Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How I like my eggs

There was a (mostly unmemorable) Julie Roberts movie a few years back called Runaway Bride.  I've forgotten most of the details but the one that stuck with me is about the eggs.  In her many relationships, the main character ate her eggs just the way her partner did, believing that what he loved is what she loved.

I did that, too.  It occurs to me that I did that literally, as well as figuratively: my ex likes his eggs scrambled with cheese on top, and that's how I ate mine when we were together.

How does a person forget how they like their eggs?


In my family of origin, perhaps like many families in my era, there were two ways to do things: my dad's way, or the wrong way.  If I liked what my dad liked, I was a good little girl.  If I disliked what my dad liked, I was "difficult" and (one of my least favorite words ever, because it was applied to me so often) "persnickety."  Having an opinion different than his meant that I was being disrespectful, that I had bad taste, that I clearly hadn't thought it through.

I knew this about my father and rebelled against it in my teen years, like so many teens, and I thought that my rebellion was a sure sign that I had dealt with it, made up my own mind about how to do things, and that I was done being a people pleaser.

Au contraire.

It takes a lot more work than simply getting mad at dear ol' dad to move past things to change the pattern.


Bryan liked jazz.  I once spent a painful day at an all day jazz festival where I had to resist the urge to jump up and down shouting "I'm 32 years old and I DO NOT WANT TO LISTEN TO ELEVATOR MUSIC!"  (I know that there is very "un-elevator music" jazz.  This was not that.)  The music was like water torture to me, and instead of saying "You should go with your friends and I'll do something else" I went and spent the whole day at the concert thinking, "I must not be smart enough to enjoy this; it's got a classy quality and I know the fact that I would prefer to listen to pop music makes me seem less substantial and I should learn to like this..." and so I tried my hardest to enjoy it and pushed down my feelings of dislike, or to think about how much money the tickets cost and that I hadn't been to one of "my" concerts in years.

When I turned on the radio, Bryan would say, "You're not going to listen to THAT, are you?" and I would sheepishly turn the dial to something he liked.

Bryan liked bread and cheese, in vast quantities.  When the waitress said, "May I refill your bread basket?" the answer was always yes, and the bread basket was always empty and needing refilling.  Before dinner, he could go through a wedge of cheese no problem.  With meals, he liked cheese.  Cheese on his eggs, cheese in his lunch, cheese with dinner, cheese before dinner, cheese and crackers as a snack.  Toast at breakfast, sandwiches or burgers on buns at lunch, bread with dinner, bread or crackers for snacks.  I told myself "It's a French way of eating" and "Why do I always have to be such a nay-sayer, why deny myself or him such simple pleasures?"  I ate what he did, in slightly smaller quantities, but I still gained 20 pounds during my marriage and felt sluggish (he gained much much more and acted much more sluggish), but I told myself that I'd rather celebrate life (more bread and cheese!) than be miserly about simple pleasures.

Bryan ate large quantities of cheese with every meal and complained about his body - obese - bitterly.  When I made a healthy meal - maybe a chicken curry, or grilled salmon and veggies - he complained, and ate a giant snack at bedtime, consisting of....cheese.

Bryan liked to shop for his clothes at Costco, and considered fashion a waste of time, energy, and money; he mocked people for their fashion, and if I said that I wanted to go clothes shopping with a girlfriend he acted like it was the most shallow activity in the world.  I never 100% came to his side of that equation, always secretly coveting beautiful clothes worn thoughtfully...but I gave up my fight, and felt myself get frumpier and frumpier, but told myself that I was living more important values.

I look back at photographs from that time and think, "MOM JEANS!  Why was I wearing mom jeans?!"

The list could go on and on.  What time we went to bed, what time we got up.  Music, food, art.  Leisure time.  It wasn't until we got divorced and needed to divvy up the furniture that I realized that though every single piece of furniture purchased during the marriage was to his preference (Mission style) and that though I had "happily" agreed to all of it....I hated it.  I find Mission lines to be too sharp, too heavy, too masculine, and I like my furniture to feel lighter, curvier, more feminine.  I was more surprised than he was (and he was plenty surprised) when I told him he could have it all, because I'd rather shop for furniture on Craigslist and yard sales than have Mission style furniture, which didn't represent who I am in any way.


I am aware now that this did not make me a better spouse.  I am aware that this meant that there was a falseness to my interactions with Bryan, and that it doesn't reflect well on me to say these things; my intentions might have been good (keep the peace) but the outcome wasn't good.  I can accept that: I made mistakes in my marriage, and one of the main ones was that I yielded all the time, trying not to rock the boat, and that meant that I agreed to things I never should have agreed to, offering a false version of myself, not only to Bryan but to myself as well. A marriage built on swallowed resentments can not thrive.

I wouldn't want to be with someone who agreed with me to placate me.  Maybe, ultimately, Bryan didn't want that either.  It's hard to tell, because when I suggested an alternate way, he shut me down, made fun of my choices or tastes, or acted like he was very put out because I was unsupportive, and I struggle with wondering why he did that, just as I wonder why my father treated me that way.

But this isn't about him, it's about me.

In any future partner, should there be one, I will bring my tastes and choices to the table, knowing what they are and standing my ground.  There's room for compromise, certainly, but compromise does not mean "doing it the other person's way every time," and it does not mean "giving up what I believe in."  There will be give and take next time, not just give.


