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THE RULE OF ATTRACTION



Bret Easton Ellis is a favorite author of mine. The movie version of Less Than Zero, which hit theaters in 1987, is an anthem to excess that spoke to my generation. It may have even been set in Beverly Hills, where I spent some of my formative years. I discovered his twisted American Psycho while living in New York in 2000. After seeing the preview I went straight to the bookstore and picked myself up a copy and read it through and through in a matter of days, usually while sweating off the previous night's six-pack on the Precor machine. Who says you can't do two things at once?

The serial killer genre is tricky. If it is treated seriously, as in the films Zodiac and Silence of the Lambs or the horrific Henry, I'll watch it, even though the gruesome scenes will seed my nightmares. But if all the slash and gash is sophomoric, insensitive, comedic, then I'll usually steer clear. This is what I told a friend who asked me to read his slasher screenplay. I couldn't get past the first third. He tried to do for the serial killer genre what the writers of recent zombie movies have managed for that breed of horror: turn it on its head and generate some laughs. But American Psycho thoroughly and cleverly develops its protagonist (Patrick Bateman) and devotes great attention to detail. It is too unreal to be believed, and so the viewer is distanced from the gore. Besides who doesn't like watching Batman as Bateman stare at himself in the mirror while having sex. "His hair was perfect." The protagonist is the quintessential metrosexual, basking amidst skin care products and trips to the gym and designer suits. I enjoyed it all in my frivolous twenties.

On another note, I have been getting amazing sleep. Each night I go to bed at 9 or 10, and the next morning my dog wakes me up at around 6, and in between, I lie like a stone, getting up once or maybe twice to tinkle. And what vivid dreams! I haven't slept this soundly or awakened so refreshed since probably I was in my teens, and I really can't explain why. But me like.

On another note, I was thinking of calling this blog "Free Association," since that's what I always seem to do. I forgot exactly why I mentioned Ellis and his books. Oh yes. He also wrote a novel called The Rules of Attraction. I didn't read it. And the movie wasn't all that good. But there is a rule of attraction I'd like to mention, and it is this: "Opposites attract." This is contrary to what I learned in Introductory Psychology back as a college sophomore. The thinking then was that birds of a feather flock together. And while it may help to have things in common with your partner, it is where you don't see eye to eye that all the fun lies. Like Rocky said about Adrian. "I got gaps, she's got gaps, together we fill gaps." His parents told him he didn't have much of a brain so he better use his body, while her parents advised her to use her brain because she didn't have much of a physique. And together they achieved completion, and a fictitious son along the way.

The notion that opposites attract is reinforced wherever I look. Opposite poles of a magnet stick together, while similar poles repel. And the book on the four humors or temperaments I just finished reading, by Randy Rolfe, emphasizes this point. The choleric personality is controlling and take-charge, while the phlegmatic personality is supportive. They "intuit a special complementarity between them." Likewise, the melancholic and sanguine, or moody and friendly natures, complete each other, the sanguine lightening the melancholic's moods and the melancholic encouraging depth and introspection in his breezy partner.

Science also weighs in on this important topic. Gene research suggests that opposites attract. As the Guardian reports, "A comparative survey of couples suggests people are more attracted to those who have very different immunity genes from their own, even though they are not aware of it." These genes, located on chromosome six, help us ward off infection, and also influence our body odor. So we gravitate to those who smell differently from us, as this increases the likelihood that their immune systems complement our own and increase our future children's ability to fight disease and grow up to reproduce themselves.

Speaking of genes, the one for blood type is on chromosome one. The Rh antigen, named for its similarity to one found in the Rhesus monkey, is a major cause of immune reactions between mother and fetus and between blood donor and recipient. If a mother is Rh negative, or doesn't have this Rh protein, and gets pregnant with an Rh positive kid, her body will launch an immune attack against the fetus and kill it. This was a major cause of miscarriage and infant mortality until the invention of a medication used to neutralize the mother's immune system and allow her developing fetus to thrive. Scientists cannot understand why a gene which adversely affects an individual's, and thus a species', chances for survival wouldn't have been weeded out by now. And "ancient alien theorists" believe that the gene is evidence that extraterrestrials mated with humans to produce a hybrid race. Indeed only about 15 percent of the population is Rh negative. 

