For our second date Kent and I went to the movies. To be totally accurate, I asked Kent to take me to the movies. That it was a date at all, let alone our second, had yet to be revealed to him, but he gamely showed up. We were seeing The Blair Witch Project, which – in late July, 1999 was soooo the It Thing To Do – and I had already stood in a long, hot line earlier that day to get our tickets (having already decided Kent would be my new boyfriend, I figured I could splurge for the tickets to ease him into the relationship).
I remember distinctly that I wore a red halter top and white chinos, with one of those ridiculous double “Bumble Band” headbands in my hair (soooo 1999, people). It was probably 95 degrees out, with 95% humidity, and by the time we met at the theater, I was just hoping my mascara was in the general vicinity of my eyes. We found seats and Kent went to the concession stand. I asked him to get me Milk Duds and a Diet Coke, which he did, obligingly. And then, about halfway through the movie, Kent leaned over towards me. “Can I have a Milk Dud?” he asked.
I must have looked at him as if he were that freaky guy standing in the corner at the end of Blair Witch, because he said, “Never mind,” and went back to his Snowcaps. “The thing is,” I whispered to him, “I don’t really like to share. These are my Milk Duds.”
Still, he eventually decided to marry me.
I don’t share. Don’t like it, don’t do it. After Kent and I left the movie we went to a bar for a drink (I ordered a Heineken, he a vodka-and-cranberry-juice; the bartender mistakenly gave him the beer and me the pink drink – kind of sums up a lot in our relationship), where I explained myself a little bit better. “See, the thing is, once I’m settled in, I like to know how many Milk Duds I have. That way, I can eat them at the appropriate pace, fully aware of how many Duds are left. If you wanted some of my candy, I could have given them to you before the movie started. That way, I would still know how many Duds I had.”
Kent stirred his pink drink and narrowed his eyes at me, not buying my logic. I sighed, and tried another tactic. “It might be because I come from a big family?” I suggested. He looked at me, sipping the Cape Cod. “Yeah, I mean, with four kids, there wasn’t always enough for all of us,” I continued. “So sharing meant not eating, sometimes.”
At this point, Kent nearly spewed his drink all over the bar. “There wasn’t enough food for you, in suburban San Francisco, when you were growing up? And that’s why I couldn’t have a Milk Dud?”
“There are poor people in the Bay Area! Do you know the per-capita spending…”
He put his hand on my arm. “Jesus Christ, I know there are poor people in Northern California. I just don’t think you were one of them. Did you really think I would believe that you had to fight for your food?”
“Well…” I shrugged.
“You don’t like to share,” Kent said.
“I don’t like to share,” I agreed.
And I really, really don’t. I certainly never had to fight for food, but it is true that my inability to share goes back to childhood. Not because there was a scarcity of, well… anything, but because I was a nasty little thing. Nasty. And so were my brothers. We would fight for, and over, anything. ANYTHING.
Case in point: As you know, when one bakes any sort of sweet treat, the best part is licking the bowl. My three brothers and I all agreed on that. But you can’t very well give a bowl of brownie batter or icing to one sibling and expect the bowl to get passed around fairly to the other three. No. You can expect the initial recipient of the bowl to keep promising to give her little brothers a lick, but then have her fill of brownie batter, finally putting the bowl in the sink and rinsing it out, just for spite. I do not like to share.
With the four of us hellions fighting over everything, my parents initiated a rotational system for any and all potential treats, privileges and offerings. I assumed this was the norm, but apparently my brothers and I were especially selfish little wretches, so while my friends grew up building forts with their little brothers and playing nicely, we had the following rules:
1) The Shotgun rule – seat assignments in the family VW Van were rotated in the following order: a rider would have a turn in the front seat, followed by the far back (door side), then far back (window side). Next came the middle section – alone, followed by a return to the front seat. When both parents were in the car (i.e., Sunday dinners at Grandmothers’ houses), seats froze in last position, then rotation resumed on next car pool occasion.
2) The Christmas tree rule – each year, one child was granted the privilege of picking out the family Christmas tree. This way, the three other children could not whine and cry that the clearly, one child is loved more than the others, as evidenced by parents agreeing that the [loved child’s] pick in trees is best. While one child picked out the tree, the other three were quiet, knowing their turn was only 1-3 years away. The privilege of putting on the tree topper was included in the tree-picking year.
3) The Brownie Bowl rule – when a parent baked, one child would get the bowl, one a spatula/beater, the other two spoons with batter or icing in an amount that the parent assured was equal to the bowl. Even though the bowl was bigger. The rotation went from bowl to spoon (twice), to spatula and back to bowl.
4) The Phone rule – basic rotation deciding which sibling would answer the phone if it rang during dinner. Seating arrangements also rotated in order to put phone-answerer nearest phone.
5) The Bedroom rule – bedroom ownership rotated based on factors such as grades, age and extracurricular activity, with the big room on the left side of the hallway being the ultimate prize.
And so on…
We really did argue over everything, and sometimes, playground rules are the best solution. Who can argue with, “I Call it!” Once something is Called…well, that’s as rock-solid as Finders-Keepers. My brothers and I eventually grew out of the competitive cheekiness that kept our parents exhausted for much of the 1980s. We share things easily now, willingly even. We can sit in the back seat of a car without crying, and rarely fight over who gets to read the back of the Cheerios box at breakfast.
But as Kent has learned, when I order a dessert, it’s my dessert. Get your own damn spoon.