The Rat Takes the Cheese

July 17th, 2010

Dear Charles,

As you know, cheese is delicious. Fortunately for the people of earth, there is a vast, vast variety of cheeses available to us for consumption by mouth, including soft, hard and caraway flavored. I am unaware of the types of cheeses available for consumption via other methods of enjoyment. Some cheeses are more naturally appropriate than others for particular dishes; for example, Velveeta would not be my first choice for pairing with fresh figs and balsamic vinegar, but perhaps it is quite delicious? Cheese is so tasty, after all. 
I am married to a man whose first and second languages are not English, and who has a great love of cheese because he is European. Just so that you know how serious this is, he also asks the organic cheese counter person for rinds, and eats those as well, as a snack and evening chewing distraction. I therefore frequently announce my intentions with cheese loudly and in clear simple language, often assisted by hand-made visual tools and signage where appropriate, sometimes in song or with interpretive dance, to which he seems to enthusiastically respond. 
Last night I made several clear announcements, but this time without dance or song, regarding my cheese intentions for this evening’s meal, which involved Emmentaler, and checked my work by asking questions to which he replied, apparently confirming receipt of my intentions. But, as a thousand times before, when I went to use the cheese, it was gone. Rind and all. All that I had, Charles, was a dried bit of Parmesan. It wouldn’t do! It wouldn’t do at all!! So I had to run to the store, but my bike has a flat tire, which meant I had to use my legs and feet, which meant it took 45 minutes I really didn’t have in the first place, especially with things on the stove. Also I have a blister, and he REALLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT. 
Also, he refuses to buy slightly too much cheese because he knows he will eat it all. We are both quite busy and do the shopping together, leaving little opportunity for nefarious extra cheese purchasing. 
What can I do? Oh please help me.


Desperate for Cheese

Dear Desperate for Cheese –

Common interests are often regarded as one component (a polymer, perhaps) of the glue that holds a marriage together, so it’s a good thing that you and your husband have an abundant supply of your shared love of cheese to offset the apparent absence of at least one of a couple of other key glue components, effective communication and mutual consideration for each other’s well-being. However, a common interest can take a marriage only so far on its own before that common interest begins cracking under the strain and behaving erratically and attracting the attention of the tabloids, so let’s take a look at what might be done to keep your sharp and aromatic but thinly spread mutual fondness for cheese from meeting this wretched fate.

First, let’s try to determine whether we can chalk up the problem to communication. You say you checked your work by asking your husband questions and that his answers apparently confirmed that he understood you. Were these yes-or-no questions, and did you look at him with an expression of hopeful anticipation of affirmation and vigorously nod when you wanted a “yes” answer, and was there an ominous quality to your demeanor when you asked a question to which the correct answer was “no”? If so, you might want to start asking essay questions and stop grading on the curve. Ask questions whose correct answers leave no room for doubt that your message was received, and don’t let up until you get a correct answer to each and every one of them. And don’t forget to include a question that will ensure that he understands that your intention to use a given cheese in the evening’s meal means that he must not use that cheese as his afternoon snack. It’s possible that he hasn’t connected these two things, or even that he thinks you’re urging him to consume the cheese under discussion as soon as possible. To judge from the picture you paint in your letter, its not inconceivable that your husband is not even aware that he married you and is not entirely certain why you have a key to the house he lives in and sing and dance for him and delight him with your signage and visual aids and seem to be able to magically produce a nice meal each evening but that he’s not particularly curious about these things, perhaps because he’s pleased with the current state of affairs and is willing to accept it at face value, so you may want to clear these points up for him too, while you’re at it. If it turns out that he cannot satisfactorily demonstrate a grasp of what’s going on, at least as far as the cheese is concerned, then you might want to try new communication techniques or embellish old ones, perhaps obtaining a phrase book for the easiest of your husband’s first two languages and mastering all of the cheese-related phrases in it, perhaps reintroducing song and dance to your attempts to put across your cheese plans but with the aid of an accompanist or a small band. Whatever you do, though, don’t stop doing it until you are absolutely certain that he understands what you are trying to tell him.

