Discover more from Tangent
Full Body Tingle
Feeling human through heartbreak
Greetings from Mexico! 🇲🇽
I find myself here for a friend’s wedding. Fun fact: They chose the venue before they got engaged. I’d like that conviction when I find my partner. They’ve built a wonderful, joyful partnership and I’m lucky to witness it.
Anyways, in this edition you’ll find:
A story of my hapless love life (not really, but kind of?)
An essay that may make you cry
A really cool collection of essays to indulge over the weekend.
A book recommendation paired with an old essay
Here we go!
Full Body Tingle
A full body tingle. Ever had one of those?
It’s as if your body went numb but your limbs still do limby things (high-fives, jives, and irish dance kicks, etc.). You feel it coming in symmetrical waves, as if a pebble was dropped in the pond of your belly button. You try to reason with it while marveling at the occurrence.
I felt it as I was driving back from a party. I was in my early 20s, at a time where I was excited by the idea of “building a career.” My workaholic tendencies were in full swing, but I found time to party. This was a party with work friends, of course.
There was a girl I liked from work, let’s call her Bixby1. Bixby had the frame of a porcelain ballerina, big brown eyes2, and the charm of a Southern Belle thawing the famous Seattle Freeze3. To this day, I don’t recall a time where I saw her angry. Just pure joy standing at 5’3. She moved like a butterfly, and had stung my heart.
A few weeks before the party, after a charming paddle-board date that ended up not being a date, I told her that I liked her. I did so in no uncertain terms, borrowing lines and body language cues from all the romantic movies that told me that if I said what I said, I would get the girl. Bixby, in the most tender way a 23 year-old girl could reject you, rejected me.
We went over to her place to hang out with her roommate (imagine decompressing from getting rejected at the place of the girl who just rejected you). I think we watched The Bachelorette... that show where you got a rose if you blinked and looked like a high-school quarterback. It just rubbed salt in the wound.
I was already in my “more fishes in the sea'' state of mind by the time this party came by. It was Bixby’s birthday. I couldn’t miss it. That would give her too much power. I’m a guy with choices you see. Plus, friend group politics are a thing at that age. If you didn’t go, why didn’t you go? Are you planning to secede from the friend group? How can you secede if these are people you work with? Was I going to become a rogue state? Meander like Liechtenstein?4 So I went.
The first 15 minutes went well. A parade of greetings, the compulsory trip to the table with all the shitty rum and cheap vodka. Who knows, maybe I would meet someone here that I would hit it off with. “Take that, Bixby. Tonight, I’m the one handing roses.”
Then, appearing into the moonlit patio where we were all gathered, Bixby comes out holding hands with a guy named Jake5. Jake was slightly taller, slightly leaner, slightly more muscular than me. He carried a braggadocious grin that made me cast a curse on him and his entire bloodline for eternity. His red hair and large frame paired well with her bright pink birthday dress. They walked in like they had just gotten married; smiles so wide and eyes so bright they turned the night into dusk.
I was flattened. All the roses I had to give wilted–and so did my body. I felt small, defeated. Knowing fully well that I have no poker face and I’m expressive as hell, I decided to make a not so graceful, and very un-Colombian exit6.
I got in my car and began my drive home. I felt betrayed, as if I was owed something (first mistake). I felt less worthy than this Jake fellow (second mistake). And I kept ruminating on this over and over.
Suddenly, I started to feel this full body tingle. This numbness-that-never-was freaked me out–understandable when you are going 60mph on the highway. Then, the waves came. They came from my gut, but I also felt my heart tighten, like when you close your eyes because you don’t want to cry.
This sensation stayed with me for a good 30 minutes. Even after I got home and laid in bed I was feeling it. Once the sensation ceased I realized what had just happened: I felt heartbreak. I marveled at how incredible it was that my body had a very specific full body reaction for it. Oddly enough, I went to sleep grateful that I had felt.
I think about that moment often. Not because of Bixby and Jake (who only dated for three months7). I thought about that night recently when someone asked me: “What makes us human?”
A multitude of factors combined makes us human. Our ability to communicate, to form metaphors, to reason, to collaborate, to support each other. By themselves, these characteristics make us no different than an animal or ChatGPT. Together, along with a secret ingredient, makes our species distinct from all others (natural and artificial).
The secret ingredient: Our ability to feel. Sure, AI has become eerily competent in sounding like it can feel and eliciting feelings. But it cannot be doused in hormones that create a full body tingle. It cannot grieve so deeply that your diaphragm tires from weeping, it cannot feel joy so fiercely that ecstasy becomes timeless.
It cannot full body tingle. And that’s the gift. That is what makes us uniquely human.
Don’t be a Bixby and subscribe to my newsletter. Or don’t. Give me more pain to put onto a page. Your choice.
Media Worth Recommending
thresholds & the windows of time by Mishti Sharma: This essay bydetails her experiences spending time with her grandfather in India. It’s a moving reflection on the mortality of our loved ones, capturing stories as family heirlooms, and makes us wonder how to love without expectations (perhaps that’s the wrong question).
ReadSomethingWonderful.com: This is a beautifully hosted collection of essays curated by some of the Internet’s best writers. I think of it as the digital zine for some of the most influential business/Internet/philosophy writing that has been primarily shared on Twitter. Frankly, I’m struggling to come up with an appropriate summary of what this is, other than it is delightful, so go check it out.
Excellent Advice for Living - Wisdom I wish I’d Known Earlier by Kevin Kelly: Life-advice books can be a bit cliché. But this book is jam-packed with wisdom, turning it into a night table essential. Kevin Kelly is one of the most interesting people in the world, and the wisdom in this book encourages us to be a bit kinder, bolder, and authentic in all we do. Below is my favorite quote, which I’ve written about before:
Just wanted to say thank you! Doing this newsletter is the highlight of my week. If this made you smile, I thank you for that. If you are a new subscriber, I hope this Internet detour will delight you for a while.
Thank you toand for your help editing this week’s essay.
No, I was not in love with the Samsung voice assistant.
The Seattle Freeze is how people in Seattle blame everything but themselves for poor social skills and mediocre romantic experiences.
Have you EVER met someone from Liechtenstein?
I forgot his name, but he totally looked like a Jake.
In Colombia, you have to say goodbye to people like 10 times.
Der klassik schadenfreude.