I’m meeting my friend Delia at Starbucks for our weekly decompression session. Delia is a psychiatrist, which can be a serious drawback to friendship—as in she frequently asks if I need medication—but I love her.
She orders her skinny pumpkin latte and I my extra-hot, extra dry, extra shot cappuccino, and use fresh non-fat milk because it makes better foam, please.
Delia wants to know, “So how have things been going?” which sounds suspiciously like shrink-talk, but I let it go.
I indulge myself briefly in fantasy—that I confess to her that I have an urge to bitch-slap my daughter-in-law and throw her controlling ass out of my house.
Instead, I say, “Well, honestly, I feel confused a lot lately.”
“How often is a lot?” Delia wants to know.
“Often enough that it requires more wine than usual.”
“I see,” Delia smiles. (This is something therapists always do, I’ve noticed. Tell you how much that they see.)
“Can you give me some examples? How are you confused?”
“Well, sure,” I offer. “Take Starbucks. Do you my daughter hates it?”
“Because it’s so corporate?”
“No, well, yes, probably. But she hates Starbucks specifically because she thinks they’re against fair trade and exploits Columbians or something.”
“Well, that’s not good.”
“Well, no it’s not, but here’s what’s confusing. Starbucks is one of the first and few American corporations to offer health benefits to part-time employees. I just read where it’s ahead of the game with Obamacare while other companies are cutting back employee hours to dodge paying medical at all. How then is Starbucks an evil empire?”
“Hmm,” Delia ponders. “I don’t know. But do you think your stand is somewhat self-justifying as we sip our Starbucks?”
Honestly, you would sometimes think Delia wasn’t listening to me at all.
“Here’s another one,” I tell her. “As if running for miles and miles and miles and Ks and Ks until your muscles spasm and you puke streams of bile isn’t mystifying enough, now, apparently, you are to do all this running through mud and muck or let people throw tempera paint at you or fake blood.”
Delia stares at me, looking confused herself.
“I’m completely serious,” I assure her. “I have a girlfriend who ran a 5K race last weekend and zombies came out of the woods and threw blood on her. I find that confusing.”
“And what about women who talk on their cell phones in the bathroom? I mean while they are on the toilet.” I’m leaning forward in my seat. This one really unnerves me.
“Don’t you wonder what’s so important, really, that they can’t wait until they’ve peed? Well, I’ve listened, and the answer is nothing! They aren’t checking in to see if Grandpa is still breathing on the respirator. They are talking about what to pick up for dinner or how botched their pedicure is. What is that?! And what about the people on the other end of the line? What can they be thinking? I flush my toilet on purpose,” I admit.
Delia is laughing. “Don’t you think that’s a bit passive-aggressive?”
“I DON’T CARE.” I keep at her. “And don’t you find food terribly confusing?”
“In what way?”
“Well, take fish for example. I get that you shouldn’t eat fish that are being hunted to extinction. That’s just wrong. But then, what’s the alternative? Fish raised in a controlled environment, right? But no, certain farm-raised fish is wrong, too, and should only be eaten wild-caught. Do you know it takes an app on your phone to figure out if you can eat fish or not! It’s too confusing. So, I just don’t eat fish at all.”
“That seems drastic.”
(This is another thing about Delia. She is always very judgmental about behaviors she views as excessive.)
“And what about quinoa?” I demand.
“What about it?”
“It’s completely confusing! First of all, it doesn’t even remotely resemble its phonetics in either Spanish or English. Keen-wa. It is supposed to be this god-given super food we’re to eat ten times a day, but then it turns out that greedy Americans are gobbling it up so fast and increasing demand so that hungry Bolivians can’t afford to eat a main staple of their diet anymore.”
Delia can’t explain any of this.
“And speaking of super foods—what about kale? Seriously. This is ‘food’ that we used to scrape off the plate along with a shriveled orange slice because it was a decoration or else line the hamster cage with it. Now it’s a super food that’s supposedly so good they have to make it into chips to trick us into eating it.”
“Eating anymore isn’t just confusing,” I sigh, “it’s exhausting. I’m thinking of giving it up.”
“Maybe we should talk about that…” Delia says, a bit too bossy.
“No, I’ve got more!” I’m nearly shouting. “Let’s talk about sexuality.”
Delia arches one eyebrow in that don’t-go-there look exactly like my mother. “O-kay…”
“Look,” I say. “I’ve understood the GLBT-A thing for a long time, and I do have a t-shirt. But they’ve thrown in a Q—and that’s so confusing. I get that it can stand for questioning or queer, but if it means queer, then isn’t that bad? It sounds so pejorative!”
I can see Delia is practicing her patient tone with me. “Well, I think for some, the labeling thing has been so devaluing or inadequate that choosing a specific identity seems important.”
“Well, it’s damned confusing,” I counter. “They could at least move the A to the middle to form some sort of a memorable acronym: GLABT, maybe? But then there’s that Q dangling out there without a U…”
Delia is now peeling back the paper on her latte cup. “You’re sounding a bit hostile,” she warns.
“I’m not hostile, I’m confused!” I yell.
“Look,” I challenge her. “Isn’t there anything out there about daily life that just baffles you? Kind of stops you in your tracks?”
Delia pauses and considers this for a moment. She leans across the table. “All right,” she confides. “There is something. I just don’t get Big Gulps.”
“You know,” she says, warming to her subject, “those enormous giant plastic cups that people fill up with syrupy drinks at the gas station?”
“Oh, yeah,” I agree. “With like 42 ounces!”
“Why is that?” Delia wonders. “Why would anyone want that much to drink? Why would they want to carry it around with them? It’s obviously heavy.”
“Yeah! And what about those water bottles with nipples?” I jump in. “You don’t have to be a shrink to know that all those people walking around sucking on those hour by hour every day is something Freudian.”
Delia is now rubbing her temples at the pressure points. “I think I’ve got to go,” she says.
Then she looks at me hard. “You may want to think about adjusting your meds.”
“Whatever,” I shrug.