If it turns out that your husband’s comprehension of the situation is perfect and he still eats the cheeses you earmark for meals, it’s hard not to conclude that he’s inconsiderate. Unfathomably, egregiously, amazingly, inexcusably inconsiderate. One possible way to get him to consider the consequences of his actions is to make him suffer them. The most astonishing part of your letter, which contains many astonishing parts, is the part where you say that you ran to the store on a blistered foot because he had polished off the cheese you had told him you planned to use. Never do that again, even with pristine feet and a functioning bike. Check for the cheese before you start cooking, and if it’s not there, have your husband go get some more, or if he’s not home have him pick up some more on the way home. If he’ll be unable to deliver the cheese in time for you to incorporate it into a meal, heat up a frozen dinner and eat it, and then when he gets home, explain (icily or tearfully or cheerfully, whichever approach you judge will have the most impact) that you were unable to cook because he ate your star ingredient and that you’ll be happy to cook the next evening if he’d care to replenish your supply of that ingredient. Then, either brood sullenly for the remainder of the evening (works best with the icy approach), retire to a room whose door can be locked and lock that door (best with the tearful approach), or go watch TV or read or build a pillow fort or take a walk or see if your husband wants to play Scrabble or do whatever you normally do after meals (cheerful approach). If you think confusing your husband will make paying the price for his offense more unpleasant for him, mix announcement styles and follow-up activities (for example, a cheerful announcement followed by sullen brooding). Only a world-class rat would be able to maintain your husband’s current behavior patterns under such conditions.

Hoping your husband doesn’t turn out to be a world-class rat,



Have a pressing problem?  Or even a problem that is not particularly pressing, but just want to see it displayed on a blog on the internet?  Or maybe you just like to write letters to strangers?  Might I then suggest writing a letter to Dear Charles?  Because you’ve probably suffered long enough.

You can write Dear Charles at Dear Charles at live dot com.

He’s been waiting his whole life to hear from you.


  • Kiara:

    Not to be rude, but I’m wondering how you found yourself married to someone with whom you share no language. It must be very difficult.

    • Rechelle:

      Uh Kiara – not to be rude, but if we all communicated perfectly with each other at every single moment of our lives there would be no need for Dear Charles and would that not create a huge sucking hole? I mean this letter made me laugh. Without it – I would be missing those laughs. Of course, I probably wouldn’t realize that I was missing them, but still – I would miss them. Even if I didn’t know I was missing them. This would be one of the many troubling mysteries of the universe – the missing of the laugh that you didn’t know you were missing. Must find cheese to console myself with now. Hopefully husband has not eaten it.

  • amy:

    “perhaps reintroducing song and dance to your attempts to put across your cheese plans but with the aid of an accompanist or a small band”

    Laughed out loud at this one. Love the humor here.

  • Sue:

    So, so funny! Wordy, but very funny!

  • *snerk* My husband’s first (and only) language IS English and we have this same problem. Here’s my solution: hide the key ingredient amongst the stuff he does not like (or in my case the shelf of homemade baby food). Seems if he can’t remember my directive that it is to be reserved for a tasty meal, he also can’t seem to remember we bought it after a day or so. This works well for tasty leftovers you’d prefer to keep for yourself as well. And it’s saved me the singing, dancing, and meal prep frustration.

    Love you Dear Charles!

  • LucyJoy:

    I hide things I don’t want my hubby to get in the back of the vegetable bin. He never looks there!

  • Action Squirrel:

    Ok so I admit that this was me, I was the one with a cheese crisis. And I did dramatize *coff* somewhat for effect, but he does indeed have a weird communication black hole when it comes to cheese. He really can’t help himself. I am certain this will be clinically diagnosed one day.

    The cheese crisis resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, thank you for your support, Dear Charles. (I assure you he really is a very attentive and fair husband & friend, except for where cheese is involved.)

    Kiara, I can only assume from your comment that you speak only one language. I speak 4 fluently, 3 passably, and a smattering of one other. My husband and I actually share 3 languages in common, with our own defaults in certain situations; where cooking and time constraints are involved, for example, I usually default to English.

  • I was laughing so hard I was coughing. I love DC