With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's no surprise that we are inundated with ads and hucksters pushing us to spend exorbitant amounts of money on all sorts of useless trinkets to give to the people we love. It's a particularly stressful and annoying time for single people, who are made to feel inferior by merchants pushing goods that are designed for couples.
Let's face it. Valentine's day is a couple's day. At least that's the message we get from all the jewelry, flowers, and candy commercials saturating the airwaves. It seems the whole point of Valentine's Day is to find a significant other, then spend lots of money on useless things to prove just how much you love that someone.
When I was a child, Valentine's wasn't a big holiday. Sure, we made cards at school to give to our parents and made one for the teacher. But it just didn't seem like a big deal; it was just another art project whose theme happened to be love. I mean, if you wanted to show a loved one that you really loved them, you didn't need a special holiday for that. You just told them that you loved them and did nice things for them on any (and every) day.
Jewelry is shiny but isn't necessary to prove your love; flowers are pretty year round and whenever they bloom, but they shouldn't be limited to special occasions only; and holidays aren't the only time to enjoy candy--because candy makes any day a holiday!
It boggles my mind to see how Valentine's has morphed from a sweet holiday celebrating love to a profit driven commercial enterprise that aims to make as much money possible by playing on people's fears and insecurities. It used to be that homemade notes and cards were wonderful ways to celebrate Valentine's, to let the people you love know that you loved them. But now it's a lot more stressful and annoying, especially for single people.
It's bad enough dealing with pushy merchants trying to make a buck by promoting a holiday focused on couples and buying useless things for the significant other. It's even worse when your well meaning, deluded couple friends try to set you up with a stranger. And it's not because they care about you and don't want you to feel lonely. Nope. The reality is, your couple friends are looking for another couple to do couples things with.
Here's the truth. When you become a couple, you can't hang out with your single friends and do the same fun things you used to do when you were single. No. Your situation is different. The rules have changed. You're a couple now, and couples do couples things with other couples. And couples don't mingle with the singles.
It's the natural way of things. Single people can do whatever they want to do, freely and independently. When you're a couple, you have to consider your partner. The decisions you make affect the both of you, and you need your partner's input to make important choices. Priorities and operating modes are different for singles and couples. There are things that single people do that are not conducive to couples--things like staying out late, or going out of town, and, more importantly, meeting and socializing (and mating) with other people without checking for permission.
There's nothing wrong with being single. Just like there's nothing wrong with being a couple. I've been one or the other a few times, and both have their ups and downs. And I'm fine with both. When I'm single, I enjoy it; and when I'm with someone, I cherish it. Although, listening to my friends, especially the female ones, as we were enjoying a backyard BBQ, I may have a problem with relationships. This was pointed out to me during a lively discussion. More specifically, my friends addressed me as "the love slayer."
In other words, "...the relationship killer."
I was aghast! "Me? A relationship killer?"
"Yes, you," stated my friend, the girl with a gardenia flower in her hair. Gardenia continued, "You are a relationship killer. You know what else we call you? Hurricane Heartbreak, because you've destroyed more happy homes than a super typhoon demolishing an overcrowded, low lying, gawd forsaken, developing country. Home wrecker! That's what you are!"
I was absolutely flabbergasted at these false accusations and insults on my character. "How dare you! I've never been a home wrecker!" At which point they all laughed out loudly. So I had to redirect, "Except for those few times when I was not aware the other person was all ready in a relationship."
That only made them laugh louder and cry out, "Liar!!!" and "Quick! Fetch the fire extinguisher, because his pants are on fire!"
So I had to clarify. "Yes, I may have fooled around with a few married women when I was younger. But that was totally consensual and very stupid on my part."
"Yes, we can all agree that you're very stupid," acclaimed the girl with the pearl earrings. And the rest of them joined Pearl, jeering at me like a pack of ravenous hyenas feasting on my mortification.
Bastards! Still, I had to defend my honor, "Anyway, that was a long time ago. And I've not done anything as stupid since then." That just got me more ridiculous laughs.
I insisted, "I am much more mature and so much wiser now." But that only made the harpies laugh even louder. I pressed on, "I have been nothing but supportive of your relationships!"
