Of Theories Likely to Remain So

1   A contributing cause of hearing loss in the elderly is, over the course of years, the shouting {in pleasure) of lovers, very close to the ear, perhaps especially from behind. Sounds of this nature cannot be reproduced in the laboratory, unfortunately, nor can the beloved be relied upon to recall with any precision the frequency of deafening cries or to estimate with any accuracy at all the volume. The proximity of lips to ear, the position and angle of delivery, perhaps; but this is inadequate data on which to base a reputable study.

2   Women enjoy expressing physical need publicly, and this is their reason (often unconscious) for smoking. It is a reaction to their being so often a source of need, or a resource for others in need. The contemptible, long-forbidden gratification of self becomes erotic; i.e., inhaling in front of others is nothing less than veiled masturbation. A qualitative study generating this grounded theory would be suspect: leading questions would have to be asked of a great many· female smokers to find any who would share the researcher's opinion. Additional problems include the researcher's need to publicly acknowledge and reflect upon her exhibitionism, as well as her continuing addiction (though she is not currently a smoker).

3   The ancillary work of the researcher, teaching, causes disease and eventual death. Chronic dissatisfaction with undesirable student performance and unaccountable meetings has a deleterious effect on health. Presently, the researcher is host to any number of diseases {as yet undiagnosed) which are hastened in their development by each professional encounter. It is posited that abnormal cell growth, for example, accelerates in inverse proportion to decline, disregard, willful ignorance, and even unpleasantness. Study flaw: other factors, such as too many ounces of water per day, may also be contributing causes. Additionally, mutant cell growth cannot be monitored in a normal classroom setting, whether a class or a meeting is in progress. One promising direction may be in first establishing that low-grade misery does not promote a certain hardiness in academic women.

4   All people are shifting masses of confusion, as unable as the researcher is ( or isn't) to be sure when they label anything in or beyond themselves. For instance, as all people (may) wonder periodically, the researcher does not know if she is truly sad or depressed. That is, if she is as sad as others are who say they are sad. Or as depressed as others are who go in for treatment and come out on Prozac. Who will know if the "sufferer" doesn't? Surely anyone would have to make the decision to report to a professional the self-selected, so-called aberrant thoughts and behaviors; thus-and to depart on a personal note here-if I cannot be sure the decision is warranted, I might never be suitably labeled, even though I could be, quietly, one of the very saddest people in the world's population. Am I stoic? Negligent of my health? If no answer is possible, even from one subject (who, however she might strain to judge, cannot), it would seem inadvisable to pursue these or other research questions.

5   Becoming a crime victim and watching television are highly correlated. A viewer's behavior is predictable, based upon six hours (on the average) of programming per day. A victim is unpredictable when not programmed, and a crime is easily botched if the script is not followed. Additionally, a non-viewer can hear better in and around the house, since the television is not on, potentially averting criminal activity. Beyond the advisability of an onerous longitudinal study, the paucity of verifiable non-viewers would present difficulties in study design. (Another problem/research question: love cries can be as noisy as TV. Is the likelihood of being victimized by a criminal while making love as great as while watching television? Would the lovers lower their risk if they were to become long-term non-viewers? Or would crimes of other kinds then readily invade the too-peaceful love scene?)

6   Most Americans will make progress in solving their top-listed problems in the coming year, just as they have in most previous years. The progress will be indiscernible to most of the people around them; e.g., a man's weight will drop from 267 to 259, a smoker will reduce from 45 cigarettes a day to an even 2 packs, a woman will cool to her abusive boyfriend for a week. An abundance of pride will cause people to reward themselves prematurely, in fact almost constantly, for the small victories in their discouraging situations. This is an unseen cause of "encouraging economic activity," high credit debt, and the unduly positive self-image of most Americans. Unfeasible study for several reasons, the most important being that such participants are grotesquely unreliable and loath to admit it, even though they cause endless social problems.

7   The tendency to forget the names of people or books or brands is related to information overload, but its primary cause is antipathy. Though we insist that the failure to remember the name of a friend's husband is not personal, at some level or in some measure, we are wishing to eradicate the repellent fact of his being, the memory of which is most easily brought on by the name. The title of the book we told ourselves was quite excellent will not be retrieved; the popular brand name of the expensive blouse we thought was stylish is later gone. Something in them was appalling, yet we were not conscious of it. Our first response to a suggestion of this nature would be "Nonsense!" How difficult to prove, yet how obviously true. No study has been undertaken, though the prospect of lively debate (notably marital) is available to anyone interested in a thorough investigation of these questions.

8   People say hello to the researcher Jess now that she is older. Only children have grown friendlier. No study is possible, unfortunately, without data from previous years; thus, few worthwhile comparisons can be made. Also discouraging is the fact that encroaching deafness (from rock and roll concerts and love cries, the researcher hypothesizes) may make key utterances indiscernible, occasionally, and results invalid.

9   The statement "You are not getting older; you are getting better" is in fact true, in spite of its marked incidence on birthday greeting cards. We do excel and improve with age, the art of love standing as the most spectacular example. "Better" lovers, their flesh stretched and decorated by time and ardent physical engagement, approach the "little death" of orgasm with increasing devotion, courage, and abandon (and perhaps an enviable deafness). Who would not exchange spongy skin texture for boundless, passionate patience? A body of research awaits an eager scientist not afraid to mix work and love.