Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Chance Encounter Paradox, Or: Why I Hate Milk

As preparation for my return to France, I dug out some old photographs of various trips to New York and Washington, D.C. I want to do some lessons about these cities so I thought it would be a treat to show my French students these places. I then came across a few pictures of myself from my high school years.

My jaw dropped.

I knew that I had been fatter, but I never realized that I honestly looked like a neckless, New Balance sneakers-sporting Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. I also had not discovered the joys of styling my clothes in a tasteful fashion to not look like an eyesore to other people. I immediately was overcome by a sudden urge to start a bonfire with those photos.

I have visual proof that I have come a long way from those dreadful years I would rather forget. Those photos have given me a sudden boost in confidence, but I must be cautious to not let it go to my head. I don't want it to trigger the vicious cycle of the Chance Encounter Paradox to which I have fallen prey in the past. Not this time!

The Chance Encounter Paradox is a theory centered on how I feel internally that is soon manifested in the occasions of meeting people. As I commence to take better care of my body and mind, I also experience a sudden increase of caring about my personal appearance. I take pride in myself, and I want to eagerly show this brand-new me to others.

As I continue to see people from my past, they compliment the wonderful changes they have seen and encourage me to continue. My confidence steadily increases to a point that breaks beyond what I even anticipated I would feel. I have tasted the power within, and I don't care to let it go.

Now that I am starting to lose weight again, I find that this, rather frustratingly, happens to me quite more often than I would like to admit. I am being unnaturally vain?

Hell yeah, I am.

I've wised up since I was handed that diploma that is now a token of my adolescent tendencies. I've been to college. I've lived in France. I figured out how to work the mascara and eyeliner tubes so I don't look like an Emo Clown hopelessly trying out for a modeling agency. I got Paul Mitchell Sculpting Foam hair mousse. I'm a hell of a lot thinner than I when I was a woefully bloated, fashionably-awkward 17 year-old with New Balance sneakers. I am a confident, mature go-getter who is ready to conquer the world. And I'm showing ALL of that off, damn it.

If living in Dijon taught me anything, it was that I should take more pride in my presentation and always try to look my best just in case I accidentally-on-purpose bump into someone that I know. It would be terrible for them to see me made-down when I should be making the most of my good looks, right? Here in Miami, the place I end up visiting to see if I encounter someone from my past is the mall. I venture into the world with the hope of meeting someone I have not seen in X number of years just to show off how much I have visibly altered since my embarrassing loser high school years.

I find myself strolling everywhere I go with a prepared, crazy-eyed "look at me" expression reserved for beauty queen contestants. All that I am missing is the sparkly tiara.

I also make a side note that my desire to look good naturally multiplies exponentially by a thousand-fold if I so happen to have my eyes set on impressing a particular guy or wish to just see someone who taunted me from the past. I start to envision the rehearsed conversations I would have with these people.

In my ideal world, all of my long-gone loser rivals would regret the crappy way they treated me and the Guy I'm trying to impress would be a dead-ringer for the pop singer Mika. He would be tall, handsome, speaks English with a British accent and, as an added bonus, speaks French fluently. Mmmmmm...

That, of course, is never gonna happen, which is why I hastily stress that this would be part of MY ideal world. But a girl can dream, after all.

To help facilitate the theory, I present to you the findings and statistics of the Chance Encounter Paradox based on my own empirical experiences.

Chart 1: Level of Self-Confidence Based on Elapsed Time

Chart 2: Chances of Meeting Someone When I Look Great

Chart 3: Chances I Meet Someone When I Look Like Crappy High School Self

That is the down side to the Chance Encounter Paradox: the more I desire to see a particular person while I look good, the more the instance of bumping into them decreases. As my expectations rise, I only find myself surrounded by an endless sea complete strangers (people I don't care about). The number of received compliments soon stabilizes to a halting zero. My pride lacks the reinforcement it needs to thrive on. The balance is no longer equal and I soon become a victim of my own pig-headed hopes.

