just hate how my body feels for an hour or so after a shower.

To be honest, I’m also bad with brushing my teeth, and oral hygiene in general. I’m embarrassed to admit that I fail to brush my teeth daily, that I don’t floss at all, and that it’s been years since I’ve seen a dentist. I also wonder whether other people notice this. The last time I had to see a dentist was when I had a lot of pain in one of my molars, which was apparently due to a bacterial infection. I got prescribed antibiotics and then it went away.

Part of it, I guess, was that my parents didn’t like dentists. My teeth are badly misaligned, and when the dentist suggested braces, my parents balked at the idea. I feel like the consequences of bad oral care are going to catch up to me soon, as opposed to, say, not showering often. My gums already bleed pretty easily, and I’m afraid that one day all my teeth will fall out. I keep telling myself I’ll be better, but I struggle to find the motivation. Maybe if I make it easier to do oral care, I’ll do it more.

Sleep. I’m fine sleep-wise. My psychiatrist always asks me about it during our check-ins. And it’s fine. Most nights I get between seven to nine hours of sleep. I keep a mostly regular schedule of sleeping between midnight and 3 AM, and waking up between 8 AM and 11 AM. Once or twice a month, I get interrupted sleep, and I wake up after only six hours, and I can’t go back to sleep. But that’s about it.

I’m lucky, I guess, that I’ve never found it difficult to fall asleep, maybe twenty or thirty minutes at most. I like sleeping on my bed when I can, while hugging Ice Bear, but I crash couches and beanbags every once in a while and I sleep just fine. I sleep better when I hug Ice Bear, though. I can’t imagine sleeping regularly without Ice Bear.

Sex. Sexual health, is, well, health. I’ve talked in the past about how I’m asexual-ish, and so you’d think, well, this wouldn’t be an issue, then? But that’s just not true, or at least, not what I’ve experienced.

And then there’s all the “but”s. I’m asexual, but I’m still gay, and I still want to kiss people and cuddle people and hold them close and maybe lie naked in bed together. And I’m asexual, but I’m not sex-repulsed—I’m fine with it, I’m fine talking about it, I’m fine listening to other people talk about it, and I’m fine, say, watching porn. I’m asexual, but I’m still aroused by some sexual content, and I experience libido. I’m asexual, but I still masturbate at a regular basis, and most of the time, I enjoy it.

Sometimes I’m not sure how asexual I am. Sometimes it still feels like there’ll just be that one circumstance that makes me feel like I actually want to have sex. And sometimes it feels like I can’t be asexual if I still feel the need to masturbate every once in a while. But labels like graysexual or aegosexual don’t cut it either, so, I dunno. I will say, though, that I feel happy when I see ace representation.