Monday, September 16, 2019
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a very interesting story that brings up a number of thought-provoking issues in a relatively short format. Among these are questions of race, identity, and stereotyping. The narrator of the story is a young woman named Dina who feels lonely and confused in her new surroundings. As a poor, African American female at Yale (which the narrator portrays as a rich, male, and subtlety racist institution) she has difficulty adapting to the expectations of the university. From the very beginning, her differences set her apart from her classmates, until, from her point of view, she becomes a pariah, invisible and despised by the community. Of course, one must view these complaints with some skepticism. The narrator deliberately isolates herself with off-hand comments and antisocial behavior. She seems to take pride in her jarring attitude toward authority and friendliness. Only on rare occasions do we see her treated poorly by the other characters. While her behavior is rude and obnoxious, they seem to be welcoming and sincere in their attempts to reconcile her depression. It soon becomes apparent that Dina finds comfort in her intentional isolation. She takes some satisfaction from stereotyping others unfairly and irrationally, since stereotypes provide a simple and lazy detour around human interaction. The narrator in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere has many problems with communication that prevent her from forming healthy relationships. During her sessions with the school psychiatrist, his probing questions provide a window into some of the difficulties she has. One of his most insightful statements is that DinaÃ¢â¬â¢s constant deceptions and dismissals have accustomed her to an offensive reaction. Whenever someone asks her a question her response belittles and mystifies them. Because she has set herself up for this attitude it is a natural custom. For example, in the first few pages, during an exercise designed for incoming freshman, the students choose an object they would like to be. The game inspires creativity and helps the freshmen get to know each other. Dina, disgusted by her classmateÃ¢â¬â¢s insipid choices, states that she would be a revolver. This response, obviously meant to shock and discomfort her peers, earns Dina her psychiatric evaluations. Many other examples occur throughout the story. In a meeting with the psychiatrist, the doctor asks Dina about her sexual history. This question create tension in different ways, such as sexuality, class, relationships, and shame. Typically, Dina invents a ridiculous story about losing her virginity spontaneously and foolishly. Because of her stereotyping attitude, Dina assumes that the white, male doctor would expect her, a poor, black girl, to do these sorts of things. She derails what could have been an important and intriguing discussion of DinaÃ¢â¬â¢s insecurities into what she thinks the doctor expects. Later, he calls this attitude her survival mechanism of a Ã¢â¬Å"black living in a white world. Ã¢â¬ ItÃ¢â¬â¢s an interesting assertion, if not entirely fair to the people of all races who succeed without such pointless and insulting tactics. Ultimately, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a story of regret. At the end of the tale, Dina gives a heartfelt reminiscence of her college days, now long past, and the opportunities she missed and friendships she broke. One person in particular, Heidi, could have been a close and important friend. Instead, DinaÃ¢â¬â¢s harsh and unpleasant demeanor severed a deep connection. In fact, DinaÃ¢â¬â¢s quick and thoughtless speaking leads her to belittle the death of HeidiÃ¢â¬â¢s mother. This error draws attention to Dr. RaeburnÃ¢â¬â¢s original warning: that DinaÃ¢â¬â¢s tendency to speak nonsense would become an unfortunate habit. The warning applies to the reader as well, encouraging us to speak thoughtfully and honestly in all human interactions.