Fried Tofu, Men’s Outfits and Shoulder Rubs
“Look, look,” Joe, barely five years old, shouted from the back seat of the car.
I turned to see what the commotion was about and realized Joe was pointing out the car window at the hayfield we were driving by. I didn’t see anything unusual. It was just like the thousand other hayfields I’d seen in my life.
“What is it, Joe,” I asked.
“Giant fried tofu squares,” he shouted back excitedly.
It was at that moment I thought our kids might be spending too much time in Boulder.
Joe went to preschool at a place called Alaya while we lived in Boulder and continued there after we moved to Longmont. I can’t say enough good things about the school save for their choice of snacks. The kids were often given tofu, cut in the shape of rectangles, lightly fried in olive oil. To the eye of a five year old it might look like a miniature hay bale.
Joe loves tofu to this day. I can’t stand the stuff.
Hey, I was raised in northwest Kansas. There are just some things that make me uncomfortable. Beans dressed up to be meat is one of those things. I like my meat to be meat.
Early in our marriage, Joni tried to get me to eat something called a “tofu pup” without telling me what it was. I wasn’t fooled for a second and refused to take a bite. It tastes just like a hot dog, Joni protested – further evidence that Joni never appreciated a good hot dog. The tofu pup was grey, skinny and scary. I’ve never completely forgiven Joni for this attempted ruse.
People commenting on my choice of clothes is another thing that makes me uncomfortable. Not long after I began working in Washington, DC a male coworker – originally from L.A. – stopped me in the hall and remarked, “I like your outfit.”
I just looked at him. I had no response. We’d become good enough friends I decided to tell him what was racing through my mind. “Where I grew up,” I began, “men don’t wear outfits. Please don’t ever say something like that to me again.”
Now, he didn’t know how to respond. This is a man who freely admitted that he had his hair cut by a hair stylist – again, he was from L.A. I suppose he too felt as though we had become good enough friends that he could say what was on his mind. After an awkward silence he said, “You’re weird.”
Shoulder rubs by acquaintances… definitely makes me uncomfortable. The traditional handshake suits me just find when it comes to body contact with a people I don’t know well.
The guest speaker at our Rotary Club a couple of weeks ago asked the group to do a warm up exercise before he began his program. I was forced to participate. I was sitting too near to where he stood. I couldn’t slip away to get a second cup of coffee without being obviously rude.
“I would like everyone to stand up and get into a circle… no closer,” the speaker directed.
I knew that whatever was coming next couldn’t be good.
“Turn to the left,” he continued.
I waited in momentary dread.
“Rub the shoulders of the person in front of you,” he said too cheerfully for seven in the morning.
“Argggg,” I thought hoping I wasn’t audible; and it wasn’t because it was talk like a pirate day.
I try to keep an open mind. I try to look at the world from other people’s perspectives. I try to have new experiences.
But please… don’t ask me to eat soybeans in a meat dish; don’t talk about my clothes (unless you’re talking behind my back), and don’t ask me to rub an acquaintance’s shoulders.
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Picture credit: From Oklahoma State Divisions of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources