It was after a very long day at work. A complex operation that took me ten hours, standing on my feet, without a break.
I was so tired I was almost asleep by the time my car rolled to a stop in the garage.
Dinner was served to me at the table, lamb racks, fresh boccoccini, tomato and basil salad. My husband and I ate silently. I was too tired to evening lift the fork to my mouth, let alone make any intellectual conversation.
‘Is dinner ok?’ He looked at me in concern.
‘Yeah.’ was my half-hearted reply, pushing a piece of cheese around.
‘Don’t you like the salad?’ he asked, almost defensively. ‘I thought you like it, that’s why I made it.’
‘No, no, I like it.’ I said, too tired to argue. Which obviously came out pretty unconvincingly. In actual fact, I did, and I do. It is one of the salads he makes which I love. I was just too tired.
He looked at me suspiciously. ‘Are you just saying that or do you actual like it?
A pause, then he asked in a slow, deliberate tone, ‘Is it a smoked salmon?’
Ever since the ‘smoked salmon incident’, I have lost my husband’s trust in my ability to tell him the truth of what I like and what I don’t like.
It happened two years ago. At the time, he was working in the UK, and I was visiting him. He was working night shifts, and because he needed to take the car to work and was living quite far out of town, he made sure there was plenty of food in the fridge for me before he left for work each evening. A week down the track, he was cleaning out the fridge and noticed there were packets of smoked salmon sitting on the top shelf in the fridge.
‘Why aren’t you eating the smoked salmon? They are nearly out of date.’ he asked me. ‘I bought them for you.’
I walked over to the fridge door and looked at him in confusion, ‘but I don’t like smoked salmon.’
He looked me incredulously in return. ‘Are you telling me,’ he said in a dangerously quiet tone, ‘that after 18 years, I am just finding out that you don’t actually like smoked salmon?’ A deep breath. I could almost see the pressure increasing behind those grey eyes. ‘Why haven’t you told me before? Whenever we are at the supermarket, you just let me buy packets of salmon!’
‘Because I thought you liked it.’ And I did.
‘So what did you do with all the packets of smoked salmon we used to buy?’
‘I had to keep throwing them out because they were out of date. I was wondering why you kept buying them and not eating them.’
‘Because I was buying them for you. I thought you liked them.’ By now, I was sure the neighbours in the next apartment has their heads under their pillows.
And so there it is. Smoked Salmon. I had to tell him, after 18 years of being soul-mates, that….. I. Don’t. Like. Smoked Salmon.
The truth is. I don’t hate smoked salmon. I will eat it if Í have to, or if there’s nothing else to eat. But I don’t deliberately go look for it, or seek it out. If there was a choice on the menu, it will not be my choice.
It took me a while to realise why I have never bothered to tell him I don’t like it. It was simply because I thought he liked it. And similar to most couples (who, like us, have obviously been together for too long), I sometimes end up doing things or making decisions to please him, because what makes him happy, makes me happy, and most of the time, it wasn’t worth the effort to debate about it.
Unless it’s something I really hate. Like Golf. I drew the line at Golf. He was on his own for that one.
So when he refers to a ‘smoked salmon’, he is basically referring to his lack of trust in me to tell him the truth about my preferences. He is now constantly suspicius that I do things or make decisions to placate him. I am working on regaining that trust – which I did have for the last 18 years until that sudden moment of enlightment at the fridge door.
But most importantly, for me, a ‘smoked salmon’ is a reminder that I need to be truthful to myself, and trust that even if I don’t like what he likes, he still loves me.