What Are We Looking For If Not to Please?
by Molly Young
The men at the next table are talking politics. “Nixon got elected because his head was so big,” one of them says. Starbucks has emptied out and each occupied table makes a conspicuous contribution to the ambient noise.
This is how I hear the couple next to me speaking Portuguese. A man and a woman, each partner picking up exactly where the other left off so there is no pause in conversation.
The two are short and dark, with the butter-dense volume of moneyed Europeans. Like Picasso. Thick and virile, even the women. They must eat a lot of sardines.
picasso & his wife
Anyhow. The woman is lovely.
She acts as though she’s young and beautiful, even though she’s not. It’s a kind of confidence that makes Americans resentful of Europeans. For them, I guess, looks are incidental to attractiveness. I’m generalizing here.
This is what I am thinking as I watch the Portuguese couple. They have drinks but barely touch them, and this strikes me as another important distinction between Them and Us. When Americans buy drinks, we drink them fast. My cup has been empty since I got here. I drank it quickly in order to finish it before I realized that I wanted something else.
This, incidentally, is one of the reasons Americans love buffets. Because we think that satisfying an appetite is about having a lot of choices. Ditto malls. These things prey on the anxiety that if you don’t get to see everything you’ll miss out.
But then, of course, that anxiety doesn’t go away even after you’ve seen everything. Instead you wind up feeling anxious AND glutted – a horrible combo.
The Portuguese couple finish their drinks and get up to leave, still talking. The man takes his wife’s cup and throws it away for her. They amble out the door and I return to my Starbucks brochure that I found near the Splenda, and which I am reading because I forgot my book. It tells me that Starbucks offers up to 87,000 different drink combinations, and at the same time I read this someone orders a raspberry hot chocolate with gusto.
Molly Young is the senior contributor to This Recording. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island. Her website is Magic Molly, and you can read her past work on TR here, here, here, here, here, and here.
MAGIC MIXTAPE FOR YOU
“Carbon Dating” – Super Furry Animals (mp3)
“Violet” – Thao Nguyen & the Get Down Stay Down (mp3)
“Soak Up the Sun” – Sheryl Crow (mp3)
“Blade in the Back” – UNKLE (mp3)
“These Days (Nico cover)” – St. Vincent (mp3)
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