I’ve been on a diet now for three years, during which time I have lost a net amount of zero pounds. My technique is flawless. For me, dieting has always consisted mainly of eating all the things I usually eat anyway but then feeling really bad about it. Still, counting calories is the perfect hobby for me, combining as it does my love of simple accounting with my natural tendencies towards obsessive self-scrutiny and needless unhappiness.

Late last year, I discovered Fitday.com, a website that allows you to enter all the foods you eat every day and track their nutritional values. You can also subtract calories by adding common daily activities like brisk walking, kickboxing, and crying. Fitday is a great place to learn some disturbing facts about a lot of disturbing foods, like the amount of riboflavin to be gained from chasing a handful of quail eggs with 36 ounces of human breast milk. You can then use these facts to construct miserable imaginary lifestyles (combine “Food: 2 boxes, Frozen corn dogs” with “Activities: Lying quietly in bed, awake”). Fitday also taught me the utter futility of trying to burn two slices of pound cake with 45 minutes of yoga. With Fitday I still eat more or less whatever I want, but now my guilty indigestion comes aided by full-color pie charts.

Since it was obvious that Fitday wasn’t getting me very far, I decided to start tracking my progress at the gym instead. There are dozens of sites that allow you to track how many miles each week you run and at what speed. I spent the first week feeling extraordinarily fit and proud until the day I realized my treadmill was set to kilometers, not miles. Then I had to go back and change all my Fitday calorie scores for the previous week, including an extra 350 calories for consolation cake.

This led me to wonder, exactly how much money am I spending each week on consolation cake? My spending patterns have always been a little erratic, coming in alternating bursts of shamed asceticism and FICO-be-damned indulgences. I wouldn’t dare spend $90 on a new sweater I don’t really need, but six small dog sweaters at $15 each are a bargain not to be missed. This past spring I decided to tackle tax time with the aid of Mint.com, a comprehensive website that pulls together your financial data across the globe, allowing you to see at a glance the amount of money you spent last month on things like dog sweaters and novelty paperclips. So far my level of spending remains unchanged, but I have created dozens of different categories to label my indulgences, including “pet necessities: apparel” and “business expenses: decorative office supplies.”

Logging every thing you eat, spend, and do becomes very time-consuming. In order to improve my overall efficiency, I started reading the Lifehacker blog, an efficiency-maximizing website that now deposits more than 20 lengthy new entries into my inbox every day. It takes me awhile to keep up with them, especially as I’m also reading blogs on diet, fitness, finance, and cake recipes. Many Lifehacker entries suggest you become more efficient by keeping track of things. I now keep track of everything, in dozens of different notebooks, including wine logs, recipe collections, gifts ideas, weight training statistics, interesting quotations, design ideas, and pet vaccination schedules. Then I enter them all under “misc. expenditures: notebooks” on Mint. Number of calories burned for 2.5 hours of data entry = 74.


I’ve always felt it was too easy for a person to be labeled a “porn star.”

The criteria seem to be that you have had sex, on camera, for the purpose of distribution, and that many people have seen it. But such criteria say nothing about one’s history, accomplishment or following. The real problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a linguistic distinction between the entry-level and the career-minded varieties of porn star.

Consider that, to be a movie star, you probably have to have at least one major motion picture out, maybe two, and you have to have been invited to appear, for that movie, on at least one talk show. To get that far, chances are good that you paid your dues: maybe a Lifetime special, definitely a rapist or victim on Law & Order: SVU. And that’s just by modern standards, where buzz is generated much more quickly, and the masses catch all their star news virally. When it comes to the classic star hierarchy, we’re talking about the A and B listers, and even then we’re dealing with maybe eighty people in the whole industry (two of which are Tom Cruise).

Becoming a rock star is a bit easier. One song on the radio will do, and really, if you get up on any stage, belt out a few notes, swagger around a bit and generally act sweaty, most people will give it to you as a kind of honorarium, as something you’ve earned by way of presence. “He’s such a rock star,” in the common vernacular, has come to indicate an attitude more than it does any kind of real success in the music business.

The label “porn star,” however, has the unique properties of being both literal and inclusive. That is, you must have been in a porn to be a porn star.  Cut and dry.  But once you’ve hopped that first gentle bar, you’re in for life, right at the top.  Even if the act was years ago, the distinction then becomes “ex-porn-star.”

