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Last Thursday, my boyfriend purchased two pounds of salmon from our local grocer (Whole Foods, check them out on Yelp) and brought them (the salmon and himself) over to my apartment. He purchased the salmon to have for dinner, the lingering smell of fried fish I would later find to be only but a dreamy bonus.
I had already eaten dinner when he arrived, but (above-mentioned snark about the smell aside) took no issue with him and his rock-hard abs cooking dinner in my presence. The abs, to my delight, but another dreamy bonus (that’s TWO special bonuses, for those keeping score!).
He cut the exceptionally pink salmon into four generally equal squares and rubbed down two of them with Cajun spice (interesting choice, but I digress), preparing one piece for dinner and one for lunch the following day.
Among other things, my boyfriend is a good and resourceful man. So much so that after he seared the salmon in avocado oil, he plated ol’ sockeye and gave me a few bites, without once mentioning that only moments before I had firmly declined his offer to make me my own.
Then, we scraped the salmon skin from the pan and went to bed. If you were expecting a fight about the fish smell, I’ll un-bury the lede and tell you now: No such fight occurred. We’re only 6 months in and even I myself am surprised at what I am willing to endure in exchange for his love and body. Life! What a rollercoaster!
Nonetheless, the two pounds of salmon did end up — as most two pounds of salmon generally do — causing some turmoil in my life. Which is ultimately why we’ve met here, the two of us (you and I, not me and my boyfriend, or me and the salmon), so I can recount what comes next.
Now, if you’re a nerd and have been keeping a wary eye on the above algebra, you’ll already know that after the two squares of avocado-oil seared salmon were cooked last Thursday night, a half-pound of raw salmon remained in my fridge.
“For us to have this weekend,” my boyfriend said, stating what, at the time, seemed like the obvious conclusion.
“Great!” I replied.
But then Friday night came around too quickly and the last thing on this earth we wanted to do was go home after work and cook up a slab of salmon. So alas, we went to happy hour and ate a pizza, all the while promising ourselves and the salmon that we would ingest it the following day — perhaps with a full-bodied red. My boyfriend reminded me that he did “spend $15 on the salmon,” after all. So, we certainly intended to eat the fish!
That is, until the following day came around.
“We have to eat the salmon today!” I texted my boyfriend on Saturday afternoon after a particularly rigorous morning of urban hiking (walking to the pharmacy and then to brunch).
For some reason, I couldn’t un-see the salmon. It was just sitting there on the top shelf of my refrigerator. $15 dollars of salmon shouldn’t just go to waste! It’s not right, financially, ethically, or otherwise.
“You can have it for dinner!” my boyfriend replied. He was going to a networking thing with some colleagues, thus leaving me to my own devices.
“Perfect!” I texted back, certain I would be in a salmon-y mood by dusk.
But, you guessed it: Dinner on Saturday came around out of nowhere (just like Friday!) and I wanted nothing more than to go out dancing and to eat little mini tacos served by a man in a tight black T-shirt with my friends.
So… I just left it there… Sitting on my shelf. A perfectly good $15 piece of salmon! A perfectly good $15 piece of salmon that had all of the sudden begun to feel like a leash! Like a chain!
By Sunday morning I woke up and whole-heartedly resented the salmon from its skin to its fleshy pink body. I resented it so much that the onslaught of emotion was shocking even for me, a girl that giddily splashes in the changing tides of irrational emotional distress. Worse though, I couldn’t figure out why!
Until, that is, I did.
It wasn’t my salmon…
I didn’t buy the salmon! I didn’t ask for the salmon! I didn’t want the salmon! Why, all of the sudden, was it my responsibility to eat the salmon?! This salmon was imposed on me! I certainly wouldn’t have purchased two whole pounds of salmon on my own, so how could my boyfriend so casually wipe his hands clean of this enormous responsibility, making me his unwilling accomplice in the abhorrent waste that is throwing away one whole pound of salmon?
“What an oppressive thing to do!” I screeched to myself, in my head.
I stewed on the injustice for hours. I fantasized about the salmon sprouting wings, flying to my boyfriend’s house, landing on his pillow, and perhaps giving him pink eye. I fantasized about yelling at him and slapping him in the face with the raw hunk of fish. I even fantasized about cooking the damned thing and serving it for dinner with the literal intention of giving him, and myself, salmonella in some sort of modern take on Shakespearian torture.
In the end, however, I threw it away.
I threw away the salmon, opened my computer, and wrote this objectively nonsensical essay of which I was certain would, much like the fish, live out its last days in the trash.
But then, I got to thinking: Why did a piece of high-fat protein — “good fat,” as they call it these days — evoke such rage in my otherwise happy relationship? Unless, of course, (CAN YOU HEAR MY BRAIN WHIRRING?!) this whole thing wasn’t about the salmon at all. AH-HA!
I’m having this epiphany quite literally as I’m writing this, but maybe you (the reader, not the salmon) already saw it from the beginning?
The truth of it is that I am in a new relationship, and I am in love. So in love, in fact, that I suspect I have been eager to absorb the obligations and emotions of my boyfriend with fervor. How could I not?
I am infatuated by our existence as a pair! So why wouldn’t his friends and interests become my friends and interests? His bad days my bad days? His worries my worries? His desire to stay in on a Friday night my desire to stay in on Friday night?
If I’m honest, I’ve been starving for this kind of relationship for a long time, the kind that leaves you thinking about the scope of your future together not in months but in years. I think it is the reason why I am willing to take on so much of him. But perhaps I feel the weight of this adjustment more acutely than I anticipated. Perhaps I find it slightly suffocating to, all at once, have all the parts of someone else’s life super-imposed on my own, even if the intention is nothing but pure.
I chose him, but I’m not sure if I must absorb all the things that come along with him (the friends, the interests, the emotions). At least, not all at once.
I suspect, as I clack away at this keyboard, what my therapist (this computer) is getting at is that my manic response to an otherwise innocent fish incident is a sign — albeit with some confusing signals — that I need to take a step back to re-gain a sense of what is mine, and what is his. To not feel like the weight of his choices and obligations (fishy or not) are necessarily mine to bare.
So perhaps the salmon wasn’t really about the salmon after all — but then again, if you’re fighting about salmon, is it ever really about the salmon?