"Bitch, please," hollered the girl with the star necklace. Star said, "You are NOT supportive! You're pretty damn destructive!"
The others laughed in agreement, which only made me annoyed. I challenged, "Name one instance where I supposedly destroyed your relationship!"
"You destroyed my relationship," Gardenia answered. She mentioned some fella's name. But I drew a blank, having no clue who she was talking about.
"Last summer?" She hinted. But still, I had no idea who she was talking about. Exasperated, she said, "The Italian chef I met at the museum function?"
I shrugged my shoulders; I still couldn't recall who she was referring to.
Then my friend wearing a t-shirt with a sun emblem, Sunny, exclaimed, "Bruschetta!"
And then it all came back to me. The Chef! Of course! How could I have forgotten? I suddenly remembered Chef from last summer. Has it been so long?
Gardenia continued, "Of course you wouldn't remember him. Because that's how you operate. You destroy people and move on and totally forget about them and the huge mess you leave behind! You were a total ass to him!"
I was offended! "Excuse me!?! I don't recall ever destroying Chef, much less being an ass towards him. If anything, I behaved very well and treated him kindly!"
But the guffaws of my friends were an unexpected indication that I was anything but nice to Chef. This did not bode well for me. Sunny wiped a tear from his eye and said, "Dude! Have you forgotten about brisket?"
And suddenly, it all came back to me, and no I did NOT forget about brisket! As a matter of fact, my blood still boils when I think about brisket! Which is probably why I had shuffled off Chef and all associated memories of him into the dark oblivion vault of my mind.
But thinking about Chef now made me recall what had gone down, and my friends made sure that I would remember and examine every agonizing detail. And before this BBQ was over, I would make a disturbing discovery about myself. I was about to learn things that would make question who I was and shake me to the core. I was not the same person I thought I was. And I certainly didn't like what I learned and who I had become. The truth hurts, and I was about to learn just how painful the truth was.
Chef was from the East Coast. He relocated here recently and was going to culinary school to become a professional. I'm not entirely sure if it was his own personality or if it was something they taught in school, but he was a bit of a snob. Our first meeting did not go well.
Gardenia had brought him along to join us for dinner at a nice restaurant that specialized in Southwestern cuisine. We all made introductions, and being courteous, we asked Chef what he did. And he proceeded to tell us that he was studying to be a professional chef, and he planned to run a fine dining establishment.
I'm not sure if he was trying to impress us with his knowledge or maybe he was just opinionated, but Chef started to point out the things that he thought were wrong with the restaurant we were in. There was nothing wrong with this restaurant. It's a really nice place, and it is one of our fave hangouts. The food is great, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and happy. And the drinks come in all sorts of fun colors and combinations. Some even come with tiny paper umbrellas that made them more festive and fun to drink.
But the more Chef drank, the more he droned on about how the menu was wrong or the decor was sub par. We, on the other hand, loved the vibe and flavors and energy of the restaurant. But Chef didn't appreciate the vibrant colors nor the festive, fiesta ambience. So we politely nodded and tried to change the conversation.
Unfortunately, as the evening went on, Chef became more judgmental to the point of being annoying. He bragged about other fine dining places he had eaten at, using them as some sort of benchmark. He complained about how a fine dining restaurant would've had white linen table cloths, the wait staff would've been dressed in formal wear, and the music would've been classier--or was it classical? Honestly, at this point I was trying to tune him out.
But any chance of me ignoring Chef was gone the minute they brought out our dinner orders and Chef pointed to me and said, "You ordered your steak wrong."
I was like, "Excuse me?" Was he talking to me?
"I said you ordered your steak wrong," he replied. Yup. He sure was talking to me. I raised an eyebrow as Chef continued, "You ordered your steak well done. Steak should be ordered rare."
Okay. So I told him, "Well, I ordered my steak well done, because I like the taste of a well done steak."
The polite thing to do would've been to agree to disagree and move on. But this dude was anything but polite. He pressed on, "You don't know what you're talking about. The best way to eat steak is to have it rare."
So I retorted, "No the best way to eat steak is to have it chicken fried! But I all ready had chicken fried steak for lunch. And for dinner, I want to eat a well done steak with a nice caramelized crust and a grilled, smoky flavor."
