The Death of Original Ideas - Better with Age #17

Posted by Jessica Hegg on


It's always a little depressing when you discover that you're not nearly as original as you once thought you were. 

The other night at dinner, when we got the dessert menus, I took a look quickly and didn't find anything I liked. 

"You know," I said to my wife, "sometimes dessert just doesn't sound right.  I think I'd just rather have a nice cheese and a glass of port instead."

And so I ordered that, while my wife got a creme brulee.

Now, I almost always order dessert, so I expected my wife to raise an eyebrow, or at least comment on my daring choice, but she said nothing.

"I mean, the creme brulee sounds great," I went on, "but everything else just seems like too much.  Maybe I'm developing a more sophisticated palate, but cheese and port sounds perfect to me."

Again she didn't say anything, and so I just waited until the dessert was served.  And the cheese--it was a Stilton--sure hit the spot and the wine went down easily.  I felt sublimely happy.  When I motioned for the check from the waiter, my wife finally spoke.

"You do realize, don't you, that yesterday we listened to that food writer on NPR, and he casually mentioned that he likes nothing more at the end of a meal than a good cheese and a glass of port?"

"We were driving in the car with the radio on.  We both heard him say that exact thing."
I couldn't believe it.  I was crestfallen.  And then, of course, I remembered:  the writer, who has a TV show, is one of my favorites, a brash, opinionated world traveler who has a long history of being a bold epicure.  I didn't even realize how quickly I had adopted one of his pet philosophies about dining, just by listening to him speak while I  drove.  At dinner, I thought I had been taking a distinct, individualist stand, but it turns out I was just parroting the notions of someone else.  It made me a little embarrassed to realize just how susceptible I was to a forcefully stated opinion.

And I have to admit, for a minute there, I started to wonder if maybe I was becoming a little more forgetful that I was willing to admit.  It's something that happens when you get older, you get a little scatterbrained about the oddest things.  More than once I've searched the entire house, looking for my lost set of car keys, only to discover after a half hour of cursing and muttering that they've been in my jeans pocket the whole time.  My wife rolls her eyes when she hears me say that this is an "aging" thing.

"It's a 'Don' thing," she scoffs.  "You've been losing your car keys for decades."

And actually, I realized a bit later that I really didn't need to feel too embarrassed about ordering that cheese-and-port on that particular night.  Because the truth is, we all soak up ideas and opinions from other people around us without really recognizing that we're doing it.  And then those ideas will sort of percolate in our heads, until we believe we actually came up with those notions in the first place.  It doesn't mean that we're inherently weak-minded, or sheeplike, but I think it just shows that it's just about impossible not to be influenced by those around us.

A few weeks ago, during our golf game, I was talking to my friend Gus about baseball and about how much I hate the Designated Hitter in the American League.  Gus didn't have an opinion about it either way, but he got a kick out of my indignation and let me vent for a while.  We started talking about something else shortly thereafter, and I really didn't think about that conversation again, until about 2 weeks later. 

At lunch, after an early tee time, Gus and I started talking sports and suddenly Gus mentions that he really hates the Designated Hitter in the American League.  I thought he was pulling my leg for a moment, trying to get me going again, but that was not the case.  He was sincere; he really hated it.  And as he described his opinion, he started using the exact arguments and language that I had used when I went off on the subject.  He had totally forgotten that I was the one who espoused this very notion not two weeks before!  I couldn't help nodding in agreement with Gus, who now, of course,  seemed incredibly wise to me, but on the inside, I was breaking into a huge grin--it was delightful to be quoted, however unknowingly. 

...I guess it's just nice when we can all have the exact same, "original" ideas.

Until next week,

Christoff's Dad

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