Ana and her friend Kate are sitting in a coffee house. Ana appears distraught, her mocha latte barely touched, a single bite taken out of her dark chocolate biscotti. Kate has finished one espresso, and is quickly working her way through a second tiny cup, no milk or sugar to mask the bitter taste. The look on her face is a mixture of concern and annoyance.
Ana: Well, sure he’s domineering, but…
Kate: No buts, Ana. You deserve better than this guy.
Ana: He’s really a nice guy underneath it all, though. He has my best interests at heart.
Kate: Sure he does. That’s why he does all of those things to you. He doesn’t own you, Ana.
Kate: I mean, you didn’t sign a contract or anything, right?
Ana: No, I didn’t sign a contract.
Ana: Well, it’s as if I signed a contract. I mean, he says there’s this “social” contract that exists even though it doesn’t exist on paper. He says it’s the ideal contract I would have signed if I were perfectly rational and understood what’s really good for me. Like he does.
Kate: Oh boy. Look, Ana, this guy is a shyster. He’s totally taking advantage of your… let’s call it “innocence” to be polite. He’s bad news.
Ana: Well, he’s not perfect, but who is? Sure, he takes things a little too far sometimes, but… but I kind of like it. It makes me feel secure to know that someone else is in control, you know?
Kate: No, I really don’t.
Ana: And think of the children. He’s good with the children. I mean, he’s pretty strict with them, but it’s…
Kate: For their own good, yeah, I’m beginning the see a pattern here. Look, what’s so scary about being in control of your own life? Why do you need some guy telling you what you can and can’t do, and when you can and can’t do it?
Ana: Ugh. It’s just so much responsibility, you know? Wouldn’t you rather have someone else making the decisions for you? Don’t you just have a craving to submit?
Kate: Again, no, I don’t. I mean, maybe for fun, once in a while, but not 24/7 like you’ve done with this dude.
Ana: Look, he’s just better than I am at all this stuff, calling the shots, making plans, deciding what we need to buy…
Kate: Oh dear. You’re giving him all your money, aren’t you?
Ana: No! Not all of it. Just half or so. And I don’t have to give it to him, he just takes it right out of my bank account. He knows my pin.
Kate: Why did you give him your pin?
Ana: I didn’t. He just knew it. He knows all my passwords, actually. It’s so he can make sure I’m not doing anything that would be harmful to me or others. And he listens in on my phone calls, too. Just to be sure. You can never be too careful.
Kate: Guilty till proven innocent, eh? Better that ten innocents get punished, and all that?
Ana: Did I mention I kind of like the punishment part?
Kate: I think you did let that slip, yes. Look, How could he possibly know enough about you to know what’s good for you better than you do? Is he really so much wiser than you are? Only you have access to what’s inside your head.
Ana: But what I want, my whims… It’s not the same as what I need. He knows what I need.
Kate: I think I know what he needs: a good swift kick in the…
Ana: And even if I’m relatively well-balanced…
Kate clears throat.
Ana: Even if I’m relatively well-balanced, what about the others? Some of them really need his guidance and protection. What kind of example would I be setting for them if I just did as I pleased?
Ana: What’s that?
Kate: There are other women?
Ana: Oh sure. Men, too.
Kate: Jesus Christ, Ana, you’re in a cult!
Ana: It’s a community, Kate. You wouldn’t understand.
Kate: You’re saying I don’t know what’s good for me? Lemme guess who does know…
Ana: You’re not being very open-minded, Kate. But then, you always were kind of selfish.
Kate: Right, it’s selfish to want to control your own life, but it’s not selfish to want to control the lives of others.
Ana: Because it’s for our own good!
Kate: Brilliant. And what would it look like if he were doing it for his own good but just saying that he was doing it for your own good?
Kate: Look, whatever. You’ve made your bed, you can go let him tie you to it.
Ana: Actually… He wants to talk to you.
Kate: What? Well I don’t want to talk to him!
Ana: The thing is, you see, there’s this contract…
* Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL's English Editor.