By now, everyone at the table was quiet and observing us closely. Chef looked at me, then said, "Well, you're holding your fork in the wrong hand. The fork should be switched to your right hand after you've cut the food with the knife. You're holding the fork in the left hand, and that's wrong. You should switch the fork to the right hand to pick up the food."
Say what? Was this dude for real? First, he complains about the perfectly good restaurant, then he insults my food order, and now he criticizes how I hold my silverware? Oh, hell, no! This mofo was messing with the wrong person! At this point, I was tempted to stab this rude jackass with my fork right in his smug face!
But I reined myself in and said, "The fork stays in the left hand while you cut the food with the knife in your right hand. That's the most natural way, especially for most right handed people. It's efficient. There is no need to waste time and energy switching the fork from the left hand to the right just to pick up the food and put it in your mouth. Seriously, if you can't get the food from the fork to your mouth without switching hands, then you are definitely NOT ready to use utensils NOR should you be allowed cut up your own meals!"
My friends laughed out loud at that. And I joined them. I reminded myself to play nice and relax. And soon enough, we moved on and talked about other things. I wish I could say that Chef and I had reached an understanding. But honestly, it was a truce, and it was a fragile one at that. There was just something about Chef that just rubbed me the wrong way; but I decided to give him a chance and hoped we could get along better. Unfortunately, the more time I spent with Chef, the more he got on my nerves.
Chef had an obsession with Italian food. It was no fun going to restaurants and cafes with this guy, as he criticized every meal we ate that wasn't at an Italian themed place. In his bloated opinion, Italian food was the top cuisine in all the world. Never mind that the Italian cuisine he was praising was actually Italian-American, not true Italian.
Dishes like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan were invented and created in America by Italian immigrants. The Italian immigrants didn't have access to their Old World ingredients, so they adapted and made new dishes--heavy with tomato sauce, cheese, and meat--by using local, new, available American products found in the cities these immigrants settled in.
And that's the beauty and genius of American cuisine: It's the creation of new dishes by immigrants and natives no longer limited nor bound by the rules and traditions of the Old World. Here, they can create something new, something amazing, something born of local, new, marvelous ingredients and imagination. You won't find spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan in Italy. And that's okay. It's perfectly fine, fantastic food and a splendid example of the possibilities, inventiveness, and deliciousness of American cuisine. Anything is possible! Dare to dream big! Be free to experiment and create!
But for the annoying Chef, it was all Italian all the way--even if the "Italian" dishes he was bragging about had no origin in Italy nor would they be recognized in Italy as regional cuisine. He did bring some "authentic Italian" dishes to our potlucks, but honestly, I wasn't very impressed with Chef's cooking. And his instructions and directions on how to make certain dishes were terrible and led to wasteful, gawd awful tasting food.
I was glad Chef was taking classes at culinary school. He could definitely use the lessons on how to cook food. And he needed to pay particular attention in class when they taught food culture and history and talk about where certain foods come from. It was getting irritating to hear Chef make these silly proclamations about what foods were Italian and how food should be prepared.
Dude, I don't need you to make my food choices for me. I know what I like to eat, and truthfully, I don't care much for pasta. Pasta is like rice and bread--it takes up valuable meat space from the plate! Give me a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and I'll only eat the meatballs...No joke, I skip the spaghetti to make room for more delicious meatballs.
If Chef wasn't complaining about the food, he was making crazy comparisons about how certain foods, even dishes like sushi or tacos, were somehow--in his insane mind--Italian inspired! Surely, he was joking! But if he wasn't, well, that just made his silly outbursts even more ridiculous, like when he insisted that potstickers were Italian in origin! No, dude, potstickers are a Chinese invention, and have been a part of the Asian cuisine for well over a thousand years. Besides, any culture who had access to flour could make their own dumplings.
Chef insisted that Italian food is the greatest cuisine ever and that the Italians were the first to create dishes like pasta, tomato sauce, and bruschetta out of original Italian ingredients. Whatever, dude. Most times, we ignored his crazy outbursts. Clearly, this dude was nuts. And to be frank, his crazy ideas and beliefs gave the rest of us a good laugh, because the things he spouted were just outrageous and hilarious. Most of the time, we just let him run on and laughed at his silly declarations.
