the fungus.

Josh is kind of a hypochondriac. He has a particular fear of parasites and also any sort of mass poisoning done by the government or large corporations (don't ask). Once he spilled his beer while pouring it and became convinced that he had a degenerative nerve disease. Every time he tried to pour a beer after that, he would spill it, further confirming that he was going the way of Lou Gehrig. At some point, he realized that pouring a beer slowly, which you might do if you were trying hard not to spill it, makes it more likely to spill.

I supply the common sense in the relationship. He brings the imagination. We make it work.

I was telling Lauren about this, and she told me that she was paranoid about catching this kind of fungus for which there is no cure. It's not life-threatening or even oozy. You just get splotchy skin. Every time she gets a little itchy, she becomes convinced that she's caught the fungus.

She further said that she was generally worried about any sort of condition which might affect her physical appearance. She was scared of things that would make her ugly, because then no one would love her. Those were her words. I was a little shocked, though maybe I shouldn't have been. Equating beauty with love is pretty common among women (maybe men, too?). Lauren goes to a lot of trouble to look fantastic. She works out for hours every day, and once, for lunch, I saw her eating plain popcorn and some watermelon. You know, I'd like to be hot, but I think I'd get hungry.

At the time, I was too gobsmacked by her thinking to respond, but later, I felt bad for missing the opportunity to inject a positive message into her life. Such as, hey, ugly people get love, too. Also: love that hinges on whether or not your skin is splotchy is not love.

Her identity is obviously very wrapped up with her appearance. She is The Hot Woman. And that's fine. We are all just going with her natural abilities here. At some point in our individual lives, she realized that she could be hot, and I realized that my strengths were elsewhere. I put next to no effort into my appearance, and that lack of concern is part of my identity. I've found that some men actually like it. Go figure.

Apparently, Lauren's standards of beauty work both ways. She had been dating a guy who had a doctorate in physics, owned a beautiful house, cooked her fantastic dinners, and was apparently a really nice guy. There are many legitimate reasons to break up with such a man, he could have been a puppy-kicker for all I know, but one of the things she mentioned was that he wasn't very attractive. I met him. He was a regular-looking fellow. Big nose, but clean and well-dressed. Her previous boyfriend, admittedly, could have been a model. She complained about him being vain. Sigh.

It makes me wonder how Lauren will approach aging. She may be gorgeous until the end of her days, but at some point, she will stop being "hot" and start being "hot, for her age." There are a myriad of ways to hang on to youth, and, because there is a market, the technology will only improve. It seems like an empty pursuit, though. Even if she manages to keep everything high and tight, she'll still have to worry about fungus. Seems a bit like building a house on the sand.

I certainly don't have to worry that Josh will stop loving me as my looks go, as I've done an excellent job lowering his standards. I just have to worry about those degenerative nerve diseases.

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