As an adult at the outermost limit of middle age, I admit to embracing two bits of pop psychology by which I try to live out my days: staying in touch with my inner child, and not sweating the small stuff.
Generally, the two popular wisdoms co-exist side-by-side rather peaceably. In addition to being playful and potty-trained, I have also learned to be rather tranquil about life’s little inconveniences. I try to keep my head when all around me are losing theirs, and generally maintain a calm demeanor even while on hold for thirty minutes and forced to listen to Kenny G.
If dates get cancelled, they can be rescheduled. If I miss a train, there’s the next one. If I burn the toast, there’s still another slice in the loaf. No need to get upset. That’s me most of the time. Mature and dry.
There are definitely things in this life worse than Kenny G., things that deserve a good lashing from the dark side of my younger self. So I take an occasional holiday from tranquility and sublimely enjoy getting really ticked off!
I’m not proud of the fact that I throw sponges at the television, but there are certain commercials that just drive me nuts. For instance, the two cardigan-clad women who claim that the biggest fright of their lives was losing their tooth enamel.
And then there are those middle-age dames seductively prancing around in nightgowns, tossing their long locks, and making seductive eye squints while a voice-over talks about vaginal dryness. I’d like to put them in a room with those dreamy couples from the Viagra and Cialis commercials and have them all deal with a four-hour erection.
But the juiciest TV tantrum of all is brought on by none other than toilet paper ads. Especially the latest one that extols the virtue of ripples and its ability to let you drop your drawers. Oh please, lady, your refined British accent notwithstanding, are you really okay with the fact that you’re getting paid to discuss shit?
I can feel my temperature rising even as I write. So why, you might ask, don’t I simply walk away, or mute the sound, or change the channel? Stop being sensible. I don’t do any of these things because… I’m enjoying myself! Hey, my cranky inner child also deserves an outlet.
But yelling at the television is small potatoes when compared with the primary target of my latent temper — my local super-duper supermarket.
The hostility rises within me even as I approach the parking lot, silently daring anyone to try to beat me out of a parking space. This response is triggered by the fact that I know before entering the store that they will be out of the exact items that brought me there in the first place. It happens all the time.
It’s as if everyone in my town wants the same brand of cottage cheese on the same day, and I get there last! Or is it that the store is mismanaged and they can’t seem to keep the shelves stocked? My money is on Option #2.
So I walk from aisle to aisle, getting grumpier by the minute. By the time I get to the check-out counter with whatever items I manage to salvage from my long list, I’m in quite a state. And, damn, I now have to get scanned by the smiliest, most pleasant check-out person in the entire store.
“Find everything okay?” she innocently asks in a voice so sweet it could send you into a diabetic coma. “No,” I snap. “You were out of the cottage cheese again!” I don’t stop there. I go on to describe the other items I couldn’t find, how poorly managed I think the store is, and how I wouldn’t be here at all if there was another supermarket within 10 miles. She stares at me, clearly stunned, but somehow manages to stutter “Have a nice day!”
My supermarket tantrum is not my dirty little secret. My husband is well-aware of my Dr. JekyllMr. Hyde dualism when it comes to stocking the larder. He hears me muttering under my breath as I make out my shopping list, and in the interest of not having me ram my car into a shopping cart, he has kindly offered to take on this domestic chore .
But no. I won’t even consider it. Because, as in the case of those stupid television commercials, I derive some perverse pleasure from an occasional bout of foolish outrage.
So I have granted my inner hostile person, young or old, to express her full emotional range. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a good hissy-fit aimed at an inanimate object. (Apologies to the supermarket clerk.) Besides, perpetual tranquility can be such a bore.