On Being a Human Bean,
Or, why Jessica Smith should finish her book My Sweet Demise
A wedding present
When, in the course of childhood and the berating onset of adolescence, an individual human bean becomes gradually, and then gratingly, aware of her self as distinct from other selves–a new necessity is born.
Each human bean is, by definition of being separately countable in the big jellybean jar of humanity, unique. This is fine, as far as it goes, and the dim sense of having one’s own color and taste while rubbing against the sweet mass of humanity is often enough for most human beans. They require no more expression or self-justification than an Oprah-endorsed self-help book and a new pair of slinky sandals can provide.
But for some human beans, simply being accounted for in the crush, one member of the “How many jellybeans are in the jar?” contest, is not enough. It is not satisfying; the tailored undershirt of peer-pressure, for these human beans, is an itchy fit. A noticeable discomfort grows behind their eyes; they survey their life and the lives of those around them and try to figure out why they no longer feel like they fit in. Why is life in the jellybean jar no longer enough?
Were they wiggled too long against the glass of the jellybean jar, giving them visions of tastier horizons?
Were they accidentally isolated until their thoughts became loud as a drumbeat in their ears?
Were they shunned and spurned for being too tall, too short, too smart, too something?
They may ask their parents and siblings for an answer. Most likely they will get responses ranging from “It’s just a phase” to “Stop whining for attention–geez!”
And so our individual human bean is left to her own resources. Now, all the while she is living and loving and riding her bike to the park, she is also thinking about the why of her differentness. She is imagining answers for her questions; she is watching the edges of the jellybean jar for an escape hatch, some hidden way out that will let her see things more clearly, more cleanly. She watches herself thinking and feels herself feeling.
Maybe I am a Mexican jumping bean! She postulates.
Maybe I am a pebble painted pink and mixed in with these beans, she wonders.
Maybe I am really a gumball with a bend in my middle, she considers.
But none of these possibilities is the answer. She is just a human bean, just like all the other human beans. And yet…. Her sense of being different just won’t go away. And then she discovers that, as painful and problematic as feeling different can be, she doesn’t want her differentness to go away. She wants to be just as different as she is. Heck, she smiles, I should write down just how different, how special I truly am. And I should do it in my own special way.
She wants to be herself, and nobody else. And she wants to share that self with everybody else. Her color, her flavor; her own sweet demise–from one human bean to another.