It was sophomore year of college and I was sitting in my Intro to Psychology class watching the clock with my classmates. It was twelve minutes after the start of class and our teacher had yet to show up. We all knew the rule: if she was more than 15 minutes late, class was canceled.
Suddenly the teacher came rushing in, looking disturbed. She dropped her coat on her chair, sat on her desk and looked out at us with a serious expression. “I’m sorry I’m late class, but something terrible happened!”
I thought for sure she was going to tell us someone died, or she’d had a car accident but instead she wailed, “I was putting on my coat and my mother’s hand came out of my sleeve.”
We all looked at her in confusion. Her voice rose even more. “You don’t understand. I’m only 40 and I have my mother’s hands now. I’m getting old and I’m turning into my mother!” That poor woman was upset the rest of class.
I flashed on this today. My friend and I went to an event about an hour away from where we live. “We have to stop at Seven Brides for lunch,” I said to my long-suffering friend multiple times. “I need to get that roasted root vegetable salad they have there, it’s my favorite.”
Now before you judge me, I don’t normally wax poetic over a salad. I hate lettuce. To me, a salad is merely a vehicle for nutrients. But years ago I’d stopped at this restaurant after a hike in the nearby waterfall area and feeling virtuous, I’d ordered the roasted root vegetable salad. It was a plate full of roasted root vegetables in a delicious vinaigrette, on a bed of quinoa. It was so awesome. No lettuce, no tasteless cucumbers, just delicious root vegetables, toasted on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. So yum. Ever since then, whenever I’m in the area, which is about once a year, I stop and get that salad. With a delicious IPA, of course.
So my friend and I stop at the restaurant for a late lunch on our way out of town. I’m already a bit sad because I can’t have an IPA since I’m off gluten right now, and then my salad comes and….it’s different. It’s not good. The quinoa has been replaced with a giant plate of lettuce and spinach. Ugh. The root vegetables are basically a garnish, chopped in tiny pieces, and a bit soggy like they were frozen instead of roasted. The vinigrette was blah.
I was devastated. If you don’t have food issues, that probably makes no sense to you. But those of us who obsess about and crave certain foods totally get it. I was going on and on in my head about how much it sucked that the salad wasn’t good anymore and how horribly difficult that was (I know, first world problems). Then I thought, “I can’t believe they changed the salad and I just paid 13 bucks for a crappy salad, what a rip-off.” And that’s when it hit me: I’m turning into my mother. OMG.
My mother was very fond of the phrase “That’s a total rip-off”. If her favorite TV show was preempted, it was a total rip-off. If she didn’t agree with the price of something, it was a total rip-off. If it was cloudy and she couldn’t see the mountain, it was a total rip-off. Essentially anything that didn’t go her way was “a total rip-off”. She used the phrase constantly.
But nothing was as much of a rip-off as when she had her heart set on a food and couldn’t get it. Once we planned a trip to the coast and she excitedly talked about getting an elephant ear at the stand by the beach. As soon as we got to town she wanted to go get the elephant ear. She was like a toddler wanting a toy, it was that level of obsession. We walk to the stand and find it’s closed for the winter. She swore loudly. “It’s closed. That’s a total rip-off.”
For weeks, and I’m not kidding here, whenever she talked to anyone, we heard about the elephant ear stand being closed and how it was a total rip-off. Even after we returned to the beach the next summer and she was able to get an elephant ear, we still heard about the horror of the closed elephant ear stand. “Thank god the elephant ear stand was open, otherwise it would have been a total rip-off.”
To this day, probably 15 years later, if something disappointing happens, my siblings and I will ask each other, “But was it a total rip-off? Like when you can’t get an elephant ear?”
You can imagine my horror then, to hear a similar phrase in my head about this stupid sucky roasted root vegetable salad.
I know that we probably all pick up things from our parents, despite our best efforts in some cases. It makes sense given the way the brain works and how early memories form the neuro pathways in our brain that last the longest. You can’t pick and choose what sticks, and you really can’t control changes in physical appearance, like my poor psych teacher had.
We just need to make the best of these changes that come with aging, whether we like them or not. And that, my friends, is a total rip-off.
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