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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Column: What’s your binky?

I have a confession to make. I still use a binky.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” some of you are saying. “Are you kidding me? That’s strange, shocking and slightly grotesque!” The rest of you are scanning Wikipedia and trying to figure out if I’m talking about Death’s horse in the Discworld books or a funny jump executed by frisky rabbits.

I’m talking about pacifiers, those rubber things moms pop in their babies’ mouths to stop their crying. It’s a highly effective device for soothing kids and giving everyone else’s ears a break. Sometimes they’re more trouble than they’re worth, though – like in my brother’s case. When he decided he was done with his, he’d make like a potato gun and launch the thing across the room with an audible foom of air. When he wanted one later, we’d hunt for one behind the couch, brush off the hair and mystery crumbs and pop it in his mouth. Yes, this is a binky, and I still have one.

Okay, so it’s not a literal binky. It’s my iPhone. And I don’t actually suck on it, unless I have a very compelling reason. Hey, sometimes an unwrapped Snickers bar comes to cuddle my phone on a hot day, and it’s wrong to waste chocolate.

My iPhone is my go-to device when I need soothing or entertaining. Waiting for the bus, walking across campus, resisting schoolwork – whenever I have three free seconds, I whip out my phone. Check Facebook. Check for new texts. Look at my e-mail. Check Facebook. Find new backgrounds. Check Facebook. Look up the weather in Davis while I’m standing outside. Look up the weather in France while I’m standing in America. Switch it on. Switch it off. Check Facebook.

I will do this two dozen times an hour. It’s a compulsion.

It’s not the only binky I’ve had. Early in high school, I was diagnosed with depression. I called my boyfriend every night. On the really bad nights, I’d cry and beg him not to hang up. I couldn’t fall asleep unless I knew he was there on the line. It was unhealthy dependency at its finest. He was my binky.

We’ve all got binkies. They’re the things we turn to for comfort or a sense of control. Some binkies are intrinsically evil, like meth or eating disorders. They’re obviously bad news.

But sometimes an okay or even good thing turns bad in virtue of our binkifying it. Don’t we all know someone (or have been someone) who made their girlfriend or boyfriend their whole world? Ever known someone in danger of flunking out due to an obsession with WoW or chilling with friends or marching band? Come to think of it, school can become an object of worship. If I get an A on this assignment … if I get a 3.5 GPA … if I get my degree … then I’ll be ok. We rely on these things to get us through the day.

But here’s the thing about binkies: They can’t save you. They won’t give you lasting peace or real power over your life. Instead of adding to your life, they suck the life out of you. (In Soviet Russia, binky sucks YOU.)

I’ve identified some binkies in my life. Sometimes, like my brother, I get sick of them and pop them across the room, out of my sight. But then I get agitated, and I want soothing. So I scrounge around under the sofa cushions, pull out that sticky, crunchy binky and pop it back in my mouth. I know it’s disgusting. I know it’s destructive. But man, it feels good for a few seconds.

So think about it: What is it that you keep going back to, over and over again? What’s the thing you always turn to when your soul’s not as quiet as you’d like?

What’s your binky?

BETH SEKISHIRO is looking for a pineapple-flavored iPhone cover. If you know where to find one, contact her at blseki@ucdavis.edu.

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