Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Regular or Decaf?

Sex and Suburbia, Regular or Decaf?
By Julie Stankowski

I have been wondering why I am so stressed out all the time and I finally figured it out: it’s the invention of the espresso machine! Oh, you think it’s because I have two little children, a dog, a husband, four jobs that require so much time but pay no money and two stepchildren who strongly dislike me? NOOOO. It’s not those things. I swear. It’s Italy’s exportation to the United States of the espresso machine. Really, espresso changed everything.

In the era of plain drip coffee, life was so much simpler. Your choices were regular or decaf. That’s it. Simple. While sipping your simple plain drip coffee from your kitchen coffee pot, you dialed the phone attached to your wall to call a friend probably having a cup of drip coffee in her kitchen. If she wasn’t home, you called back later. If she was home, but on the phone, you got a busy signal. Maybe that’s because she was busy! Talking to someone else. Not wanting to be interrupted by an annoying beep in her ear telling her the phone was ringing when she was already on the phone. Your friend continued her original telephone conversation without hearing in the background the beeping of a fax machine, the pinging of an email or the ringing of a “Here comes Santa Claus” tone emanating from a Blackberry. Cream and sugar? Simple.

The era of plain drip coffee reminds me of my Grandma. Despite world conditions, I somehow feel that my grandma’s generation had a simpler life than we do. I wonder if my grandma ever felt like a complete stress ball, as I often times do. If she did, how did she keep it together? I definitely cannot picture Grandma Horenstein trying to meditate. I think she smoked lots of cigarettes, played lots of canasta and spent so much time fighting over ridiculous things with her brother, Brother Goldstein, and cousin, Cousin Feinstein, and sister, Sister Borenstein, that she had little time to worry about anything in the world other than people whose last names ended in “Stein.” Maybe she also worried about whether we liked her mandel brut (a Jewish pastry) better than Grandma Rhoda’s and whether her housecoat was prettier than Rose Goldfarb’s down the walk. I know she didn’t worry about how her hair looked since she went to the beauty parlor twice a week for a wash and set. I know she didn’t worry about her weight because in those days, life was all about food and cooking and eating (at least for us Jews). Bagels and cream cheese and lox for breakfast followed by a little rugulah dunked in your plain drip coffee. Matzo ball soup and some cheese blintzes for lunch followed by a little pound cake dunked in your plain drip coffee. Chicken in the pot and noodle kugel for dinner followed by some marble loaf dunked in your plain drip coffee.

My grandma’s generation didn’t think about fat and calories and cholesterol, they just enjoyed what they put in their mouths, whether they were hungry or not. Maybe that is why they died younger than more recent generations, but at least they were full and happy. I’ll never forget having dinner with my grandma one night. She wanted me to have ice cream for dessert, but I told her I was too full. She said, “Mumula, you don’t have to be hungry to eat ice cream. It just slides down.”


In the drip coffee era, kids came home from school and went outside in the street to play with the neighborhood children. No play dates had to be arranged in advance. The kids stayed in the driveways playing basketball or on the streets playing stickball or in the backyards building forts until their parents called them in for dinner. And when their parents called, they came. When their parents told them to do something, they did it. Kids set the table and did the dishes. After dinner, kids did their homework and figured out how to entertain themselves without an Xbox, a Nintendo, a computer, an Ipod, a cell phone or a Wii.

Then came Starbucks and the infamous espresso machine. Life became crazy. All of a sudden we went from calling, writing letters and dropping by to see our friends to emailing, texting, instant messaging and turning on our webcams to see our friends. No need for in-person face time. Our days cannot now start off with a simple kitchen pot of coffee. No. Now, we need to go to Starbucks and decide between hot or iced, nonfat or regular, latte or cappuccino, mocha or caramel or vanilla or pumpkin. Tall, Grande or Venti. Too many choices for so early in the morning! How can I make these decisions while my cell phone is ringing, my email is beeping, my desk is full of this mornings’ emails, my son’s friend’s mom is waiting for my call regarding a play date this afternoon, my mammogram appointment is in an hour, my dog needs to get to the groomer and my daughter just called from school asking that I bring her a better lunch because the one I made was too boring? Instead of brewing a nice pot of drip while still in our pajamas in our kitchens, we need to wait in line for 15 minutes and pay $4.10 for a fancy coffee. Okay, my grandma would turn over in her grave if she knew how much I paid for a cup of coffee.

Is it me? Maybe I’m just becoming a crotchety old lady who now uses the phrase, “Kids Today!” all too often. I mean, I have cut my hair short, taken off my fake porcelain pink and white nails and started wearing cashmere sweat suits, but does the obvious fact that I am becoming my mother negate the horrible effects the espresso machine has had on our society? Maybe I need to up my dose of Ativan. Maybe I need to start doing yoga and learning how to meditate. We all know how that turned out last time I tried. Or maybe I need to start making my own coffee again, cooking fattening meals that do not involve fat-free or reduced-calorie anything, turning off my electronic gadgets and eating ice cream even when I am full. After all, as my Grandma told me, you don’t need to be hungry, it just slides down. And if I do that, I will save the $4.10 a day that I usually give to Starbucks and by next Christmas, I will have accumulated $1,496.50. Enough to buy my own damn espresso machine, with a little left over for a personal trainer if I get fat from all the ice cream!

P.S. My grandma died on New Year’s Eve of the millennium. It was just like her to go out with a bang. Love you, Grandma.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jules, you did it! Total throwback to grandma land, and also great reminder of our days here at Starbucks.......thank you! I am totally not telling you about my Chanukah present from J for at least 3 weeks! But I will happily toast your grandma on NYE. See ya then :-).
XOXO RSM

sue said...

I luv it! u have nice memories of grandama!
m