Welp, I’m Going Back On The All-Soylent Diet: Here’s Why

In 2014, I drank nothing but Soylent for a week. It was mostly for a lark – hey, here’s this Silicon Valley goop people say can replace full meals! What actually happens if I drank sugarless pancake batter, and nothing but nutritionally-complete pancake batter?

The answer was surprising in a lot of ways:

  • It was comforting not have to worry about my health. As a man who’s survived a triple bypass, every meal is a mild panic – Can I allow myself this? Will it kill me? I should be eating something better – so to have all my choices narrowed down to “Drink this sandy sludge and find better things to ponder” was surprisingly soothing.
  • It ruined our social life. Ever think about how many excuses to get together with your friends are based on food? “Let’s get a drink.” “Tea?” “We’ll do lunch.” Even for ten days, we wound up being weird pariahs – “We’ll go to your house and stare blithely at your food.” We managed, and our friends didn’t yell at us or anything, but it was off-puttingly isolating.
  • It highlighted how much of my day consists of micro-rewards – “Oh, I made it to noon, time for my coffee.” “I’m stressed, let’s pop a cookie.” And without that, I drifted.

And when it was done, we had several cases of Soylent in the basement, which we refused to get rid of in case there was an apocalypse and only we would control the health-batter.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been really stressed over the last few months because of an impending book release, and my stress manifests in the form of overeating. And Gini and I have been thinking about how to restructure our lives to eat better, but what we agreed we needed to start was a hard reset – something to jar us out of our normal habits of “Oh, a glass of wine here will be nice” and “Well, since you’re having a wine I’ll have this cookie.”

And the Soylent in the basement crawled out and said “Y HALLO.”

So yeah. Gini’s already started drinking the Soylent – the expiry date says it’s useless as of 2014, but she’s not dead yet – and I’ll do so on Monday. We won’t do this forever, but before we can kickstart into a finer diet, we need a cleanse to break us of these ridiculous habits.

Which isn’t to say that you do. But eating is an addiction, and unlike normal addictions where you can say “Well, I Just won’t smoke crack any more,” being addicted to eating involves saying “Well, I need three puffs of crack every eight hours, but no more than that.” If I could, I’d go cold turkey, but the irony of the phrase “cold turkey” kind of says it all there, folks.

So I’ll drink goop for two weeks. And see where it goes from there.

And the irony is that the stress I am enduring is because my book The Sol Majestic is coming out in June, and I am currently planning all the ways I will dance for you and say, “Hey, my words are magnificent! You should totally buy my book!” – which is not a thing I am easeified doing, because part of me believes that I am a poor writer and how dare I promote my book when actual writers hold the field.

(…did I mention you get free swag for preordering The Sol Majestic? Well, you do. And you can win a free copy of my book for signing up for my newsletter and GAH I AM MELTING DOWN JUST TYPING THAT.)

“Where’s the irony, though?” you ask. And it’s this:

The Sol Majestic is a book about science fiction fine dining. It has lavishly-described meals made by futuristic methods, designed to make your mouth water. And my upcoming signings, if possible, will have some of this food baked in (hee), with possible drinks and restaurant stops and food blogging tie-ins…

ALL WHILE I AM DRINKING TASTELESS SLUDGE.

So yeah. To combat the stress of promoting a book about food, I will reduce food to a gritty slurry. And yes, you can flavor your Soylent to make it taste good, but I don’t want my Soylent to taste good, I want it to become an obligatory background noise so I don’t reward myself with another gallon of Fruity-Loops-flavored Soylent, and so back to the nutritious grit it is.

Of course I’ll blog this journey.

But I thought you’d like to know in case you’d want to know why I’m going BACK TO THE GOOPTURE.

Sign Up For My Newsletter, Win A Free ARC Of My Book THE SOL MAJESTIC!

The Sol Majestic!

I’ll be doing a book tour to promote my fine-dining-in-space gay romance book The Sol Majestic in June and July. And the biggest problem with book tours is this conversation:

“A book tour? When are you coming to my town?”
“…I was there last week.”

