Monday, August 25, 2008

Popcorn Is Not a Problem

It’s not every day you find your food fetish soul mate. I mean, I thought I had a problem.

My addiction? Movie theater popcorn.

Don’t laugh. You know what I’m talking about. And don’t even bother with me if you can — wow — eat a half a bucket yourself.

The other night, one of my best friends confessed that she is like me. I could have been talking to myself in the mirror. The things that came out her mouth, damn near drooling as she waxed poetic about popcorn’s many virtues. Crunch-ability, buttery flavor, just the right of amount of oil that oozes out as your bite into the golden nuggets, the salt that makes the soda taste like nectar of the gods, and of course the serving size. The delectable jumbo-ness of it all. And — be still my beating heart — free refills.

Dear lord. I wonder if there is a 12-step program for this?

When she told me she sometimes passes by the theater on her way home for a night in front of the TV just to buy a bucket of popcorn, I knew I’d met my match. I’ve never done that, though I’ve contemplated it, even wondered if that would mean I’d gone over the edge.

“But what about the refill?” I asked. I mean, you pay like $5 for what is really about 50 cents worth of the crack-like goodness and you miss out on the refill? It’s just wrong!

“You should have a bag with you so you can dump the purchase, then go back and get the refill,” I said, salivating at the idea.

“Good idea!” Her eyes lit up. I think she swooned.

“Have you ever gotten the refill after the movie, when you leave?” I asked.

“No!” she looked like I’d just handed her a winning lottery ticket. “I never thought of that!” She smacked her lips.

Now we both agree on a few rules of popcorn consumption: You never begin eating the popcorn until the movie actually begins. Not when the previews start. It’s a weird quirk, some bizarre ritual I’m sure addicts and other obsessive-compulsive types must recognize in some fashion.

That said, I must confess, she is more disciplined than I. I used to be that way but I succumbed, gobbling through the bucket the moment I’m seated. I actually look forward to being a good halfway through before the movie starts so I can get the refill and not have to miss any action by having to do it later. And no matter whom I am with, I seem to get at least 90 percent of the bucket to myself.

Except one time: I was with a friend — a super smart professor type who’s a bit of a nut — at a special event movie screening. We shared a large refillable bucket. I was aghast at the way she inhaled the stuff, keeping my eye on her with sidelong glances. I could barely focus on the movie. She looked a little … wacky. Out. Of. Control.

My god, I thought. Do I look like this? I was a little horrified. I mean, I’ve been with friends — at which point I usually try to eat more slowly simply because I want to appear somewhat “normal” — and still! I have been teased for my incessant, rapid gulping.

At least I don’t get butter like my friend — my popcorn soul mate. And I’ve never gotten popcorn without at least going to the movie, too. I have fantasized about bringing a large plastic bag into the theater, immediately dumping the bucket and getting the refill then — two buckets, no missing of any action. Nirvana!

But I’ve not done that yet. I mean, I do have some control.

Give me credit for this too: I used to down dinner before a move, then compulsively crunched through most of the large bucket (well, it is more cost-efficient, you know, and there are people starving everywhere) only to feel positively grotesque afterwards, and, mercilessly, bloated the next day.

Solution? Now if I go to an evening movie, I skip dinner. Popcorn is my first, second and third course. It is a vegetable, you know. With lots of fiber. And, at most, I’ve consumed a large bucket and a half on my own.

Why, compared to some friends (god love them), I'm practically a poster child for eating popcorn ravenously but responsibly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Library Junkie

Over the years I've loved the library in fits and starts.

In my more amorous stages, I'll think it's the greatest concept ever. But then I get fickle. I become enthralled by the glossier bookstores, where books are fresh and new and shiny and slick and, mostly, untouched. Plus, bookstores let you talk out loud and slurp up lattes.

By comparison, the library is like a friend I’ve lost interest in. A friend who feels a little worn, a little old, a little dull and just a little too quiet. Yawn.

I can get get a little squeamish about where those library books have been, too. I mean, think about it. Like, Was someone reading in the bathroom? Did they wash their hands? Were they — gasp! — picking their nose? What the hell is the greenish thing stuck it the binding?

I can make myself a little insane.

But then I look at all the books I’ve bought, some I love and will always have and some that simply sit, collecting dust. Books I thought at the time I had to read, had to possess but which then, suddenly, lost their luster because, quite simply, I had them. I took them for granted. I could read them any time, I told myself. And some, I just never did, perhaps because there was no due date, no deadline.

Some time back I decided to pull the in reins on clutter. Yes, that included books. Why do I need to possess these? I decided to donate. I have kept many. Many, many, many. But plenty had done their duty and no longer possessed me. It was time to part.

