Living by the Numbers
Credit: Illustration by Eddie Guy

My scale is talking to me.

Not out loud, of course, but loud enough.

All scales have something to say. They have an essentially judgmental nature. Every time you pass by, they're whispering sweet words of encouragement or making quiet accusations. Which is why I haven't lived in a house with a scale for the past 30 years. But I have one now, and it's a hell of a chatterbox.

This one's a black plastic square, 13x13, about the size of an old vinyl LP sleeve. But it is in no way analog. Sleek and black, with an all-knowing aluminum eye dead in the center, it glistens darkly in the first rays of dawn, already sharing information. About me. It knows me better than I know myself, and it wants the whole world to know it.

The scale talks with my phone and with my iPod. It gabs with a little device I wear on my hip, a lovable but demanding thing that's always crying out for attention. And both of them are in continuous contact with a website that emails me every once in a while to let me know it's up to date on how much I've been eating (calories in!), how many steps I've taken (calories out!), and how many glasses of bourbon I've sipped (At your present rate, you will weigh...Listen, maybe it's time for a talk). It even watches me sleep. These devices work in concert to capture my life, quantify it, and improve it, though, technically, that last bit is up to me.

This is a strange little arrangement I've entered into, sharing my body so freely with this consortium of processors, and I'm not entirely comfortable with it. I've digitized my life for a reason: to make peace with a world of numbers I've run from for far too long, and to take some control of that world. Except I worry that everything's been turned upside down – that I'm the one being controlled.

Looking down at the plastic clip currently begging to be held (and this is no metaphor – it's flashing the words hold me as I write), I wonder if this gadget has become something not quite inanimate. I'm no longer sure if I've entered the world of numbers or if they've entered me. And as I pick up the little black clip, it occurs to me to ask: Who is holding whom?