But that’s the problem! Between the billions of Facebook posts and Tweets and other aspects, people don’t get the message that I’m coming – even though I’ve said it a billion times before! So I asked my fellow authors: What works to get the word out?

They told me: newsletters.

So. If you sign up for my newsletter at https://www.theferrett.com/newsletter/ within the next two weeks, I will enter you into a raffle to win a free advance copy of The Sol Majestic – which, if not the best book I’ve ever written, is certainly the closest book to my heart because it’s got love of food and people being kind to each other and investigations of what art really means and also how do we make the work better, all overlaid with wild imaginations of what it would mean to make the finest cuisine with the weirdest sci-fi technologies.

You can win it just for giving me your email address, people.

(And also, if you pre-order it and follow the directions, you’ll get a free signed bookplate and a secret recipe and oh you know the drill by now. Click the link for info, if you must.)

Anyway. Gimme your email, and from then on I’ll send you an email about once a month with my most popular blog posts, and the books I liked, and excerpts from what I’m writing, and also hey I’ll be in your goddamned town wanna join me for free donuts and drinks afterwards?

(NOTE: All my book signings involve donuts and going out for after-signing beverages. I like to eat, what can I say?)

So head to https://www.theferrett.com/newsletter/ and sign up, and in two weeks we’ll see if you’ve won. And prepare for another book tour as I try to hit as many spots as possible in the US, and maybe even Canada this time.

How To Turn Someone With Herpes Down Without Being A Jerk

FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: Invariably, when I post an essay on “How to be nice to people,” some folks get offended. “Why are you asking me to put in extra effort for strangers?” they sneer. “I’m so sick of being told how to talk! Why do I have to learn these things?!”

Alas, the relevant clause here is “Without being a jerk.” There are plenty of no-extra-effort ways to turn someone down; they also happen to be methods that hurt people’s feelings.

Top tip: Being nice to people usually involves going the extra mile.

So rather than dealing with the usual blowhards who are furious about having to burn their poor, overworked brain cells on superfluous concepts like “empathy,” I will delete the comments of anyone who complains about having to be nice to HSV carriers and replace them with a comment saying, “@USERNAME would like you to know they are a jerk.” Commenting on this blog post means you consent to this.

THEN A SECOND DISCLAIMER: Remember that not turning down someone with herpes is also a perfectly acceptable default. But if you’re not comfortable with someone’s status…

“Why Do You Want To Die In A Car Wreck?”
You probably got in a car sometime in the last year or so. It’s well known that people die in car crashes a lot; it’s one of the most common causes of death.

Why did you want to die?

Your answer, of course, is probably “I didn’t want to die, I just needed to get to the mall.” And yet you accepted that risk of dying, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people have died in car accidents, knowing that car rides are inherently dangerous.

“But the only way to ensure you never have any risk of dying in a car accident is never riding in a car!”

Bingo.

(Well, not actually true, as someone my wife knew once died sleeping when someone crashed through their bedroom, but close enough.)

Point is, at some point most of you tallied up the risks of driving in a car – an act so dangerous you have to be professionally trained and get a license for it – and said, “Yeah, I’m willing to risk death for convenience.” (And bonus points if you ever said, “I’ll get in a car with a stranger I summoned from the Internet and pay them to drive for me.”)

You didn’t want to die in a car crash; you just wanted to get places more conveniently. And you wanted that benefit so much that you weighed the risks, decided the benefit was larger than the potential downside of losing a limb to a drunk driver, and proceeded to hurl yourself into harm’s way.

Nobody wants to die in a car crash.

Nobody wants to get herpes, either.

So when you say, “I don’t want to get herpes” to someone you’re turning down, you’re being unthinkingly snide by implying that the people who have sex with these folks do want to get herpes. They don’t. Like you, they’ve looked at the risks, calculated them – albeit differently from the way you do – and decided that the benefits of fine sex with this person outweigh the slight potential of getting herpes.

