Most of the stories that I’ve posted here are from here and there, kind of public domain parables. But this one is pretty close to a true story…. close enough anyway.
A few years ago my partner and I were in Vermont at the Cabot Cheese store, where they have free samples of most of the flavors of cheese that they make. At that point I think we had been together somewhere around 25+ years – long enough to have a shared history and to buy into the delusion that we knew each other fairly well. I knew her favorite color is green, she knew my favorite color is blue. She knew I like rock and roll. I knew she does not. We knew those kinds of warm intimate details that make relationships sweet and enable then to flow along.
So, we were at the Cabot store sampling cheeses. Well, Cabot makes a LOT of flavors of cheese. So, we spent a good while sampling, and re-sampling cheeses. We both came to the conclusion that we had sampled so much cheese we HAD to buy something. But what? Of course it would never occur to us that we could by two different kinds of cheese, so next came the negotiation for what kind to buy. I knew what I liked the best, but I also knew that my partner would not like my favorite kind of cheese. So, as we talked about what to buy, I suggested something more in line with what I thought she liked. My partner thought about it for a few seconds, and suggested something else. Well back and forth we went trying to second guess each other, trying to make the other person happy and maybe get a little something of personal preference in there at the same time – all the while sampling more cheese of course.
Finally, she asked me what cheese I had sampled the most. I told her it was the extra, extra sharp cheese. I went on to talk about how I liked cheese so sharp you could you could cut something with it. Told her about how my grandmother had a butcher shop, since before I started school and my grandmother would sneak me slices of Vermont Black Wax cheese! (That is just the best, sharpest, finest tasting cheddar cheese in the universe as far as I am concerned – it comes with flavor, texture, nice saltiness and grandmotherly love!) And then my partner started to laugh quietly and ‘fessed up that extra sharp cheese was her favorite too. When we asked each other why that was not our first suggestion to each other, we both confessed that it was because we each thought the other would not like it. How did we mess that up! How did we not know this about each other? And after twenty five years we figured out that we had each been buying milder cheese because we both thought the other would not like the extra sharp! Talk about an O Henry moment!!
Of course it is not like we don’t talk about things. It is not like we don’t compare notes on anything and everything! Two feminists committed to consensus! A social worker and a counselor! We process everything! And yet, somehow we missed this kind of basic detail about food preferences. It just goes to show, that – well, there are no immaculate perceptions. Jane Austen had it right: “Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken (Emma).”
So, if we would work for a world where human dignity is respected, where fairness is honored, then even after 25 years, even after 38 years, we still need to keep talking and listening and hearing what is said, always with an open heart and an open mind. And, we need to be able to laugh when we inevitably discover the gaffs in our perceptions and understandings. Laugh, forgive, learn and move on!
(Oh, and we bought the Vermont Vintage Choice Cheddar, aged for 24 months, rich, full bodied, extra sharp!)