There’s a scene in Runaway Bride in which Richard Gere challenges Julia Roberts on how she likes her eggs. In his infinite wisdom and clever investigative reporting, his character has realized that Julia Roberts’ character always eats her eggs however the man in her life best likes them–poached, scrambled, sunny-side up, etc.
To me, that scene always seemed so poignant. It was an example of how important it is to keep true to yourself in a relationship. I vowed never to be the sort of person who would just adopt the tastes or interests of the person I was with. And while I allowed myself to be open to the interests they shared with me, to learn more about art and music and politics and games and sports from their tastes and interests, I believed I held true to that.
The part of that scene I failed to understand was that Julia Roberts’ character didn’t know how she liked her eggs either. She has a grand tasting session, trying several types to determine what she prefers. In other words, it wasn’t that she changed her tastes to match those of her beaus, it’s that she never developed her taste independently of them in the first place!
The other morning, as I was cooking breakfast, I began marveling that I enjoy my eggs over easy now. I never used to like runny yolk. I grew up with scrambled eggs topped with ketchup. At worst, during visits to Missouri, my grandma would make my eggs over-hard. In my last relationship, my now-ex knew how I preferred my eggs. However, there may have been one time in which he prepared scrambled eggs and ketchup. He was an over-easy guy and that was it. And so, as I preferred my eggs one way but didn’t truly care that much, I never protested. I learned to like over easy as much as I was capable.
I didn’t lose large portions of my identity in the relationship. I just allowed my preferences to become optional. Instead of attending Shakespeare on the Green, we stayed in and watched sports. Every time I mentioned something I wanted to do, it became a “one day” on a list that we’d never pull out again. I liked him. I was happy hanging out with him. I was happy watching hockey and playing games. However, relationships should be about give and take–not just give. For every weekend I spent camping, he probably owed me a night at the opera.
Many many factors contributed to the demise of the aforementioned relationship. My inability to insist upon equal time for my interests and equal attention to my preferences was not even among the final straws. (Though I do want to point out that once, during a disagreement about how he was never romantic, he told me that he had been romantic the week before because he remembered I liked eel sushi, so we ordered a piece when we were out… How could any woman resist being swept off her feet with such chivalry!?)
But this was maybe one of the most important lessons of the relationship. Similar to Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” I’d like to posit that “No one can ignore your taste in eggs unless you let them.” Relationships are give and take, and when you’re a giver, people don’t always realize how much they’re taking. Life is about balance. Give and be generous, but stand up for yourself or you’ll lose yourself in catering to everyone else. You owe it to yourself to know how you like your eggs. Try other types of eggs, be open to change, and, if necessary, scramble them yourself.