And it is – or can be – a low risk. With modern treatments, the risks of having sex with someone with known herpes are pretty slim. I know of at least three married couples who’ve been partnered for ten years minimum where the one has yet to catch herpes from the other. I get that you don’t want to get it, but managed properly it’s roughly as distant a risk as dying in a car accident.

…a risk made even more complicated by the fact that you may have herpes right now and not even know it. True story: I had a friend who was dating a guy for six years – a man who’d been tested negative for herpes on multiple occasions over decades, simply because either the right tests weren’t being used or he hadn’t had his first outbreak. He was as safe as it could be ascertained. And it turns out he had a latent strain, and he had his first outbreak, and she caught it.

Again. This isn’t an ad for “WHY YOU SHOULD WANT HERPES” – there’s a reason I wear condoms – but as a disease, there’s a lot of people who do have it right now and don’t even know because for them, it’s not that inconvenient.

Which is why some other people take other risks. You don’t have to; in fact, I assume you won’t, and that’s fine. I’m not shaming anyone for deciding not to have sex with anyone for whatever reason you choose. But when you say “I don’t want to get herpes,” that carries some bad implications.

What should you say? “I’ve read up on it, and I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with the risks.”

That’s honest, and it doesn’t look down on anyone who chooses to say “Yes” instead. Because the only way to absolutely ensure you never pick up herpes is not to have sex with anyone – and if you’re out there having sex, the best you can do is mitigate the risks, not eliminate them.

Don’t Assume Herpes Was A Conscious Choice.
Some people did pick up herpes by having sex with people – and as I’ve argued in the past, that should carry no more stigma than picking up a cold from work. Just like getting in a car risks death, interacting with other people on any level risks catching some disease.

However, there are some folks who picked herpes up through nonconsensual means. Their mother had it and passed it on to them, or someone who sexually assaulted them had it and passed it on.

Which means when you’re talking with someone about their herpes status, it’s best not to imply in any way that this was some sort of punishment for sleeping around. You don’t know. Don’t be a jerk.

Offer What You Can Outside Of Sex.
One of the things that hurts people the most is the way that revealing their HSV+ status gets them insta-dumped. They’re having a good time talking with someone, sparks are flying, and then SEE YA.

Now usually that’s a way of saying “If I can’t fuck you, I don’t need you,” which is a pretty jerky way of interacting with people anyway. And I’m certainly not saying you need to continue to talk with someone as a friend when all you want in your life right now is a date.

But if you’ve started to make a friend, and you could use a friend, why not see if they’re amenable?

That’s not universally applicable, of course – the “If I can’t fuck you, I don’t need you” attitude isn’t unique to the non-herpetic population. And many folks would see the friendship as a sad consolation prize they don’t want. But some might want to still have a scening buddy, or someone they can get whipped by but can’t get fucked by, or just someone to chat with online.

The cold disappearance is what often hurts the most. Sometimes that’s necessary; by no means should you hang around someone out of pity, because that road leads to disaster. But sometimes you can hang a left on that road and wind up in buddytown, and if you can, that’s helpful all round.

Ask In Advance.
So you’re hip-deep in a hot makeout session that’s trending towards Teh Sexx0r, and your partner wriggles uncomfortably and says, “Um…. you should know… I have herpes.”

That’s a bad time to find out, hoss.

My friends have told me stories that boil down to “Formerly amorous person leaps off them like a scalded cat, backs out of the room with the air of a man escaping a plague zombie” or, even worse, “Lust-addled person goes for it, freaks out, has lots of tests and then decides crap, they can’t handle the HSV thing.”

Look. HSV is startlingly common. Somewhere between 10 and 25% of people have it. If you’re dating, it will come up. So discuss it. Proactively. If sex is in the air, say, “Hey, the last time I was tested was in November, and my results were negative.”

Start the discussion in advance rather than just assuming it’s all good.

Read The Comments.
If past experience is a guide, people with herpes will weigh in on the shittiest (and, hopefully, nicest) ways they’ve been turned down. Listen to them. Take notes. Because if you want to be kind, part of that kindness involves keeping your eyes open.