I was eating at a Hardee’s a few months ago and noticed a man really enjoying a cheeseburger. I mean, this guy looked like he was in Heaven, like God personally grilled that burger patty and angels placed the patty between the two buns. With every bite, the man’s face looked more and more blissful. I was sitting about 15 feet away and could still hear the orgasmic – yes, I’m using that word – sounds he emitted from his mouth. I felt guilty I was eavesdropping on such a seemingly intimate experience. But the guilt didn’t stop me from staring at the man. I was shameless; I didn’t even try to hide my gawking. My eyes followed the burger as it went from his tray to his mouth and back again over and over, until the burger was gone.
The man also never removed his eyes from the burger. I don’t think he even noticed I was sitting a few booths away. It was just him and the burger; everything else in the world had faded into the background.
I’ll admit my initial thoughts on the man were unkind. I thought it was weird for a grown man to so openly express his pleasure in eating a burger. Did he have no pride? Was he not embarrassed? How could any self-respecting adult display that kind of pure enjoyment in public?
Then, I realized the dismay and discomfort I felt wasn’t specifically about the man eating the burger. I would have felt the same way if I had seen any adult showing that kind of uninhibited pleasure doing any activity in public. He could have been running or skiing or jumping or painting. He could have really been doing anything, and I would have felt the same way.
It’s kind of like that lyric in “Let It Go” from “Frozen” – bare with me; I know that song has become so overplayed it’s unpleasant to think about. “Conceal, don’t feel,” the line goes. Isn’t that what we are taught?
Think about it this way: When you were a child, did you ever hesitate to express your happiness in doing some sort of activity? Can you remember ever stopping yourself from showing your enjoyment in coloring or playing tag or winning a video game? I know I can’t.
At some point, between childhood and adulthood, most of us learn that we should control our emotions in public. We are taught to be cool-headed and rational. For example, we learn to not throw temper tantrums when things don’t go our way, and, obviously, that is beneficial. Can you imagine if adults threw temper tantrums like children? (And yes, I know some adults still do). It would be chaos. We wouldn’t be able to get anything done; we would all be too busy crying and rolling around on the ground.
The downside: We also learn that we need to control our positive emotions, too. Adults should regulate how much excitement they display while in public. You can be happy, but don’t you dare be visually exuberant. People will think you’re crazy. They’ll look at you and make fun of you behind your back. If you loosen the reigns on your emotions, people may look down on you, just like I had with the man eating a burger at Hardee’s.
And as I watched the man finish his burger, I realized my disgust toward him had turned into envy. Here was a man who was not bound by the fear of embarrassment and, therefore, could fully experience his happiness. After all, of all the things we can limit, why limit happiness? Why limit pleasure? Enjoyment?
We all get one life. For mine, I want to savor every moment of happiness, of pleasure, of joy. I don’t want to tamper those feelings because of my fear of embarrassment or because of the judgmental looks from others. I want to live like that man eating his burger at Hardee’s.