The 90/10 rule

Or lessons by the cheese section

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“So, you mean to tell me you’d rather eat a can of store-bought chili than my homemade chili?” I didn’t even try to mask the disdain in my voice.

I shook my head. “Do you know how ridiculous that is? My chili doesn’t contain preservatives, nor does it have a shelf life of, like, 500 years.”

“What?” I stood in the grocery store beside the refrigerated cheese section and our cart. “What do you mean it’s not brown?”

“Are you kidding me? Is that the only reason you don’t eat my chili?” I said.

My husband’s bald head teetered from side-to-side until he finally landed on an answer. “Yes.”

I blew out a mouthful of air. “Then I’ll find a sauce that’s brown.” I was about to push the cart away when he did the one thing that never fails to soften me — he reached for me and pulled me into a kiss. Right in front of the cheese and every Sunday shopper, my husband kissed me. Maybe it was a ploy, but I fell for it — hard.

His crooked smile and sparkling blue eyes said more than he ever could. But he did extend an olive branch. “I’ll try it again.”

The bald man and I have been together since Dec. 25, 2011. And it’s not always easy. We continue to find our rhythm with each other. Sometimes I think we’d both be happier if we lived on separate islands, but we don’t. We live in a beautiful old home in Cheyenne, Wyoming and 90 percent of the time we get along really well. It’s the 10 percent that gets me.

Our Sunday shopping was one of those 10 percent times. I felt like he kept challenging everything – from my chili to why Cooper wanted his birthday party at the local arcade and not a major chain known for its pizza, prizes and games.

I handed Ron my cellphone. “I don’t know. He’s your son. Why don’t you ask him?”

Ron is not Cooper’s biological father, but don’t tell that to either of them. Cooper is a mini Ron – replete with what he will and won’t eat, where he will and won’t go, and why. So, Ron called Cooper at home, who explained that “My friends could get hurt. It’s not safe.”

And that was good enough for Ron. Of course, there’s no basis for Cooper’s decision other than I think he’s frightened of the giant mouse that serves as the mascot. It makes about as much sense as, I don’t know, someone who’d prefer canned chili because it’s brown to homemade chili that’s red.

But that’s the 10 percent. And it’s easy to get stuck in the 10 percent until I step back and remember the other 90 is pretty great. Ron gets me, and I’m learning to get him. When Tom Petty died, I knew he’d need some Petty music on the turntable when he came home from work. Whenever the Patriots lose a game, I know the best thing I can give my husband is space and to screen the TV for any Peyton Manning commercials. He’s fairly uncomplicated, but he does have some peculiarities that I’m still learning. And sometimes those lessons happen next to the cheese in the grocery store. But so do the wonderful, romantic kisses, which are a clear reminder that 90 outweighs 10 any day of the week.

Mary Billiter

Originally published at

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