Sometimes I look at my life and it concerns me: I hardly have any vices left. That’s what happens when you get older. You start moderating or quitting bad habits and you take up new, healthy, boring ones.
You try to convince yourself that, say, life without cigarettes is every bit as fascinating and fun as seeing the world through a thick fog of smoke and Continental sophistication. You try to ignore your craving for cigarettes that surfaces now and then at inopportune moments, such as the middle of a yoga class. “You have everything you need inside of you,” the yoga teacher might say, which is a nice sentiment, but not exactly reality-based.
Trouble is, time passes, you get older and slower, and the price is too high. I remember the late mornings after big parties at our house, when my husband and I would stumble around, whispering at each other, since loud noise and bright lights were a problem, cleaning up spilled liquor and overflowing ashtrays. Someone had invariably watered the schefflera plant with vodka, which usually killed it — but it probably died happy, I always thought. We drank water, we took aspirin, we collapsed and went back to bed. I miss some things about being young, but I don’t miss hangovers one damned bit.
And, you know, smoking has its drawbacks, so there goes another swell hobby. Your own personal future is shortened and seems to be beating down your door; habits that were once amusing have become both lethal and passe. What was fun and funny in your twenties becomes a little pathetic as you age. (If you don’t believe me, check out Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Dorothy Parker in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and tell me what’s more appalling and depressing than an elderly alcoholic. You want to throw yourself — or Jason Leigh — off a cliff after you see this movie.)
All of which is a lengthy intro to my current concern: salt. Salt! Now the Bloomberg administration in New York is going after salt like it’s the devil incarnate, packing a bomb in the middle of Times Square on a Saturday night.
My daughter, who works in the health world, tells me too much salt is causing needless heart attacks and strokes and we particularly need to cut it back in processed foods. Fine, OK, no big deal. Take the bad white stuff out of every can in America, but leave my salt shaker full and within reach.
Salt! It’s only a spice! I love salt! I use it on a daily basis! Two of my favorite foods — potatoes and eggs — require it. I think of my friend Karen, who automatically reaches for a salt shaker and proceeds to dump salt on everything she orders, before she even tastes it.
Take our liquor, our cigarettes, our hangovers, rob our lives of youthful pleasures, but for God’s sake, leave us our salt shakers.
But then, I wonder: Do I really mean that? Maybe not. Maybe I yen for that long-past thrill I used to get, reaching for the forbidden, doing something dangerous, knowing I would pay someday, but who cares?
So, thunder from your tall bully pulpits and denounce salt all you want. I’ll continue to reach for it, loving the taste, loving the feeling that, even now, even at my advanced age, I’m daring and a little bad.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about how the Buddhists messed with my mind