Relationships and The Taco Salad

>> Friday, February 15, 2008

Relationships are like a Taco Salad. Well, sometimes -- at least for me.

Please, hear me out.

About a year ago, I went to a cafeteria on campus where I work. For the first time, I ordered a Taco Salad. The Taco Salad Assembler pieced together the elements of my salad (beans, rice, beef, lettuce, salsa verde, sour cream, guacamole) and handed it to me in a crispy, greasy taco bowl.

It was good. Really good. I even ate the bowl.

I went back the next week and ordered it again. And then again the following week. Then one day as the Taco Salad Assembler began to scoop out the beans, I said “Just a little beans, please. Thanks.” So he gave me a small scoop of beans.

The next time, I walked up to the counter and said, “Just a little beans and extra lettuce, please. Thanks.” I got fewer beans and extra lettuce.

Pretty soon, I walked up to the counter with a mental script in my head: “I’ll have just a few beans, lots of lettuce, extra sauce, not so much rice, I’d like the lettuce after the beans, rice and meat, but not before the sauces...” Etceteras. Etceteras. The Taco Salad Assembler stared at me with a spoon in one hand and a weary expression on his face. But he gave me everything I wanted. The Taco Salad was perfect. I thought I was happy.

But I wasn’t.

Now, ordering a taco salad is a stressful ordeal. I’m stressed when I see who’s behind the counter because I know that person is not as helpful as the other Assembler. I’m stressed when I see that two Assemblers are talking and I know they won’t be listening to me. I’m stressed that the Assembler’s concept of “extra lettuce” will differ from my own. I’m so stressed that by the time I get my salad, I’m barely able to digest it.

Welcome to my world.

Really, I just want to put on some gloves, step behind the counter, and make the damn thing myself. I want total and complete control. I want this salad to be the exact perfect expression of what I want and need in a crispy taco bowl.

And there's the rub.

Now, without truly meaning to, I’ve managed to prevent myself from enjoying my Taco Salad. Instead of creating a life Taco Salad, I’ve created a monster. There’s no spontaneity, no creativity, no variety. Because I have this idea of what I want, there’s little opportunity for the salad to express itself by, say, having no guacamole one day, or no rice. All I know is, if it’s not what I ordered, I’m irritated and grumpy.

I remember the good old days when I ordered a Taco Salad and I loved it for what it was. I was thrilled to even have a Taco Salad. Who cared if it had too many beans or too little rice some days? It was still an awesome salad. Sometimes it came with extra spicy sauce and I was like, wow, fantastic! And sometimes there wasn’t very much lettuce, but it still tasted great.

So you see, the problem with my Taco Salad isn’t with the Assemblers or even the salad, itself. It’s with me. I’ve gone all Dr. Frankenstein, trying to play God to my salad, and by trying to control it, I’ve eliminated its life spark. And that’s not good. Because we all know what happened to Dr. Frankenstein, don’t we?

So the next time I visit the cafeteria, I’m going to erase all scripts from my mind. I’m going to walk up to the counter and say, “I’ll have a Taco Salad.” And then I’m going to look away. It will be hard, but that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to tweak. Or control. Or micromanage. Because I know that no matter what happens behind the counter, I’m still going to get a Taco Salad. And it will be good. Damn good.

Sometimes it’s best just to close our eyes and have a little... faith.


Anonymous,  February 15, 2008 at 11:49 AM  

Awesome post! It really made me think. There's something to be said for waiting to see what life 'dishes up'. Thanks for that reminder!

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare February 15, 2008 at 3:55 PM  

I'd like to think you wrote this just for me, but I know you and I have this lovely quality in common. Just change it from Mexican food to Chinese (stir fry perhaps?) and you have described my biggest fault as well. Well done (but too much lettuce):-) !

Dawn February 16, 2008 at 8:26 AM  

Nice. Very nice. And faith, I could use a little faith.

Christina February 17, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

"Hello, my name is Christina and I am a control freak, too!" Thanks for the post! I will try not to specify my orders in life so much - it has just the right amount of lettuce. :-)

Michele February 18, 2008 at 2:36 PM  

I'm laughing so hard Melissa because I do the exact same thing with the Taco Salad in my company cafeteria. I order mine without meat, which really confuses one of the TS Assemblers and there are days that I really, really want to get a Taco Salad but don't because I see that Assember A is behind the counter and I just know it's going to be a hassle to get what I want without a look of "what, no meat, what in the world is wrong with you lady." Hmmm maybe it really is a lot like relationships : )

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