There’s a life I imagine for myself. It’s pretty good. My kids are named Rumour and Django. Their mother would be the most beautiful woman in the world. Together we’d live in Queens, New York. Except for the times I’d be writing in Buenos Aires because I wanted to learn Spanish. I’ll come home mostly just to play the baby grand piano that’d sit beside my bottles of Ciroc and Arizona Green Tea. (Not to be used together, naturally.) This is the more grandiose version of my future. But I’m 23. Why not think…. grand?
In a more realistic (but no less satisfying) version of my future, I want to eat grits every morning. With cheese. And a rotating selection of prepackaged breakfast meats. Ham, mostly. Bacon, semi-regularly. Canadian Bacon on birthdays and holidays. I mix them together with butter and salt. And I’ll enjoy. (I don’t envision my future with heart disease. But, even if I did, that’s not relevant to this story.)
This version of my future is amazing and it seems reasonable. Even now. While Rumor is an still an egg and my baby grand sits in a warehouse somewhere, I can enjoy the one element of my future that I want today: Grits. With cheese. And ham. Not in the future when I’ve my shit together and am responsible and make money and have figured out what I’m doing. I can have grits. With cheese. And ham. Now.
Of course, it isn’t that easy. I went shopping Sunday. It was my first shopping trip in my new neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Generally, my shopping trips are fairly uninspiring. Because there are six or so meals I can prepare competently, before I go inside, I’ll decide which meal I want for the week. I buy the ingredients. I don’t really consider price because I’ve bought these ingredients enough times to know I’ve no problems with their cost. Mostly, I float throughout the store plopping ingredients into my shopping basket as carefree as marijuana smoking Supermarket Sweep contestant. But, while getting groceries this time, something stopped me cold. An 8-ounce bag of cheese cost over 5 dollars. I snapped out of my haze and considered what C-Town was asking me.
At no point in my life have I ever paid more than 3 dollars for cheese, unless I want to spruce up my Macaroni and cheese with a little Guoda. But, on this day, I just wanted basic cheddar cheese. $5:50? I was disgusted. I wasn’t paying that price. So I walked away, more than slightly annoyed. I considered this a test.
I’ve decided to pay the price life demands it costs. I don’t blink at the price of a monthly Metrocard. I don’t gripe when plopping down hundreds in rent. But for the first time, I bitched back at life’s price. I’ve no qualms about spending money because I’ve no expectations to have all that much money. But $5.50 for cheddar cheese. Hell no.
I voiced my complaints to a friend. Her response? “Cheese is a luxury, Robert.” Excuse me. Cheese. . .is a luxury. Fuck that. Before human beings knew how to irrigate water, we figured out mornings are better with cheese. We knew that cheese was a vital part to any democracy. And yet, here, in America, in 2012, I stood at the dairy section of C-Town envisioning a future where Grits had to go cheese-free. I can’t accept that.
There are certain concessions I’m willing to give up as a 20 something. I’ll take the Chinatown Bus. I’ll get a roommate. I’ll eat dollar slices of pizza. But everyone has to have their line deciding which concessions are too much to give up. And I know mine. I won’t give up grits with cheese. Not only did I buy cheddar cheese. I bought a jar of Parmesan cheese. And not that imitation shit. In total, I spent 8+ dollars in cheese. And it felt pretty darn good.
But, I didn’t buy any beer. I’ll still play life’s game its way. Just not at the expense of my breakfast.