Last night the wife and I had the rare opportunity to host a dinner party, featuring the girlfriend of an acquaintance, who is visiting from Russia. My food-centric friend and I quietly competed for most grandiose offerings, and the table was spread with everything from grass-fed bacon cheeseburgers to asparagus stuffed chicken.
The thing that struck me immediately about our honored house guest, was how well she spoke English; better than the lot of us, I’m afraid, with all of our swearing and missing consonants. Of course, she didn’t get to say much for most of the evening, but then that’s what she gets for dating a chatterbox American actor with obnoxious friends.
When we did allow her to speak at length, the conversation turned to the food, the amount of it, its over-the-top extravagance and variety, and how this seems to be a norm in our country. So many choices, such immense portions, and everything just killing to make us obese, with us dying to get as much of it as we can.
Since my first career was in grocery management, I had some interesting stories to add the the argument that America was crazy for consumption (not tuberculosis). Since her visit was almost exclusive to the biggest cities in California, I submitted that she got the absolute worst of it. Vacation destinations and BBQ gatherings, where people splurge on purpose, and have to go enormous because what they’re used to is already so much.
She did mention, however, that our mustard isn’t nearly as flavorful as what she’s used to back home.
The question is: when is plenty too much, and when is too much almost a bad joke? Would it take someone from another country, sitting in your living room and pointing at all the food you’re leaving out, to illustrate just how amazing you have it?
Go to the supermarket and count the number of apple choices. Do the same for the tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits. If you live in California, you’ve given up before you’ve finished. We get everything we want anytime we want it, but did you ever stop to consider that you shouldn’t have farm fresh berries year-round?
Here’s an interesting article, from Forbes. In it is a graph that shows an Economist study of the socioeconomic state of the top and bottom ten percent of several socially democratic countries. If you look closely, the bottom ten percent in the US seem to have it better than the top ten percent in Russia, where our charming guest is from. If the results posted in the article are to be believed, in a country stereotyped by corrupt fat-cat officials, those top tier individuals live like people in the worst slums in America.
Is it so hard to believe that it can’t possibly be true? Or are we so well off that we’re too high on our mountain top to see the valleys below? Quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. We can’t make the world an entire ball of American standards; in fact, many places would out right refuse if we could and tried.
It all boils down to our good fortune. We are born here, or immigrated here, and thus enjoy the perks of what our society has created. Yes, it makes us fat, and makes us tactless, and we don’t really concern ourselves with the state of another country’s union, but then, we’re here and nowhere else, so what should it matter?
Happiness is relative to circumstance. The homeless addict finds joy in the receipt of a half eaten fast food meal. The average American Joe is overjoyed when a new season of his favorite show starts. The same can be said for people in any country, in every condition of life. The young lady who came to visit us would have only had hearsay evidence and her own country’s stereotypes of us, if she hadn’t hopped on a plane and came to see for herself.
I say: live the life that you have, don’t stop trying to better it, and don’t feel bad about it. As for our visitor, it didn’t seem like she had too bad a time, enduring our insanely over-indulgent lifestyle, although it did seem to bother her maybe a little. I’d probably know for sure, if we’d let her get a word in edgewise.
We all knew this song was coming, so stop with the face. Seriously, how bad can it be? Hot chicks in every major city, and rock ‘n roll seems to have found its way there.