My mom likes to tell two stories from my childhood that are illustrative of my fastidiousness. Both relate to food. In the first, we are at a local diner with my aunt. My aunt eats one of my french fries. I am affronted; I demand that she give it back. Of course, she can’t. In the second story, a different aunt is making me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She spreads the peanut butter on the bread. Then she spreads the jam on the other piece of bread. Then I FREAK OUT. I tell her that she is making it wrong, that is not how my mom makes it, you are supposed to put the jam on top of the peanut butter.
Many years later, my older sister Laurie tells me that our niece Caitlin, my sister Erica’s daughter, “puts her in mind of” me. I say that I don’t see it.
But a few days later, during the same visit to Michigan, I spend the afternoon with Erica’s kids. They are watching me while I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I tried to make them eat something healthy, truly I did, but they insisted and I cracked). Anyway, so I am spreading the peanut butter on the bread. Then I am spreading jam on top of the peanut butter. And then Caitlin FREAKS OUT. “Ewwwwww! You’re putting the jam ON TOP OF the peanut butter? That’s gross!” I hear in her voice the particular tightness that comes with the frustration of strong aversion. She tells me I’m not supposed to make it like that; that’s not how her mom makes it; that’s gross (again) and she doesn’t want to eat it. I say, “Okay, Haylee can eat this one.” Haylee says that’s gross and she doesn’t want to eat it, and can I make hers the right way?
I decide to be egalitarian, and I make all of the sandwiches my way, explaining that sometimes people do things differently from the way that we like to do them ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I tell them that they just need to get used to the fact that people are different and do things differently and sometimes it will seem uncomfortable, etc., etc. I cannot pass up an opportunity to lecture little kids, apparently. I give them their sandwiches; they eat them. Then they run off to play.