Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Think of England

Ah, potato chips, let me count the ways. Potato chips are crisp! Potato chips are ravishingly salty! Potato chips come in pleasantly pneumatic packaging! Park one on your tongue; taste the pepper and the oil plus the indefinable underground funk of potato. Potato chips are lovely and amazing, if anything is lovely and amazing. If I open a bag of potato chips (yes, even the big bags), I cannot rest until every chip has been (deliciously) conquered. If I see a bag, I cannot rest until I've opened it.

This is why I try not to buy the bag.

This is also why I was so disturbed to come across the following advice, italicized for emphasis in the midst of a sheaf of materials I received to help me prepare for an important interview:

Be yourself.

OK, be myself. As in, don't pretend to be Margaret Thatcher (easy) or Tony Blair (harder; we're both wafflers). As in, wait to transmogrify until after the interview. As in, eat the potato chips.

Because here's the thing: if I went through life being myself, truly myself in the sense of obeying my most basic impulses, I would be a housebound potato chip whore. I would never see the light of day, or talk to anyone, or come within fifty feet of a mechanical object. I would weigh 250 pounds and speak in tongues.

Why would you ever want to be yourself? Most of us don't (and those who do are George Bush). Which is why life is in many ways an elaborate chess game between who you are and who you want to be. You have to think three steps ahead: predicting, anticipating, taking corrective action. Pick up the phone. Put down the bag. If you can't control yourself around the potato chips, control their presence in your life.

Of course, this makes for an existence both surpassingly virtuous and surpassingly dull, the kind of existence of which Margaret Thatcher would be proud. Which is why sometimes you have to buy the bag. And set it in front of you. And ogle it, hard.

Maybe a gentle tug.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Oh goodness, but you are brilliant.

What it should say, perhaps, is "Be yourself as much as you usually try to be yourself."