But the truth is that many more individuals carry the gene, which is recessive. So you must have two copies of the Rh negative gene to be Rh negative yourself. For example my mother was Rh negative, and my father Rh positive. She had two Rh positive kids, myself and my brother Justin. But my brother George is Rh negative like my mother. This may explain why George breastfed for 3 years, as opposed to as many days in the case of mom's other two kids. My mom liked to say that Rh negative people were part of the alien race. Of course, because she was one herself. But I am also a carrier of the gene, and my brother Justin was as well, God rest him. There are some interesting books on the subject. One I'd like to read is called Bloodline of the Gods. I'd buy it if it weren't so expensive. My upper limit for a Kindle purchase is like $3.99 and it's over twice this price. For now I'll have to look elsewhere to discover the missing link in our ancestral lineage.

Of greater interest to me is why iodine is an essential nutrient. Iodine is a component of thyroid hormones, which govern metabolism, regulate energy levels and perform a whole host of other necessary functions. The human body cannot manufacture iodine, and without a dietary source of iodine the thyroid is starved and goiter results, manifesting as a bulge in the neck. This is still a major problem in third world countries. To avoid iodine deficiencies the "civilized world" has taken to fortifying table salt with the nutrient. Sea salt, on the other hand, does not contain iodine. The recommended intake is 150 micrograms a day, or up to nearly twice as much if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Natural sources of the mineral include seafood, seaweed, milk and eggs. Beans and potatoes also contain iodine, though in much smaller quantities. You can meet your daily requirement of the mineral by eating 5 ounces of fish such as cod, or drinking a cup and a half of milk. But if you're a vegan you'd need to eat 3 medium potatoes or 2 1/2 cups of beans each day. Or just use half a teaspoon of table salt. 

This is very interesting to me. Perhaps iodine is similar to vitamin C. All animals can synthesize vitamin C with the exception of humans and monkeys and I think guinea pigs. It is theorized that primates (including humans) lost the ability to make this antioxidant due to the prevalence of the vitamin in foods, mainly fruits and vegetables. This would point to our natural diet being plants, since animal foods such as the fish and eggs and milk mentioned above contain none.

But  what of the days before iodized salt? What did our ancestors do to fulfill their iodine requirements? Milk, eggs, potatoes and beans are all products of the agricultural revolution. They didn't exist before 10,000 BC. But homo sapiens as a species is over 20 times as old, not to mention the progenitor hominids that gave rise to our great race and date back millions of years. This leads me to believe that our ancestors stuck to the coasts and ate a diet rich in seafood. Then I remembered that Jesus Christ was himself a fisherman, and when he gave the Sermon on the Mount he fed the multitudes fish and loaves of bread. I told this to a patient of mine during a psychiatric rotation in med school. She was a vegetarian and said that Jesus Christ was a vegetarian too, and just because he fed the masses fish didn't mean he ate it himself. This logical thinking is a rarity in our iodine-fortified society, and I found it in the loony bin of all places! I wonder what other gems await our discovery within those padded walls. I'm kicking myself that I didn't ask my patient about the missing link. I'm sure her answer would have been if not informative at least entertaining. 

Of course our ancestors also lived inland, and without a steady source of iodine they didn't seem to suffer all the ills of deficiency that plague some parts of the world today. Except the Neanderthals, whose larger brains may have required more of the mineral than smaller-brained humans. Which may explain their extinction, if you don't believe the alien theorists that extraterrestials visited this planet long ago and conducted a genetic experiment (of which we are the product) which erased the Neanderthals from existence for failing to make the bar. Who knows, maybe they didn't have Bateman's great hair.

I'm beginning to sound crazy myself. What does that say about my opposite? Is she thoroughly sane? Wouldn't that be boring? I can tell you what my temperament test says. I'm equal parts phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic, which I take to mean I'm pretty self-contained. The only traits that lag behind are the choleric ones, which points to my potential need for a woman of action, an aggressive competitor and undaunted leader who takes charge and makes quick decisions without ever looking back. Sounds pretty exhausting. I am not much of a follower, so I think I'd rather develop those habits in myself. But first I need a nap.

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