Dear Uptight Seattleite,Why is it so hard to get a decent amount of guacamole here? Recently, I paid $1 extra for what turned out to be a transparent smear of green on my mondito burrito. Last time I checked, tomatoes were more expensive than avocados. What gives? Should I say something? I feel trapped.Crocodile Guac
Dear Crocodile,That last line of yours may hold the key here. You feel trapped. Stung on all sides by a post-Lutheran chill that lingers in the sea-scented air. Yes, that's right. I said "sea-scented." That was just to set the scene a little bit. The scene of your entrapment: Seattle, where you feel silently judged for your love of guacamole. Well, let me assure you that I for one support and share this love of yours. I'm actually considered an unofficial taster and all-around guacamole consultant. My tactful coaching has opened many a hostess' eye to the dangers of oversalting, even if subsequent visits reveal they're still not mashing their avocados with a real molcajete. So when you say, in my paraphrase of your question, that guacamole tastes so good you want to crawl up into it and die, I understand completely. But it's this very urge toward a blissful oblivion that's the real trap here. Think about that for awhile and get back to me, OK?Dear Uptight Seattleite,I saw a car with both a "Co-exist" bumper sticker and a Darwin fish eating a Jesus fish. Isn't that a contradiction?Aunt Louise
Dear Louise,The knot of contradiction you describe disappears when you go back in time and don't tie it to begin with. Time travel here consists of unasking your question and reasking it like this: "Isn't it silly to expect those who have freed themselves from organized religion to put chains back on their minds when they communicate with those still enslaved to its illusions?" And isn't that a question that answers itself? Besides, the Darwin fish could possibly be giving the Jesus fish a friendly little hug with its jaws. "Oh, Jesus fish!" the Darwin fish could be saying, "Come here and let me affectionately gnaw on your scaly little head while I explain how your life is based on lies."Dear Uptight Seattleite,I was shopping at a not-so-local natural food market chain. The woman bagging my groceries commented on my choice of natural bouillon cubes (no MSG, no hydrogenated oils). She said, "You know, I really like this product, but I can't get around the fact that it's flown in from Switzerland." Now, I am used to our local grocery clerks chit-chatting with us, and find it quite charming. But never has my grocery selection been criticized. This doesn't happen where I come from. Who does she think she is? It was even more insulting because my mother happens to be Swiss (by marriage).Wholly Perplexed
Dear Wholly,Is it OK for you to have pride in your tenuous Swiss heritage? Of course! But I don't recommend pushing that angle with the cashier. That would just be playing into her hands. If you had Central American relatives and were buying fair-trade bananas, that would be different. "Flown in from Guatemala"—that doesn't sound too bad. "Flown in from Switzerland," though—wow. With that phrase, the cashier has really zeroed in on the single most irredeemably shameful fact about those bouillon cubes. She's invoked a trail of pollution in the sky that points like an arrow from the Alps to your guiltily pounding chest. The phrase follows you home and hovers ghoulishly over any pleasure you might take in the delicious, hydrogenation-free bouillon. What once added depth to your spaghetti sauce has been corrupted by the acid taste of environmental destruction. I mean, right? If it didn't bother you, why would you write in at all? The only question is what you should do now.Still, you may think it's strange that the cashier accepts a salary funded by the sale of the item she condemns. If there wasn't a demand for enlightened food products from Europe, after all, she wouldn't have a job. Like that fish of tolerance waddling to shore on its stubby, burgeoning legs to devour the Messiah, the cashier seems to be a hypocrite. But if we couldn't hold two contradictory things in our minds at once, how could we judge each other at all? Car-owning pedestrians could no longer gesture impatiently at the traffic; people raised in loving homes couldn't put those "Be Green, Don't Breed" stickers on their bumpers; and I couldn't psychoanalyze guacamole gluttons. It would be complete social anarchy. That's why I recommend you acknowledge your defeat with a tense smile and retreat quickly, Wholly.Wanna be BUFFs? Find the Uptight on Facebook! Or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.