I will never become a grown-up, because I don’t like hot drinks.
When I was a little girl, I tried to drink hot chocolate after coming in from the snow, but it burned my tongue every time. I let it cool down and then drank it, but it was neither warm nor comforting; regular chocolate milk was much nicer. Along with every child my age, I watched the BBC’s dramatization of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when PBS showed it, and salivated at Edmund’s mysterious hot drink. The taste I imagined was like a melted caramel candy at warm soup temperature, not warm enough to burn the tongue or scald your fingers. I was sorely disappointed many years later when I received a copy of The Narnia Cookbook and found that Edmund’s special drink was hot chocolate, and it still burned my tongue. It was, in its way, more disappointing than finding out that Turkish Delight was lukewarm perfume-flavored jell-o.
I used to watch my mother and father sipping coffee after supper. I knew that the true mark of a grown-up was enjoying coffee, not only a hot drink but a bitter hot drink. Grown-ups did not chug their beverages and run outside to play; grown-ups sipped them and talked about politics.
When I went to graduate school I was determined to be a grown-up, so I bought a large container of instant coffee and a travel mug. I brought a nice hot mug of instant coffee to class the very first day, and I tried to sip it in a grown-up way while I listened to a lecture on pre-Socratic philosophy. Of course I couldn’t keep it down at all; I gagged on the first sip, and spilt foul-tasting hot liquid down the front of my sensible new blouse, the one I was determined to keep nice. I will also never be a grown-up because I always spill staining liquids on my good clothes. Coffee stains and grease stains are ubiquitous for me, like Oscar Wilde’s carnation.
After my soak, I went to drain the tub and realized that the rubber stopper was stuck. I couldn’t get it out, and I couldn’t see to pry it open because the tub was full of coffee. I tried for several minutes. I couldn’t face the idea that I would have to wake the RD and explain to her why the dormitory bathtub was filled to the brim with rapidly cooling full-strength instant coffee. I can never be a grown-up, because I never have the sense to ask for help when I’m stuck. Finally, I held my breath, closed my eyes, and dove underwater. I pried the plug out with both hands and came up triumphant like the Lady of the Lake, bathtub plug in upraised hand, coffee dripping from my flowing hair.
I will never be a grown-up because I always get into situations like this and I never learn my lesson.
I am not a successful woman, but the times I have been the most successful were the times that I did not try to be a grown up. I did what I liked to do, passionately and with discipline, but with no regard for whether it was the proper activity for a grown-up. I gave an aesthetics paper, on my favorite horror films, at a serious philosophy conference. At one point I ended up performing my impression of the twins from The Shining saying “Forevah and evah and evah” since several of the serious philosophers did not watch horror movies… and I received a great deal of positive feedback from people far smarter than I am. If I had tried to sound like a philosopher rather than like Mary Pezzulo doing philosophy, I wouldn’t have had a thing to say. I write about dinosaurs and how much I hate hot coffee, and people listen and read. God help me if I tried to write about anything important. I drink cold coffee with enormous amounts of sweet creamer, or cheap wine mixed with Sprite, and I never burn my tongue. I have a great deal to learn about who Mary Pezzulo is, but Mary Pezzulo is not a grownup and she is better off for not being a grown-up.
(Image courtesy of The National Gallery of Art)