My grandma Pauline, of the Bronx-transplanted mauve Lincoln-driving Floridian maternal grandparents who died when I was in my 20s, adored Mentos, specifically the mint kind in the blue tube. She kept them in her purse, in her cabinets, in her night table and, of course, in her gigantic mauve Lincoln. When I was a kid, I loved pillaging the Mentos, because they were addictive and there were always more, somewhere.
Today in the gym I saw a commercial for Mentos Rainbow. The ad shows a couple at home; the woman spots a spider and wigs, so the dude sneers at her like she’s a wuss and goes to squash the spider, who grabs him by his index finger and cartoonishly flings him against the wall bookcase and the floor on either side of him, finally smashing him into the coffee table and dragging him out the door.
And then the tagline: “It’s better to know what’s coming next.”
The idea being that the candies in Mentos Rainbow are in color and flavor order, and represented as such on the package, so you’re spared that hideous, crippling anticipatory anxiety you get with, say, Lifesavers in the assorted pack.
You know how harrowing that can be. At any time, you could go for a Lifesaver and be surprised–seriously thrown!–by a too-tart lime Lifesaver, when you were hoping for a cheerful cherry or perky pineapple. That can leave you popping Xanax and dialing your shrink for a special emergency session.
When I think of the focus groups and the marketing meetings and the R&D dollars that must have been devoted to the decision to put the Mentos in predicable order I get a little sad.
“In an uncertain world,” the pitchman likely declared, flashing through a Powerpoint presentation showing bombs exploding in Iraq, unemployment lines in Rhode Island and Michigan, and sullen Goth teens, any of whom could borrow your eyeliner without asking, “People want to be able to rely upon their candy eating experience, at least, being a calm one. Gentlemen, I present to you, “rainbow” Mentos.” (Uncertain silence around the corporate conference table until Mr. Mento himself begins nodding. His lackeys likewise start bobbing their heads and soon the entire board breaks out into applause. “Rainbow” Mentos are a go! Whew. The world feels like a safer place already.)
Grandma Pauline had a hell of a time with uncertainty, and I have inherited that trait. Intolerance for uncertainty seems to magnify with Formerlydom, and is in part temperamental, at least as far as I can tell. Going through a separation, and not knowing so, so much about what happens next has been enormously stressful. Like, hair-falling-out, hard-time-concentrating, sleeping difficulties stressful. Will the kids weather it OK? Will I? When will our living arrangements be finalized? All the financials? What will the next chunk of time bring? Will my hair grow back? These are things I’d really like to have answers to.
But the Mentos ad got me thinking, is it really better to know what comes next? I get anxious, and the big scary stuff, sure, I could use a little certainty.
Still, too much knowing what would happen next sounds deadening to me. As scary as this separation is, as much uncertainty as there is right now, I don’t want the next 40 years laid out for me in color and flavor order.
In fact, I don’t want to know for sure there are Mentos in seven different locations in my home, so I will never be without. I might enjoy feeling the lack of the Mentos when I need them, to have to scramble for my Mentos. It might make me feel alive. And I sure don’t want to know which Mentos I’m going to pull out of the pack next. I’m wild that way. I’m living on the edge. That might change when I move to Florida and start driving a mauve something-or-other. But for now, that’s how I roll.
How ’bout you? Where’s your line between anxiety and desire for predictability and being risk averse to the point of being asleep on your feet? Is life better “like a box of chocolates,” per Forest Gump, or like a tube of Mentos Rainbow? I’d like to know.