It's Never Just About the French Fry: Advice from So Sad Today
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

It's Never Just About the French Fry: Advice from So Sad Today

It's about our inability to appreciate the good things we have in our lives.
October 19, 2017, 4:00am

Dear So Sad Today,

Do you have any thoughts about the eerie longevity of a single McDonald's french fry you dropped under your car seat ten years ago that is still beautiful and golden yellow?


I'm Luvin it

Dear I'm Luvin it,

I don't know. It's probably the chemicals McDonald's uses. But from a symbolic perspective, it's never just about the french fry.

As someone who never feels like enough, it's easy for me to dissociate from a moment—even a delicious one. Even if life has given me a supersize container of fries, I'm worrying about what's going to happen after the fries are over: Should I have gotten a milkshake instead? Do I even deserve the fries? Will there be repercussions for enjoying these fries? What about others who don't have any fries? Are the fry-less people going to hate me? Add the disease of depression to that, which really doesn't care how good life is going externally, and I'll gobble up the fries without even tasting one of them.


My tendency in life is to always be asking "Is that all there is?" So it's important for me to learn to say, "This is it." There is also an expression, "These are the good old days," that I think about a lot. Like, when you have a whole thing of supersize fries in front of you, it's easy to eat them while never even noticing that you are eating them—thinking about maybe getting back in the drive-through line for some other shit like "You know what this needs? The McChicken" or "I should have gotten the fucking Go-Gurt instead." But ten years down the line, when you find that lone fry, it's like, fuck, those fries were really delicious. Why didn't I appreciate them when I had them?

It's hard to appreciate shit when you have it. Our culture only feeds this difficulty, because we're constantly told that "you do not have enough shit" and "you will only be happy if you get this shit" and "Still not happy? You have the wrong shit."

There is an art to wanting what you have, and for me, it does not come naturally. Every day I do an email gratitude list with two of my friends—just a list of a bunch of things I'm thankful for that day—so I can work that muscle a little more. I purposefully chose friends who naturally tend toward darkness, rather than some weird effortlessly joyous people, so their lists don't annoy me too much.


So Sad Today

Hi So Sad Today, I'm writing to you because I've read your VICE post about feeling obsessed by someone who doesn't like you, or not as you like him, and I felt a very deep empathy.

I'm a polyamorous girl with a serious relationship of five years. I'm happy with my boyfriend, and I feel a very deep love for him. I can't imagine my life without him, and he's the best person (and boy) I've met in my life. At the same time, I don't feel butterflies in my stomach, and I can't get over the fact that I don't. What's more, I'm in a six-month ambiguous other thing that has obsessed me. This person is bad for me, definitely doesn't want a relationship, but it doesn't make me want him less, and I wish I wanted my boyfriend more. What do you think?


Sincerely, Fixating

Dear Fixating,

Being poly is hard, being monogamous is hard, being single is also hard. But the reason why we might want someone who is emotionally unavailable, a fantasy, as opposed to a person who is good and present for us is fairly easy.

Sometimes, it's our own discomfort with intimacy that gets us hooked on the wrong people and feeling averse to the right ones. We might not even be conscious of an aversion to intimacy. We might be like, no, actually, I am seeking more intimacy with this person who will never fully show up for me, not less. But the key word here is "seeking." The aspirational quality allows you to see the person as you want to see them, whereas with someone up in your shit every day, you have to see them as a real person. Real people aren't always sexy.

This is also true in a chemical sense. An eternally unavailable person creates an excitement and intoxication factor called limerence, which is the way we feel when we are first falling for someone. But if that eternally unavailable person were to somehow actually become available, you would ultimately stop getting high on them. Then you would need to repeat the pattern again by finding another unavailable person. It's so much less about the objects of our affection and more about ourselves and our relationship to limerence.

You might say No, it is about the person. With this person, even if they became available, I would never stop being in love with them. But imagine sharing a life with this person to the degree that you do with your boyfriend—not just fucking, but buying toilet paper, paying bills, listening to them talk about bullshit every day. What would it really be like? Also, this is all pretty moot because this person isn't actually available.

So, why can't you just stay in the dance with the unavailable person for the rest of your life? Well, you can! It all depends on how much you want to suffer. If you aren't suffering because of this person, then go forth! But ultimately, I've found that the highs and lows cause me too much agony. There are certain people with whom I always end up in the same emotional place time and time again, like how did I get here? Eventually, after like the tenth time, I might start to remember how I got there and not take that path again—even if it feels safe at the outset. But for me, the suffering has to strongly outweigh the high first.


So Sad Today

Buy So Sad Today: Personal Essays on Amazon, and follow her on Twitter.