Emergency Biscuit: Will Breakfast Break Us Up?
The third installment of our breakfast advice column
Are you in a breakfast conundrum? Do you have deep-seated, unresolved feelings for brunch? Are you at a loss in front of the smorgasbord of life? Because so often breakfast is about feelings, and relationships teeter on the edge of the morning meal table, Extra Crispy editors Kat Kinsman (Bis-kat) and Margaret Eby (Bisc-gret) are here with the third installment of Emergency Biscuits, our breakfast advice column, to dole out hopefully not half-baked counsel and recipes for life. Got a question for the Biscuits? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first relationship that you get into after a long spell of singledom is an odd beast. It’s wonderful, obviously, but—at least for me—it can also feel like you’re assessing a rental car for scratches, flagging tiny flaws and logging them so that, later, you can remind yourself they were there all along. The settling-into-breakfast-habits stage of a new relationship is a dreamy one, but it’s also one that’s anxiety-inducing, especially if it’s the first time you’ve been in that stage in a while. Everything is so freighted with meaning! Or not! How can someone just not like avocados? How come you argue in your sleep? Is this a red flag? (And on and on and on.)
Here is what I read when I read your letter: You are a smart, sensitive, careful person. You are used to anticipating other people’s needs. And so when your new man sits down to his enormous breakfast feast to read the paper and you want to bolt an espresso and run out the door, you “can feel his disappointment” that you are not a natural lounge lizard, and more of a get-up-and-go kind of person (a horse of some kind?) and so you are trying to be more of a lizard. Maybe you fear that if you don’t pretend to be a lizard, this relationship won’t work out. Or maybe you are using it as a kind of emotional safeguard, so that, in case things end up not working out, you have reserved a small, true, part of your single self. You can think, well it would never have worked out, since I was never going to be a lizard.
But I don’t think lizard-ness is the answer here. It’s lovely that your boyfriend has a set ritual around the mornings, but so do you. Yours is just more hi! Coffee! Bye! That is a perfectly reasonable approach to mornings. Breakfast is a spectrum—it can mean that crust of pizza eaten at 2 p.m. or a coffee swigged before you head to work, or it can mean three hours on the porch lazily consuming a bowl of cantaloupe. And, more importantly, you sensing that disappointment is different than him feeling it, or him articulating it. Because the thing about people who are emotionally perceptive is that so often, when you feel some distress vibes coming off of someone you care about, you silently rearrange yourself in the way that prevents those distress vibes. That’s useful for getting through the odd awkward Thanksgiving dinner, or for swooping in to help your friend out of an uncomfortable interaction at a party, it doesn’t work in a relationship. You are not a lizard. The more you sit there, pretending to be a lizard as your lovely new person lollygags with the crossword and his omelet, the more that antsiness you feel will build into resentment. And resentment, as Julia Child never said, is a terrible spice.
Rather than bending to an unarticulated but presumed requirement, talk to your boyfriend about it. Does he actually care that you don’t sit down to breakfast with him, or is it just some other vibe you’re picking up? Did he have, maybe, a previous partner who ran out the door every morning and thus hurt his feelings? Is there some other thing going on? It sounds like you have many, many good things in common. Liking each others’ friends can be a surprisingly high bar to clear! Having chemistry with someone you would actually like to eat breakfast with—these are beautiful, rare things, worth celebrating. Having different opinions about how you’d like to spend your mornings seems pretty normal. No couple has perfectly aligned interests and tastes—that’s kind of what makes the whole thing interesting. Maybe one of you loves rock-climbing and the other is like, um, no thanks, but later, when you’re both at dinner, it provides something for you to talk about.
Rather than fret about the places you diverge, accept them, and find the places where you come together. Let mornings be a time that you don’t always spend together. Maybe every once in a while, for a special occasion, you do a long, lazy breakfast as a kindness to him. But right now, do a kindness for you: Let go of the expectation that you have to be someone else to be in this relationship, or for it to last. You don’t.
You are enough. I’m not sure you’ve gotten the memo on that, but you are, and I hope you can learn to trust that. I get it—the start of a new relationship is an emotionally vulnerable time, and breakfast is when we are most spiritually naked. We’re bare-faced, morning-breathed, and messy-headed, and it’s vaguely terrifying to let someone else see us stripped of our armor, whatever form that may take. But—and I’m gonna take a leap here—that man is in your breakfast nook or you in his because you were together the night before. And both of you stuck around because you wanted to.
That’s something. Actually it’s more than something—it’s everything. The world is lousy with apps and sites specifically designed to open a portal to your life through which strangers’ genitals may arrive and (just as importantly) depart, but even if that’s how you came together, that’s apparently not where you’re headed. And this unknown is what seems to be frightening you.
Maybe this will help. When my now-husband and I moved in together ten years ago, we’d been together for only a year, and I’d actually never once let him come over to my apartment. Before then, I’d never lived with anyone, and in my home, I existed practically like a feral creature—empty two-liter Diet Coke bottles strewn everywhere, teetering piles of mail I was terrified to open, paper towels and deli wax paper as a place setting. I was a lava-hot mess, and my gentleman caller was cool and civilized: neat linen napkins, heirloom silverware, and an honest-to-god dining table like an actual human being. His alarm went off at 5:20 a.m., and I worked from home until the wee, small hours, waking whenever. I fretted—oh, did I fret! Was I going to be expected to re-mold to his contours? Wake up at the first sliver of light, creep down the stairs to manifest eggs Benedict and a muffin basket, then meet him at the door with a fresh martini and an hors d’oeuvre plate when he arrived home in the evening?
As it turns out, oh hell no. And after a very polite few weeks where we apologized for every self-perceived bobble and misstep, I realized he was just as nervous as I was—terrified that his routine and order would bore me. Neither one of us had the upper hand, and neither one of us wanted it.
We figured it out. He still wakes up early, has his whole morning ritual during the week, and kisses me goodbye as he’s leaving for work and I’m waking up. He makes a pot of coffee and leaves it for me, so it’s waiting, and I think of him warmly when I’m pouring a cup a couple hours later. Whoever gets home first from work perks up when the other gets home, stops what they’re doing, and takes a moment for a kiss. Neither one of needed the other to change who or what we are—just to acknowledge and appreciate the other person in our home, and that they exist there because they want to.
Breakfast is not pass/fail—it’s an ever-undulating curve continually balancing and re-balancing according to the needs of the people having it. Yours are just as valid as his and I’ll bet you anything, he’s just glad he gets to see your face again at dinnertime. Please believe that he’s lucky to get to do that.