“I’m going to the Dido / John Mayer concert in Bryant Park.” I say as I balance my dirty gin martini.
“Oh. Yawn. John Mayer is milquetoast.”
“Milquetoast?” I am certain when I say this I’ve lifted an eyebrow.
“Yeah, milquetoast.” He pecks at his dirty martini. “What you’ve never heard that before?”
“Milquetoast. As in wet bread, does a body good? Is that like French toast when you run out of eggs?”
“Are you sure you were an English major, Miss Klein? It means blah, timid, blah.”
“Hm. Okay, it’s vanilla.” I’m catching on.
“So you think John Mayer is vanilla without the French specs, even?”
“Yeah. That’s pretty much what I’m saying.”
“Well, my friend, then you haven’t heard the song Comfortable. Cause there’s nothing and everything vanilla about Comfortable. It’s the unexpected expected. And sometimes it’s not only safer but more evocative to lunge for a classic—like the model T, or a vanilla malted.” Or me, I mean, duh. What the hell am I talking about? Model T?
“Are we still talking about a song?”
So I go home and do some milquetoast homework. The history of milquetoast:
The first instance of milquetoast as a common noun is found in the mid-1930s. Milquetoast thus joins the ranks of other such words, including sad sack, from a blundering army private invented by George Baker in 1942, and Wimpy, from J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip, which became a trade name for a hamburger. If we look to a related form of popular culture, the animated cartoon, we must of course acknowledge Mickey Mouse, which has become a slang term for something that is easy, insignificant, small-time, worthless, or petty.
There is a place in this world for nice. For plain. For vanilla. But there’s no room for wimps, for pantywaists, for milksops of men. Because they lack courage. And to me, courage can come in a vanilla carton of Haggen Daz. Daring to be just as you are, even if as you are happens to be kinda plain jane, is courage. And there’s nothing mickey mouse about that.
Sure, I’m more of a Rocky Road kinda girl, but I can appreciate vanilla. I have vanilla people in my life. Not a whole lot of them, but a smattering. In My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts tells Cameron Diaz that she’s creme brulee, and that her soon to be husband prefers Jello. Creme brulee is never gonna be jello. I happen to be creme brulee, everyday and twice on Sundays, but I can appreciate Jell-O. Oh come on; you know what I’m talking about. You’ve got some vanilla friends. They’re friends because they give you no reason not to be. They’re harmless and polite. They laugh at jokes, smile, and never stain their clothes. Sometimes, though, you want strawberry. Or a strawberry blonde. Take your pick.
Vanilla. Milquetoast. Now I’m hungry.