Stephan Bibrowski, also known as Lionel the Lion-faced Man, had congenital terminal hypertrichosis.

Okay, stay with me.  This is a bit of a wide-ranging ramble.  Let’s start with David L. Katz, who published an interesting post on LinkedIn that addressed the dangers of cherry picking research results, especially if they have societal impact such as in medical trials.  He was pretty blunt in his assessment:

Selectively seeking, finding, and/or citing those sources that affirm what we already believe and wish to be true is not scholarship. It does not qualify as research. It does not even meet standards for homework of any respectable pedigree. It is the academic analogue to masturbation: self-gratification, devoid of meaning. It is the quintessentially trivial pursuit, signifying nothing.

It’s an interesting article and a recommended read.  As a former member of the research community I was, of course, drawn to and in agreement with his central premise.  But I have to admit, having an essentially shallow and adolescent mindset, that what I most admired in Katz’s article was his literary legerdemain in linking an article on scholarship with masturbation.

Yep.  That’s where we’re going, at least for part of the way.  I received some negative comments from colleagues on my recent post on bitchiness, which disappointed me somewhat as it showed how little those close to me really know me.  So, in the interest of general enlightenment, I decided to open the kimono, as it were, and whatever appropriate cliches you can toss out to share some more edgy thoughts.

This being America, we are ashamed of all bodily functions and pleasure in general.  So when are dear darling children inevitably discover their built-in PlayStations we panic, scream and drive shame into their heads with stakes and sledgehammers.  As a consequence, the concept of self-abasement has been reduced to an infantile, puerile discussion, the province of adolescent jokes such as the career path of a professional fisherman (start baiting the hooks as an apprentice baiter and work your wait up to the master level).

Since children have never been very susceptible to reasoned argument, we apply fear instead, such as the old canard about excessive self-abuse leading to hairy palms.  My wife, surprisingly, had never heard of that one so maybe it’s a guy thing.  Generations of young males have spent anxious hours examining their hands and considering the relative difficulty of shaving their palms as well as thinking up folk cures of hairy palmedness.  Now that’s some serious research.

Apparently I did everything right (or wrong, depending on viewpoint): my palms are non-hirsute.  But what about the unfortunate few who actually have hair growing in inappropriate places?  There is, in fact, a medical condition called hypertrichosis which results in abnormal hair growth over the body.  The condition can be localized to certain areas, e.g. palms, or be generalized hypertrichosis, which occurs over the entire body, such as Mr. Bibrowski featured in the photo above.

We tend to take the miracle functioning of our bodies for granted.  The presence of the occasional pimple is an earth-shattering event for our younger selves.  Think of Bibrowski the next time you complain of something trivial.

Okay, we are done with the m-word for now–you can take your fingers out of your ears. Our train of thought has almost arrived at its station and I’ll leave you with something of more concern.  While masturbation (okay, I lied) is basically harmless and even conducive to a well-balanced personality, musterbation is much more serious condition.

Musterbation (note the spelling) or, better, MUSTerbation, is a term coined by Dr. Albert Ellis that refers to our habit of saying “I must, you must, they must” all the time, a bit like Spanish verb conjugation.  Musterbation is essentially a form of self-flagellation (which will almost certainly be a subject of future discussion here).

As any Buddhist will attest, telling the Universe what it must do is a guaranteed path to unhappiness and disappointment.  We should allow the Universe to be what it is, and accept ourselves and those around us, including the hirsute and those addicted to gaming consoles.

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One Response to Hypertrichosis

  1. Having read and ingested (okay, processed) your entire post, I concur with the perspective shared in your closing paragraph. As for endless studies, surveys and research findings, I may give them my time – yet always with a cautious grain of salt; sometimes two.


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