Aunt Pythia’s advice
You guys know how much Aunt Pythia loves you, right (answer: a ton)?
OK, good. Because that means I can be honest with you. The truth is, I’ve been getting some very weird questions recently, and I’ve had to throw out a bunch of them, sifting through the weeds to find some tulips.
It’s not that I mind it when you guys make up questions. By all means, make shit up! It’s just that the made-up questions have to actually be interesting, or at least they have to have an embedded question which I can answer. So please, no more fantasies of poop in pots, thank you very much!
And just to get that image out of your minds, let me brag about my most recent knitted gift for one of my best friends:
OK, all good? Fantastic! I hope you enjoy today’s tulipy column, and after you’re done,
please think of something interesting, reasonable, and non-excrement related
to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page!
My partner (female) and I (also female) have been together for about ten years now. Over that timespan, she’s gained about 100 pounds. Not due to any illness, or pregnancy, just to inactivity and poor eating habits.
I don’t know how to put this any better, but I’m just simply not attracted to her in her current state. I’m actively turned off by her body shape. I know we’ll grow old, and our bodies will change naturally, but we’re not *that* old just yet. And it frustrates me that this is a result of her poor choices–this is ultimately under her control.
I have no desire to leave her. We have kids, she’s my best friend, I love her. I wish there were a switch I could turn on to be… well… turned on. From all the advice I’ve found online, I’m an asshole for feeling this way. I know weight issues are deep rooted and difficult to tackle, I’m empathetic. But this doesn’t change the fact that I’m just not attracted to the weight.
Sincerely not an asshole
Does this mean you guys aren’t having sex? And neither of you having sex with other people? And are you staying together because of the kids?
Look, there are plenty of marriages that become, over time, not very sexy, and for various reasons. When that happens and there are no kids, I always suggest breaking up. Because yes, it’s great to have a best friend, but if you are also a sexual person it just won’t do to live with your best friend and never get laid.
When there are kids, like there are with you, I’d suggest (possibly) staying together for the kids but (definitely) having sex with other people. The hardest part of this plan is the initial conversation, but if you aren’t having sex right now then it probably won’t really come as a surprise to anyone.
It’s not really a single conversation, of course, and it also isn’t really a negotiation: you are telling your partner that you need sex in your life and you’re going to go find it. And there’s no need to tell her all the details once it’s happening. It can be hard to say, but it’s likely still the kindest and most direct route.
What you don’t say is that if she loses 100 pounds you will be faithful. That would be hurtful and, if you’ve ever examined dieting data, useless. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter why you’re not having sex, just that you’re not having sex. Plus, other people will find your partner super hot.
Once you have that conversation, you will both be free to go be desired and be desirous, which is a better place for both of you.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
Is data science an IT function, or a business function?
I work at a large financial services firm as a data scientist. At our company, we have data scientists on both sides of the wall, integrated into a data architecture group (me) or in analytics hubs across the lines of business (others).
I often question why I’m in IT. I and my business counterparts are often doing very similar work, but sit in vastly different cultures. And I personally feel the culture of business (at least in our company) is more agile and responsive than IT, which is far slower-paced and more monolithic.
Where do you see data science groups sitting? And how can I make the best of my position sitting close to IT?
Caught between two worlds
Interesting, for various reasons. First, I think of finance quants as the original data scientists, so it’s funny to me that finance firms are explicitly hiring “data scientists.”
Second, I think of data scientists as living in a third group, outside either IT or business. In some sense the modern data scientist’s job is to translate between those two worlds without being in either of them. But since that’s obviously not how they thought about it in your company, I think the best advice I can give you is to look around for another job. Turns out there are quite a few jobs out there for people with data skills.
You might have to take a pay cut, though. Finance firms tend to pay IT people well, partly for the experience of working in what is often a massively boring place.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
My friend is going for a doctorate at a top department. He has the chance to work with a world renowned scientist who scares the living daylight out of him. He knows he will never possibly be able to meet his advisor’s expectations. So my friend will do everything he can to work on the challenging problems he’s assigned alone, but he does occasionally relent and ask a question. In a few key diagrams his advisor shows him how the problem could be solved. My friend says its like an epiphany, so beautiful and simple, and that he just dreams of possibly ever be that good someday.
Meanwhile I go for a doctorate at a reasonable good department. I am working with a well funded professor who is known for landing her students top notch postdocs with amazing mathematicians. All good, except that she is very demanding and I never seem to be able to meet her expectations. I do everything I can to work on the obscure problems she assigns me but do occasionally give up and ask a question. In a few key diagrams she shows me how the problem could be solved and, boy, I feel like a complete idiot and wonder if I should even be getting a PhD.
Should I find a new advisor or should I just quit?
Brainy Incensed Adolescent Student Earning his Doctorate
Wait, what? Am I supposed to believe these stories? Or is this some kind of test about how things seem when it’s a man versus a woman that is your advisor? I’m a bit confused.
In any case, the options you’ve given – find a new advisor or quit – is missing the most obvious option, which is to continue, because being a graduate student in math, whether your advisor is a man or a woman, is a period where you constantly feel like an idiot. Constantly. So you have no perspective whatsoever.
The most important information you have given me about your future prospects is that your advisor has successful students. So just close your eyes and pretend you might be one of them someday, and keep trying, and keep asking questions, and keep feeling like an idiot, because that’s what learning feels like.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
What are your thoughts on John Cochrane’s post on inequality? I’m especially curious given that you two seem to have the exact opposite view of e.g. Dodd-Frank.
I have trouble reading stuff by people who only refer to taxes as “confiscatory”, so I only skimmed this. But my general feeling is that this man has spent a lifetime figuring out how to use fancy language to avoid the very simple concept of fairness. Particularly when he says:
Maybe the poor should rise up and overthrow the rich, but they never have. Inequality was pretty bad on Thomas Jefferson’s farm. But he started a revolution, not his slaves.
Sounds pretty smug to me, almost like an invitation.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I read some of your posts on working in a hedge fund. Working as a quant, is there a difference between working for a hedge fund vs. investment bank – in terms of feeling ok about the work that you do? Is that possible at all? And how do you recognize a good, honest hedge fund?
Hahahahahaha! Good one.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
You call yourself “super healthy fat woman”. What is your definition of healthy? How is that different from your definition of “super healthy”?
Most days I bike 12 miles. I just got a checkup and all my tests and levels are perfect. I feel incredibly strong and healthy on a daily basis and I haven’t yet reached the period of my life where I get easily injured. For me, that qualifies as “super healthy.” I’m not saying I couldn’t be healthier, say if I had better endurance running, which is hard for me because of my weight, or biking up steep hills, again hard for me.
I usually only mention this stuff because I am, happily, a counter example to the tired stereotype of the lazy fat woman. I have never been lazy, and my weight has basically nothing to do with my exercise levels.
Please submit your well-specified, fun-loving, cleverly-abbreviated question to Aunt Pythia!
Click here for a form.