Sunday, July 25, 2010

When Sensitivity Hurts

By Chana Gutnick-Herzog

Wallowing in my own pity, I refused to admit to myself that he liked the soup.
"You're just trying to make me feel good," I muttered under my breath.


There's a famous Chassidic story of a man who visited his Rebbe complaining that people were always offending him. He whined of constantly being verbally and emotionally attacked, and asked the Rebbe what he could have done to deserve such treatment. The Rebbe wisely responded, "Maybe if you stop spreading yourself all over the place, people will stop stepping on you!"


I confess. I was acting like a high-strung wife. My husband had innocently asked me if the onion soup was supposed to be a creamy color, as he thought onion soup was usually a dark brown. I blinked slowly and swallowed, trying to hold back the tears.
I couldn't. I was too hurt. I turned to face him, with despair written all over my face, "I'm such a bad cook. I know I'm a bad cook. And I know you think I'm a bad cook!"

He stood there helpless and apologetic, "Chana you're an excellent cook! I just thought that maybe it's supposed to be more brown."

"Is your mother's more brown?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"Yea, I guess so…but you are just beginning! It takes time. Soon you'll be a pro!"

"So you're saying I'm not a pro now? There! I got you to admit it!"

"Oy vey," he sighed, while pouring himself a bowl. I watched him like a hawk as he ate the soup, but to my dismay, he finished it, and looked at me with a satisfied smirk as if to say, "See! It's good! I ate the whole thing!" Wallowing in my own pity, I refused to admit to myself that he liked it. "You're just trying to make me feel good," I muttered under my breath.

While we finished eating dinner, we talked about my little emotional performance. We tried to get to the bottom of the situation, so that I wouldn't end up on the verge of tears before every meal.

"I just feel like I can't really get it right in the kitchen. There's always something that's not perfect!" I relayed with disappointment.

"You know I love your food… when I tell you something needs a little more salt, or the color looks different, I don't mean to attack your cooking at're a great cook, but if I don't tell you how I like it, you'll never know...I'm just trying to help!"

"I know you are," I acknowledged. "It's just…you told me when we were dating that you really enjoy good food. I just want to live up to that. I don't want to disappoint you."

As the words slipped out of my mouth, I knew why I had been so sensitive. I was insecure with my cooking. I wanted my husband to be proud that he married the chef of the century, so I criticized and analyzed every remark, waiting to find out that he didn't think I was. To me, an innocent comment became offensive, because, in my head, I made it that way. I never spent time in the kitchen as a girl, but within a few weeks of being married, I wanted everything to be gourmet on the first try. This unrealistic expectation I set for myself was making me easily insulted.

If you trace the steps back to the situations where you were offended by someone else' words, and if you are honest with yourself, most likely it will stem back to your own insecurities. We feel pained when someone touches upon our most vulnerable sore spots. True, sometimes people can be nasty and callous, but is that not their problem? Why would you give a tactless remark the time of day? Could it be that you are wound up, because deep down they have brought an insecurity to the surface? That can be hard to face, but harder than that is the ability to rise above your sensitivity, and realize when you are over reacting. Perhaps you are offended because you know that you have an issue you have to deal with, and putting the blame and anger on somebody else is just easier.

It is strenuous being a friend, spouse, sibling or even employee of a person with countless insecurities. Being in a relationship with that person, means that you are constantly treading on thin ice, and any meaningless comment can result in disaster. A compliment to somebody else in their presence arouses jealousy and suspicion. A harmless joke isn't laughed at, but rather dissected and over-analyzed. A remark with the intention of constructive criticism becomes an assault on their personality. Their insecurities are planted all over the place, time bombs waiting to explode - all you have to do is press the wrong button.

I didn't want to be that kind of person, and I definitely did not want to be that kind of wife.

So, I put my pride aside and I found a new onion soup recipe. This one called for teriyaki sauce, which would definitely give that brown color I was looking for. I under-salted the soup, and waited for my husband to come home so that we could spice it just the way he likes it. I prepared myself for the worst, but decided that if it didn’t come out the way I wanted, I would laugh it off. I made an effort not to scrutinize his facial expressions or keep tabs on how much was left in his bowl. "This isn't just about the soup," I told myself, "This is about me being an easy going, confident and light hearted wife."

We had fun over dinner. And the soup, I must admit, was delicious.

8 LadyMama voices:

Russi said... [Reply to comment]

Love it! So honest and so real! You write it as it is... its true - we are our own worst critics!

m said... [Reply to comment]

so i guess im not the only one.... :)

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

chana I loved it! I see you put your writting skills and classes into action - looking forward to reading more!
Gitty Rosler

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Chana, I don't know you but your confidence in sharing this is inspiring! We're all in this together.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Chana, I don't know you but your confidence in sharing this is inspiring! We're all in this together.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

thanks for sharing chana!! git and i just were discussing this issue today and you worded our convo beautifully!! look forward to reading more from you!

Reuven and Zahava Pinson said... [Reply to comment]

love it chan, keep writing xxxx zahava

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

love it chan! keep writing xxx zahava