But when he had the audacity to proclaim that Texas BBQ brisket was an Italian inspired creation, all hell broke loose! We all stopped what we were doing and looked at him with a collective 'Aw, hell no! Mofo, you've done lost your damned mind!'
Maybe because I was tired from finishing a long, exhausting week of work that required many long hours on the road. And maybe because I had just done five shots of tequila and was working on my second margarita--I was feeling a buzz. Or maybe I was finally fed up with this jackass and his crap. But the minute Chef opened his mouth and claimed that brisket was an Italian dish, I put down my margarita, looked him straight in the eye, and I said in a calm, clear, and direct manner, "Listen here and listen closely."
Everyone at the table got quiet as the tension built up. I made sure to hold Chef's gaze as I continued in a serious and stern manner, "Brisket is NOT an Italian creation. It is an original Texas BBQ creation, created and eaten by the locals and cowboys who lived and roamed in this great state long before there was even a country called Italy! Do they have cowboys out riding in wide open ranges in Italy? No. Do they have sprawling cattle ranches and long cattle drives in Italy? No. Are there post oaks, pecan, hickory, and mesquite trees grown in Italy for smoking BBQ? No. Maybe you didn't know. Maybe you were misinformed. But let me tell you, here and now, so that you'll know for sure, that brisket, Texas brisket, was born and created here, and it is NOT, I repeat, NOT an Italian inspired creation!"
I could've stopped there, but Chef challenged me with a "Whatever, man. You don't know what you're talking about."
So I had to put the smack down on him and reply, "No, you don't know what you're talking about! Texas brisket is an original, regional creation, with no connection to Italian food whatsoever! And while we're at it, let me clarify a few more things for you. The Chinese have been making and eating pasta and noodle dishes since at least 3000 BC, long before there were Romans in Italy, long before there were Etruscans in Italy."
"And a tomato sauce is just a cooked salsa without the spicy, hot chiles. This part of the world is the home origin of the tomato and chiles, including bell peppers! And the people here have been making all sorts of tomato and chile sauces for thousands of years. The Italians just figured out how to add tomato sauce to pasta in the late 18th century, about 300 years after Columbus landed in America and started shipping tomatoes, chiles, and other New World spices and produce back to Europe. So the tomatoes and chiles and bell peppers that make the tomato sauces all originated here, in the Americas, not Italy."
"And for your information, there's nothing new or unique or even special about bruschetta. Any bread making culture in the world has their own version. In the English speaking world, we call it toast!"
I ended my lecture to the applause and laughter of everyone at the table. Everyone laughed, except for Chef who looked dumbfounded. The rest of the night was kind of a blur of more drinks and laughter. And that was the last time that I actually saw Chef. And after that night, it was like he didn't exist for me anymore. And I haven't thought of him since.
Gardenia said, "You were so mean to him."
"Me? Mean to him!?!", I was incredulous! "That dude was a total jackass! He was a braggart and a snob! And I was way too patient with him!"
"You made him feel uncomfortable around the group. You made him feel stupid," replied Gardenia.
"No, I didn't," I argued, "He made himself look stupid!"
"You weren't very nice to him," said Gardenia.
"I can either play nice or be kind. And kindness means telling the truth," I replied.
"Well your kind of kindness killed my relationship," said Gardenia. "Kindness also means knowing when to shut your big fat trap! Didn't anyone ever teach you that if you have nothing nice to say, then you shouldn't say anything at all?"
I answered, "Hey, if you wanted me to be nice and lie, then y'all shouldn't have gotten me all those tequila shots. I'd've been sober and kept my mouth shut."
"But you're a hell of lot more fun when you're drunk!", cheered Sunny! And the others joined him in laughter.
"Yeah, well you can't blame it all on the alcohol," said Pearl, "Because you were perfectly sober when you managed to ruin my relationship."
And she proceeded to present her case against me, presenting evidence and her testimony of how I callously destroyed her relationship and exhibited absolutely no remorse for my cold, calculating actions.
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