Samsara is Other People

[With apologies to Jean-Paul Sartre]

A letter to my Shifu, with the names changed to protect the innocent:

The situation is this. Something is going on with two Student Assistants that I don’t fully understand. Both Ann and Betty keep asking me these questions, and I am actually getting tired of answering them and getting confused by them. Both of them should know by now, after all this time that I bring nothing that violates the “food rules.” But I feel that every question about food is a leading question or a trick question…I tell someone that I was given apples by a friend to make a pie, and what comes up is the half-humorous “Are they organic?” Well, I can’t actually answer that…except I know that those apples were full of worms before my husband peeled and cleaned them, so I must assume that they were not sprayed with pesticide. Betty asks me “Where did you buy the crackers?” knowing full well that we live far apart from each other, and will not be shopping at the same stores. The other day Ann asked me what was in the limeade and why it was green. Well, I immediately felt paranoid, or that she was making some kind of cruel joke. I said “None of your business.” and she was surprised. She said “Oh, in Chinese cooking we don’t use limes.” So then I immediately relented and told her sigh “Well, Ann, you make it exactly as you would make lemonade, only with limes. There are only 3 ingredients: lime, water and sugar. There’s one drop of food color in there–It’s pretty powerful.” And when I told her that, she questioned me about the sugar…and I thought because I literally didn’t know how to answer her for a minute…I thought she expected me to say I used honey or raw sugar or something mysteriously more politically-correct than ordinary sugar. I even get questioned about packaged cookies (They can read the ingredients.) Honestly, all the things I bring are lacto-vegan. They do not have eggs in them–even from the pet hens–or other animal derivatives, or the forbidden vegetables even though most of the people who come here are neither vegans nor vegetarians, or even official Buddhists. I’m just following the rules laid out for me.

Now both Betty and her new BFF Ann think I’m weird because I just don’t want to hang  out with the Student Assistants outside the Zen Center. Period. I also don’t want to hug Betty. (This recently became a big, ridiculous opportunity for arm-twisting poor Susan into obedience, and Betty ended up making an ass of herself trying to force my compliance. (She didn’t succeed.)  Also, I’m not buying any more food at vegan restaurants, and I don’t enjoy small talk. Betty is a horrible influence on Ann…whom she has taken under her wing. Around Betty, Ann acts like a nut. Betty and I dislike each other. Betty asks me questions for no reason at all. She interrogates me, and I hate it. She has no interest in me other than dominance. There’s nothing she’d like better than for me to “become part of the Buddhist flock” so she could chide me  for being a “bad Buddhist” etc, etc. This is completely transparent to me, and she can’t stand that. I’ve taken to referring to her in my mind as, (alternatively) “The Church Lady,” “The Little Robot” or “The Question-Generating Machine.” I can’t hang out with someone who constantly questions me…because I can’t lie. I don’t have a “lie switch.” Someone asks me a question & I either automatically answer truthfully or say something ridiculous like “None of your business.” What’s going on here anyhow? Do I just not understand women??

[P.S. Betty is the SA “in charge” and Ann is the new SA]

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