Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Part 23, Saying it

Life as I know it now: groggy at 7:45pm.
I consider it my great good fortune to have started college right around the time American retailers began experimenting with generic products.  Remember generic products?  The A&P near my college campus in Chicago had a whole generic aisle.  You'd walk down the aisle and everything was white cartons or white cans or just clear plastic wrap with big black letters on it, all caps:









Oh boy, generic products were a cash-strapped college student's best friend.  You could save a fortune buying that stuff.  You don't realize how much of your grocery bill goes to pay for all that fancy packaging and commercials on the TV with the animated bumblebees and young people eating graham crackers on a spotless beach.  You're paying for all that psychological manipulation you know.

So anyway, one day around the beginning of my sophomore year, I'm in the beer section with my buddy B., and he says "I don't believe it.  Is that what I think it is?  Right on!"

And he pulls out a six pack of white aluminum cans, and on each can is printed in big black letters "BEER."

All that year, me and B. drank generic beer from the A&P.  We didn't call it generic beer.  We called it "BEER," just like the label said.  "BEER," not "beer."  You had to say it in a way that indicated that it was all caps.  "We need 37 more cents, so we can buy BEER.  Did you check under the sofa cushions?"

I can't tell you how many times we threw together a Saturday dinner of hot dogs and Rice-A-Roni and BEER.  I'd probably die if I treated my body like that now, but at 19, I was pretty indestructible.  I could eat hot dogs and Rice-A-Roni every weekend, and sit up until 3am drinking BEER and shooting the breeze with B.

One such weekend, probably pretty close to 3am, B. and I were sitting on the couch talking about what we thought our lives would look like in the distant future, after we grew up and graduated, when college and Chicago would be nothing but a lot of hazy, BEER-scented memories.  What kind of jobs would we have?  Where would we live?  What about marriage?  What about children?

I remember thinking to myself, "Should I say it?  Do I really want to say it?  Will I sound like a lunatic?  Or will B. understand?  Oh hell, now your heart rate's going up.  Hurry up and get it out before you hyperventilate.  Say it.  Say it!"

I took a deep breath and I said, "You know something, if I ever had a son, I would never have him circumcised."

B. got this look on his face that I don't know how to describe it, but I'm sure you've seen this look before.  Or you've made it before.  You know the look you make when your friend tells you "I'm getting a divorce."  And you make that look that says "Please stand by.  My cognitive functioning will return shortly."  That's the look I'm talking about.  I'm pretty sure it's a hard-wired human behavior.

So B. made that look, and then he smiled, clunked his BEER can against my BEER can and, with an exclamation that included both the noun and present participle forms of the English language's most socially unacceptable word, indicated his unqualified concurrence with my opinion.

Then B. said to me "You know the reason we're all circumcised, right?"

"Reason?" I thought.  "There's a reason?!"

Now that I think of it, I probably gave him that funny look too.

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