To Patronize – Johanna Boyes
October 19, 2023
“I’m sure your mom doesn’t take you to places like this. Am I right? She probably brings you to places like the one across the street. […] No, ha, though I’m sure she takes you to places like that as well. I mean the coffee house right there. The ‘artisan’ one. Look, I know I’m your uncle, and we can’t escape the fact that this makes me a suspect figure. I have never met anyone who has an opinion on their uncle that is so positive they’ve had reason to express this to me. Uncles range, broadly speaking, from lecherous to neutral. But I want to forge a unique path for us and I want to start by imparting the few conclusions I have come to about the world which have been tested and robustly held true through my twenty-four years. I’ll begin by using the comparison between where we are now and the coffee house across the street, thinking of these settings as symbolic but also not symbolic, because we are really here and that is really there [knocks on the table to signify its materiality and presence]. Oh, our coffees are ready, do you mind getting them? […] Right, yes, yours is a hot chocolate.
“Your face and expression make me feel very cautious about how I speak to you. Your nose is very
button-like and upturned. In fact, your eyes and lips have an upturned quality too and it gives the
impression of receptivity which makes me feel obligated to be careful with the ideas I introduce to you. The fact that you are so little, so you must look up at me, adds to this. Back to what I was saying. The place like the one across the street is emblematic of something which frustrates me. And I can admit that my frustration comes from a quality of mine which is not necessarily a nice quality, which is a contempt for weakness. What I mean is that a place like that intends to give its customers a sense of identity and of belonging, and I feel a grotesque pity towards the many adults who seem to lack these things and seek them out in a coffee shop.
“I resent places like the coffee shop across the street because the need to get your coffee there signals a disquietude; the lack of a resolved sense of self. […] Yes, or hot chocolate. Everything about it is there to assure its customers that they are metropolitan, creative, ethical. Also, as I said, it simulates a sense of belonging to some kind of scene or locality; that it’s in-tune with the neighborhood, evidenced by the flyers which suffocate its bulletin board. Though I don’t know this particular place, I can almost guarantee there’s no scene associated with it.
“Compare it to here. What do you notice about this place? […] Yes, precisely, I am so glad that you said that. What else? […] That’s okay. Your first observation was insightful in ways I’m not sure you
“I wanted to get you your hot chocolate here because it is a wholly generic experience which does not assure you of your uniqueness in any way. You have chocolate all over your face by the way, are you able to mop that up yourself with a napkin or is that something I need to help with?
“What I want for you is either to have an identity which does not need to be buttressed with goods and services, or I want the question of identity to seem nonsensical or irrelevant to you. I want you to be at peace with the generic and to not look for every chance to express individuality. This may sound trite, but I patronize franchises such as this one because they don’t suggest that there is any affiliated scene to which I could potentially belong but don’t. No one belongs here, so I am never out of the loop. There is an honesty to it.
“That’s probably because you didn’t wait for it to cool down before you drank it. When I’ve burnt my tongue, it tends to resolve itself within a day or two.”