Children are so mean. Have you ever seen a group of thirteen year olds? They can pinpoint your insecurities and will gleefully call them out! Everyone at one point in time has been terrorized by a child. The most common and, perhaps, most traumatizing moment is being called “gross.” It’s inescapable! You sneeze and snot runs down your nose, a chorus of “Ewww!” surrounds you. You fart, everyone pinches their nose and laughs. However, there is one action so heinous it will affect you into your adult years—the dreaded egg salad sandwich.
Before I begin, let me take some time to say egg salad is one of the great loves of my life. If it is on a menu, I will order it. However, it took me almost twenty years to achieve this comfort level. To not feel like the ‘gross kid’ for enjoying this creamy goodness on rye with tomato and lettuce.
The irony of all this is it wasn’t even me who brought the sandwich for lunch. It was another kid—we’ll call him Todd. From the minute Todd took out his sandwich, he was a marked man. As he began to unwrap it, the smell wafted down the table, causing heads to turn. Faces morphed from curiosity to pure disgust. The tension could be felt before anyone had a chance to say anything. Suddenly someone yelled, “Ewww!!! Todd’s gross! Look what he’s eating!” The tabling erupted into laughter with kids all too eager to comment on the ‘gross’ sandwich. Even some of the teachers and aids had difficulty hiding their disgust, though it was clear some were not trying too hard. Too nervous to intervene (I was five!), I watched Todd’s face turn scarlet and slowly put his sandwich back into his lunch bag. In that moment, I vowed to never bring an egg salad sandwich to school.
I must have really confused my mum when I asked her not to pack egg salad in my lunch. She knew I loved it, but I remember telling her it was disgusting and I hated it. I didn’t really hate it, but it was easier to join the masses and pretend than to face the ridicule of twenty-five five year olds. I told Mum a peanut butter sandwich would do just fine for me. I don’t hate peanut butter. In fact, I love it almost as much as egg salad. I told myself I was happy. At times, I even went as far as telling myself I was content.
I lived with this throughout my school years. Even in high school when whispers of people liking egg salad turned to them openly bringing the sandwich for lunch, I continued to keep my head low. I enjoyed the delicacy at home, but to bring it to school was too much for me. The fear of being taunted and mistreated paralyzed me from being as brave as my following egg lovers. The irony was not lost on me. I could lead a classroom discussion, was unafraid to start a fight with a bully, and had several people tell me they wished for my confidence. I would simply smile and thank them, wishing I had the confidence they thought I did. If they actually saw how chicken-shit scared I was at times, perhaps they would have rethought their wish. But the bravery of others—those who proudly waited in the “Soup n’ Sandwich” line for their egg salad proving they would not be frightened by others—gave me the courage to publicly love egg salad again.
Despite how many peanut butter sandwiches I ate, my love for egg salad had never diminished but had been a private affair. A secret love I kept to myself, though I’m sure others could have guessed. Once I left for college and was surrounded by new people who knew little about me, I realized I could be anyone. I could be exactly who I was. With this realization, I began to have egg salad anytime I wanted and as often as I liked. I began to try different variations- with lettuce and tomatoes (very good), cheese (not so good), or pickles (in moderation). It was like a new world had opened up to me. I was so happy and truly, truly content.
Don’t let me fool you! Occasionally, a small voice will call my sandwich disgusting or tell me I’m gross. The difference between my past and my present is now I tell that voice to shut up. If that voice has a body attached to it, I walk away. I try to surround myself with people who accept my love for egg salad. To be clear, this is not to say all of my friends love egg salad. Some of them, like me, have always loved it, others realized later on. Some have tried it and loved it, whereas others tried it and it wasn’t their thing. The important part is everyone is welcomed at the lunch table. Everyone and their sandwich is accepted.
Julia Child once said, “There is little in life that could not benefit from a little love, a little time, and a stick of butter.” Perhaps in this case it’s some egg salad.