Dating, cranberries, and steak

I have a sensitive palate. When I was young, it was difficult to eat new things because if I didn’t like it, I hated it. As I grew older and realized that there was so much variety in food, I began trying everything. I will try anything at least three times, because I know I may not get the best experience the first time I try it.

I love cranberries. I don’t mean that I just like to eat them, for me, Thanksgiving is “Cranberries-four-ways” day. I find a particular pleasure in sloshing jellied cranberries in my mouth; the can shape on the plate excites me. Crushed cranberries, cranberry jam – it doesn’t matter, I eat the hades out of them. My favorite snack is dried cranberries and roasted almonds.

But then, in November 2012, something horrible happened. Something that I consider to be worse than many of the emotional assaults I have had in my life. Food is comfort – if I eat well, I am well. Then, after a stop in a convenient store along I-40 in New Mexico on my way to Utah to see my kids, my life darkened a tad. I bought almonds and cranberries for my trip. I also bought a corn dog that wasn’t fully cooked. I got food poisoning.

I got over it within 24 hours, but it was horrific. I didn’t realize how bad it was until Thanksgiving Day, when I, with my kids, sat down to three types of cranberries and 8 hours later, I was dying. Horrors were exiting my body. Cramps like I was being turned inside out. Vapors of Satan himself were escaping every orifice. I had no idea what had happened. My kids were fine. I most certainly was not.

After returning my kids, and on my way back to Texas, I stopped at my mom’s house for Cranberry Day part 2, like second breakfast. 8 hours later, as I was driving through the darkened desert of northwest New Mexico when Death and his horse began trampling my innards again. So bad was the trauma, I stopped at a little Navajo convenience store, dead center between Farmington and Albuquerque, to lie on the concrete floor and call for an ambulance, and prayed for a meteorite to crush me into oblivion to escape my trial.

Long story short, I discovered, through several other slasher flick worthy experiences, that I had developed an intolerance to cranberries. I have had therapy to help me through the mourning process, but I still occasionally weep myself to sleep.

What does this have to do with dating? Everything.

When I tell this story, nobody questions my salivating love of cranberries. People that wouldn’t pick up a cranberry to throw at a monster eating a child, don’t question my food preferences and often commiserate the loss. We can all relate to food preferences, likes, dislikes, and severe abhorrences. Why do we treat dating preferences differently?

I spoke of a flavor profile in my “The Plan of Relation: dating in the LDS community” using a metaphor of ice cream. I have had a number of conversations about it since. These conversations have solidified my belief that dating preferences are the same as food preferences, well, mostly metaphorically. I have kissed a few ladies that reminded me of eating macaroni and cheese with stewed tomatoes and canned tuna fish. That is to say, gross.

There are so far only three foods I cannot eat: the aforementioned macaroni and cheese level of Dante’s hell, uni (sea urchin sushi), and…….stuffing. I can’t stand stuffing. People are usually surprised by my dislike of stuffing – it is a texture and a psychological thing. Soggy bread-like textures make me gag and memories associated with my distaste for stuffing make me anxious.

I respect other people’s preferences in food, but I also respect their preferences in dating. I know I am not everyone’s preference, so if I am rejected, sure it smarts, but I don’t question it, nor do I try to fit their preference. No matter how much I want a cranberry, I can’t make it anything other than a cranberry. Cranberry flavored stuffing is neither going to satiate my love of cranberries, nor mask my distaste for stuffing. So why would I try to be something I am not in order to fit with someone I don’t appeal to? And, even more so, why would I want someone I see as stuffing as they try to don a cranberry suit. I just don’t.

I hear often from men and women alike, that when they give the “thanks, but no thanks,” a battery of questions ensue. Just accept it and move on. Do you really want to be with someone that doesn’t like your flavor? No matter how many times I am told that I just haven’t had the right stuffing, or I should try their Nana’s secret Appalachian opossum stuffing, I am not interested in trying someone’s stuffing. I. Don’t. Like. It.

Then you have relationships. Relationships are like steak. I love steak, but my absolute preference is filet mignon. However, even when having steak, you won’t always have a great steak experience. Sometimes it is filet mignon, the best, but I have had some not so great filets, too. Filet is expensive and cannot be expected at every dining experience, so I am fine with lesser cuts of steak. I call that “life.” A relationship cannot always be the best filet mignon experience. Sometimes it is a New York Strip, sometimes a Five Guys hamburger can be exciting and enough, but I know that there are ups and downs even within the wide range of dead, burnt cow on a bun or plate.

However, I see so many people immediately question their relationship in the face of challenges or frustrating experiences. If you had three bad experience among 50 at an Outback, do you stop eating at Outback forever? No, you chalk it up to experience, you give the employees the benefit of a doubt, and accept the manager’s apology and comping of the meal. But, in our relationships, one bad burger means we need to suddenly go vegan. Of course, if that experience gave you food poisoning, you may go vegan for awhile just to feel safe again. I did so after a food poisoning with clams. When I felt ready and safe again, I went back to exploring different foods again and pursuing the perfect steak, but I couldn’t eat clams again – I developed an intolerance.

We should accept other’s preferences in dating, and hold to ours, as we do food preferences. We all have a flavor profile of what is absolute and what is flexible. Embrace yours, but be willing to recognize that a few bad or less great experiences doesn’t mean the whole genre of food is bad.

Just as we explore our food preferences and discover new ones, we should explore our dating preferences with the mind that we may develop new ones too. However, we should equally be willing to allow others without challenge, their preferences. Cajoling is never sexy, wether offering your company or offering me stuffing. Be confident in your preferences, yet open. Be willing to be rejected, without self deprecation.

Be the food you are. The right diner will find their way to your table and never want to leave.