Otto and I went to a fancy-schmancy banquet last night, because he won a fancy-schmancy award. Because he’s kind of a rock star.
Sometimes proper parenting has to take a back seat to free steak, so Monkey was informed that his current behavior was being tabled until tonight, because we already had the sitter lined up for last night. (He did, however, write a very nice apology note to the vice principal after we had a brief discussion, which is sort of going to take all the joy out of grounding him for the rest of FOREVER when we talk, tonight.)
(The sitter, by the way, was someone who came on recommendation from a friend of a friend (thanks, Foodie!), and marks the first time I’ve left the children with someone I’ve never met. I still can’t decide if this marks growth on my part or just the worn-down-ed-ness of old age.) Chickadee, in particular, was very excited about the whole thing.
“What do you think she’ll BE LIKE?” she kept asking, as she dangled her legs from my bathroom counter. She was alternating between leaning over to dig through my drawers for hair pretties and watching me, agape, as I straightened my hair with the Magical Straightening Iron Of Extreme Voodoo And Shiny Straightness.
“I have no idea, honey. She’s a college student. She likes kids. She sounded really nice on the phone. SHE WILL NOT FALL FOR YOUR LITTLE MIND GAMES.” For some reason, this did not seem to be the answer my daughter had in mind.
“In the Babysitter’s Club books there are all sorts of rules,” she remarked. “Like, it says you should always tell the mom she looks pretty. Why is that?”
“The sitter is supposed to?” I asked. She nodded, and I laughed. “I guess it’s because usually the sitter is there because the mom is going out, and maybe the sitter gets a better tip if she pays her a compliment.” I finished straightening my hair and moved on to make-up. (Have I mentioned lately that it’s exhausting, being a girl? There are very good reasons for my working from home in my pajamas. I don’t have time for this crap every single day.)
I had one eye done when the sitter arrived, and Otto let her in and I heard Monkey jabbering away at her in the other room. When I finished the other eye, I took Chickadee out to say hello, even though my make-up was half done and I hadn’t found my shoes, yet.
“Hi, Kristi, I’m Mir. It’s nice to meet you!” I know you can’t tell much from appearances, but she was pretty and sweet-looking, and the kids were obviously smitten with her on first sight.
“Hi, Mir, nice to meet you!” She answered, with a big smile. “Wow, you look really nice!” she added.
Chickadee burst out laughing.
I ran off to finish getting ready, and before long we’d bid everyone goodbye and were on our way. A night of being grown-ups! And eating someone else’s cooking!
Well, it turned out that there were about a gazillion people at this thing, and Otto knew exactly three of them. And that would’ve been fine, but those three people all knew lots of other people, so before we knew it, we were left to fend for ourselves.
A nice young foreign couple came along and the man immediately tried to strike up a conversation with Otto. Unfortunately, he was heavily accented, his wife appeared to be completely mute, and it became apparent in approximately fifteen seconds that we had absolutely nothing in common. After a few “I am going to tell you all about how I came to work here in Georgia. Now I have told you. How about you?” kinds of conversational prompts from the poor guy, they wandered away. Otto and I were relieved, and scampered into the dining area to sit down and hopefully avoid talking to anyone else.
Another couple happened along by our table, and as they seated themselves we all did introductions and this time it appeared that at the very least, we’d be able to converse. We chatted for a while, and then one of the three people Otto knew came and sat down as well.
So. Otto was on my left, his coworker—let’s call her Sally—was on my right, and then on her other side was the woman from this other couple—let’s call her Sue—who, as we’d discovered through some conversation, works at a plant lab where they alter the molecular structure of things like corn.
You know what happened, right? I mean, you really can’t take me anywhere.
“So, Sue,” I said, trying to talk past Sally as politely as possible, “explain this to me. You’re altering edible plants, yes?”
“Oh, yes!” she answered, and went off on a long monologue about how people in third world countries who eat almost nothing but white rice tend to have a vitamin A deficiency, and then something called golden rice was developed and that has vitamin A actually put back into the genome, and it’s so wonderful that this groundbreaking research is allowing us to do things like this, and at her lab they’re modifying corn and soybeans in different ways, and it’s all just so fascinating and remarkable.
“Soooo… wait. Isn’t GMO corn supposed to be really bad for you?” I asked.
“Oh! Well, don’t worry, none of the projects we do are actually for human consumption. Humans will never eat the plants we modify, so no worries there! No, what we do is modify the plants in certain ways to enhance certain characteristics of OTHER organisms when THEY eat them! So, for example, did you know that most farmed fish has color added to it? Well, we’ll modify soybeans to have the things in it that make salmon pink, and then they’ll be ground up and fed to farmed salmon! It’s much more natural, that way!”
I looked over at Otto, who was busy talking to the person seated to his left.
All I could think of was those horrible high fructose corn syrup commercials, where someone says “That’s got high fructose corn syrup!” and the other person gives them a DUH sort of look and says “So?” And then the first person says “Well YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY about that!” and the DUH person responds, “That it’s made of CORN?”
Sally was entranced by Sue’s explanation, and they began talking about other applications of this research. I muttered to no one in particular, “I don’t think soybeans are the salmon’s natural diet.”
Some time passed, and I sat there sipping my water and eating my salad, and finally I could stand it no longer. When there was a lull in their discussion, I leaned across Sally to Sue, again.
“So, Sue,” I started. “Would you eat fish that was fed those modified feeds?” Sue blinked at me. “I’m just curious,” I added. “Would you feel comfortable consuming fish that had been fed genetically modified soybeans?”
“Well…” she started, shooting her husband a look that clearly said she thought I might be an angry vegan, or worse, “We, uh, lived on the coast for years and years. And you pretty much can’t get any decent fish here, so I really don’t buy fish at all.” Now it was my turn to blink at her. “But I WOULD,” she continued, lamely, “I mean, I wouldn’t be concerned about it being unsafe, or anything. I just happen to think the fish here doesn’t taste very good.”
“I… see,” I said. Sally started in again on whatever they’d been talking about, before, and I went back to my salad.
Dinner was surf and turf—a slab of salmon, a slab of steak. It was delicious. I tried really hard not to think about where it came from or what it might have eaten. I did notice that miss “I never eat fish here because it’s awful” ate hers, though. Huh.
After that, I stuck to sipping my wine (and later, my coffee) and only talking to Otto. That just seemed safer. Also, after we came home I decided to start my own farm and only eat things I’ve grown myself. Oh, wait. No I didn’t. I just took off my nice clothes, got into my pajamas, washed my face, and begged Otto to please not make me go schmooze with people again for another year.