My wife and I are from different backgrounds. Her father is from up north, and my family came from way down south. Also, Penny grew up wealthy, and I grew up poor. Her swimming pool wasn’t heated, but it was a different world. She had four baths, and I had four paths. One year our bathroom caught on fire and we were excited because it didn’t reach the house.
These differences affected our relationship even in what we ate. I didn’t know what I was eating the first few years of marriage, but men will eat most anything. I got nostalgic for my childhood and the foods I ate when I was growing up. I started thinking about cornbread. I wanted cornbread. A man’s ego is very big and he has a hard time sharing his needs. If I asked, “Honey, would you make me cornbread?” she might say, “no”. Men don’t handle rejection well, so I did what most men do. I dropped subtle hints.
We’d go to the grocery store, and I’d hang around the cornbread. I was sure that when Penny found me she’d know I wanted cornbread. But she didn’t know what I was thinking, and finding me she’d ask, “What are you doing?” I’d say, “I’m looking at cornbread.” She would just walk on by. I’d then say, “My goodness, look, Aunt Jemima Cornbread. She makes the best.” She had no respect for Aunt Jemima. I’m thinking I want cornbread! When a cornbread commercial came on the TV, I’d say, “Look, Honey, that’s cornbread,” which she ignored. Finally after about five or six years, I knew the only way to get cornbread was to ask for it.
One day I had one too many Diet Cokes and was a little carbonated, so I got up the courage to say, “Penny, would you make me some cornbread?” She said, “Sure.” That ticked me off because I had waited so long. Then she asked something that scared me. “What is cornbread?” I thought, “I’m in serious trouble here.” She did get my mother’s recipe and made it that day.
She met me at the door with a blindfold. Women do things differently. There are two ways to handle women, but nobody knows either one of them. They like surprises, celebrations, and candlelight. We had candlelight one night and I said, “Honey, what’s the big occasion?” It was the grand opening of the grocery store. She led me to the table blindfolded. “Okay, take the blindfold off.” I ripped that thing off, and I saw the cornbread. I said, “Honey, something’s wrong with the cornbread, you killed it. It’s got red stuff all over it; it’s bleeding. What happened to the cornbread?” She said, “Well, I knew you loved strawberry jam, so I put half a jar of strawberry jam all over your cornbread.” I said, “Oh, Honey, no. You ruined the cornbread.” Then I said, “You did make the cornbread. Next time don’t touch the cornbread. I need to show you how to eat cornbread.”
About a week later she called and said, “I’m going to make cornbread.” I said, “Don’t touch it after you make it. I’m going to the store and pick up a few things. I’ll show you how to eat cornbread tonight.” I got buttermilk and green onions on the way home. I got my big glass, and she said, “I have a glass of tea for you.” I said, “Be cool.” I put that big glass down and started pouring the buttermilk. She said, “Honey, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, when you buy milk, look at the date. That milk has curdled, it’s spoiled, and it’s no good.” And I said, “Honey, that’s buttermilk.” She said, “I don’t care who makes it; it’s no good. Look at the date before you buy it.” I just kept pouring buttermilk and grabbed my cornbread and attacked it. I put the cornbread into the buttermilk. Penny put her hands over my daughter’s eyes (she was about three) and said, “Don’t you look at your daddy. Don’t you look at your daddy.” I took a little bite of green onion and I took a bite of that cornbread and buttermilk, and she said, “I’m nauseated; I have to go.” She left, but it was one of the best nights of my life. We’ve made a lot of progress since then. She can watch me eat buttermilk and cornbread without getting sick. If I had not communicated with her, I’d still be mad about cornbread. If you want something, you have to ask for it. And you, too, might have one of the best nights of your life.