Sometimes I meet people for the first time (or maybe the second or third or umpteenth time) and I feel they come away disappointed. With me. I have disappointed them. I was not funny enough; connected enough; smart enough; not enough of whatever enough is. I know that sounds very insecure. My husband thinks maybe I am projecting. Perhaps. Perhaps that’s true in some cases, but I do know there are certain people with whom I do not connect and for whom I’m a disappointment. Of that I am positive.
And in these situations I come away feeling a little wounded, and wondering what I could do, or could have done, to make myself less disappointing, more likeable. I want to be liked. Is it embarrassing to say that? That I want to be liked by people? Don’t we all, to a certain extent? Life is easier when people like you tho’, right?
A while back, around 3am, I lay in bed unable to sleep, wavering between a medium and high anxiety setting, going over an interaction in which I disappointed. I tried to recall everything I said and analyse the point(s) at which I went wrong. I obsessed over it, over my failure to connect, my stupid jokes, my inane observations, my lack of knowledge on this or that, my stilted, awkward attempts at conversation. Then, in an attempt to take a mini-break from the toxicity of my own thoughts, I began to do what I often do when I’m discombobulated and in need of calming: I think about food, a beloved past-time of mine and one of the few things in which I feel confident of my abilities…. A green curry with jasmine rice; salmon with a lime and chilli crust served with mango and avocado salsa; a vegetarian taco with black beans, feta, and a generous helping of chipotle sauce and guacamole; thai salad with peanuts and lashings of chilli and mint and coriander and those little deep fried shallot things; a large bowl of spicy pumpkin soup with coriander pesto and crispy croutons; pan-fried haloumi with lemon, coriander and pine nuts...The list went on. And on. And on. Until it stopped and like a car in reverse, I backed up: coriander, or cilantro as they call it in America...I had heard recently that some people really really do not like coriander. What? Why? How can this be true? Social media investigations revealed that infact, some people not only dislike it but downright hate it, detest it, loathe it. For some it's due to a genetic variant; others have no biological reason per se - they just can't stand it. I saw people describe coriander in very dramatic terms: accursed, a mouthful of burning aluminium death, devil weed, devil vomit, death. They claim it ruins everything; it’s the ISIL of the herb world. There are poems denouncing it, websites dedicated to its downfall and scientific studies into those calling for its annihilation.
The depth of the feeling had me fascinated; the veracity of the hate - be it by an inherited trait or by choice. Coriander tends to feature in all the dishes I love most. I like coriander. My husband likes coriander. My small children who don’t like much, like coriander. My parents like coriander. My brother likes coriander. Tutankhamen liked coriander (about half a litre of coriander mericarps were recovered from his tomb). I can understand someone not liking something; but to HATE it, to hate coriander with such fervour, where their tone changes dramatically, lips recede and they physically recoil at the mere mention of it - that’s haters hating hard.
The thing that struck me in the middle of that anxiety-filled night of insecurity was that coriander is loved, and coriander is hated, but what remains the same is that coriander gives no fucks. In the face of all this disdain, this loathing, of people calling for death to coriander, coriander doesn't try to appease by trying to be parsley, or sage or thyme or basil or mint. It remains what it is: coriander. Unafraid and unencumbered by the haters, it’s there, doing its thing, in the way only coriander can.
Love it or hate it, I think there’s much to be said for coriander. It’s often raw, which takes guts. To just be itself. It's fine on its own, but it really sings when it’s with other ingredients, elevating those it works with. Now, granted, the attributes and platitudes I place upon coriander could well be said for many other food items, but I believe coriander’s different in that it’s rare to find something that is so divisive.
And I find that comforting.
It takes strength be real and true and raw. Especially in the face of disapproval and dislike and disdain.
So whenever I feel my anxiety levels rising over what others think of me, I now try to think of coriander. I try to think of those who love me, rather than those who don’t. I try to remember that nothing is liked by everyone. And in doing so I claim my space. I am claiming my voice and saying fuck yes, this is me, this is who I am, this is what I feel and think. If you don’t like that, then that is your right. But the right to be me is mine and I’m going to do just that.
“You are not for everyone.
The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, will point blank not like you. But it is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. They are your people. You are not for everyone and that’s ok. Talk to the people who can hear you.
Don’t waste you precious time and gifts trying to convince them of your value, they won’t ever want what you’re selling. Don’t convince them to walk alongside you. You’ll be wasting both your time and theirs and will likely inflict unnecessary wounds, which will take precious time to heal. You are not for them and they are not for you; politely wave them on and continue on your way. Sharing your path with someone is a sacred gift; don’t cheapen this gift by rolling yours in the wrong direction.
Keep facing your true north.”