She's a meat-eater; he's vegan. She likes salads; he lives on hot dogs and Cheez Whiz. These are examples of real-life couples whose pairings make no sense to me. Because I could not love a person (romantically) who would never eat vegetables. Or if I did love them, I would consider it star-crossed. Uh, broccoli-crossed.
I know. Taste is relative. It takes all kinds. Accepting every (harmless) possible iteration of weirdness should be a goal of all humanity. And yet? I could never be with someone who was fundamentally opposed to certain aspects of my existence I hold dear. I get some of the greatest joy ever out of eating new things, so it would be mad hard for me to embark on a life with someone who wasn't into that, because that is how we would spend a lot of our time and shit?
When we talk about people being well matched for love, we usually talk about things like shared values, or similar socioeconomic background, or a matched desire to never procreate. Time and time again, we are told that shared values matter more than shared interests. And generally speaking, I agree. Of course, two people can bring diverse interests to each other's lives and deepen their knowledge base and all that crap.
But that crap has to be complementary crap. I don't get how a foodie could be with someone who only eats chicken fingers. I mean, yeah, love happens, and what can you do, but if you can do, I say do yourself a favor and don't in that case.
It is considered immature or shallow to seriously weight in romantic prospects whether you like the same bands, or movies, or TV shows, or vacations, or food. And yeah, maybe we're bad at knowing what would make us happy anyway. But the music you like, the films you seek out, the restaurants you try, these are the things that make up the everyday experience of being alive. This is like, all your freaking downtime. You are what you consume, whether it's prog rock, trashy novels, or tofu.
So I read with horror as a woman recently detailed her experience at The Hairpin of falling in love with someone really great who earnestly loves hair metal. I consider those things contradictory, but OK. Not because I don't get what's great about hair metal — I loved it too, once, and can still enjoy it unironically, but my god we must draw the line somewhere. Earnestly thinking the song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" is "great" without caveats is simply too much:
"Kill me now," I growled, as the syrupy strains of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" began to leak from speakers above our heads. "Just put me out of my misery."
While I smirked the smirk of the hardened snob, Eric grinned and said guilelessly that it was his favorite song.
"Really?" I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Oh my God, yes."
"You like Poison?"
"They're awesome," he said.
"You mean in a 'nostalgia for your lost youth' sort of way? Not in a 'they're actually good musicians' way. Like sometimes you need a break from the Decemberists, right?"
"Who're the Decemberists?"
Sorry, but #nope. I know what you're going to say. You're such a snob! Or, you're such a dick! Or, you're going to miss out on wonderful people because you actually care if they like Poison the correct way or not! But whatever, you probably won't date someone who looks like a cast member of Jersey Shore even if they had a heart of gold. If the heart wants what it wants, this heart wanted a great someone who gets which music can and should be appreciated ironically, or is at least prepared to debate why or why not. That's valid! I could try to love someone in spite of it I'm sure, but I would be real annoyed the whole time.
So when I read this other essay on dissonant love matches called Love You, Hate Your Food over at HuffPo, I was again intrigued. In it, Holly Leber includes a veritable food spreadsheet (well, food photo series) of dishes she lovingly prepared which include a rainbow-colored assortment of vegetables, nutrition and flavor that were outright rejected by her significant other, a person who exists and is named Joe.
I love plates filled with every color of the rainbow. He prefers food that comes in shades of beige, brown and white. I'm a vegetarian-leaning lady who swoons at farmers' markets and hasn't eaten red meat since 1992. He's a meat and potatoes man who wouldn't eat a Brussels sprout to win a bet. Yeah. It's not just that he eats meat and I don't. He. Doesn't. Eat. Vegetables. He is confounded as to how I can not only eat, but relish, homemade green smoothies and what he refers to as "big piles of leaves." (Some of us call those "salads.")
She goes on to clarify that it's not as if she thinks her habits are "good" and his are "bad," but more so that it's just really really annoying. And who would disagree with her?
We sometimes end up spending more money on groceries than if we ate all the same things. One could argue that our food budget would be greatly reduced if I would eat TV dinners or hamburgers, but I'm going to claim moral high ground here (also I'm the one writing this, so who's going to stop me?) and state that kale and fennel are better investments than Steak-Ummms and Lucky Charms. It also means that we often end up using more dishes than if we weren't cooking separately, so that's a bit annoying.
You guys, he wouldn't eat lovingly prepared ROASTED VEGETABLE FRITTATA!
Look, some of the more romantic among us are maybe thinking, but what is that but a small price to pay for the bounty that is LOVE? But what I am thinking is ugh, can't go to any cool new experimental restaurants or even get through a grocery shopping excursion with ol' Lucky Charms. GET ME OUT OF HERE. One can only be so annoyed and still love, amirite? In fact, the perfect balance of love is when the annoyance is just high enough to remind you that you're both different, but simultaneously just low enough to not overtake the actual love part. You can trademark that insight.
In the end, because she bafflingly loves him in spite of the frittata betrayal, they manage to cover all the bases, dining-wise, at Indian and Mexican restaurants. She admits it has led to cheating: She has resorted to actual subterfuge to hide blended veggies in things like pasta sauce. It's a wonder it works at all. But it's no surprise the common ground they found is in pineapple pizza, because that is pretty much the "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" of good songs.
But hey, to each his or her own (plate of beige).
GIF illustration by Tara Jacoby.