The labeling issue is further confused when you consider the relative ease of getting a great many people to watch you in a porn.  Get a small part in an edgy indie movie, and a few thousand might see it. Write a song and some of your friends will be kind enough to listen. Take your pants off on camera and the world will click twice to see what’s going on down there.

Clearly, the title/suffix “star” has been too widely granted. We don’t yet have a good word for an “amateur porn star.” In fact, we stare the absurdity right in the face, because the proper terminology would be just that: “amateur porn star.”

Film critics offer a grim solution to this problem. Whenever the moniker “movie star” isn’t enough, they call an actor a “superstar,” or, ever more often, a “mega-star.

Porn-Mega-Star” has all the charm of an end villain in a Transformers spinoff, but at least it differentiates.

My solution?  Simplify things. We need to establish a base term for, um, entry level porn actors. Instead of “porn star,” we could call someone a “porner” (I also considered “smactor”). A “porner” is anyone who has been in a porn.

With a little effort and some skill in marketing, a porner could eventually work his way up to official porn stardom.  And so on. Such labels might even have the effect of legitimizing a career ladder which has long been dubious at best.

Now, if only we could figure out summer internships.

I used to tell people the simple truth:  that I just don’t like mint.  The ensuing conversation was never simple.

“What?  Wait—you mean, like, mint, like the leaf?”

“Yes.”

“How can you not like mint?”

“I don’t know.  I just don’t like it in food.  It always tastes wrong.”

“Now, wait a minute here.  You’re saying that…”

Inevitably, they would work their way to toothpaste, and they’d have me there.  Of course I like mint in toothpaste.  I’m not a caveman.  But toothpaste is not food.  I’m not arguing with the flavor.  It’s very refreshing.  I wouldn’t have my gum/Altoids/menthols/toothpaste any other way.  I just don’t want it mixed in with my chicken.  Chicken shouldn’t ever refresh me.

Conversations like this usually spring from the classic Thursday-night-let’s-get-dinner-out discussion, where Thai food is apparently now a must for consideration in any cosmopolitan setting.  I say, “No thanks. I don’t really like it,” to blank, confused faces. I explain it is mostly because of the mint. They are baffled and actually upset with me.  They want to spend ten minutes trying to unearth some tragic memory locked deep in my psyche, some wretched beginning to my hatred of their fair leaf.  Was it an accident in the mint factory, Tommy?  Did you have an uncle with especially fresh breath?

I imagine it’s the same way I react when I learn someone doesn’t like avocado.  It’s like they just told me they don’t much care for pillows.  It’s not that it’s bad or that I feel sorry for them.  It just isn’t possible.  If Human, then love of pillows and avocado…ergo….”What the shit is your problem?”

Saying I’m allergic to something implies everything that isn’t true, but should be, with regards to things I don’t particularly like.  First off, it might kill me.  So right off the bat, it gets rid of the whole “Well, maybe you just haven’t had it done right…because I know this perfect little place on 16th…”  Sorry buddy: death.  Nobody can say a thing.  It’s unarguable.  Allergic says, “Fuck you, I’m handicapped, and I’ll thank you never to bring it up again.”

Which brings up the second thing it does: it disallows curiosity. A person can’t ask too many questions about an allergy; it’s not polite.  All they can do is lower their eyes, shift on their feet, and smile the biggest smile of definitely-not-pitying-you they can muster while thinking, Poor bastard.  Part of his body just doesn’t work. You might be thinking that pity is harder to ingest than mint but, believe me, I’ve tried both, and I take pity every time.

Besides pity, there is an air of strength in having an alleged allergy.  “Look how brave he is, Barbara,” is just the sort of conversation I imagine my friends having after I tell them about my allergy (assuming anyone I know in this day and age is named Barbara).  It says: I’ve overcome my burdens.  I am surviving, despite my sad, sheltered, Thai-less existence.

Then the days come when I just don’t mind and I give up on all the protesting, on the whole allergy farce.  I concede the mint. I just go for it, because: why should I always get my way?  It’s important to try things again, even things you know you really don’t like, if for no other reason than to practice tolerance. We sit happily in the restaurant, my friends and I, and it really is a pleasure seeing how excited they are for the food.  The last course arrives, and I’m really proud of myself for letting down my guard.  The meal is actually quite lovely.  Then I see it:

“Wait a second.  Is this fucking fruit in my salad?”