What do I like?  I know the answers!  And I'm not ashamed of them!  And if you, dear reader, read this list and think "ew!" or "yuck!" or "I hate that style!" then you know what?  It's okay!  We can still be friends, because I hope you value the qualities of my heart and mind more than the small extras; that you are drawn to me because of the way I think, and that if we disagree about music (maybe you like elevator music, too!) then we can still be friends.

But we don't need to go to an all day smooth jazz concert together.  Ever.


I like, in no particular order:
- High heels, pencil skirts, ladylike blouses.  Little black dresses.  Sundresses.  Classic clothing, not too trendy.  Blazers with jeans and ballet flats, dresses with defined waists.  Black, white.  I'd rather pay a bit more for something and have fewer items.  I do not, ever, ever, ever shop at Costco for clothing.
- I like to get up really, really early, before the sun rises, and have quiet time to myself.  I go to bed at about the same time Katherine does as a result...but it's worth it to me.
- I love female singer-songwriters like Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Sarah McLachlan.  And I love all kinds of silly pop music, and happily sing along with Katy Perry on "Roar" or Sara Bareilles with "Brave."  I enjoy some country music.  I don't like jazz very much.  I love Beethoven and Mozart, but not all the time.  I dislike hip hop and rap.
- I love cottage style.  Not the kitschy kind with gingham and words stenciled on everything and chickens for décor, but an eclectic combination of beach style and English or French cottage style.  I like antique mahogany pieces mixed in with lighter, more contemporary pieces.  I like curving white dishes in interesting shapes.  I like silver trays filled with seashells.  I like books, and bookcases, in every room.  I like a lot of white.  I like art walls filled with pieces that mean something to me, even if the frames or artistic styles don't match.  I like some contemporary art, Emily Carr, northwest Native American art, impressionist art, Group of Seven art, Renaissance art, and pictures (from any era) of women reading.  I don't like abstract art, or art with sharp black lines.
- I like to have coffee for breakfast, giant salads for lunch (with beans and avocado and a mixture of greens and veggies), and a hearty dinner (hold the bread, please, except on special occasions).  I like limited amounts of cheese, because then I feel better.  I like wine on occasion, but not every day.
- I like to hike, to run, to bike, to walk, to explore.  I want to move my body and get out and see things, and given a chance, I'd do that every day.
- On weekends I want to go explore: a museum, a nearby town, a beach, a trail, a concert.  I want to canoe or kayak, take the tour, hit the road, hit the trail.  I don't care about TV.  I don't want to sleep until noon, I want to get out into the world.


I'm willing to stand up for what I like now, never again agreeing to someone else's ways just to keep the peace.  The irony doesn't escape me: I tried to keep the peace all the way until my divorce, and we all know that divorce is about the least peaceful process ever, no matter how well it's done.  (It's soul wrenching.)

With Bryan, for whatever his own reasons, he responded like my father did when we had a disagreement.  He disapproved of me, he felt undervalued, it became a test of my love for him.  By yielding, I was trying to say, "I care about you and I will give you this piece of myself as proof of that love," just as I had with my father.

But love doesn't work like that, and so it didn't work.  I could not fill up the holes inside of Bryan, because that is not something a partner, even a loving partner, can do. 


I hope that by recognizing the patterns, I can escape repeating them.

The world will not end if I say, "Here's what I like, and I feel strongly about it."  The world will not end if I say, "Tonight I'm making my favorite meal for dinner," instead of always making someone else's favorites.  The right partner won't argue with me if I say, "Last weekend we did X (his preference), so this weekend let's do Y (my preference)." 

Maybe I'll even find a partner who even truly shares my preference, who has a passion for things I'm passionate about.  What would it be like to have a partner that said, "I found a hike online that I haven't done before - let's pack our backpacks tonight and get to bed early so that we can be at the trailhead before 8am tomorrow"?  What would it be like to have a partner who said, "I went by the market and picked up some Dungeness crabs for dinner - I thought I'd throw together a salad and I can have dinner on the table at 6 if you like"?  What would it be like to have a partner who said, "I was reading the paper and that play you were interested in is coming to town - it's getting good reviews and I'd like to go too!"

And when we don't agree?  What if he laughed and said, "You go ahead and go with your girlfriends to that show - I'm afraid it's not my style," or "I'm buying (insert sports team) seasons' tickets with my friend but don't worry I don't expect you to come," (to which I would say "thank you" because I'm not into watching sports).  What if he didn't like seafood (oh no!) but knew I did so he said, "I went by the market and got some salmon for you and some chicken for me - let's grill tonight"?

It's not rocket science, but it will require me being honest about what I like and not backing down if he disagrees with my opinion "to keep the peace."  It's harder than it sounds when you've been conditioned since birth to do so.


I like my eggs scrambled, with avocado and salsa on top.  For lunch, not for breakfast.


How do you like your eggs?  Did you, too, forget what mattered to you when you were married?  What have you remembered since your divorce?  What small pleasures have returned to you since divorcing?  What styles have you (re)discovered?  How do you spend your happy leisure time in your new life?

If you forgot how you liked your eggs....why is that?  Did you learn it in your family of origin, or somewhere else?

How do you plan to remember what you value, never again giving it up?

No comments:

Post a Comment