By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
By now, I expected to feel like a grown-up. And sometimes I do, like when we sign tax returns or go to a funeral, which is certainly not a ringing endorsement for adulthood. But most of the time, I feel like an imposter – like a kid who somehow ended up in a grown-up’s body and is still trying to figure out what she’s doing. Part of me wonders if it all comes down to coffee.
I don’t like it. Never have. I want to like it – badly. I love the way it smells. I love the quaint little coffee shops where it’s served. I love the warmth of the coffee cups and the way the steam rises and curls off its mocha-colored surface.
I like its friendly nicknames, like java and cup of joe. When a waiter comes to the table after dinner and says, “Coffee, Miss?” I want to say, “Yes, I’d love some.” It would be wonderful to cradle the cup in my hand and say intelligent things about coffee beans and what a fine roast it is. But somehow I just never acquired the taste for it. My taste buds never got the memo that coffee is delicious, even though it looks and smells that way.
Sometimes a business associate will suggest we meet for coffee, and I always hope he or she won’t secretly judge me when I order a hot chocolate instead of a fancy cappuccino that the other people in line are waiting for. I barely understand the menu at coffee houses. I have no idea what a Cinnamon Dolce Latte is but it sounds, looks and smells divine. If it didn’t have espresso in it, it would probably taste that way, too.
Of course, there’s a big upside to not drinking coffee. If I calculate the cost of a daily trip to Starbucks and multiply that figure over the past 20 years, I’ve probably saved close to a trillion dollars. But that extra money isn’t sitting in my bank account because I’ve funneled it into other addictions, like shoes, smartphones and far too much Dr. Pepper.
Maybe what I’m missing out on most is the sense of community coffee brings with it. Coffee drinkers are in a club, of sorts, and they understand each other. “I haven’t had my coffee yet,” they joke, and their fellow coffee lovers chuckle and nod. They get it because they’re in the club, too.
I do know exactly one other alleged grown-up who, like me, doesn’t drink coffee. His name is Tom, and I married him. There were other factors involved in that decision beyond our mutual dislike of coffee. But we both remember the exact moment of our first date, when the waiter came to the table to offer us coffee, and we both declined. I mumbled under my breath that I never acquired a taste for it, and he said he didn’t like it either. It was one of the first things we had in common.
But we know our little non-coffee drinking club of two is an anomaly. After we got married, we bought a coffee maker so we can properly entertain houseguests and visitors. It sits in the far reaches of a kitchen cabinet most of the time, and I wash the dust off of it anytime someone comes over who might want a cup. I still have to read the owner’s manual just to use the thing.
After all, I’m not really a grown-up – just a kid trying to make her way in a “good to the last drop” kind of world.