Awkward Laughter

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Umami

Taste in Men: 30:30 Somethings

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When we discuss the beauty of relationships, we rarely describe them in terms of taste beyond good or bad. But as a woman who’s dated many men and married none, I think the variety of our romantic interactions deserves a better range of adjectives.

So when the folks at WordPress prompted a discussion this week about taste and which we’d give up voluntarily, it only seemed fitting for me to equate it to my palate for the ups and downs of this portion of my life.

Based on their flavor categories (in which they liberally included the non-traditional receptors of spicy and umami), I created a taste timeline and then eliminated the names of the men I’ve dated to protect the innocent and guilty alike:

  • Mr. Sour: This relationship came in my teens. He, who I thought hung the moon for a few years but I then broke up with, went a little crazy. He showed up at my house unannounced repeatedly, broke into my car, and signed up for my college classes – effectively becoming a stalker sans the boiled white bunny on the stove.
  • Messrs. Sweet: My relationships with these two complex men began in my early 20s (not simultaneously). We didn’t know exactly what we wanted nor how we fit in those wants, but boy did we have a good and bad time figuring that out. There’s something to be said for exploration.
  • Messrs. Salty: Like chocolate covered pretzels, nothing complements sweet as well as salty. And so goes my choice in men. From a one-night-stand to friends-with-benefits, I had some salty-sweet fun in my mid-to-late 20s.
  • Mr. Bitter: I finally stopped playing around and convinced myself that I’d found the one. We dated and fell in love. Then he cheated. This brutal breakup caught me off guard and transformed me into a temporary crazy-fool-in-love-lost. Oh if you only knew the number of gut-wrenching tears I shed over him!
  • Messrs. Spicy: Sanity prevailed. But realizing that my work/family life didn’t allow for much else in my early 30s, I celebrated several relatively short-lived relationships with some really amazing men.
  • Messrs. Umami: This is how I’d characterize any of the men I dated more than twice post-35. I knew what I wanted and didn’t; they did too. In our various levels of relationship wants – casual or serious – we knew where we stood: lovers occasionally but always friends (or friendly) in the end. Let’s call it the ultimate blend of taste.

UmamiOf all the relationship flavors I experienced, you might guess bitter ranked as the one I’d give up. Nope.

Sour gets the ax in my relationship cookbook.

In part, I choose Mr. Sour because of the young age in which I first experienced it, but primarily it’s because that relationship didn’t teach me much beyond the fact that some people are bat-freaking-crazy.

The pungent ending with Mr. Bitter, while distasteful, made it easier for me to identify and dismiss men who weren’t worth my time. I ignored red flags with him early on, and I’ve embraced the hindsight knowledge I gained, despite the pain (although I certainly won’t order it up again by choice).

Meanwhile, the equally passionate but more friendly umami relationships reign supreme. Given that I recently wrote a post questioning the ability of men and women to truly be friends, some of my thoughts here might seem contradictory, but consider them an addendum based on deeper reflection.

I believe that umami encapsulates the best parts of a genuine male-female relationship (friendly or romantic):

  • It’s often hard to describe it;
  • You only know what it when you taste it; and
  • It’s worthy of a whole new vernacular when you do.

What about you? How have your dating tastes changed over time? Or if you’re married, has your relationship changed to suit your differing tastes?

(This post is one of 30 30-somethings I’m writing for the weekly countdown to my 40th birthday. Celebrate with me as I share other lessons or humbling experiences from the past decade.)

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