Once upon a time, I was domestic. I lived in contented bliss with a boy who was not yet a man, but tried his best to play the part. I, too, tried to fulfill my role as a sort of Hestia, goddess of the hearth, which meant cooking and occasionally cleaning. As a working woman, buying groceries did not quite fit on my docket of things to do in between being a drone for eight hours a day and trying to get home as quickly as possible to mentally prepare for being a drone again the next day. Enter Fresh Direct, the lazy, carless working woman’s solution to being as housewifely as possible in the twenty-first century. Like many “on a budget,” I was skeptical at first, believing the delivery fee to be somewhat outlandish. But after one use, I was hooked on the convenience of it. Never again would I have to mimic the movements of a saddle-bagged donkey on the train, nor would I have to limit the amount or bulk of items bought based solely on whether or not they could be carried. Yes, Fresh Direct was love–and an ironic by-product of that moment in the domestic period when novelty transitions into comfortable boredom, and you’re trying to do whatever you can to mask the inevitable by whipping out as many bells and whistles as possible–proving to your significant other that you’re as great as he suspected you would be.
But in my case, Teddy was never going to be impressed by any form of tinsel I might throw at him to distract from how incredibly flawed I was. He could see that no matter what I did, and, in the beginning I think, it’s what he liked about me. I was something to fix, and fixate on. My insanity was like an objet d’art to him, something to be studied until learned, mastered and, finally, filed away. Before the filing, however, there was Fresh Direct. After my first use, my descent into the online grocery abyss became unstoppable. Most of my hours at work were spent in a reverie of trolling potential sundries, meats and cheeses–and, of course, anything that might be on sale. I became a veritable Betty Draper/Peggy Olson combo, wanting on the one hand to be an acquiescing beacon of subordination, as well as the bread winner able to buy the essentials necessary to make Teddy feel as though he was being pampered. I was making the grave mistake of trying to be both conventionally female and male, when all I really wanted was to be myself, which fell somewhere in between the spectrum.
All the while, Teddy seemed oft in his own world, generally pretending to search for a job that he would never send in a resume for and dabbling lightly in maybe possibly taking the test to get his real estate license. I looked the other way, because we were in love.
“Adelaide, can you make chicken and potatoes tonight?” Teddy called out to me from the bedroom as I got ready for work in a frazzled hurry one morning.
“I’ll try, the Fresh Direct guy isn’t coming until tomorrow, so I’ll have to squeeze in normal shopping on my lunch.”
Rather than insist I don’t overextend myself in such a way, Teddy said simply, “Okay.”
That’s probably the most concrete instance of when I realized he wasn’t the one for me. Like when Adam Sandler as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer tells Drew Barrymore as Julia Sullivan that he knew Linda wasn’t right for him when she wouldn’t offer up her window seat to him on the plane. It’s “the little things,” as the platitude goes, and they always end up becoming the cause of the demise once enough of them have mounted into one giant mass of unignorable selfishness.
I had come into work late that morning, my eye makeup askew and the hem of my skirt off kilter. Think Ms. Geiss in Clueless but twenty years younger and with blonde hair. Though I was usually able to sneak past my boss’ cubicle undetected thanks to the obstruction of the break room, she happened to be lying in wait as she refilled her paper cup with instant coffee. “Adelaide. Was your train delayed?” she asked passive aggressively.
“Um, yes,” I lied. “Crazy delays. Sick passenger, you know. I always wonder what that means, anyway. It’s such an all-encompassing word, ‘sick.'”
She regarded me strangely, deciding I wasn’t worth prodding further based on such an answer. The best way to get anyone to stop talking to you is to sound slightly unhinged. She raised her brow at me and turned on her heel, leaving me to the task of getting to my desk, sitting there for two minutes of contemplation and sifting through emails of no real import. I was already calculating in my mind how I could get to Trader Joe’s on 21st in a timely fashion within the framework of my lunch. I had to make him chicken and potatoes. He asked for chicken and potatoes. A suppressed voice in the back of my mind demanded, “Who the fuck are you?”
In between performing the basic and rote functions of my job, I got lured away by a Fresh Direct email, advertising twenty-five percent off all poultry. It would be such a shame to buy second-rate chicken from Trader Joe’s when I could get the top shelf kind at a discounted price from FD. Surely Teddy would understand the importance of this kind of quality and value, two words that so rarely come together in the high-octane world of grocery shopping. With that, I copied and pasted the coupon code and proceeded to fill my virtual basket.
I arrived home later than usual that night, my karma for lying about the sick passenger coming to fruition on the way back. I stopped briefly at a bodega to get a few spices I would need for my recipe that night, using the remainder of what I had received from Fresh Direct on the last delivery. Upon struggling to unlock the door as I fumbled for my keys, I dropped everything on the ground. I knew Teddy could hear my strife from his perch on the other side of the door, yet did nothing.
Finally, I made it inside, where I found him “reading” silently in the corner. I knew better though; no one actually reads Nietzsche, they just quote him. He blinked at me and said, “Welcome home, Adelaide.”
“Thanks,” I returned as I emptied the scant contents of my plastic bag. He appraised them immediately.
“Did you not get chicken and potatoes, like I specifically requested?”
“You see, Teddy…there was a sale. On Fresh Direct.”
He guffawed. “You and your fucking Fresh Direct. You’re living in the past Adelaide. No one uses Fresh Direct anymore. It’s all about tangibility now. It’s so antiquated, it’s new again.”
Needless to say, our relationship ended when the lease did, the true mark of New York City romantic timetables.
To loosely paraphrase John Lennon (“I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me”), I know now that I can’t be man and woman. I can only be me. And every time I get those emails from Fresh Direct, the ones advertising amazing savings that just can’t be missed, I still think of Teddy, and that phase in my life when I tried to be a metaphorical hermaphrodite. Fresh Direct negates my very being with its understated desire to make it seamless for the woman to be all things. Every now and again, the man should be something too. Something other than a prop with an open orifice waiting to be fed. Still, I feed it.