A Conversation Opener

The holidays are coming and that means parties, and parties mean party conversations. If you are in need of a new conversation opener, why not consider the following. In the realm of brain chemistry, we know that drugs work because we have natural receptors in our brains that will interact with them. The compounds in cocaine, for example, whatever those are, are close enough to compounds naturally generated in the brain—by happy or exciting circumstances—so that the drug can interact with our natural receptors. This is my layperson’s understanding. So let’s extrapolate. This will go unscientific, but never mind that.

Let’s think about our taste for things as having receptors. Most of us have chocolate receptors, though some do not. Many have receptors for the smell of roses, and some do not. If you ask someone about what receptors they do or don’t have, liking chocolate or roses won’t be very interesting. But what if we get a little more obscure? It could lead to a compelling conversation. It’s a different question than simply discussing what you like or don’t like, because there are things we think we should like.

Certain lack of receptors that I notice in myself leads me to conclude that I am inferior to those who do possess them. I have no receptors for Shakespeare, for example, or jazz, or sports, or gardening, or the deep, dark forests of British Columbia. I have a great respect for all these things. Jazz, for example, or those forests, both have a majesty, complexity and importance that I just barely grasp. I would never want them to go away. But I have no receptors for them. I can’t enjoy them. I can’t connect with them.

Malibu Chicken?

Some receptors can be pruned away over time; we’ve all had the experience for losing a taste for something. When I was little I had many receptors for television advertising. There were toys that in commercials looked like the ultimate never-ending fun, and foods that were surely doorways to a mouth-watering paradise.

I didn’t usually come in actual contact with things I saw advertised between cartoons, but I remember one time it did happen, when I went with a group of adults to a Sizzler restaurant for someone’s birthday. I had seen a Sizzler ad for a dish called “Malibu Chicken” and was sure it was the most delicious thing ever created. What I found on my plate was a dry chunk of chicken, with a congealed slice of cheddar cheese fused onto the top. It was ok, it was fine, but it was a lesson in the discrepancy between advertising and reality. Thankfully I no longer have receptors for advertising because the kinds of things I want or need are virtually never the subject of advertising campaigns.

As with losing a taste for something, we have also all had the experience of acquiring a taste, ie. the receptors. The first time I ate a piece of sushi was at a friend’s house. I was eight, I’d never heard of sushi and I didn’t know what I was looking at: little round slices of something white with a dark green edge. Was that zucchini? The next thing I knew I had something grainy, squishy and fishy in my mouth, and I felt my eyes bulge out. No receptors yet.

Sushi became more well-known in my part of the world in my late teens and early 20s, and I tried it a few more times, feeling neutral. But at some point, and quite suddenly, a massive growth of sushi receptors sprouted in my brain, signaling that this was heavenly food. This was no Malibu Chicken.

I haven’t yet had a chance to test out whether or not this is a subject you could broach at parties. What may happen is that people will not have receptors for talking about receptors, and what kinds they do or don’t have. Rather than launching into an animated conversation with me, they may just mumble something about needing to refill their drink and walk away. Then I will be alone next to a plate of olives, and I will whisper to them that I am full of olive receptors, and, at that moment, I won’t need anything else.

Jenny Jaeckel is the author of forthcoming novel House of Rougeaux, to be published April 24th, 2018. House of Rougeaux is available for preorder here, or find out more at www.raincloudpress.com/house-of-rougeaux