Despite what the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, all men are not created equal. Nor are all women. Ideally, people are equal under the law, but even that is a specious claim since so often rich folk who can hire high-priced attorneys with dozens of partners and associates are more equal than those who have to make do with overworked public defenders.
But this bloggery isn’t about such grand matters. It’s more about the little things that makes us so very different from one another.
People who love Mexican food are often perplexed by my dislike of cilantro. “How can you not like cilantro?” a friend asked me in accusatory tones, as if she thought I were being contrary by choosing to dislike something most people loved. I retaliated by asking her what cilantro tasted like to her. She said it tasted citrusy, slightly bitter and very refreshing. But that is not how it tastes to me. To me, it tastes like soap. Cilantro contains chemical compounds called aldehydes, which are also present in soaps and other cleaning agents, and apparently I don’t have the enzyme that breaks down the soap-like compounds of the herb into a tasty seasoning, so I get the full soap taste.
Regardless of what she seemed to think, I was not being contrary. Just unequal.
A similar situation happened when I drove a friend to her mountain home this weekend. In a couple of instances, I had to drive down very steep roads that made me feel as if I were free falling down an elevator shaft. She made a few comments about my nervousness, and she didn’t seem to believe me when I told her I wasn’t nervous, that it was a physical reaction. I explained it using the example of a level. Some people are born with something similar to the bubble in their center, so they always know where they are in relation to the earth. These people can turn cartwheels, ride roller coasters, descend steep slopes, and never lose their equilibrium. I on the other hand, have no bubble, so I never know where I am in relation to the earth. (It’s an inner ear thing, or so I have heard.) I remember once as a very small child, maybe 5 or 6, I took tumbling lessons, and I couldn’t do what the other kids did. I got too disoriented, and feared I would break my neck. (They always say kids that young don’t know there is such a thing as necks breaking, but I bet others who lack an inborn plumb bubble also were aware of the possibility.)
Again, I wasn’t being contrary by repudiating her calling me nervous, I was simply explaining our inequalities. Some things I can do, others can’t, and some things others can do, I can’t. It’s that simple.
I’m not sure that being equal is an important matter, anyway. We all wish to be treated the same as others in similar circumstances, and we should be. But other than that, it’s the ways we are unequal that make us who we are, and that is something to celebrate.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.