Saucers & Human Folly

I cannot abide saucers. They, like so many accoutrements of domesticity and showcasing “having it together” represent the depths to which humans have gone to fortify denial. To build up the grand lie in their head that, no, they will never possibly die–they have all this shit to bog them down, tie them permanently to the part of the earth that isn’t six feet under. Saucers are the zenith of this inanity, this useless struggle against the end always being nigh.

It took me almost no time to determine that this household fixture–omnipresent in the affluent neighborhood where I grew up–was the most concrete manifestation of the collective repudiation of all that made sense. And what made sense, as far as I was concerned, was not gathering and hoarding possessions that not only encouraged the general ideal of uselessness, but also served to take up space in a world already so jam-packed with wastes of it (not to get all Unabomber or what have you, but there are plenty of people on this earth that really don’t need to be here, taking up air and giving back nothing but the noxious gas from their backside to it). I was around thirteen when my contempt for the infernal round object initially formed, first took shape in a class my mother put on in our dining room for aspiring debutantes of the area. She would teach them, among other important tasks for “ladies,” how to dance and how to drink. I think a part of her did it to ruffle my feathers, for somewhere deep down she knew that she did not give birth to a daughter who could ever take an interest in such things. In such “womanly” pursuits. So maybe she did it to make me jealous, to invoke my competitive side with the other girls she bestowed far more attention and accolades on. But all her tea parties served to iterate was that I despised pretty much everyone, and their obsessions with objets that offered literally no purpose, a reflection of their own lack of utility, one might surmise.

So yes, maybe you could say I developed an “unnatural” hatred, and therefore fear, of saucers whenever I saw them in public or in someone’s home (though, as I grew older, I was invited increasingly less into such spaces due to my “weirdness”–my uncivilized predilections for not showering regularly or dressing in any way that might suggest I’d found my clothing from somewhere that wasn’t the street). It was the old lady ones in particular that sketched me out, made me shudder–you know, those markedly dainty ones with the hand-painted flowers on them. It was all I could do to refrain from shattering them into multitudinous shards whenever I came into contact with one–which was surprisingly often believe it or not, for I eventually found myself living in London by my thirty-fifth year, led there by the false promise of love from a man who, in the end, turned out to be “separated” from his wife, but not quite so “separated” as for him to not be legally considered a bigamist had he decided to take things to the next step (le mariage) with me, as he promised for the sake of my citizenship and therefore ability to remain in the UK without struggle.

Regardless of this predictable male slight, I chose to stay in the land of tea, as though some subconscious aspect of myself wanted to tackle my phobia head-on, in a milieu that would daily force me to. So I found a middling position at Bloomsbury (only as a result of a connection my erstwhile paramour had; I suppose he felt guilty for luring me to his homeland under false pretenses without so much as even a modicum of at least a crude paddle for survival). The pay was shit, but it afforded me a hovel on the periphery of the city, just close enough to be within reach when I wanted or needed it.

Of course, after enough time spent in the region of frivolity-promoting–saucers the chief emblem among that promotion–I learned quickly why the English were so defensive over their use of the outmoded, to say the least, component. It was the historical value of the thing, which I soon learned about both from various people I had expressed my distaste for saucers to and at various museums. It was a painting at the Tate of a woman holding her saucer like a cup, her mouth poised to drink from it that incited me to launch into more thorough inquiries. As it happened, evidently, people in the eighteenth century also made use of frivolous companion objects by rendering one useful and the other useless. That’s right, the coffee cup of the day back then was the saucer itself, which bourgeois gentilhommes and femmes alike poured their coffee into from the cup–begging the question, then, what was the purpose of the cup if they could simply pour the liquid from the pot into the saucer? Oh my, why is it that when one question is answered, it opens the floodgate to a slew of new even more unanswerable ones?

I ruminated on this conundrum as I sat in a coffee shop sipping from a cup that, naturally, came with a saucer I had shoved so instinctively and abruptly away from myself that it crashed to the floor and broke into as many pieces as my heart did long ago at some moment I can no longer even pinpoint. The barista was quick to sweep it up, not even flashing me so much as a contemptuous glare, as would surely have been the case in America, which is ironic considering British servers are paid/tipped even less. Chalk it up to yet another instance of overall American ingratitude.

Worse than him cleaning it up was his instant replacement of it with a fresh, undamaged saucer, which I promptly and once more side swept off the table automatically with the back of my hand, causing an even more thunderous clattering to the floor than the first time. The barista stared at me in horror, as though wordlessly demanding to know why I was doing this to him–what had he ever done to me to deserve such treatment? It wasn’t him. It was him and all the rest of humanity that was like him, who could not see that they were adhering to the tradition of lauding worthlessness simply for the sake of adhering to it. I couldn’t stand it anymore. How could it be that I was the only rational, reasonable person on the planet? The sad thing was, even if I ran for some political office under the platform of ridding the world of all nonfunctional objects, no one would vote for me. The population at large got off on ineffectual items, subconsciously drawn to those entities that were a mirror of themselves.

I felt a strange affinity for Joan Crawford all at once. I could really empathize with her determined need to not have to see or deal with any wire hangers. Compulsions can’t be explained to those who are outsiders to our mind, they can only be accepted. Because an attempt to “contain” or “control” them always leads to someone’s bodily harm. In this case, mine, as I picked up one of the shards off the ground and vertically slashed my wrist as though it was performance art. At the very least, I had found a legitimate purpose for the saucer.

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