Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You Will Hurt the Cheetos' Feelings!

When I was little, I had a hard time eating snacks that came in lots of pieces, like Cheese Nips or peanuts. This is because I assigned personalities and varying degrees of codependence to each piece, and I had to take these into account as I ate.

It wasn’t a big deal if I was eating the whole portion of something myself—a box of Cracker Jack, for example. When I finished, everyone would be back together again in my stomach, and they could hang out with whichever friends they wanted. But what if I was eating chips out of the bag, or sharing a bowl of Cheetos? It would be horrible if I ate a little girl Cheeto and my brother ate the rest of her family! She would be all alone forever, and her parents would miss her terribly.

To avoid this kind of disaster, I had to scrutinize the bowl and figure out which Cheetos were relatives or friends. Then I’d pick up a handful that included as many members of the group as possible. Usually I’d look back at the bowl and realize that I had missed a cousin, so I’d grab him, too, before eating the whole bunch so they could live together happily ever after. At least once my mom caught me desperately trying to wedge one more Cheeto into a football-sized handful and made me put most of them down. Even as a seven-year-old I knew better than to tell her I was trying to keep snackfood families together, so I would set them down really close to the edge of the bowl and eat them extra fast before anyone else could take the grandkids.

Over the years my compulsion to maintain my food's familial bonds has lessened, due mostly to the reassurances I give myself (“M&Ms are happy as long as they get eaten, no matter who does it.” “It’s good for the younger Fritos to get out on their own.”). Now I watch Lay’s commercials and think “Bet I CAN eat just one! If I want to! The others won’t really mind too much!”

I still tend to personify most of the objects I encounter, though. I’m especially prone to see social connections among items in large groups, which makes it emotionally difficult for me to roll coins. The fact that they’re going to be stuck in that configuration for who knows how long means I need to consider which pennies really want to be together. When they’re all milling around happily in a jar, they can talk to any friends they like all at once. But when I stack them up and bind them, they only get to communicate with their immediate neighbors, and would YOU like to be stuck next to the guy with lint glued to his face for the next three years? It’s worse than seating 15 friends in one row in the movie theater, because they don’t even get any popcorn.

Here are just a few of the social factors to consider in sorting change:

Did I mention that my job includes counting jars of change about once a week? At least the quarters are a little easier—they’re not as emotionally vulnerable as pennies. Also, for some reason, they’re all male.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grocery Shopping for the Chronically Paranoid

I like to get all of my embarrassing grocery shopping done at once.

This is because I believe that the checker is judging me, and I’d rather get it all in one concentrated dose than spread out over all my visits to the grocery store. By adhering to this method, I’m usually safe when I buy my chocolate Cheerios, aerosol cheese, and other staples.

But sometimes I’m getting dressed and realize, “Ooh, I’m almost out of extra-strength deodorant. I might as well stock up on tampons and acne cream!”

“Hey, I’m going shopping,” I tell my roommates. “Can I pick up anything? Preparation H? Pregnancy test? The Best of N*Sync?”

When I get to the store, my first order of business is to pick out a large decoy item that can be used to shield everything else in my cart. This is why I have so many decorative gift bags and $1 dishtowels. Also acceptable are giant bags of bargain breakfast cereal or, in a pinch, a whole lot of produce.

Next I begin collecting my items. I tend to stride purposefully from place to place, as if to say, “Naturally, I am merely walking down the Odor Control aisle on my way to another destination.”

To preserve this illusion, I usually avoid aisles containing others, unless they look equally uncomfortable. For instance, if you are only picking out shampoo, I will circle around and come back when you have left. If, however, you are deciding between liquid and paste fungal control, I am willing to stand next to you and compare the merits of Xtra Thin with Wings vs. Contour Leak Guard.

Finally, it’s time to pick a check-out lane. The ideal register is staffed by a woman in her mid-forties who was not the same person to ring up another jumbo-pack of toilet paper for me just last week. I arrange my items on the conveyor belt with the decoy at the end to distract the next person in line from my other purchases. As the checker rings everything up, I make a detailed study of the credit card PIN pad, punctuated by furtive glances to see if she has realized yet that I’m the most repulsive freak ever to shop there.

Of course, through all my paranoid shopping trips, no checker or bagger or fellow patron has ever commented—or even smirked—about my humiliating groceries. Retail employee training probably includes a session on not making crazy people self-conscious, lest we suddenly snap and tear through the aisles, squirting facial-hair remover and shouting Hanson lyrics.

I only hear smalltalk about my most innocuous purchases:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Superpowers, Part II

Like any good superhero (as opposed to, for instance, Matter-Eater Lad), I have more than one power.

#2. Falling asleep in any location, no matter what is going on

This ability began to develop in my senior year of college, and it blossomed into a true superpower during my six-month stint as a first grade teacher with Teach For America. By exercising this power, I have fallen asleep
  • while attending a five-church southern gospel choir extravaganza
  • at a dance club on Halloween
  • 50 feet from the stage at a John Mellencamp concert
  • eighteen inches behind a performing bluegrass band, while standing up
During this last feat of strength, I was awakened from my super slumber only when the double-bass player backed up and accidentally stepped on my foot.

As a college student just beginning to recognize the scope of my abilities, I once used the power of super sleep in a one-on-one meeting with an adviser. I managed to lose consciousness any time I was not personally speaking, as follows:

The best thing about using this power is that it’s completely undetectable.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I have superpowers.

Please don’t be jealous. It’s just that keeping my identity a secret gets so taxing, and I need to tell the truth.

#1. Sincerely enjoying really boring foods

Possibly as a result of traditional family dishes such as Rice With Butter or Can Of Tuna Fish, I have developed a superhuman independence from the concepts of “side dishes” and “ingredients.” With my superpower, I can regard the following as acceptable meals:

  • a head of bok choy
  • dry oatmeal mixed with raisins
  • frozen peas (no need to thaw!)
  • lettuce leaves folded to fit in Tupperware
I still have an ordinary human capacity for appreciating meals made with spices and more than one bowl. However, these things are not necessary to my highly-developed super sensibilities.

This power makes it extremely easy to cook for myself and extremely difficult to shop effectively for my shared apartment.

Me, returning triumphantly from the grocery store: Look what I got! Three bunches of spinach!

Roommates: What are you going to do with it?

Me: Cook it and eat it! Who wants some?

Roommate 1: Ooh, are you making a quiche?

Roommate 2: Or spanikopita?

Me: Ummm, well, I was going to boil it and maybe put salt on it.

Roommate 1: Not stuffed tomatoes?

Roommate 2: Or even spinach dip?

Me: I guess I could add some butter...

Roommates: (Prepare elegant dip-stuffed spanikopita quiche)

Me: Mortals, you cannot fathom my power!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Beginning

Hi! I'm Clara. Welcome to my blog.

It's pretty much an excuse to get attention, since sometimes the people I know in real life get tired of listening to me talk.