Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day – not only for the L-O-N-G Married

cupid_blue_414x414

 

On this Valentine’s Day my husband wants me to share with you the fact that he is disappointed.

By certain long-standing habits of mine that I refuse to modify.

  • One recent morning he came downstairs for breakfast and reached into the refrigerator for blueberries to eat atop his cereal. (as do I.)  What he found were two plastic containers of blueberries, side-by-side. One contained six or seven forlorn, slightly shriveled old blueberries. The other box was brand new – full of fresh, plump berries.

It was also clear, so he told me that evening  (he has an amateur sleuth badge from our mutual habit of watching far too many BBC detective shows) that a person he knows all too well had obviously opened up the new box of berries without taking the time to finish what was left of the old berries. Which is – according to him – a sad commentary on the differences that remain  between us even after almost 39 years of marriage.

That I would brashly dig into the sweetest of berries, because I knew I could leave it to him to polish off the older sad-looking berries.

And wouldn’t you do the same?

Given all of life’s difficulties (have you been watching the national news lately?), isn’t it reasonable, when presented with the choice, to go with the most tempting option?

I mean, I’m thrifty when I have to be – but when I don’t have to be, I do like to eat the freshest food first.

  • On a related note, he also likes to point out to anyone who will listen that I possess all of the necessary qualifications for immediate hire by whatever  division it is of the U.S.Department of Agriculture in charge of putting sell-by dates on food. Because he believes (wrongly) that a person can    confidently and safely consume food that is well past said sell-by date.

He quibbles with my predilection to toss out food that shows even the most recent of expired dates. We have – and I’m not proud of this – argued at length about what “sell by” means versus “use by.”

But don’t you also want to stay healthy?

I try to reason with him by explaining that if I were to eat very old food I could end up in the hospital – again.  (a place I do not want to re-visit having spent far too long there in 2012). If I were to become ill because of eating spoiled food, my husband would have to visit me in the hospital and that would cost him both time ( I can’t miss that much work!) and money (do you believe how expensive this hospital parking garage is?)

So I am only trying to be helpful by eating the freshest of food.

Unlike my husband who truly does love old food. And I don’t say this snidely. In all seriousness, he prefers to eat leftovers. Previously cooked food that resides inside little plastic containers inside our refrigerator for days, even for weeks, tastes good to him.

And if the most ancient of leftovers have a slightly blue tinge, all the better. (“it’s fine, it’s just like blue cheese. you like Roquefort cheese, don’t you?” he will say in his defense as he chomps down.)

Am I spoiled because I like to eat fresh food, prefer not to eat leftovers – and have a somewhat tightly wound approach to tossing out foods immediately after their use-by date? Perhaps so.

If he were a writer – he would want to edit this post – to tell you that his preference for older (a polite way of putting it) food comes to him by how he was raised. He is the child of immigrants who came to this country in the early 1950’s and worked extraordinarily hard in their factory jobs to raise a family who knew how important it was not to let any food go to waste.

I am a few generations removed from the immigrant experience and maybe that is why I am less thrifty about food than I should be. While my stay-at-home mom was hardly extravagant with her supermarket food purchases,  leftovers do not feature as large a role in my childhood memories as they do in my husband’s.

On this Valentine’s Day we consider ourselves lucky that we can share a laugh about a few old berries. Because last year was a very rocky one for us as parents. Life events tested our differing perspectives on far more serious concerns than the shelf stability of food.

It’s very important to laugh about left-overs. I highly recommend it to everyone, parents or not, l-o-n-g marrieds or not. Finding the funny in blue-tinged food can get you through the toughest of times.

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Family, Holidays, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Parenting, Relationships, Women

“The Last French Fry”: A Meeting of the Minds and Palates for Valentine’s Day

cupid_blue_414x414

I had another post all ready to go for today, but then realized that Valentines’ Day is this Sunday. Luckily, the wonderful women in my DC writers’ group liked a recent essay I wrote about the meeting of the minds and palates that led to my long marriage. They urged me to share it with the readers of my blog. So I’m posting it here. WARNING: It’s very food-centric and may pique your appetite; perhaps you should eat a delicious snack of your choice before reading it.

The Last French Fry

 

I blame my parents for my love of fried food

My Mom died when I was 28 and my Dad is now 93 years old and no longer eats fried food, with or without his false teeth in place. Except when we travel from DC to visit him in Connecticut. Then for old times’ sake, even though we all acknowledge it is not half as good as it once was, a fact which does not deter us, we drive to our favorite place, Rawleys, the old hot dog stand with the wooden booths on the Post Road where locals patiently stand in long lines to eat deep-fried hot dogs. We order with “the works” for my Dad, with “light mustard and onions” for me and with “chili and onions” for my husband. And two large orders of French fries, please.

