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White Collar Marries Blue Collar

Alright, I admit it! When I was young, I didn’t appreciate my Barbie corvette, Guess jeans with the zippers on the side of the ankles, Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back or private school education. In fact, I didn’t even remember them until my husband pointed out he didn’t have those things growing up (not that I would want to know about his Barbie doll playing days). Having grown up the daughter of a successful civil engineer and president of a systems integration firm, all of the luxuries that Orange County, Calif., offered were at my disposal.

My father-in-law was an enlisted United States Marine, and my mother-in-law worked pro bono as a domestic engineer, both hailing from a small steel town in West Virginia. Needless to say, our childhoods were polar opposites. He didn’t care for kids “like me” because my “type” was mean and insulting, flaunting what we had like we were the ones earning it.

As a couple that came from different worlds, some ravines and cliffs are challenging to repel. Accepting that and embracing the differences for the betterment of the relationship is not something to set on the back burner. It needs to be cooked and swallowed.

I never realized having different food tastes can cause quarrels between two people, but one of the biggest differences between the white and blue-collar world is food. Studies have shown that society’s classes look at food in different ways. The upper class appreciates and emphasizes the presentation, smaller portions, consistent tastes and choosing a “dining experience.” (My husband just called me a snob.) On the other hand, the middle class somewhat cares for the presentation of food, but portions are larger and tastes are simpler. The lower class cares little for presentation and emphasizes the quantity. My two dads would say, “The only way I will eat a steak is if it is filet mignon,” while my husband says, “The deader the better.” And this is just a snapshot of my dining dilemmas!

If I hadn’t moved out of Southern California, I never would have discovered that most people don’t know what chocolate ganache sauce or Quiche Lorraine is! Apparently, I took for granted all of the five-star dining experiences I have had. But how do we prepare meals for one another when one’s palate has a wide spectrum of tastes, and the other is primary? That’s one of the questions I asked my friend, Alexandra Rosenberg, a licensed clinical social worker.

When asked about how to serve a more tantalizing dish, she said, “That brings to light the challenge that couples face in their struggle with differences. So much divides people. Whether it is food, religion or class, it is still the same struggle and has the same solution—respecting each other’s differences.” Without this respect, rooting for the same team will be impossible.

So, what I think she is saying is, forces beyond each individual’s control, such as being born into a particular socioeconomic class, need to be understood, respected and looked at as a learning experience for us. Loosen up and believe that what the other person likes in life just might be fabulous! But you have to be willing to try it, although I will never try liver, and my hubby won’t do tofu. Anything else … bring it on.

Turning your nose up and cringing at the thought of eating what your spouse wants to eat is akin to being kicked in the shins. It is a fact that when someone you love grimaces over what you enjoy, it hurts. Food serves a basic need, so what is the big deal? Since being a couple is about sharing and compromising, then finding a safe middle zone is important in every aspect of the relationship.

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Like Alexandra pointed out, food is not the only hindrance between couples. Our upbringing affects the way we react to certain classes and groups. What I love about differences is that we can learn an exponential amount of things from various cultures and life if we just pay attention to everyone around us. Just because your friend at school comes from a poor family doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart. It might mean that their family has had to make different choices in life, but as far as the person’s intellect is concerned, it doesn’t make them any less intelligent than someone that makes more money.

Being a product of the ski slopes, the mountain bike trails and cabins, the opera and a good nose for fine wine, my vision of how life works for the majority of the nation was skewed. I never realized how much I had been given. But having that said, I feel pretty incompetent around my husband and his immediate family sometimes. They are wise, and I learn something new and wonderful each day being around them—not to say I don’t learn things from my family, because I do, but what I learn now is just different. Having a new dictionary of terms has widened my highway of life and the outlook on how I want to live mine.

I’ve learned to not judge others for being raised differently than myself. It is the differences that remind us how wonderful it is to be alive, and to have the opportunity to share that with someone. No person is better than the next, just different.

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