When I was fifteen years old I got a job as a hostess at my small town's one and only Denny's restaurant.
This was not my first job, mind you. I'd already been working for a few years as a summer camp counselor for 4-H. There's nothing quite like waking up each dewy morning with the unmistakable olfactory knowledge of nearby fields, each square yard heavily fertilized by cow manure...
Luckily, my job at Denny's was significantly less smelly. I only worked on the weekends - to be more specific, I worked the 6:00am shift on the weekends. I'd groggily get up each morning, apply enough concealer to make my 15-year-old acne-ridden face look presentable, curl my hair (just to put it into a ponytail, so what's the point, you ask? So do I, now, eleven years later...), and put on my maroon vest, name tag, and non-slip shoes. My mom would even more groggily drive me to work and there I'd be for the next 8-10 hours, seating customers, ringing up tabs, avoiding surly waitresses, and (here's the big one), scooping ice cream.
Our particular restaurant had a mini Baskin Robbins in the lobby, and part of my job was to make the delectable and waist-expanding ice cream, syrup, and whipped cream conglomerations that were in our little laminated spiral notebook underneath the counter (to order, of course).
I became a champ at scooping during that year and a half, and although waking up to stinky breezes at 4-H camp was unpleasant, coming home with your clothes, hair and skin all smelling of freezer-burned ice cream is decidedly worse.
No, we didn't serve freezer-burned ice cream. But it didn't matter. I smelled like it nonetheless, right up until a good scrubbing (which happened about 8.3 minutes after I came in the front door of my house, unless I collapsed in exhaustion first, which did happen every now and then).
If asked, I may have even told you then, and am a firm believer judging by the memories I hold today, that although being smelly afterward wasn't the best, that part was eclipsed by the fun I had working there. Eventually my buddy Shenna was my fellow hostess, and we had way too many good times for my weekends at Denny's to be considered strictly work.
Another high point was the copious amount of ice cream I ate during the first few months of my time there. After awhile, I wasn't interested in the sweet stuff anymore, but for a moderate period I was very well acquainted with those tiny pink tasting spoons.
Cookies 'n cream. Fudge swirl. Sherbet. Chocolate chip. Butter pecan. Even the occasional bite of pistachio almond went down the hatch. And I loved them all. I'd have days where I preferred one, and days that I wanted many. Some days I hated that green pistachio-flavored ice cream, and some days I simply adored it. There was no rhyme or reason to my preferences, they changed with the wind (and the temperature, for that matter).
Years later, after my love life's ups, downs, and multiple all-but-name marriages, I remembered those delicious pink spoons.
It was the perfect analogy!
In that sunny restaurant foyer with the big front window view of the field from where we'd heard the trees crying as their branches broke under the heavy ice of January 1999, and where no one ever won a toy from the magic claw machine, and where I'd taken a meal payment from Noah's mom as she nonchalantly asked me how my Christmas break had been when she knew exactly how it was, seeing as how it was kicked off by a phone call from her telling me she wouldn't stand for me to date her son because of the excess melanin I carried in my skin cells, in that dirty-floored foyer, I'd found perfection.
Having pink spoonfuls of ice cream was the perfect balance - I had enough to satisfy my craving, but never enough to have give me a bellyache. I could survey all of my options, which were more abundant than I'd ever have a need for (who wants to actually eat 16 giant tubs of ice cream?), and that I didn't even want to sample all of (some of those flavors I never did touch), and pick one or two, adding a little piece of happiness to my day. I'd only take a bite every shift or two, and after a couple months passed and I'd gotten my fill I never did, but while I wanted it, all I had to do was reach out and take it. A new spoon was always used, no germs or overlapping flavors here. It was delectable, not unhealthy (because of the small amount I actually ate), and it satisfied my cravings such that I didn't need ice cream for the longest time afterward.
I decided to take the principles of my pink spoon ice cream adventures and apply them to my adventures with the opposite sex. It was a perfect fit. I could survey (find one -or a few- that I liked enough to try out), take a sample (spend an afternoon, have a conversation, see a movie, go for a hike), never experience any side effects due to overindulgence (if I never become truly emotionally involved, they can never hurt my feelings or aggravate me), and everyone is happy (I never had any complaints).
I was fully satisfied by this arrangement. The boys (I never called them men. I was a firm believer that the "real man" was a mythical creature) didn't have to be perfect. It didn't matter. They could have their quirks and their oddities and their childish ways, and it didn't bother me a whit. Why would it? I didn't need anything from them. I experienced their company just long enough to feel good from it. I had driven away long before they had become cumbersome, and if one ever became the slightest bit less than fun before his time (a bit of rudeness, an ambiguously made then canceled date, etc.), I moved on to the next with no worries. Sometimes a flavor doesn't give you the jolt it did before. That's when you get a new flavor.
When you're only dealing with pink spoons, there's also no reason to have only one. When I was doing a decent amount of traveling, I lined up time spent with each of my boys when I was coming into their respective towns. Note here: I did have male friends too, which were not at all my pink spoons. They were a different breed. No one minded, because I in no way expected to be the only lady that they were giving their time to either. And there was never any physical contact (ahem) that I would have regretted - I've always been a fierce guard of my "number" and that was never a problem. Not that there was no action - where's the fun in that? But it was just about exclusively PG-13.
Robin, who'd been a victim of forced "friendliness" a time or two during her adolescence, once asked me incredulously how I never ran into these types of problems. I was dumbfounded. I'd never seen it as an option. Then it dawned on me: that was why I'd never had an issue with it.
"Men are like dogs honey, if you look them in the eye and speak in a firm voice, they'll just do what you say without the least bit of fuss - no problem."
And it was true, for as far as I could tell. Of course, being sure what was okay and not okay, and never being ambiguous about what may or may not happen from the very beginning, also being vocal so there was never any wondering, was how I made it work. (note: Yes, of course there are crazy jerks out there who would have forced things. However, I was either lucky enough or a good enough judge of character to never meet any of those people. It's not like I'd spend time with just anyone, oh no. They had to be relatively sweet and have various other attributes too, those things in the end probably combined to make this a non-issue.)
Overall, it seemed like an ideal scenario, for the rest of my life even. Yes, of course I anticipated falling in love now and then - a shallow, never-meant-to-be-forever kind of a love. But it would eventually pass, and then I'd be back. The Pink Spoon Theory was one I adopted, hook line and sinker, from here on out.