I always fight over who gets the last French fry.

It is not that I am overly-attached to French fries. It is that I never used to eat the last French fry. For many years I meticulously avoided eating the last of anything, the last cookie on the plate, the last slice of pizza, the last chip in the bag.

My Mom told me that eating the last of anything meant I would become an old maid. A spinster. Unlikely to wed. She shared this bit (among many others) of folk wisdom of unknown origin with me when I was in my vulnerable teens and I took it quite to heart. It was not likely I would be without a husband since I was, from age 13 on, perhaps due to my large breasts, never without a boyfriend in tow. But I studiously refused to eat the last of any food item. Just in case.

When I met Jim, my husband-to-be, at a mixer in our dorm’s courtyard on the first night of international relations grad school, I tried to impress him with my sophisticated tastes.

I pretended to knowledge of foreign films I did not have and acted like I understood his position on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. I did not want to let on that I regularly watched low-brow shows on TV to relax, read murder mysteries set in cozy British villages for the same reason and relished all fried foods. He thought he had met an intellectual, highly cultured young woman raised in an upscale suburban town. The part about the upscale suburban town was true.

On one of our first dates he set about to impress me with his high-brow interests. He took me to the Brattle Street theatre in Cambridge to see one of his favorite films – the painfully long, classic black & white 1938 Russian drama “Alexander Nevsky” which told the stirring tale of a 13th century battle on the icy steppes of Siberia. As giant horses and costumed Cossacks galloped on the screen, I feigned interest and glanced frequently yet discreetly, I hoped, at my watch.

After the film finally ended, he steered me to a Cambridge cafe he had found earlier that day. For all of Jim’s lofty talk about Eastern European politics and his multiple language abilities, he did not know how to read restaurant menus very well.

Only after we sat down did he discover that the menu he had seen outside the restaurant had been for lunch only. When the waiter handed us dinner menus with their significantly higher prices, I saw him wince. It was then I learned he was a scholarship student from a working class family.

The lunch menu he could afford; the dinner menu was well beyond his budget. I offered to go 50/50 on the check, an arrangement well suited to my 1970’s era feminist policies. And thus our long-term dating and dining relationship was born.

We both liked talking about international affairs (I acknowledged to his delight that he had the more in-depth knowledge), but when it came to eating ethnic cuisine, our palates were on equal footing. It had not gone unnoticed by me that ethnic cuisine offered many varieties of fried food. Somehow it was less guilt-inducing to indulge in fried food if it originated in another country.

As we continued to date through our first year of grad school, we frequented inexpensive restaurants of every ethnic stripe in the Boston area – Greek, Mexican, Sushi, Szechuan and Thai. When those became too tame for us, we ventured further out to Armenian neighborhoods to sample lahmajuns, to Korean communities to eat kimchi and to an Indonesian café to taste nasi goreng.

One of the reasons that Jim liked me, or liked eating with me, which was almost the same thing, given how often we dined out or carried in, was that I talked far too much. I talked more than I ate. He figured this out early on and took advantage of my garrulousness.

While I was busy chatting, he would nod his head, appear to be listening closely to me, but actually was aiming his fork at my plate of half-eaten Kung Pao Chicken, spearing a piece or two or three as I blabbed on. It was only after we had been together for about six months that I realized half of my dinner was regularly disappearing into his mouth. By that time, I was so besotted with him that I didn’t care.

When Jim was introduced to my Mom, she fell in love with him too. In part because he was an adventurous eater, but more so because he was always willing to share his dessert with her. When we visited them in Connecticut, my parents took us to their favorite French restaurant where Jim enjoyed moules Biarritz and the restaurant’s signature, Grand Marnier soufflé (order 25 minutes in advance please) for the first time.

Jim impressed both my Dad and Mom as a thoughtful person and a well-mannered eater. However, when he asked the waiter for mayonnaise to put on his tongue sandwich during a lunch at my parents’ mostly-Jewish country club, my Dad’s eyebrows raised high with disapproval.

It took us nearly four years to gain my Dad’s approval, and to realize that despite our religious and socioeconomic differences, our shared food palate would unite us forever. After we got engaged, my Mom gladly set about finding a caterer who would offer a menu to suit the tastes of both our families.

