Until recently, coffee was part of the glue that holds couples together.
Previously, when two people moved in together, they were, without realizing it, creating several subtle tests of whether they could exist as a permanent pair. Coffee, for instance. If he likes his coffee dark and strong and she likes hers light and bland, they are confronted with a choice: They can each make their own separate pot of coffee. Or they can compromise on something halfway between the two.
Or maybe it’s not coffee. My wife doesn’t care for coffee. So coffee was not our test when we decided to pair up for life. Granted, her distaste for coffee seemed a bit strange. What kind of grown woman doesn’t like coffee?
But I’m an understanding guy. I wouldn’t reject a wife because she was a different race or religion or political persuasion. So why would I reject her just because she doesn’t like coffee? There’s more to a marriage than swilling hot caffeine.
All pairings have other challenges that require a compromise. Mattresses, for instance. Soft or hard?
Not to mention, the setting on the thermostat in your home. Some like it hot and some not so hot. If you don’t find a way to sort that out, you will create a permanent hissy war.
All those questions revolve around the central dynamic of a successful marriage – reciprocity, meeting each other halfway, doing unto each other.
In most marriages, something like coffee is one of the first tests of your natural capacity for reciprocity. But the usual coffee test between two people is in the process of being ruined.
Home coffee is being altered by an epidemic of little one-cup coffee makers that function with disposable pods of coffee – the exact same amount of coffee for each person in the world.
Granted, some of the marriage coffee compromises have been strange. My mother made disgustingly weak coffee in order to stretch the grounds as far as humanly possible. She would drink a dozen cups of anemic coffee a day. Today, I drink two strong cups a day. And yet we have both used the same amount of grounds.
Now the coffee industry is messing with our caffeine rights, more or less denying my mother the easy opportunity to make coffee weak as dishwater. Thank goodness she didn’t live to experience the heartache of one-size-fits-all coffee.
And then there are those faddish coffee establishments where some beginning baristas decide I don’t really mean it when I ask for a nonfat latte. They’re out of nonfat milk so they surreptitiously give the customer 2 percent. They’re sure he won’t know the difference.
They’re wrong. He will. Those of us who must watch our weight and guard our hearts immediately recognize milk beyond nonfat. It leaves a waxy feeling on the roof of your mouth.
Milk is another of the basic tests of a couple’s knack for compromise. If he prefers whole milk and she is watching her figure and drinks nonfat, he is outvoted. And he had better recognize his defeat unless he wants to have his own separate bed.
Meanwhile, my reciprocal wife sometimes joins me in a near-latte. I order a standard latte – hot steamed milk with a dark shot of espresso coffee for flavoring. She orders a steamer, which is a latte without the coffee in it, although it will often have vanilla or some other flavoring.
About half the time, the sneaky baristas smile, ignore her request for nonfat milk and leave her with a waxy roof of the mouth.
But at least on those days, wax is one more thing that we have in common.Contact columnist Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.