How Buying a Decent Cup of Coffee is A Lot Like Paying for Sex


A cup of prostitution (sort of).

For a long time, there were two things I absolutely refused to pay for: sex and a decent cup of coffee.

Sure, I’ll pay someone to take care of my kids, or clean my house, or mow the lawn, but sex and coffee were always strictly Do-It-Yourself projects.

Not paying for sex has proven to be surprisingly easy, considering my inauspicious start: back then, I fell into despair as all my high school girlfriends, one by one, lost their virginity the summer before senior year (even Anca, the exchange student from Bucharest, who had successfully petitioned the school administration to start a girls weightlifting team). Meanwhile, I failed to get past second base with my boyfriend, Keith. During the darkest days of that relationship, the awkward, fumbling days that made me wonder if Keith even knew how to do “it”, I began to understand the appeal of paying  someone more experienced, a la Holden Caulfield (we were reading The Catcher in the Rye in Honors English).

Anyway, while I was putting on another clean shirt, I sort of figured this was my big chance, in a way. I figured if she was a prostitute and all, I could get in some practice on her, in case I ever get married or anything. I worry about that stuff sometimes.

Eventually, Keith and I figured things out without any money changing hands, and shortly thereafter, I went off to college and had so much sex graduated and got married and never thought of paying for sex again.

But the coffee thing . . .

Not paying for coffee has been so much harder because I just can’t seem to make a decent cup on my own.

Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve bought fancy Italian machines, and low tech French presses. I’ve ground my own beans and stored them in the freezer. I’ve charted  water temperatures and measured grounds out on a scientific scale that promised accuracy to seven decimal places. I’ve done all that and always wound up with coffee that tastes like a cup of the dishwater left standing in my kitchen sink from a soaking lasagna pan.

Why is this so hard? It can’t be, can it? Because even the coffee I get from the gas station down the street, you know, the one with a single, cloudy coffee pot that sits on the burner all day and wears a tattered placard (“Rich Bold Flavor!”) on its handle tastes better than anything I brew.

I’m pretty intelligent, or at least I like to think so. Anyway, other people have told me that I am, and they can’t all have been trying to sleep with me, though that skeevy guy who sat behind me in PHI 110: Introduction to Ethics probably was. And I like to believe I’m a problem solver. And coffee looks to me like a problem that needs to be solved.

Still, up until now, I haven’t been able to come up with the solution, so I’ve been paying for coffee, and I’ve been feeling much guilt and shame. With every cup, I beat myself up.

“I have to stop doing this,” I thought to myself as I handed the barista another five dollar bill. “This is ridiculous, and it’s wrong. I’m an intelligent woman who believes in self-reliance and independence. I should be able to make a decent cup of coffee.”

I should, but I can’t.

I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not about intelligence or problem-solving skills, but rather it’s some natural gift that people are born with that I’m lacking, like being able to hit a curve ball or drive a stick shift. Maybe I should just let it go, realize that my talents lie elsewhere and accept the fact that I’m one of those people in this world who will have to pay for it.

The other day at the grocery store, I stood in the coffee aisle admiring all the pretty packages, all promising to make the perfect cup of coffee. A woman was busy grinding beans in the machine there and I asked her if the brand she was buying was any good.

“It’s terrific,” she said. “The best coffee I’ve ever had. You should try it.”

I shook my head and looked away, not wanting her to see my tears.


Instant Gratification.

In the end, I chose a jar of instant coffee from the shelf, some Nescafe Clasico, wondering if it could be any worse than my own home brew. I’ve made quite a few cups by now, and I have to say, it’s not so bad, and anyway, it’s quick, just two minutes in the microwave. I guess what I mean to say is that I’m getting used to it, and I’ve decided when I really need it, I’ll be happy to pay a professional.


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8 thoughts on “How Buying a Decent Cup of Coffee is A Lot Like Paying for Sex

  1. rossmurray1 says:

    Hey, would you perform surgery on yourself? Of course not! (Well, maybe not.) So let the professionals do the job. My daughter is a barista (yuck word) and had to learn to grind the beans for something like 24 seconds — no more, no less. She actually had to graduate up to grinding. This is serious business.
    As wasteful as they are, have you tried Keurig? You can buy reuseable pods if you’re feeling green-conscious. As a terrible coffee maker, I can tell you they’re pretty good.
    Not sure what this piece had to do with sex in the end, but way to reel ’em in!


    • Karen says:

      “Not sure what this piece had to do with sex in the end, but way to reel ’em in!”
      If I have to explain the joke, I guess it wasn’t very funny 🙂

      I have tried the Keurig and I really feel that the water needs to percolate (steep? is that word just for tea?) around the grounds for a much longer period of time than the Keurig allows while whizzing through the pod. My experience with the Keurig was that I really just got a cup of warm water but YMMV.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin Brennan says:

    The perfect cup of coffee is a lot like Spalding Gray’s “perfect moment.” You’re never going to get it. Achieve a “pretty good” cup of coffee and you’ll be happy the rest of your life.

    At least that’s what I tell myself…

    Liked by 1 person

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