This is how summer holidays go: I get up at my usual time and meditate, drink coffee, plan my day’s work. The fifteen year old stays resolutely asleep until, despite meditation and coffee, I get riled by her inaction, and I yell up the stairs over and over until she appears. It is the fourth time I have done this part of upbringing (three grown up children can attest to this), and it’s a system that works, I find. Make her understand that the holidays are not for sleeping in. They are for adventures, for enhancing the person that you are, for waking from the sleep that schooling creates in your febrile brain during term time.
She arrives at the table with orange juice, chocolate products for applying to toast, cereal.
‘Sugar,’ I intone. She groans. ‘Time you replaced that kick with black coffee…’
‘I hate coffeeee…’
I really think this through. I am at the point in my first pot of coffee that is perfection itself. The cup is half empty and so is the pot. The next gulp I take is still hot, but not boiling. The previous gulps have already hit the golden spot. The rest, I anticipate, will enhance the high. Soon, I will be my best person.
Summer holidays are for changing, for trying, for thinking. I start to explain why she needs to give up sugar, and I realise this:
Every time we make a pot of Fairtrade, organic coffee at home, we are defeating big business. We are setting the example of standing alone. Why, you ask?
Fifteen year old’s best friend was in the car the other day. She was telling us that her main holiday this year is going to be at Disneyland Paris with her whole family, third year in a row. Five days there. It shocked and alarmed me. I know, that’s very judgmental. But, her main break with her family – is to go to a big business place and worship the deities they have set up in the guise of ‘fun’. They will spend five whole days riding the rides and drinking the sugar drinks and eating the fast food.
If we don’t point out to our children that our bodies, our minds, our free time are being owned by big business, we will sleepwalk into full, globalised custody of these companies. And this has already become political. Donald Trump, a businessman, is held up as everything that is successful and therefore powerful in the world. In our country, although we are much more sceptical, we still laud the commercially successful higher than the creative geniuses who are less good at PR.
Sugar scars our bodies: the giant coffees, the milkshakes, the doughnuts, the popcorn, the sweets – they’re sold to us as ‘rights’ and ‘treats’. When we get fat and people laugh, other companies (particularly social media companies who are out to get our business from the newspapers who tell us we’re too fat) tell us that we are victims of bullying, and we have every right to complain of victimisation. If we are wretched and want to lose weight, we are manipulated by a huge, growing industry of diet pills, exercise plans, healthy eating blogs, coconut oil salesman. Every part of our lives’ existential crises are taken care of by someone selling something.
I myself have spent a couple of weeks obsessing about veganism. Ask me about probiotics and gut health and depression, or ask me the best recipe for raw vegan cheesecake. Because, goddamnit, I’ll tell ya.
Drinking black coffee, away from a screen, seems to me to be a righteous act of revolution. Gaining back your body – the one that reacts perfectly, like an animal’s (I mean like a domestic cat or a snake) – when you jump out of bed in the morning, no pain, no creaks, seems to me as easy as turning off the computer and getting away from the phone. Getting rid of sugar has been a great start for me. Not drinking anymore, too.
Cajoling the fifteen year old into doing this will be a fight. When you’re fifteen, you think that you are owed sugar, that you need sugar. But when you’re sixteen or seventeen, the bitter products of life seem more attractive: black coffee, olives, strange cheese someone’s bohemian mother offers you at a party, a proper Martini, kissing a boy who has just smoked a roll up.
Big business wants us to remain children. Children are easy to sell to. Waking up in the summer holidays – reading books, dancing all night outside with your mates, then: drinking black coffee in your back yard with your face in the first morning sun – that’s the simple way we can all start the revolution. Be grown up. Embrace bitter. Resist.