An acquired taste by Rebecca Crichton, Seattle, Washington
Today, as I sprayed my electric stovetop with the all-purpose cleaner I bought recently, I breathed in the distinct disinfectant smell and found it pleasurable. When I got the bottle a few weeks ago and used it for the first time, I hated it. I was determined to exchange it for the familiar lemon scent I had used in the past.
I never managed that particular return for all the reasons that get in the way of doing only one thing in a store as opposed to multiple errands which make shopping excursions worthwhile. I kept using it and each time, I found it less offensive until I now I like it. I actually look forward to it.
It’s just another of those little life lessons that reminds me about how we adjust, accommodate and learn to accept things that we initially rejected.
I think about how that works with kids and food. They might start out with a limited number of things they like and then bit by bit they learn to like a wider variety of things. I know I am not alone when I watched my daughter through the White Food Phase – pasta, potatoes, ice cream.
(I actually think that might be a particular Middle Class American story. I assume Indian kids eat curry from early on and Chinese kids eat congee with fermented beans.)
I acknowledge that some of my friends might even be considered Acquired Tastes. When first encountered, they seem odd and/or difficult. I’ve been told I have a high tolerance for high maintenance people – most often by others who are on that same end of the spectrum – but all of them have redeeming attributes and we find mutually compatible ways to be together, so I accept what works and let go of what doesn’t.
In this – what should we call it? – renewed, continuing, never-ending Covid phase, most of us have adapted to keeping our masks at hand, staying at a distance, and brandishing our vaccination certificates when prompted. We have discovered the masks that make us happy, going from cloth to pleated fiber to neon-colored N95s. Lately, as the cold weather has burned our eyes and caused our noses to drip, we are even keeping our masks on to stay warm.
Now I like wearing my mask outside. It creates a little tent of warmth around my mouth and nose which feels friendly and personal.
These acquired habits have become familiar and reassuring. The ways I interact with friends, some of whom I can no longer hug freely, or casually invite to meet on Zoom, were never in my repertoire of behaviors before the past two years.
I don’t know that we are the better for them, but I believe we can take some heart in being reminded that we do learn, we can change old behaviors we thought were ours for life. We can ‘go with the flow,’ a phrase I think was popular back in my Hippie days.
I was about to say we had no choice. But of course, we do. We know people who have not made those choices of change and see the suffering and loss as a result of that.
They make me angry and I get riled up. I know that isn’t good for my brain or my heart. I think I need to acquire a new habit of compassion for myself and others. I can remind myself to “smell the disinfectant”! Or not!