Marriage is Like Macaroni and Cheese

I had to laugh at my valentine card from my husband…it describes the daily monotony of trying to figure out dinner, in our town of not so many great choices, amidst lives that are constantly busy. Today seemed like the perfect time to finish a thought that came to me a while ago, but had been simmering on low heat for a while…

Are you a person who likes comfort, dependability, a steady routine? Or are you someone who always needs to change things up? Like the social-experiment studies about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, in which certain personality traits are assigned to those that prefer the peanut butter to be in a higher ratio as compared to the jelly, and vice versa, there may be something to be said for your food choices, what they say about you as a person, and as a potential mate.

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Warm and soft, easy to eat, a universal favorite. It is a go-to for days and nights when you can’t think of anything else: easy to make, easy to warm up as a leftover. Something you can fall back on, time and again.

Marriage is like that, or at least, I think most people believe it should be. Spending a long time with the same person, getting to know them so well that you no longer need to consult the recipe, because you know it by heart, and it just comes naturally. Dependable, hard to mess up. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to make it from scratch, and you just lame out and prepare a boxed version, but it still usually fits the bill. And not to say that you can’t occasionally spice up the macaroni and cheese by throwing in a little lobster and Gruyère, or dress it up by serving it in an actual bowl, rather than eating out of the pan. That can be nice, from time to time. You can even call it something different, say, baked ditalini with red sauce, if that makes you feel better. But like any tried and true favorite, you can enjoy it again and again, in its most basic form.

However, if you are a person who turns their nose up to a steady diet of macaroni and cheese, and insists on new and exotic flavors as often as possible, then marriage may not be for you. If you need to mix it up with sushi, and then a meal of frisee salad with baby octopus tentacles, and the next day chickpea and cauliflower curry, then you may be a person for whom marriage would ultimately become intolerable doldrums. If you thrive on drama and change, you better look for someone else who thrives on those, too, and then make sure your tango steps stay in concert with each other, or one of you will be out the door, following the next foodie trend.

If you are going to be married, be prepared to ignore special occasions, and the traditional and obligatory meals associated with them. Be prepared to eat hot dogs at the movie theater on Christmas Eve, because you are young and poor and living far from home, and it is your first Christmas far away from family. Be prepared to eat drive-through burgers for Thanksgiving dinner, because you just had to squeeze in one last family getaway because your son is moving to New Zealand the next day, and home is still a seven hour drive away. Be content with take-out teriyaki on Valentine’s Day, because someone had to drive your son to baseball practice, someone had to pick up the dog, someone had to go to the bank, and you both had to work late.

There will be days of plenty, if you are lucky, and a sprinkling of meals of seafood and steak and fancy salads. Nights when you can dress up, go out, and enjoy something new. That is certainly enjoyable, on occasion, but if you are like most people, you will get drowsy, your fancy shoes will start to pinch, and you will long for the moment when you can come home, kick off those shoes, and plop down on the couch and watch TV in peace.

For me, the idea that I can sit down, night after night, and enjoy the same person, the same meals, the same conversation, the same warmth and comfort and ingredients, feels like marriage. It feels cozy and warm and comforting. It feels dependable and trustworthy. It feels good to know that person, like a favorite comfort food, will always be there to make me feel satisfied. That it’s no big deal if we didn’t spend another Hallmark holiday fighting the crowds for a rushed and overpriced meal, just because we are conditioned to think it must be so. Because that Christmas Eve hot dog meal many years ago was shared, and that we still laugh at the story. We may have missed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but we were together as a family, enjoying our time together and laughing all the way home.

The inside of my valentine from my husband read “As long as I’m with you, I’m where I want to be.” My sentiments exactly. And if we get tired of macaroni and cheese, we can always go out for tacos…together.

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