Days pass. Weeks pass. With every day that I apply a layer of lipstick, my hopes go down the drain when I don't see a single soul that I know or care to impress. Looking good, I have discovered, takes a toll on one's state of mind if one does not randomly see the hordes of admiring people from high school. The overconfidence wanes with each application of foundation I put on my face. The hours I spend improving myself seem to be absolutely fruitless if there is no one else to appreciate it. I get discouraged and fall into a mild depression of the "nobody wants me" blues. Mundane activities eventually start to take precedence on my list of important things.

The cycle officially breaks once I deem buying milk to be more essential than fixing my locks.

It is an applied physics rule to human life that when I look great, I never see anyone that I know, and when I decide to look drab, it results in me running into someone that I had been dreaming of impressing.
That's how it always happens.
Every. Single. F*cking. Time.

What happened to college? Where is all the time I spent in France? Where is the God-damned hair mousse? That all went crashing down in flames when I decided to buy milk looking like an adolescent Harvey Two-Face. Thanks to the Chance Encounter Paradox, I reverted back to my un-cool high school self.

I realize that, ultimately, I am only supposed to feel good within myself and with that mentality, my natural beauty and self-esteem will shine through to radiate on those who gawk at me. I must only be content with myself and not base my aspirations on pleasing others/fulfilling unlikely material dreams.

But I'd rather blame my demise on the Milk.

Curse you, Milk. Curse you to heck.


On a more serious note: once I do attain Shakira-hotness, I will be a good candidate for the website Before You Were Hot. That realization helps to keep me level-headed and not spiral back into the Chance Encounter Paradox.

Barb the French Bean


  1. That was a most excellent post! Loved it!

  2. I've always wondered about that paradox. Now I know. VERY funny!

  3. I've SO been there, still doing that! I honestly am.

    You know what?

    I'd love to run into you either matter what either of us looked like! :)

  4. awwww haha. i hate looking at previous heavier pictures of myself. it makes me upset and i dont even feel like i was ever that person. either way i am sure you looked hot, with random italians chasing you and stuff.
    btw why did you turn down that italian guy, did you see 'Taken' or something???

  5. Thanks, all! :-D

    Kate: That would be pretty awesome!

    Pancake: I turned him down because he was trying to sell me stuff I didn't need. :-P

    -French Bean

  6. Excellent. I loved in particular the graph of the chances of meeting someone you really like when you look your worst! I know this problem! Great post!

  7. Us old(er) timers call it Murphy's Law, but I like your updated term better. :)

    Too bad we can't carry around a phone booth and do a presto-chango for that chance encounter, eh?

  8. Hahahah moo moo juice.
    also i totally agree. i want to burn my school pictures too. i looked like a dumpling.


  9. Hehe. That was a really funny and very scientific post.

    It makes me think back to some of my very bad college photos when I used to think it was cool walking around with a sanata hat for the whole of December

  10. Very few photos of my high school self exist today, and with good reason. I think there are two on facebook that illustrate it very clearly, waaaay back in my tagged photos.

    But more than my appearance, I want to show my old classmates that I can actually carry a conversation now. With PEOPLE omg. XD

  11. Why won't you say moo-moo juice? Moo-moo juice is awesome.

  12. ps, i passed you an award at my blogg.

  13. Melody: Yes. This post has scientific proof with lots of research. >.> At least the graphs make it legit!

    Karen: Oh, yeah. It IS Murphy's Law. That's only MORE scientific proof! :-D

    Alexandra: Heck, I only *wished* I looked like a dumpling back then. All Macy needed to do was tie some strings on my limbs and walk me down as I floated above New York.

    Stu: I would pay to you in a Santa hat.

    Zora: That's because the people with whom you do have conversations have earned the privilege for them! :-D

    Fickle Cattle: I agree. Moo-Moo Juice *is* awesome, but who you say it to plays a big factor in its awesomenes.

    Pancake: Yep! I saw! :-D Merci Beaucoup!

    -French Bean

  14. Great post. Warning, never sneak the dogs out in the middle of the night in you jammies. I did and bumped into mega hot guy leaving the flat opposite. My jammies have a cow on them, not a good look :0(

  15. I love your posting, Barbara! You're hilarious and I love your blog.

    -Sar (linked from 20SB)


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb