the like girl and the tasting menu

My daughter cannot speak without inserting the word like between every three or four words. They all do, her friends. Even I find myself saying it… like this, like that.

I notice it now in the way you notice, one day, a drip from a faucet which may well have been there for some time but somehow escaped your notice. From that moment on its sound is deafening, robbing you of your ability to hear anything but its drip, like, drip, like. Every generation, every culture, I tell her, has our transition word or sound, the ummms I remember having to battle. The French seem to say uhhh or ehhh puis as a way to gather their thoughts.

We all communicate differently these days, with little distinction between slang and formal speech, between writing and texting, short codified bursts like the dots and dashes of morse.

The pace of life is increasingly fractitious, incomplete. When we listen to music few songs are heard from first note to last, one button making streamed music like navigating the rapids after a thaw. Look forward, no turning back.

I troll the virtual bookshelves at night much in the same way I used to bury myself in the dusty labyrinths of used book stores, downloading samples of books and then crawling into bed to enjoy this tasting menu of literature, a bite of fiction here, a nibble of bio there. It takes a certain je ne sais quoi to get me to commit, and I am hard to please, ruthless and cruel at times, deleting the sample with nary a qualm, one cruel swipe of the finger across the screen.

My mother used to say you always had to have a book on the ready, but I have dozens and am a few pages into one, a few chapters into another. I need to make a new category in my goodreads account somewhere in between read and reading.

I imagine another sort of tasting menu, a party of writers where the guests flit like butterflies from one author to the next, gathering in small groups and leaning close to listen to a particularly compelling dialogue, our eyes darting across the room to see who is there, moving along with a smile or an excuse of needing a drink when the truth is we find their prose dull or simply not to our liking, our palates craving something lighter, richer, saltier, sweeter. Not now, maybe later…or not.

We taste but rarely take the time to savor. Our palates expand as our experience broadens, as we expose ourselves to more and more nibbles and bytes and sounds and words but rarely do we reach that moment when all that remains is that ineffably delicious hint of presence. We decide what we like and what we do not in an instant, tossing aside that which is not crafted well or bright enough to catch our fancy within the first moment, the first sentence, the first few notes. We are fickle in our attention, the risk ever present that we will hop off and move on. Much is created with that in mind.

But wait, shhhh, the like girl is singing, beautifully. Next to her, curled up on the couch, is the other, with a book rather than with her ereader, the samples I lovingly downloaded to her virtual bookshelf remaining unread. I do the same, reading not one, but two letters which I received in the mail (albeit both from strangers, which one person commented is like paying a prostitute, but anyway).

There are moments of slowness amidst the mad dots and dashes, and I savor them.


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