You know how some people--and maybe you're one of them--can make a cup of coffee or a bag of M&Ms last for like hours? The cup just sits beside them on the desk as they attend to their work with focus and tranquility, largely oblivious to the delicacy at hand. Occasionally they'll take a sip. The steam starts to subside, but they don't seem to mind. They have mastered the arts of moderation and indifference.
I am profoundly jealous of this mastery.
I first noted this kind of detachment when I was eight years old. Matt, a
first-grader, would come over to our house after school if his
babysitter had some other commitment. Sometimes Mom would give us a
snack--chocolate chips or something--to eat as we did our homework.
My chocolate chips were always gone within the first three or four
minutes. They were delicious, and after a single chip, I became a
temporary chocolate addict. I couldn't resist eating them one after
another until they were gone, and my homework barely started.
Matt did his homework with the meandering, selective attention of a
little boy who does not want to use a number line to practice
subtraction. However, he ate his chocolate chips the same way. Every few
minutes, he would blink at his snack as if he'd just remembered it,
pick up a couple of chips, and then immediately forget his snack's
How could he care so little about chocolate chips? How was he not driven
crazy by their tempting presence until it was fully relocated into his
As a third-grader, I chalked it up to the fact that Matt had funner food
at his house (which was true). He was used to candy for snack; it
wasn't a treat for him. It has lost its novelty. I wondered if the same
phenomenon would be true for me if I ever became rich enough to have fun
food on hand at all times.
To some extent, that philosophy proved true. My family now has orange
juice on a regular basis, and I no longer feel compelled to drink it all
the time just because it's there. The same is true of cookies, and
Cheez-Its, and flavored yogurt. I have risen above the animalistic urge
to consume these relatively mundane foods.
With "treat" foods and beverages, the art of pacing oneself is still
lost on me. I buy a smoothie, and it's half gone before I'm even back in
my dorm room. I open a 2-serving bag of M&Ms, and within ten
minutes, it's empty. I grab an iced coffee on the way to work, and I'm
sucking at the ice fifteen minutes later.
Meanwhile, I watch people around me exercise this intensely classy
combination of absentminded appreciation and tranquil indifference to
their "treats." Large iced coffees go minutes and minutes and MINUTES
without even being touched, and people don't even seem to be struggling
Maybe they're just all rich and have treats all the time and the novelty
has been lost, like Matt with his chocolate chips? Or am I totally and
abnormally self-control-deficient when it comes to delicious things?
All I know is that I envy the air of maturity embodied by people who can
resist their treats. It's a level of maturity to which I genuinely
And I will get there, even if it means drinking steamless coffee and drooling on my keyboard.