Plus, borrowing clearly made sense financially. I mean, here I was donating books that I probably should have borrowed in the first place. If I loved a book that much, I could always buy it later.

And so began my latest love-in with the library. Two of them actually. I play them off each other. One will usually have a book I want if the other doesn’t. There is practically a science to this, you see.

At the moment, I actually have the same book from both libraries. Initially I put holds at each place to see who’d produce first. When both came through, I figured I’d see who’d want it back first, after my three weeks was up. I’d keep the one with staying power.

This is because — of course — I would hardly have touched either book by that time. Oh, I did peruse the book but I had to focus on others first, others that would soon be due.

You see, I can get a little out of control, like a kid in a candy shop. Plus, I am not a fast reader. Well, actually this may have something to do with the fact that I try to read about six books at once.

Plus, it’s an organizational feat just to keep up with my due dates and manage my returns and renewals. When the three-week limit is up, I have to get online to renew. Some days that means one book. Another day it might mean 13.

That’s right. I admit it. I’ve become a bit of a borrowing junkie. At this very moment I have at least two dozen books checked out.

I can be pretty possessive too. Like when I go to renew a book that, I swear, I’ve been meaning to read or at least start but just haven’t gotten around to it. And there it is:

“Item has HOLDS.”

Who? I want to know. Who wants my book? I am so annoyed I immediately put a hold right back on it as soon as I return it. That that! I say.

Luckily many books I like are not new releases so I can renew with abandon. It’s practically like ownership. Of course at the maximum nine-week, three-time-renewal limit point, you do need to bring the book in, regardless of whether anyone else has placed a hold. This always makes me feel like a borderline criminal, as if I’m holding it hostage and they need proof that it’s still alive and healthy.

At that point, if I still want it, I let them check it in and then, if there are no holds, ask: “Can I please take it out again? I wasn’t finished,” I say, feeling like a binge eater who cannot stop going up to the buffet for more. Usually I get it.

What a high: Nine more weeks!

So that one goes to the bottom of the pile.

After all, I have others coming due soon, especially the more popular ones that some greedy person is surely putting a hold on this very moment so they can get their hands on it.

One thing I’m glad about: They no longer print out your entire list of checked out books every time I pick up a new one. I used to get embarrassed as page after page spilled out, proof that I was out of control, no different than someone who orders three meals “to-go” then gets caught downing all them all in the car in the parking lot.

One day I ‘fessed up, admitting I was slightly embarrassed by how many books I had checked out. I was happy to let them think I was using them for research.

That’s when I learned I’m nowhere near as bad as some of those crazy library junkies. Why they’ve seen people with seven pages of materials. With my three to four pages, I’m nothing.

The main thing is, I’ve clearly reduced my financial outlay for books.

As for the clutter? And the time spent managing this all?

Well, as I look upon a bed strewn with books, a wicker basket filled with still more — none of which I own — all I can say is: I’m working on it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not Cute Enough?

So the Chinese decided that the girl whose voice we all heard at the 2008 Olympics opening ceremonies was not cute enough to perform for all to see.

You see, she had crooked teeth.

This little girl, this little 7-year-old named Yang Peiyi (on the left), was not quite pretty or perfect enough. The Chinese had an image to protect, they said. Or project.


Whatever their reason it is not good enough.

Peiyi has been quoted as saying she didn’t mind being shoved off-stage for Little Miss Adorable, a 9-year-old named Lin Miaoke.

Right. Maybe she has actually convinced herself of that.

But how can anyone feel okay being essentially hidden from view because while her voice is beautiful, she just doesn’t cut it looks-wise?

That girl should be angry. At the very least, I have to believe she’s hurt.

I know I’d be.

And then I have to wonder what message this sends to young girls, even young women everywhere.

Hell, it bothers me. Something like that would haunt me forever.

It actually makes me sick.

But of course this kid can get her teeth fixed. Surely when she’s old enough she will.

Especially after this.

So will others with teeth like hers. Looks like hers. Makeup, plastic surgery, hair extensions, Spanx follow.

Don’t like your looks? Fix it. Not acceptable to others? Fix it.

On some level I understand this celebration of beauty. In the natural world, the better looking, the stronger prevail. They attract the best mates, the best birds and bees. Beauty is their way to flourish. That’s what evolution is all about. Adapt. Survive. Adapt. Survive.

But we are different.


At least some of the time, we can look into someone’s heart and see beauty that might not win beauty contests. We find something to cherish in someone’s laugh, warmth, intelligence, humor.

But looks. This is still something we struggle with. I thought we were better than this.

I mean: It’s a kid. A 7-year-old kid.

God forbid she be a burn victim or deformed.

But she’s a kid. And a cute kid, too.

Why can’t the Chinese see that?

Can we see that?