How I Really Feel About Cheater Chopsticks
A projection of my issues with perfectionism and convenience culture onto an innocent inanimate object
This super convenient “chork” makes me feel a little dead inside.
Maybe it’s because the almost trendy hotel where I got it feels empty beside my memories at Crazy Fish, my family’s old sushi spot, where I learned to use chopsticks for the first time. I miss the marathon posters, the metals, the family trip photos and customer drawings next to signs like “order correctly. if you make mistake, no refund.” I miss the few bites before the rolled up paper would slip slightly to one side and cause a chopstick overbite. I miss taking it apart, and putting it back together. Saying fuck it, and eating rice with my hands. I’d weave strips of napkin through the fork tines to create mini textiles, then form them into towers or goals we’d use to play table soccer. That was before we had iPhones. We loved the server with gelled back Jimmy Neutron hair. He was warm and friendly, unlike the owner, but we respected her hustle. When she smiled, we knew she meant it.
Imperfection is charming in hindsight. We wouldn’t necessarily wish to be back in time, but we romanticize the quirkiness of its “flaws” out of frustration and the repression of our own. And so we try to replicate its essence in our twisted and ironically perfectionist ways: we stack old records in new hotel rooms into messy piles to induce a human trace and pay subscriptions to Glossier for serums that give us a post-workout looking glow but in all the right places. We can’t even leave the house, but we laminate our eyebrows upwards for that boyish, bushy look that got me made fun of as a kid.
Today, we must all strive to be perfectly imperfect. Not too much, not too little. A few steps to the left. No, to the right. Ok, that’s it. Stay right there. Don’t move.
In some odd, indirect way, the cheater chopsticks made me feel the kind of empty I feel when I watch people cry on instagram or show photos of themselves without makeup on as an act of vulnerability. It’s an intention I stand behind, but am too scared to take. One that feels necessary to dismantle today’s toxic standards of beauty. But the fact that we feel the need to show our tears or body rolls in bikinis as a kind of confession to prove our humanity makes me sad. We’re in too deep. The expression of what makes us human feels so literal and contrived. I miss discovery, intimacy, and mystery. I want to find clues of what’s beyond the surface, and earn the right to be let in.
There’s no adventure in targeted ads and amazon shopping. We surrender all the curiosities that creep up at the hardware store with the click of a button. Last week I stopped by a shoe repair and after a brief conversation about love and loss in the pandemic, the man refused to charge me. I don’t think I realized how much humanity we’re compromising for convenience. Humanity, as in, the lives of working people, the health of the environment, and the moments of human connection that actually make life worth living.
Despite its terrible name, I’ll let the “chork” slide. I do really enjoy efficiency and ingenuity in product design. I appreciate beauty and recognize the progress we’ve made in representing more body shapes and sizes and skin colors and sexualities. The perfectly imperfect ideal is perhaps one step closer than striving for utter perfection (whatever that means), but at times it also feels so much farther away. I’m losing tolerance for performance. I just want to know who you are – and who I am – backstage.