On Wishing You Could Turn Off the “Human” Switch

My back-and-forth relationship with humanity

Clare Sayas
Human Parts
5 min readAug 19, 2013


The Tipping Point

“I work with algorithms because I’ve lost all faith in humanity,” he said.

I met the man who said that at a goodbye party. The person we had both come to see off was drunk in the backseat. We were feeling contemplative. Goodbyes have a way of doing that.

“With data, patterns — I can intervene. I can change human behavior.”

That triggered bile to rise from my liver to my throat. I wanted to puke because it made me think of the endless advice passed on to me from a combination of girlfriends, Sex and the City and Patti Stanger’s tweets: when a person cheats once, he or she will cheat again. These sorts of things have a way of becoming pattern, because that’s how human behavior works, they say.

Earlier in the evening, the beautiful girl in the back told me she had seen the man that I’ve been seeing for almost a year at a bar with another woman.

They were alone.

On Love

I have had one person in my life I’ve ever called a “boyfriend.” I thought this was normal until I started my first job out of school two years ago, which is filled with women that flaunt rocks and/or a shared mailing address. The sounds of my lack of femininity are deafening. No one thought the New York Magazine piece I tweeted was interesting. They were busy picking out centerpieces for their receptions.

I am reminded every second of every workday that I am untethered and unclaimed — that no girlfriend, puppy or partner waits to smother my lips the second the front door opens.

Until recently, I was fine with this and even consciously avoided it — the one person that I had ever called “boyfriend” fought very hard over a span of years to get me to call him that.

I remember being 10 years old at my cousin’s wedding, sensing that the whole celebration was a ploy from local San Diego businesses to get my ditzy relatives to overpay for a hotel ballroom and white chocolate fountains. I was determined to be a doctor/ Michelle Kwan/ astronaut/ Barbara Walters and nothing, especially some teary-eyed dude in a suit, was going to stop me from my dreams. And chocolate-covered marshmallows.

I have chocolate stains on my pillows from him leaving candy in my bed.

On Logic

My youth was spent in bed sucking from a nebulizer, trying my very best to breathe without spitting too much in the mouthpiece (saliva made it smell weird). Since my asthma also prevented me from sleeping peacefully, I watched an ungodly amount of television*.

My two favorite characters were Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation**.

Why did I love these characters so much? Because they had a good grip on logic. Data was a humanistic android that could do the sickest calculations instantly, while Sam was a quantum physicist who somehow figured out how to weave time travel with an altruistic, moralistic universe-force for the purpose of fixing the world.

They had figured out things with reason and deduction, and were constantly working to gain understanding and truth along the way. Data learned to understand feeling, and Sam pined to learn the ways of a mysterious universe that let him correct its errors.

I wished I could be them. To be like Data, to have such a brain, such precision — and to avoid feelings! To be like Sam, the prime example of someone who has taken his fuzzy feelings and channeled them into something productive and solid and scientific and quantifiable.

I felt oddly akin to them, sucking on my steroid vapor. I was figuring out how to breathe. I was mastering my own humanity. I was willing the weak parts to shut off.


One of the best compliments I’ve ever received is when someone tells me I have a good “sense” or “intuition” about something. Sometimes they call it “knack” or “talent” or “thing” — but I know what it really is.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been good at two things: communicating through words and telling people what to do with utmost confidence from a balanced point of view. I am an analyst, a thinker, an obsesser of detail. I wake at 5 a.m. and think of how things (work, kitchen, Bank of America, Ina Garten’s cornbread recipe, Caltrain, the public school system, etc.) could be better. I am a card-carrying ENTJ. I watch, take in patterns, and intervene when appropriate and strategic.

But every once in a while, my logic and reason evaporate. I think of old fashioned ideas of courtship. Instead of processing information like when a friend tells me in a hush, “I saw your man with another. They weren’t touching each other, it didn’t seem romantic. But we waved. He didn’t tell you?” I reel. There is fire in my gut and throat and ears and cheeks and my knuckles pale, threatening to split. I breathe, barely, telling myself that we aren’t “together,” whatever that means. My heart sinks when he doesn’t talk to me on my birthday until I provoke him, drunk and sad.

What are the benefits to this? I question. Dating is the worst sunk cost. Why hold hands with someone? What is the purpose of me wanting to have dinner with dudes who may never call again, or will likely leave at some point, or at the very least keep texting their ex-girlfriends?

I fantasize about being able to turn off my heart, my intuition. I think of being emotionless, like Data. Or having the luxury of having time travel and a duty to the universe to leave everything mortal behind, like Sam.

But this is useless. I realize that altogether, the sum of my logic and its opposites make me breathe. They make me human. They make me keep it together.

A search for someone else who understands both sides isn’t a sunk cost, but an opportunity — a chance to feel we are not so alone after all, but here for another selfish being other than ourselves.

*For the record, I read a lot, too. Sci-fi, mostly. And Steinbeck.

**I know, I was a meganerd. But the SciFi Channel used to be the bestest. Also: watch both shows, they’re excellent.



Clare Sayas
Human Parts

PR lady. Don’t take anything written here seriously, as it’s for funsies. Say hi: @claresayas / about.me/claresayas