“ALL STEAKHOUSES in America are shit, darling.”
That’s one of the first things she said to me.
“All of them. Every last one. I need real food, you understand? None of this wilted spinach rubbish.”
She was a woman in her mid-fifties from the British Commonwealth, and I had overheard her looking for a recommendation on where to eat. She seemed normal enough at first, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was trying to help the unhelp-able. It also didn’t take long for me to realize that she was about to go on a tirade.
“You see, I eat at CUT and Maude, Beverly Hills, the best of the best. I eat at those places every week. I expect more from a place like this. But it’s awful, you see! I knew it too, darling, right away. I could see that the waitstaff didn’t like me from the start.”
The more she spoke, the more I could understand why the waitstaff didn’t like her.
“So, after they served me the spinach salad with those little specks of yellow on it, I stood up and walked out.”
She looked at me, as if awaiting my approval.
“So, where am I to go, darling? I’m famished.”
I offered to show her my best recommendations on Yelp, places she might find a good cut of grass-fed beef—an excellent filet mignon, as she so demanded. But she wouldn’t have any of it. A brief glance at a photo, or even the name of a restaurant, and she quickly dismissed it.
“Oh, I can tell I wouldn’t like that place at all! It’s pure chaos. Oh, it’s so awful looking. And that food, why it’s not food at all! No, no, this won’t do, darling. This won’t do.”
I moved to the next page of results, but then she demanded I return to the same five choices she had just waved off.
“You’re moving too fast, now go back to that last page. I mean really, you’re not much help, are you?”
I sometimes believe that God made me a patient man for times such as these.
As I think on it now, the times when my faith wavers, when I look at my life and doubt whether or not the Holy Spirit resides in me, I think that, perhaps, a particular piece of scripture might help reassure me:
The apostle Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
I don’t always embody these traits. They mostly break down when I am in a hurry, or when I am alone. But when I am interacting with others, they tend to be more prevalent. And so, perhaps, when I am interacting with others, it is God’s Spirit in me, moving through me to extend that grace. I should hope so. Because somehow, I spent the next two hours listening patiently to the complaints and fleeting exultations of this insatiable woman.
The room in her hotel was not good enough (and neither was the lowest possible rate). The quiet and muffled sound of the television in the next room was neither quiet nor muffled enough. The twenty dollar upgrade to a suite was acceptable, but the sound of the air vent definitely was not. Five people bending over backward to appease her every whim was acceptable as well, but evidently not so acceptable as to warrant the slightest tip for their services.
There’s another word for a “tip,” financially speaking. It’s the word “gratuity.” It stems from the medieval Latin word “gratuitas” which means “gift,” which itself stems from the Latin word “gratus,” meaning “pleasing, thankful.”
I define these terms because I believe it speaks to the heart of the problem of the Insatiable Woman at hand. It was my observation that this woman possessed an extreme sense of entitlement, a personality trait that leaves little to no room for a grateful heart.
I know this, because there are times when I feel entitled to something, and do not react with a grateful demeanor. Stop lights, for example: when I hit every green light along my path, I feel it is well deserved. But when I hit every red, I feel like the city has it in for me. As if there is someone guiding traffic who simply desires to raise my blood pressure.
The green lights don’t often fill me with gratitude—I rarely thank God for a little thing like a few green lights in a row. But, when I do, it feels like a sudden remembrance, like, “Oh, yeah! I should be grateful, even for this!” Though truthfully, I believe my heart should be grateful even for the little things that don’t go my way. Because sometimes, perhaps often-times, my way is not necessarily God’s way.
After all, God himself declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
It would seem to me that the Insatiable Woman doesn’t hold to this understanding. The last time I saw her, she had returned from an organic grocery store—in her hand, a steak wrapped in butcher paper.
“I bought my own steak. Tonight, I’m going to have the restaurant cook it up. They’ll do that for me, won’t they, darling.”
I knew it was less a question than a statement. I laughed and said, “I don’t know, I’ve never heard of them doing that before.”
She placed her free hand on my shoulder. “Of course they will! Darling, you must understand, I’m teaching you!”
I was slightly disgusted by the idea that she felt she was teaching me. But she was right; undoubtedly, she would find some way to coerce the restaurant staff into cooking her steak. She might love it, she might hate it. But my honest response was, “Let me know how that goes for you.”
She was impossible, and she was hated by the staff around her. Two of us felt bad for her. She had a manuscript she needed proofread before sending it off to Hollywood, but there was nobody in her life that she could trust to read it. I think she had nobody in her life that she could truly think of as a friend. I think she would have pushed them all away by now.
The Insatiable Woman is a writer, and I am a writer. She is a poor sleeper, and I am a poor sleeper. She has high expectations for herself and those around her, and so do I. She wants the best of the best, and I can understand that.
But my interaction with her wasn’t so much of a warning—I can’t imagine a reality where I might have turned into someone like her. It was more an amplified mirror. The mirror showed me the traits I posses that are not fruit of the Spirit, and the mirror showed me how ugly they can be.
On the evening that she had required my assistance, she had asked for my advice on her manuscript. How could she give it to someone to read when she couldn’t trust anyone at all? The advice that I gave her is the same advice I would have given her regarding her life in general. And it is the same advice the Lord gives to all of us:
“You are holding on to it too tightly, darling. You have to let it go.”