The pain of conditioning my daughter for public school

Earlier this summer, I saw that an editor at Catapult, Morgan Jerkins, was looking for stories about education. I dashed off a quick note, saying that I'd been chewing on an idea for an essay about the tension between conditioning my 5yo daughter for public school at the same time I'm trying to let go … Continue reading The pain of conditioning my daughter for public school

Advertisements

A story about buttering bread and learning to ask “why?”

We were in high school, young and in love, and my parents had invited us to join them for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Washington, DC.

As we waited for our meals to arrive, we all started to help ourselves to the bread basket sitting in the middle of the table. Jordan began smoothing butter across the slice of bread he'd selected.

"Jordan," one of my parents said (I can't remember which one). "That's not the way to butter bread."

"Sorry — what?"

"The way you're doing it, putting all the butter on at once. It's more polite to tear off a piece at a time and butter each piece — like this," my parent showed him.

Jordan looked around like he might be on an episode of Candid Camera — like, "Was this shit for real?" — and then proceeded to ask a very reasonable question: "Why?"

Now, I say this was a reasonable question, and it was. You might also argue that it was an obvious one. And you might wonder, now that you find yourself thinking about it, why anyone would ever go along with a prescribed way of applying butter to bread without asking why.

It had never occurred to me to ask why.

There are certain things that happen in your life, and from that point forward, you think, always, in terms of "before" and "after." For me, this moment — the moment with the buttering of the bread — was one of those moments.