Drinking Tea in Front of a Space Alien

19 Jul

Twice now my mother has witnessed me pouring almond milk into my tea, and on both occasions she commented upon it, as though it were the oddest thing. On both occasions, she said that her mother put milk and sugar in her tea. She said that as though she thinks this is unusual! Sometimes she behaves exactly as though she just came from another planet. You’d think her Regency romance novels, set in England, would constantly show people putting milk and sugar in their tea; I guess they’re more often shown drinking Madeira or port.

This time she said, “Mother.” Since she’s supposed to be my mother, not the other way around, I looked at her with my eyebrows raised in a nonverbal: What you trippin’ on? facial expression. To answer the question on my face, she continued, “My mother put milk in her tea.” She said this in wonderment.

I said, “Um, that’s normal.”

“It was before pasteurization…or homogenation? Whichever, the cream would rise to the top, and she’d use the cream in her tea.”

“You know, it’s customary to put milk in tea. Unless it’s green tea. If it’s black tea, then that’s what most people do.”

“I used picot.”



“Oh,” I said, and tactfully refrained from pointing out that I only buy Lipton if I intend to tea-dye fabric. I remember her drinking Lipton tea when I was a kid. I think she stopped because of all the prescriptions, or maybe it was under doctor’s orders.

“My mother put both milk and sugar in her tea. I guess that’s why she got fat. All that sugar.”

“More likely why she got cavities.”

I don’t know if she got cavities, but that makes more sense than getting fat only from putting sugar and cream in your tea. I think my grandmother got fat because she gave birth fourteen times. To suggest that no, it was because she put a tiny quantity of sugar in her tea every day, is insane. Giving birth way too many times; genetics; not working out; and eating bad food would all have contributed to her getting fat. (People from Kansas don’t generally know how to eat and at a potluck will point at hummus and ask, “What’s that?” I’m not exaggerating.)

She finally said, “I guess I’m the one who doesn’t do it the normal way.” Um, yeah. At least, on this planet.

I raised my eyebrows and nodded slowly. It didn’t occur to me until just now to ask her if she put anything in her tea. Plain black tea would generally be too bitter for my tastes. I typically add agave and almond milk, as I did this morning.

Well, it’s only a quarter after ten, and my dad’s already here. So I’m getting dressed and going out (to a bookstore!) rather than spending the rest of the morning quietly reading. But I did some reading, at least, before I started writing this.


3:19 PM

Today, the day after I read an article in Bitch magazine about fatphobia, I had this conversation with my dad before we left the gas station:

Dad: How much would you say that woman weighs? Four hundred, five hundred pounds?

Me: Fatphobic much?

Dad: Now that’s what you call obesity.

Me: Now that’s what you call bigotry.

(Either my dad is too ADD to pay attention to what I say, or he’s harder of hearing than I thought.)

He acts all smug, triumphant, and sanctimonious when commenting on people whom our society has branded with the pseudo-medical term “obesity.” I consider his behavior to be a blatant example of scapegoating, of “needing” someone on whom to pick. “Oh, it’s socially acceptable to demonize and ridicule fat people, so I’m going to do so whenever I get a chance!” His behavior is extremely dehumanizing and pushes my trauma buttons.

I’m lucky the popular media wasn’t going on and on about obesity when I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s. My mother, my brother, and the bullies at school seemed to think it necessary to continually remind me that I was fat and ugly and devoid of human worth. If my dad had been the way he is now, he would have pitched in relentlessly; according to Sally, he did that to her.

My parents are each completely insane.


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