Look how quiet, cute and innocent they seem. Alas...
I'm from New Jersey originally and while I'd like, for the sake of accuracy, to set the record straight and say I never, ever knew anyone who:
--Wore more bling than Liberace in a chandelier showroom
--Was so tan George Hamilton was looking for sunning tips
--Considered leopard and tiger prints to be "neutrals"
--Had fist fights in the mall parking lot over someone named "Big Jimmy" or "Little Vinnie" or "The Attitude"
I do think there's a certain element that permeates the culture of the Jersey tri-state area that the "reality" shows don't focus on: neuroticism. Specifically good old-fashioned hypochondria.
Comedian Richard Lewis could be our Patron Saint.
Mine started on Tuesday, when I did something I'm not proud of, and I'm kind of hesitant to even mention here. It was about 7:30 in the morning, I was at work early, and my stomach let out a rumble that probably caused local meteorologists to recheck their Doppler Radar screens for oncoming thunderclouds.
I tried to resist the outspoken nature of my internal organs at this point, but they persisted like a Mary Kay cosmetics representative determined to earn her first pink car at the risk of alienating the neighbors.
So I decided to scrounge my office. Sometimes I have breakfast bars there for just this occasion. But what I found in the very back of my snack cupboard this day was a package of Fig Newtons old enough to remember the Bush Administration.
I ate two of them. They were rock hard and bitter... Like so many of us felt after the Bush Administration, coincidentally.
But they kept the hungries at bay, so I didn't think much of it until I had lunch including my beloved french fries from a favorite local food truck, they were bitter. This started to be concerning.
But I had projects to do and the day moved on, so I went home and forgot about it until I had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. It was a suspiciously bitter bread and ball o' meat that I had that day.
It was by this time I had convinced myself that I had a brain tumor or organ failure or some epicurean epilepsy and I probably needed to go to the doctor. I managed to sleep that night, only to get up in the morning and find my breakfast bar to be untasty in that same, sour-metallic fashion.
So it was with trembling hand I typed in "bitter taste in my mouth" into The Google, expecting to learn I had picked up some disease that would eventually make my tongue implode upon itself.
Instead, it was chatty about pine nuts.
Forum discussions, news exposes. All of them talking about pine nuts causing this mysterious bitter taste that doesn't go away for several days up to even a month. Why, I had eaten pine nuts! Over the course of a week, I had made and enjoyed a Greek pasta salad that I had riddled with a liberal helping of the very nuts in question. The last bowl of the yumminess had been had on Sunday-- two days before the bitterness began. And that is apparently exactly as long as it takes people to begin to develop the symptoms of "Pine Mouth Syndrome."
"Pine mouth syndrome?" It sounds like something you'd say about Northwest Territory politicians with a gift for gab. But it's real, and apparently happening to lots of folks all over the web who are freaking out just like me because a tiny, tasty seed has made their world bitter.
Some of these people aren't even originally from New Jersey. So with enough evidence at my fingertips, even I, Queen of all that is Neurotic, was able to feel consoled and figure I probably wasn't going to die in the next week.
Of course, I still ate those aged Fig Newtons. There really is no telling the lasting effects of that.