Way back in the early days of the Internet, circa 1998 or so, Rachel and I, egged on by some friends (hi, M & H!), took an online personality survey, one of those Kinsey-type things, with approximately 100 questions that asked things like whether we picked the phone up on the first ring or let it go always to machine (machine! See how old the survey was — not voicemail, but machine!). Based on your answers, it then classified you into one of four personality types, and from there, into one of four further subtypes.
I would stake Isaac in a bet that Rachel and I answered every single question differently. You just have to trust me on this. We operate differently. And yet, AND YET … this computer program gave us not only the same personality type but also the same subtype. Meaning that, out of 16 possible configurations, we got the same one. (If math is your thing, tell me if I’ve got the odds of that correct.) Further, it wasn’t as though the whole world was equally divided among four personality types, further subdivided: the site explained that some types were much rarer than others. And that our type was very rare.
This is essentially a metaphor for our relationship as a whole. We are both in charge, all the time, albeit in radically different ways. Fifteen years in, maybe we’ve mellowed. Maybe now we’re just apprentice controllers. In any case, we have mostly managed to make this work for us. Sometimes the aggression is too passive, sometimes we go for stretches where the passion loses some of its passion and then we aggressively work on finding the passion again. Occasionally the aggression is downright aggressive — or sometimes quite passionate, depending on your viewpoint — but, well … mostly it’s a tightly run ship around here. (Those of you who have witnessed the household firsthand will refrain from the comments section.)
(Oh, and although it’s too soon to say, I would stake Rowan in a bet that we are well on our way to raising another generation of master controllers. Just a hunch.)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which Rachel and I are similar, and how we’re different. My sense is that we operate in a very small spectrum of similarity — and that within that spectrum, the differences are vast. In other words, we are a lot alike, but so close that the differences are noticeable. Or something like that. For the record, however, here are some of the ways in which we are fraternal:
1. Her: Gratification. Me: Deferral of. Rachel is really, really good at relaxing, whereas I am really, really good at doing the seven or eight things that need to get done before I can relax. Which usually means that I never end up relaxing, because by the time I get around to it, it’s time to go to bed. Rachel does not fold laundry while watching television. Rachel eats chocolate at the outset of an unpleasant task, and I fold T-shirts to Glee, while bouncing on my exercise ball.
2. Her: Scrabble. Me: Boggle. She claims that Boggle is too loud, and I claim that Scrabble is too long. In truth, they are our childhood games and we are loyal to them. And we can cream each other at our own games.
3. Rachel loses things and I find them. I was going to write, “I am the finder and Rachel is the…” but that seemed mean. But I can’t tell you how many conversations in our house goes something like: Rachel: “Where are my—?” Susan: “Kitchen counter, next to the teapot.”
4. Her: Could sleep on a pile of rocks. Me: Earplugs, eye mask, 600 thread-count sheets, cats locked in the basement, the right pillows, utter and complete darkness and silence. This difference explains, in part, the next one:
5. Her: Camping. Me: Would rather be shot in the head.
6. Although we’re both omnivores, Rachel has been quicker to embrace the culinary traditions of my people — Eastern European Jews — than I have to embrace those of hers: the Brits. Although she maintains that she does not like a good brisket, she is completely on board for gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup, lox and cream cheese (although we both concede that the Scots do a fine job with smoked salmon, too), rugelach, hamantaschen, etc. I., however, am not so good with custard, boiled suet puddings in bags with lots of raisins, fried Mars bars and the like. I like Yorkshire pudding and a good roast beef, but I’m not orgasmic about them. (Unless the roast beef is really, really rare.) We are both, however, equally passionate about Indian food, which is, really, what the British seem to do best. And we are both horrified by kishke.
7. We have different shoe sizes. This is likely a good thing, because if we wore the same size shoes, I could see us violating our vow not to share clothes (because that is just SUCH a slippery slope) and going all Carrie-Bradshaw-meets-John-Fluevog. And then we probably wouldn’t be able to feed the children.
8. Rachel pretends not to enjoy musical theater but secretly adores it, while I pretend not to like our grey tabby cat, but secretly don’t like our grey tabby cat. It’s just that she (the cat, not Rachel, who has personality in spades — she is, after all, the Queen of Irony) has no personality. Seriously, the cat is a cipher. There is no there there. She’s nearly transparent, except when she stands, oozing of blandness, in front of my computer monitor and obstructs my view of my work. She had serious potential as a kitten, and then completely fizzled out. It’s sad. It really is.
9. Rachel has fine, straight hair and I. Do. Not. And I am jealous. Rachel has the hair I have spent my entire life coveting. Instead, I make do with lots of products, the master scissors of one Jimi Imij, hairstylist to the gods at Coupe Bizarre on Queen West in Toronto (and yes, I still travel to get my hair cut, because Jimi thins it out like nobody’s business; it looks like somebody had a litter of kittens on the floor by the time he’s done), and a straightening iron. This difference may also contribute to difference #5 above: it’s hard to enjoy camping when your hair immediately turns to crap.
10. When I cook, I follow the recipe. When Rachel cooks, she deviates. It’s a point of pride — she has to substitute one spice for another, double the cream, mess with the ratio of flour to sugar, etc. She can’t not do that. Rachel also likes to hover when I cook, asking questions like, “Did you put in the cumin?” “Yes,” I will say, “I put in the quarter teaspoon of cumin that the recipe called for.” “Oh,” she’ll say, “and what are you doing with those onions?” “I am going to fry them,” I will say, “just like it says to in the recipe.” “Oh,” she’ll say, “and—” and I will say, “The recipe is right there, and I think you should read it.” She maintains that she is simply making conversation, but I know she’s secretly itching to modify my recipe. (That sounds so suggestive, “Baby, can I modify your recipe?”) I’m all for improvisation, but I tend to reserve my improvisational skills for making up silly songs to sing to the kids. I do, however, double the vegetables in any recipe, because my mother told me to. And she was right.
Still, we eat well.