Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good cup of coffee, and that my first order of business upon arriving in a new city is to locate the best barista in the area.
Good coffee is important to me.1
My dad, however, doesn’t give a shit about coffee.
He loves a good cup every now and then, but most of the time he drinks K-cup coffee or — gasp! — instant Folgers.
This used to bother me.
Fighting the Urge to “Fix” My Dad’s Taste in Coffee
But here’s the thing: my preference in coffee only matters to me. His preference in coffee only matters to him. And the little bit of overlap when he drinks my kind of coffee, or when I drink his, just isn’t worth the emotional effort of caring.
When I call my dad’s preferences into question, it puts strain on both of us. He’s defensive because I’m attacking something he’s doing; I’m frustrated because he can’t see how unbelievably, unflinchingly right I am; both of us start thinking of excuses to leave the room.
How Could You Possibly Like That?
It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in relationships. We all have a tendency to get caught up in a little cloud of “my way” that makes opposing viewpoints seem scary, stupid, irresponsible, ignorant, or any combination thereof.
But the majority of the decisions I make have zero impact on the people closest to me. If I’m not into Parks & Recreation, it doesn’t make any difference2 for my friends who love that show; if I don’t see the appeal of running a marathon, it doesn’t mean anything at all for the people who embrace the challenge.
More importantly, the opposite is true: my friends’ decisions don’t actually impact me. Yes, I would love it if all of my friends loved whisky and talking about business development. That some of them don’t means nothing within the scope of my experience; I can still enjoy whisky, even if Chelle prefers tequila.
Getting worked up because things that don’t affect me aren’t done my way is a shortcut to an extremely frustrating and deeply dissatisfying existence.
“You want to know how to solve all your problems? Just be a little less like you, and a lot more like me.”3
I used to start a lot of monologues with the phrase, “You know what you should do?”
I’d listen — for a few seconds, at least — to someone’s experience, apply my own tastes to it, then harangue them about all the ways they were doing it wrong. In effect, all I was saying was, “Do you even know how much easier your life would be if you were just more like me?”
This is something I always hated in other people: they’d just start telling me how to solve problems that didn’t exist.
What I was ignoring, though, is that I’m just as annoying when I force my taste onto others.
My taste doesn’t matter. At least not to anyone but me. (And neither does yours.)
Just Shut Up and Drink the Shitty Coffee
I could get offended by my dad’s ambivalence toward a subject I’m so passionate about. I could try to convince him that he’s wrong, and that his decision to drink awful coffee is somehow linked to his happiness and overall wellbeing.
And when I visit my parents and my dad serves me K-cup coffee, I could throw a fit and refuse to drink it. Or I could bring coffee with me and supplant his morning coffee ritual with my own.
But I don’t.
Instead, I drink coffee with my dad. Because as long as I’m spending time with people I love, it doesn’t matter if the coffee is terrible.
- I spun off on a tangent and wrote this article after reading Marco Arment’s article, Throwing K-Cups In Glass Houses.↩
- Except that I don’t understand half the Ron Swanson jokes they make about my mustache.↩
- I wish I could take credit for this little gem, but it comes from a friend of mine. I don’t want it to get attributed to him as something said seriously, so I’m not going to include his name here.↩
What to do next.
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