Desire and Disappointment

Molly Dugger Brennan

First Law of Desire:  One's level of satisfaction with an object once acquired will be in inverse proportion to one's previous level of desire for said object.

I have lusted for many things in my lifetime.  Most were items, some were events, more than a few were men.  I have learned that the First Law of Desire is eternal and guaranteed, at least in my own life.  The more I have vibrated with pure, intense craving for something, the less I enjoyed it once it was mine.

My first memory of powerful yearning was when I was in the fifth grade.  There was a rain coat in the Sears catalogue that was unlike any I'd ever seen and I absolutely had to have it.  It was a delicate ice blue color, double-breasted, belted, with  a Nehru collar.  It was chic.  It was sophisticated.  It was everything I was so desperate to be.  Never you mind about the practicality of handing a pastel rain coat to a ten-year-old girl, it was all I thought about.  It consumed me.  My parents promised that it would be mine if I got all A's on my next report card.

I was an honor roll student.  I got A's all the time.  Easy-peasy.  In six short weeks, I just knew I would waltz into school wearing a coat that would make me look like a glamorous, international spy.  The coat was within my grasp.  Then, it happened.  I got hit with the likes of which I'd never seen before.  Fractional math.  Ratios.  Word problems written by Satan himself. 

There are two types of fruit at the farmers' market that outsell all other kinds, strawberries and blackberries.  The ratio of strawberries to blackberries for sale is 5:3.  If there are 64 pints of strawberries, how many pints of blackberries are there?   How many pints of berries does the farmer need to sell to turn a profit?  Why doesn't the cute girl selling eggs pay any attention to the nice berry farmer?  Will the farmer earn enough at the market to pay for gas, a cheeseburger, and a bottle of Jack Daniels to help him forget that stuck-up egg bitch? 

I got all A's with the fatal exception of a B in math.  To my parents who never wanted to buy an ice blue, double-breasted, belted, Nehru-collared rain coat in the first place, that B was a God send.  To me, it was the end of my love affair with math.  Math stole my chance for fashion superiority.  It doesn't matter that a pale blue coat on my chunky, pre-adolescent body would have made me look like a hypothermic bratwurst, in my mind I envisioned myself as sleek, icy, and dangerous.  Math had doomed me to hand-me-down plaid plainness.  Math was no longer my friend.  To this day, I am haunted by that coat because it was never mine.  If I had owned it, I would probably have ruined it with chocolate milk the first week and eventually forgotten it.  But no, it is destined to be "the one that got away" and that is why it is burned into my brain in the compartment labeled "Covet."

Then there were boys, oh my God, the boys.  There were several that I thought were all that and wanted to have them for myself.  I thrilled at the acquisition process, the hunt.  Turned out that once the guys were bagged and mounted in the trophy room, I lost interest.  They weren't what I thought they'd be, and they never could have been. 

I will admit, I was really bad about this for a while.  That's how I came to be engaged multiple times.  I brought enough men home to meet my family while wearing a brand new engagement ring that my mother asked me to stop.  I believe her exact words were, "Just mail me an invitation whenever you actually go through with a wedding ceremony, otherwise I don't want to know anymore."

My latest fixation was just plain stupid.  I wanted the Clapper.  Every Christmas there are commercials for the Clapper, a device that turns lamps on and off when you clap.  I have seen these ads every year since the '80s and over time the message burrowed so deep into my brain that it struck my Covet zone.  I just had to have a Clapper.  I'm also starting to seriously Jones for a Chia Pet, but that's another story. 

What's worse is that I did not admit that I personally desired a Clapper, so I wrapped it up as a gift for Gruff.  Of course Gruff saw through that clumsy bit of subterfuge, and handed it right back to me after he opened it.  There was a comment I dare not share here.  Needless to say, it was perceptive and accurate on his part.

I now own a Clapper.  How cool!  Whenever I hear an odd sound at night there will be no need to desperately search for the light switch, I'll just clap my hands and — voila  light will magically illuminate my world.  It's sound-activated, you see?  How very clever.  Only one problem.  My bedroom is not always quiet at night.  Ha, ha, I know what you're thinking, you dirty-minded rascal.  You little perv-hound.  Yeah, good thought but that's not what I'm talking about.  It's that my four dogs have dreams.  They snore, loudly.  They chase small ethereal mammals across dream landscapes, legs twitching, softly baying between snoring.

Here's how the reality of Clapper ownership went down.  I plugged it in, still loving the whole concept.  Then about three hours later as I lay in peaceful sleep, my bedroom became a glittering disco, the lights flashing on and off as the dogs snored and dream-woofed.  The bulldog would turn the light on with his raucous snoring, the boxer would turn it off with his grunting, the mastiff would turn it on with his deep, extended exhales, and the Basset hound would turn it off with her baying at dream bunnies.  I am accustomed to the dogs' noises, I am not used to the strobe lights as the Clapper tried to keep up with all the reverberation.  Studio 54 at two in the morning is decidedly not cool.  The Clapper that I wanted so badly lays on the floor where I slung it. 

Buddhists believe that suffering will end when desire ends.  This is true.  I can attest that sleeplessness, a.k.a. suffering, promptly ends when you yank the object of your desire, a.k.a. the Clapper, out of the socket and chuck it across the room.  Ah, enlightenment.


Always let sleeping dogs lie.  Particularly if they weigh 200 pounds.


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