When I grew up I was going to eat orange juice concentrate out of the can with a spoon and eat raw cookie dough from the tube.
What amuses me about remembering this chunk of adolescent wisdom is that fifteen years later it basically defines me as a person: if someone didn’t make up all these rules, I’d be making horrifying decisions. Or so I think.
I imagine that there are children out there who don’t think twice about the foods that their parents give them. They don’t fantasize about the day that they are out from under their parents’ thumb and they can finally eat entire pizzas in one sitting, dipping each greasy slice in creamy ranch dressing– the kind you make with the packet. Using mayonnaise. Oh. Yum.
Sure, whiny six year olds refuse to eat green veggies and live exclusively on grilled cheese for a period of their lives, but I’m not talking about my six year old self. I’m referring to my sixteen-year-old self. The one who was elated to get a car on her sweet birthday because it meant she could drive to Taco Bell and eat four or five Gorditas. The one who saw college as an opportunity to eat cake for breakfast.
But here I am, a twenty five year old woman who doesn’t ever eat cake for breakfast, hasn’t had a Gordita since high school, and measures out serving sizes of cookie dough before digging in. Here’s what I didnt consider about growing up: knowledge.
Somehow, somewhere, I acquired this all-consuming vat (for lack of a better word) of knowledge. I blame Google, social media, my job, marketing, people, The New Yorker, my own constant need to know the answers– all of it– for the fact that I can’t do anything because I know too much about everything.
I heard the snickers. Caroline just called herself a know it all.
But it’s not a grand declaration; it’s a painful confession. I know too much.
I know the calories in berries, cakes, cookies, pastries, my favorite dishes at restaurants. I know random math theorems, how to build lamps out of cookie jars and teacups, the best way to remove wine from carpet, how many push ups you’d have to do to burn off a Pringle. I have knowledge about foreign wars, foreign affairs, local affairs, and sexual affairs. I understand things medical, technical, cynical, and neurological. I know about medications and death rates, dog breeds, marathons, oxygenation, skin care, infomercials, dance moves, deadly rashes, and how to do a handstand. But not for too long. Bad for the circulatory system…
When I was 10 or 11, I was hanging out at my dad’s office. Back in the day, it was not uncommon to find an eclectic mix of famous and notables hanging out in the “Red Room” of my father’s law office. Legend has it that for decades the future of the social, political, and urban landscape of Austin, Texas was determined in that garden-level room. There was a fridge of beer and a couple cans of nuts. I grew up on all you can drink Coca Cola Classic when my mother wasn’t around and picking cashews and almonds out of the mixed nut cans, overhearing conversations about murders, sex scandals, and the occasional joke about a whore and a lawyer.
For years I was a child eating nuts, drinking Coke, and drawing pictures on legal pads, waiting for my dad to crack a cold Coors, look at his watch, and nod to me to gather my things, it was time to go to Jorge’s for enchiladas. Until that night.
That night, as I was pilfering cashews, a law partner– a woman, walked over to me.
“You like the cashews?”
(I’m sure I just nodded or something, but as I write this I wish I would have said something about how I didnt like them, I was just partially retarded and enjoyed spending time digging through an industrial-sized nut can looking for cashews…)
“Well, enjoy them. Before too long every one of those cashews is going to represent a dimple in your once taut thigh.”
To be honest with you, I dont think I knew that how severely fucked up her comment was. Had I of known, I feel certain I would have prebilled her for therapy, or at the very least slapped her for good measure. But I didn’t. I simply told her that for my height, I was actually slightly underweight.
But that was the beginning of the knowledge. It was the first moment that it truthfully occurred to me that there was an underlying reason why people made decisions, and it didn’t have a damn thing to do with want. It had to do with knowledge. More than that, it has to do with this complex brain thing wherein you weigh the knowledge you have against the variable consequences of an action and then– after taking six or seven Aleve– decide that you’ll wake up six minutes earlier to ensure that you can make your own tea so that you have enough caffeine in your system to deal with your coworkers upon entering your office, so that you don’t lose your temper and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, in order to keep everyone happy, so that no one ends up in the bathroom crying, which delays productivity, resulting in low morale that makes your boss cranky and puts everyone in a bad mood.
Seriously. It’s that complicated.
So, children. This is the lesson here: dream of a life where people eat cake for breakfast and wear slutty outfits from Rampage that their mothers wouldnt allow. But heed this warning:
Cake is full of calories that make you fat. Couple that with the sugar that gives you carbohydrate cravings that leads to eating pizza, which gives you acne, that deters boys, which lowers your self esteem, resulting in feelings of low self worth that can only be combated through meaningless sex and you’re already batting zero. Dress that in an outfit that your mother disapproves of and you’re just a fat whore with acne…
… and that’s not worth cake at breakfast.