Monday, June 9, 2014

Changing Taste Buds

When I was growing up, one of the rules of the house was that we had to at least try a spoonful of everything that was on the dinner table. The saying that usually followed this was, “You never know when your taste buds are going to change.” I’d look down at the cooked spinach on my plate, which always resembled regurgitated grass, and know beyond a doubt that my taste buds would never change enough for me to eat spinach.

And it hasn’t.

However, it has for other things. Corned Beef Hash is another one of those dishes I dreaded as a child, but enjoy it now that I am older, unlike the spinach that looked like it had already been eaten once. Corn Chowder, Potato Soup, and Great Northern Beans are more examples. Black Eyed Peas–the vegetable, not the musical group–can be added to that list, as well. My stomach churned when I saw them sitting on the table. I knew I was going to go to bed wishing we had ordered pizza, instead, and would definitely be needing a bedtime snack. My taste buds triggered my gag reflex when I was younger as I forced these dishes past my palette. I couldn’t wash the taste away fast enough.

Yet, Mom was right–please don’t tell her I said that–and my taste buds didn’t change as much as they matured. I may be wrong in that analogy, but that’s how I see it. When I was a child, I wanted hot dogs, pizza, ice cream, and macaroni and cheese–the good stuff. Those other dishes my mother kept trying to force upon me were what I classified as adult fare, not really suitable for consumption by a child. I still like hot dogs and pizza; ice cream, too, when the girls allow me to have it. Yet, my taste buds have grown up. Now, I can not only stomach those meals, but I actually enjoy them. I even request them on occasion.

I have come to realize that my mother’s rule about food applies to other things in life, as well.  Events that would have bored me to an early grave when I was younger have grown on me as I have, well, grown older. Furthermore, my tastes in clothing, furniture, and hairstyles have changed. Parents who try to dress as their children need a reality check. It’s okay to feel young and act young, but not childish. Or if you’re still stuck in your teenage years three decades later, it’s time for you to grow up and move on.

The same is true with friendships. When we’re younger most of our relationships are shallow. We’re not old enough to understand depth and so we talk without thinking, play our practical jokes and sometimes bounce from clique to clique until we fit in somewhere. Or at least until we are not the low man on the social totem pole.

But then we grow up.  We expect and even demand more out of our friendships and relationships. We want depth of personality and trust. We still want to go out and kick up some dust, but there needs to be more than just Beer Pong and wet T-shirts. We want honest communication, a sharing of thoughts, ideas. Our taste buds have matured and we want the friendships that come with being adults. The person who is always the class clown has become dull. The constant partier is tiresome. There has to come a time where we grow up and assume the mantle of adulthood and all of its responsibilities.

That doesn’t mean become boring and sluggish. Life is to have zest and I still enjoy those nights out drinking and dancing. I’m also great at the practical joke. Yet, I enjoy the other dishes on the adult table–career, family, investing in the future. I can turn away the dishes that do not appeal to me without guilt or regret, because there is plenty that I do enjoy that are good for me. My taste buds have come alive to what life has to offer that I didn’t even know existed when I was a child. I’ve learned not to turn my nose up at things I’ve never tried before and even those things I have attempted before but didn’t particularly care for. As Mom said, “You never know when your taste buds will change.”

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