How Yogurt Says "I Love You"
An Initiation into the Language of Affection
Susie walked into the kitchen one morning after finishing up her night shift at the local hospital. I was already up, eating breakfast at the table, and she was regaling me with how many IVs she had started on the first attempt. While she talked, Susie opened the fridge and looked inside for something to fulfill that oddity of dinner-at-8 a.m. when she spotted a favorite of ours: honey yogurt. Grabbing the large container, she scooped up a spoon and joined me with a sigh at the table. Continuing her story she popped open the lid and started to dig in when she stopped short.
“Awww,” she said, “you left me some of the top! I love you too.”
How so little a thing would be noticed in the first place, or conceived at all, would have been beyond me only a couple of years ago. The thing is, she wasn’t being factious or sarcastic; she knew without a doubt that I had intentionally left half of the smooth, unbroken top for her to enjoy. In that insubstantial moment Susie felt my heart communicate to her: I know you love this part, I’ve seen it without you asking me to notice, and although it’s a small and silly thing, I wanted to make sure you tasted some of the joy you love. It was totally appropriate for her to respond with “I love you too,” because that’s what I had just told her.
This doesn’t mean that I pay constant attention to every little detail of what makes my wife’s heart come alive and strive to implement it every day like some kind of elaborate battle plan to constantly woo her heart. In fact, daily life is most often the opposite. Many a valiant effort to seduce my wife through the romance of running the dishwasher and writing cute notes on our blackboard have been thwarted by insubstantial details like leaving the now-clean dishes where they lie for her to put away, or my notes only being the childish scribbles written in response to her encouraging message from that morning. It turns out “Thanks!” doesn’t win you any points in the love notes department.
Too often I’ve caught myself being “romantic” not for Susie’s sake but for being seen as having done something romantic. “What do you mean you’re not hungry? I made you dinner!” If I were some kind of acrobat I might do a better job of rolling with what she really needs in the moment… or maybe it’s just that what I thought were the juggling pins actually was the tightrope and I’ve missed her heart again.
Fortunately I’m usually able to laugh at the young place inside myself that looks for praise for accomplishing an act of love. I think Romeo was self-aware; I wonder how he would have acted if he didn’t know his profession of love was on stage.
That’s why I’ve been enjoying those moments where I think Susie and I really love each other well. Our life together is still new, but already we are learning more about each other’s heart and how to speak its language. Like how she will open the windows when she’s on back-to-back shifts because she knows that sunlight and fresh air in the house make me happy. Or how an unexpected note left somewhere she will find it is a treasure. Or the way oddly eaten yogurt can say, “I know you love digging in to the unbroken goodness that is the top of honey yogurt. I saved half for you (because I love it too, and hey, I’m not a saint).”
We’re learning to love each other in silly, personal ways. And we’re also learning the difference a motive can make. Maybe that’s why it’s the small stuff that we’re getting first; we’ve got years ahead to figure out how to incorporate our discovery into the big stuff like dreams and family and the romance that takes a lifetime. In the meantime, thank God for honey yogurt.