The ceremony was set for 12:30 p.m. rather than noon, because, according to another bit of obscure folk wisdom courtesy of my Mom, it was luckier to marry when the hands of the clock were on the upswing. On a lovely day in late May in the backyard of my family’s house, we toasted with Greek metaxa whiskey sours, dined under a big striped yellow tent on spanakopitas, gazpacho andaluz and coulibiac of salmon and then danced the Jewish hora and the Macedonian horo in circles around the dance floor.

There was nary a French fry in sight at our wedding reception. But then I didn’t have to worry about biting into that last fry anymore. And, luckily, 37 years later I still don’t.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

 

4 Comments

Filed under Aging, Baby Boomers, Education, Husbands, Jewish, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Relationships, Talking, Women

When Cupid’s Arrows Stray – “Tough Love”

 

cupid_blue_414x414

When I was thinking about love during this week before Valentine’s Day, I visualized the greeting card aisle with its many categories. A card for every kind of love.

Sweet cards for child from parent. Sentimental cards to send to grandparents. Romantic cards for new loves. Sexy cards for not-so-sure-we are-in-love-yet loves. Clever cards for the long married. Even valentines for your aunt, your teacher or your best pal.

There is another different kind of love for which no valentines exist. Some of us who are parents may know it as “Tough Love”.

When I first heard about the concept of “Tough Love”, it ran counter to all of my Mom instincts. Rare is the parent that doesn’t want to protect and provide for her child. For as long as you can. And if your child colors within the lines and follows all the rules that society sets, you won’t have to stop protecting your child and providing for him or her until it’s time to leave the nest. All grown up and ready to seek their own loves.

But what if you have a child who not only doesn’t color within the lines but doesn’t believe that those lines apply? And when it comes to rules, decides that flouting them is better than following them? Up to a certain point, independent behavior is to be applauded but when it evolves into the land of out-of-control, then you, the parent, start asking yourself – is the love you are giving the answer or part of the problem?

And that is about when someone told my husband and me about “Tough Love.”

The name sounds like an oxymoron. Love, in the most ideal sense of it, should come easily and feel good. And if and when love becomes too difficult, that is when relationships fall apart and lovers part ways.

But you can’t part ways with your child. While marriage may not be forever, parenthood is. So when positive parenting falls off a cliff, you might have to turn, as we did, to “Tough Love.”

To demonstrate love to your oppositional, willful, non-compliant – you pick the descriptor – young adult, the experts told us, you have to set boundaries. Be firm (but be empathetic.) Stay united and consistent as parents. (Good luck with that one.) Definitely stop solving (or trying to solve) their problems.

And the big one, the first commandment of  “Tough Love”? Let them make their own choices – and, incredibly hard to do, let them learn from those choices or suffer the consequences, no matter the emotional or physical cost.

We tried. It worked some, didn’t work, then did again. Looking back at that period of time, those watchful days and worried-out-of-our-minds nights,  I can’t believe we got through it.

For if “Tough Love” is hard to apply to your own child, it is even harder upon a marriage.

One person in a marriage is always more of the tender sort, the other more able to harden his or her heart as necessary. One person in a marriage says “let’s give in just this once”, while the other says “no, we can’t help with that, we have to be consistent.”  One person in a marriage says “the hell with consistency, this is our child we are talking about” and the other person says “I know, that is why have to set limits.”

So we argued often, pushed and pulled, our marriage had many rocky days and certainly as a couple we won no awards for “most consistent application of the principles of  “Tough Love.”

Yet very slowly and very incrementally, it got better. Our lives now aren’t perfect. Far from it. But this Valentine’s Day, how ironic is that for timing, I am now able to reflect that we are in a better place. We have reached some semblance of stability. Our marriage is strong, our child’s life is more settled, all our lives have calmed down.

Still we are on the rollercoaster of parenting a young adult child who has a fiercely independent spirit – but the rollercoaster is now the kiddie kind, with lesser hills and smaller valleys. And when the bumps come, as they do, and always will, we know how to ride them out.

That is our love. No longer as “tough” as it once was but firm, we have stuck to that. The empathy part, also a daily principle. It isn’t romantic or easy or exhilarating.

But we have gotten through this tunnel of  “Tough Love” and have come out the other end. Intact. Still in love with each other and still in love with our child. What better Valentine’s Day gift is there than that?

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Adult Kids, Family, Marriage, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Relationships, Women, Young Adult Mental Health