When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer

In an old episode of “The Office,” Michael Scott claims that he’s not superstitious but “a little stitious.”

Nonsense vocabulary aside, I’d probably describe myself as a little stitious too. While I have no qualms when I spill salt, step on cracks, or cross paths with a black cat, there are just two superstitions — one small and one large — that I can’t seem to put aside. And one of them is having an noticeable effect on my journey to weight-loss surgery.

The small superstition is very benign. It’s kind of charming, actually. When I drive over train tracks, I lift my feet off the floor.

The major superstition has to do with the future. In a nutshell, I won’t take any actions that might cause pain or problems if the events of the universe don’t go the way I expect them to.

A good example of this is when I sign greeting cards. If it’s the day before the event, I will write the date on the card. But, if I’m signing the card a little bit early, I’ll either leave off the date or write something like “Birthday 2017.”

Another example — probably a better one — is when it comes to gifts for baby showers. I rarely buy baby clothes, preferring to get a gift card to a general store like Target.

What’s the reasoning behind this farkakte superstition? I think making assumptions about the future tempts fate to do its worst. If the card recipient dies before the event, his or her family is left with a reminder that their loved one didn’t live to see that date. If something happens with the pregnancy, I don’t want the parents to own something (toys or clothes) that will remind them of what they’ve lost.

This is flawed, fatalistic thinking — and I know it. And I want to be very clear about what’s going on through my mind. I do not believe that signing a date or buying a onesie will cause someone to die. I do, however, believe that it’s going to cause pain and suffering if someone does die.

A weird superstition, eh? In fact, I’m not even sure it fits the classical definition of a superstition which, according to the built-in dictionary on my MacBook, which is “a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event.” I don’t believe there’s a direct cause and effect (Footnote 1).

OK, now that I’ve explained all this, let me tell you how it applies to weight-loss surgery. As I’ve said, I never make assumptions that the events in the Universe will go the way I want them to. That’s why I’m not buying any clothes in smaller sizes in advance of my surgery.

Buying clothes now is probably a good idea, as it’s summer so I can buy shorts and T-shirts I can wear year-round in Florida. If I wait until after my surgery, heavier clothes might be in stock, which won’t be what I need. Plus, I keep seeing things on discount racks that will fit me in the weeks and months after surgery. Having these clothes on hand now will save me from having to panic, rush out the store, and buy things at full price. Buying things today might not be necessary, but it would be a prudent thing to do.

But I won’t do it.

I figure that if there’s a stack of new clothes waiting for me at home, something might go wrong on the operating table. Or it might turn out that I’m one of the tiny fraction of patients that don’t experience serious weight loss. If the first thing happens, the Complementary Spouse will have to return home from the hospital at some point and see a large pile of clothes that I had stockpiled for the future. If the second thing happens, I’ll have a constant reminder that I have failed at something.

Since I know this is a silly and counterproductive way to think, I’ve decided to allow a few exceptions for this superstition. First, while I will spend none of my own money on new clothes, I’ll allow others to buy clothes for me. This happened for the first time a few days ago: the Complementary Spouse needed one more thing in his Old Navy online cart to receive a discount, so he bought me a pair of pants. I picked out the style and color, and made a guesstimate about my waist size by the end of the year.

Second, I will ask the Complementary Spouse to buy things for himself that I like, knowing full well that I will just borrow them when they fit me (Footnote 2). This happened last weekend, when we were at the mall before our movie started, and I saw a great pink shirt with toucans on it. It’s the kind of preppy thing that I like but he doesn’t. However, I said “if you buy this for yourself, I can use it when it fits me.” He agreed. And to my surprise, he wore it the next day and it looked great on him. Maybe I won’t get it after all.

This is the Complementary Spouse wearing the shirt I encouraged him to buy.

I realize that this superstition about the future is highly problematic, and is probably something I should discuss with a psychologist. I know it’s a weird way to think because I don’t apply it to all situations. I buy concert tickets and plane tickets months in advance. I’ll even make restaurant reservations a few weeks out if it’s for a special event. And I preorder books and video games.

What are your superstitions? Leave me a message in the comments.

1. I’m listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” as I write this. That should explain the title for this blog post.
2. I just realized that this is a huge advantage of being in a same-sex relationship. If I were married to a woman, borrowing clothes would be kind of awkward.

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