Generally speaking (or I guess, really rather specifically speaking), I am a person of extremes. I am black or white. I happily acknowledge gray — I love gray — and have no interest in living in a world without gray. Gray is beautiful! Gray is intriguing! So many times have I wished I were gray! I’ll have you know some of my best friends are gray.
But I was made differently. “I have a uniquely German capacity to vacillate between sentimentality and coldness,” writes Tina Fey in Bossypants, and with which I identify to an extraordinary degree.
I keep my thermostat set to Antarctica or Africa. On any given subject, I either have a VERY STRONG OPINION, or I can’t be bothered to care. In one sitting I will eat three cheese enchiladas, a can of Pringles, and a Heath bar, or I will skip four meals in a row. I prefer to be either fully naked or ensconced in eleventy fuzzy layers. In college, I got As or incompletes. (Fs would be a measure of some sort of effort.)
I am never a Venn diagram; I am always distinct circles. The good news for my loved ones is that even at a glance, it’s child’s play to tell which mood I’m in. I only have about four.
In relationships, I am ALL IN. Until I’m not.
Then I leave.
I’ve never “sort of liked someone”… either I thought he was a douchebag or I wanted to have ten thousand of his babies. I listen to my favorite songs until I can’t possibly listen to them again. When I bowl, I get strikes or else I gutterball so hard I cross into other lanes. I cram sixteen errands into an hour or I flat refuse to get out of bed.
Let me stress that I do not see the world this way — I see the world for what it is: a veritable buffet of textures and patterns. A glorious, pulsating spectrum of sexualities, parenting styles, religious views, and different ways to load a toilet paper roll in the bathroom (lol j/k – there’s only one right way, you knuckle-dragging Neanderthal), and I love and celebrate them all. I can see the bounteous cornucopia of humanity’s fruits and vegetables and bask in its myriad offerings, but I will only be interested in the grapes. (And I will probably eat ALL the grapes.)
I’m of decidedly German descent (that’s five surname consonants in a row, friends), so maybe Tina Fey was on to something. While I certainly couldn’t point it out, perhaps somewhere in my upbringing, there were subtle positive reinforcements for decisiveness and negative ones for wishy-washydom?
Or maybe I’m quite simply lazy.
When I think about this either/or nature and how goddam annoying it must be for others, I’m forced to consider the ugly possibility that I employ an elaborate system “defaults” as a way to cut corners — or (more defensibly), to cut out the daily mental static.
If I just don’t eat (or conversely, if I snarf six gorditas), I won’t have to do the WORK of thinking about proteins and carbs and calories. I will simply have to live with “hungry” or “full.” If I run a week’s worth of errands in one morning, I’ll be spared the effort of figuring out which day my Bed Bath and Beyond coupon expires or when it’s ladies’ night at the car wash.
I don’t know whether to be ashamed of this slothish inflexibility, or proud that this life of subconscious mental shortcuts clears the way for more important things.
But I’m certain I should feel one way or the other.