“Can’t We All Just Drink Our Own Cup of Tea?”
article by Meredith McKinnie
A few weeks ago my boyfriend’s family was in town, including Charlotte, my one-day-to-be sister-in-law. Charlotte and I bonded from the start. We just get each other. I would hang out with her even if I didn’t have to, so the prospect of her being family makes me simply giddy. She has those qualities that I so look for in a kindred spirit. She’s a reader, hip to pop culture, she speaks quickly and is always aware of social cues. We both teach English and can always converse well, whether it’s trivial or heavy. I so look forward to our Starbucks trips, where once Charlotte insisted on her cup being a certain degree temp, a quality that would drive me nuts in anyone else, but to me she’s so special that it’s amusing.
So as we were sitting around visiting, obviously discussing our latest reads and to-reads, I suggested a recent biography I adored, from a feminist pioneer I also adore, Lena Dunham. And to my shock, Charlotte simply shrugged her shoulders and uttered, “Meh.” I was stunned. “WHAT? You don’t live for Lena Dunham? She’s everything. She’s air. She gets life, like really gets it, twenty years before society says she’s supposed to, she’s herself. And she’s comfortable with it. She has an acceptance of self that we always strive for. She’s my literary hero, right now! And she’s a writer!” And still, Charlotte was unimpressed. I immediately felt shock and disappointment. Obviously Charlotte had mistaken something Lena said. Surely had she experienced her in a true sense, as I had gorging on every article and watching five seasons of the HBO hit “Girls” twice through over the span of a weekend, surely she would feel differently. But after my protests, my lovable, quick to the point Charlotte simply said, “She’s just not my cup of tea.”
What a concept. It’s cliché, of course, and we’ve all heard it, but it clicked for me in that moment. The truth is, I see so much of myself in Charlotte, I feel compelled to introduce her to everything I love, as if she has to love it too. And she doesn’t. Turns out, Charlotte likes sci-fi. Shoot me in the face. She probably even adored post-modernism, one part of my education I could barely stomach. But that’s okay. If we were the same, what else would we talk about? It’s our differences that make us intriguing.
This same concept goes for politics and religion. We don’t have to like it to tolerate it. We don’t have to shoot the messenger because his message differs from ours. We’re all entitled to our own messages. We all deserve the right to speak our truths, but who are we to insist others agree. They don’t have to. It doesn’t make our truths any less our own. It doesn’t make us less ourselves. I shouldn’t feel a sense of failure or disappointment because I can’t get my mother away from recycled who-dun-it novels she reads daily. It’s okay if she doesn’t get my love of biographies. It’s okay if Dad, one of the smartest men I know, doesn’t like to read. It doesn’t make him less smart. It’s okay if I don’t share Boyfriend’s love of Star Wars or Star Trek or any of those other space type movies that make my eyes roll back in my head. It’s just not my cup of tea.
This realization relaxed me in a way. While I’ve never been one to impose my beliefs on others, I have expected those I like to like what I like, and I have questioned their taste level if they don’t. I’ve wondered what they were missing that they didn’t savor these undiscovered little morsels in the world. Flavors exist for a reason. We get our own cups because we don’t all drink from the same pot. Being exposed to different paths in life, people unique to our upbringing, thoughts that are opposed to ours, that’s when we learn tolerance and growth and that our opinions are minor in a world of opinions. We don’t have to impose our ideas or beliefs or authors or cups of tea on others. It’s okay to savor it all by our lonesome.