The Perfect Drug

For reasons that would seem silly to some, boring to others, and frankly weird and nonsensical to most, I was recently thinking about what my “drug of choice” might be. I realize for the most pedestrian of people the answer is a simple “caffeine” with a handwave and a shrug, as if to imply that somehow their addiction is thing of no matter or importance. (Fun test: go three days without caffeine. See if you can still handwave it away. See if you can still shrug past the blinding headache. But I digress.)

For myself, the answer is a bit more complex. While I have been trying with some success to stay away from nicotine, I can’t pretend it doesn’t still have a certain allure. As Cole Porter wrote, “Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all,” although I’m not a complete teetotaler. I get a certain thrill out of really good food, although I’ve been accused of being a picky eater, which might be why I so enjoy food that I actually like. I seem to recall enjoying marijuana quite a bit, although it’s been so long, I have to trust my memory on that one until the Federales finally legalize it (and I have no great hopes of that being anytime soon). Speaking of things I vaguely remember having a fondness for, there’s the fairer sex. While they haven’t been made illegal (yet), you couldn’t prove it by my dating life. Still, there’s one thing that I think tops all of these and is rarer still: good conversation.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking: “It’s not that hard to find a conversation.” And you would be right, it’s not. It’s also not that hard to get a meal at McDonald’s, but I wouldn’t call it fine dining. To be my drug of choice, a conversation needs to do what any good drug should do: it needs to be fun, enjoyable, and at its best, mind-expanding. I don’t expect every experience to hit all three points, but at least two out of three on a regular basis. And finding a good conversationalist who can do that, let alone keeping them as a partner, is becoming harder than finding a good chef, a good hook-up, or a good shag.

Part of the problem, I think, is the background radiation of negativity in the world today. People are just tuned to be unpleasant, and they carry it with them into every situation. That makes it much harder to have a good conversation. Add on top of that the inherent tribalism of… well, everything. Politics, gender, sexuality, sports, Alliance vs. Empire… there’s no end to the possible divisions. Rather than see them as jumping off points for deeper discussion and understanding, we see them as ramparts to be defended and immediate points of attack. The quest for ideological purity means that no space is safe, and the desire for ideological warfare makes every conversation a minefield.

Or maybe I’m just asking for too much. Maybe I should just sit back and try another glass of champagne.