I talked with a good friend I hadn’t talked to for years today. She was my best friend when I was in my early twenties. We were so close that we spent every day together. We’d eat dinner together every night. And we’d fall asleep watching movies together. She’s beautiful and funny and so much fun to be around.
It never ceases to amaze how, with some friends, years can go by but when you talk with them, it’s as though no time has passed at all. She’s living in San Juan, Puerto Rico now, and we’ve already made plans for me to fly out to visit her. I can’t wait!
I got to the barn today, and the trainer told me to saddle up a different horse.
“But, why?” I asked, immediately upset.
“Um,.. For experience, for variety, and because I gave Kahlua the day off.”
When I got to the tack room, she said, “I changed my mind. You can ride Kahlua.”
And I was really happy and very relieved. As big a bitch as Kahlua can be, I’m used to her. My apple bribes have totally been working. When I brush her, we lean into each other a little now. I give her kisses on her nose and tell her what a sweet girl she is. We’re a team. We have a rhythm. And every time we’re together, I get the sense that she’s becoming more and more like a giant female version of Dog.
There was an obscure little movie that I saw, The Night We Never Met. It starred Matthew Broderick and some others. The Matthew Broderick character is talking to this woman who believes her fiancé is cheating on her. He gives her a little pep talk with regard to getting back her man. He tells her, and I’m paraphrasing, “Love is a lot like politics. The incumbent always has the advantage.”
The reason I believe this line is true is because we are, all of us, creatures of habit. We don’t like new. We like what we know. We crave familiar. And in order to make a change in our routine, our mate, our bath soap, we must be forced to due so out of necessity, pain, discontinuation. Change is not easy. We fight it every step of the way.
For me, I wear the same perfume I have for years: Ralph Lauren’s Romance. I use the same shampoo: Organics Green Apple and Ginger. I have a moisturizer I adore: Dr. Hauschka’s. I wear the same jeans: Seven for All Mankind. I go to the same nail salon, take the same route to work, shop in the same stores. Not because it’s convenient – that’s just how the habit started – but because it’s what I know. It’s what I like, because it’s what’s familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing try something new, but only when I can’t find what I know.
I come by this trait honestly. My grandfather would show up at his local Publix Supermarket every morning for decades. He got there as they opened. He’d have his list of things to buy for dinner that night. He’d buy his lottery ticket. He’d flirt with the checker. (Yeah, the flirting thing is in my genes, too!)
When my grandfather died, someone from my family, I think it was my uncle, went down to the store to let them know he wouldn’t be by anymore.
That’s what it took to break that routine.
I went to a different Publix today. The Boy complained that there’s never food in the house, and he’s out of toothpaste – Tom’s of Maine, in case you wondered – and I was just exhausted this evening and didn’t feel up to fighting for a parking space at the South Tampa location. So I popped into the Publix down the way from the barn.
How much could a grocery store vary from location to location? Well, this one carried Fried Green Tomato batter mix but didn’t have Challah bread without raisins. Hmm?
There was stuff I knew at this store. It was on my way home. I got rock star parking. Heck, it was even cheaper. I’ll go back to this store. But it won’t replace my regular store.
My store is the one I know. There’s a familiar smell. There are familiar faces. Even the walk from where I had to park the Volvo way out in Timbuktu is familiar.
And when it comes to relationships, the people we know are the ones we keep around, too. That’s why the incumbent has the advantage. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And no matter how bad a relationship may seem, it’s so much easier to stay with what we know than it is to start a new relationship with someone who’s just different.