An Acquired Taste

Like something to everyone, I am an acquired taste. I am someone people learn to like, learn to love. I’m not someone you will fall in love with instantly. I am unapologetic and brash with no verbal filter. I am proud and not ashamed. The acne scars, stretch marks, the bruises, and blemishes are my battle wounds. They are me and I am them. I am hardened to this world and that makes me difficult to love.

Love is all-pervasive and compromising and I am not. You have to bend for love and I don’t want to chafe. 

It’s usually in a drunken haze my friends tell me that I’m “alright, actually”. Their initial notion of me being “intimidating” had changed. They had the time to see past my Resting Bitch Face. At my latest annual appraisal, my line manager’s constructive criticism concluded that I was unapproachable. Defensively, and probably proving her point, I asked her why she thought that was a bad thing. I’m here to do a job and, fuck, I am good at my job. I’m not here to play the bubbly, happy-go-lucky Dumb Blonde. And I won’t be that for you.

Here, I consider myself to be submissive but that doesn’t mean I am spineless. I have opinions and you will respect them. You will admire them and I will force you to question your own perspectives, question your own preconceived notions of what you like. And that makes me difficult to love.

Like all the best things in life, I am an acquired taste. 

Beer, good beer; whiskey; gin; coffee. Nobody likes these at first sip. But we dance with them again, then again and again, usually because of how we want to define ourselves. They give our soul extra value.

I remember my first sip of coffee. I remember asking my mother what to ask for when I entered that pretentious Artisan coffee house with their rustic bags of coffee beans pinned to the wall and wooden crates up-cycled into the uncomfortable but aesthetically pleasing – so fucking cool – seats. I was fourteen or fifteen, impressionable and I wanted be to be a grown-up. I wanted to be sophisticated and cool like the regulars who used this haven as their second home. I read my book and delicately sipped on my espresso. Bitter. Gritting through closed teeth. Take another sip. Like a college hazing, character building. This is what it takes to be a cool girl. I am a grown up. And now my digestive tract is constantly coated with cappuccino. I can’t get through a day without it. 

I love the ritual of preparing it, like decent foreplay, the anticipation of the end goal. Grinding the beans down, the aroma already taking home in my lungs, soon to take me hostage. And then the waiting game. Letting the water diffuse through every shredded bean. Stir gently, add more water. Pushing down on the French Press is my favourite part of preparation. Like when you’re on the edge. Push it gently and pour. Nearly there. Anticipation building.

And that first sip. The bitterness never leaves but it’s a bitterness I have learned to like, learned to love. An acquired taste. 

Of course, I have instant coffee and a little part of me dies when I spoon the granules into my precious bone China mug but it does the job. It gives me the instant gratification required when I’m running late or feeling particularly lazy and don’t want to invest my time into something more worthwhile. 

I suppose I am a synonym to instant coffee. Quick to prepare, always available, require little effort. But there’s always something better if you want to take your time, so much potential if you wanted to take your time.

I may be an acquired taste but I am a taste certainly worth acquiring. 

Babies in prams and arms interlocked, kisses at crossings and drinking coffee with cuddles we share each other’s company in the presence of others. It’s New Year’s Eve so the end of the year but today marks the start of us reigniting of our time together. We laugh together and smile into each other’s eyes reminiscing of our year gone by: the times when we were on our own, playing catch up, nodding, smiling and acting interested. Though I am interested. Every word you speak mesmerises me, you are passionate and I like that. I take you to coffee shops where I have a history and a past of bundlers, I’m not sure whether I took you there because it was convenient or because I wanted to show you off because I am proud of you and I love being on your arm.

You are a bag of contradictions but it is a mix I like. You are unpredictable yet I feel secure. You are a fighter but not a stereotype. It’s a nice mix of masculinity and the ability to care. You get offended when I called you a ‘soft’, but you misunderstand me.

Dundee is colder that I expected, always like this in winter – I forgot the smell of it, like the inside of a hairdryer, mixed with concrete and ozone. I wander around the city centre, Perth Road and back again, buy magazines that I don’t have time to read, sample-sized bottles of conditioner and tanning lotion which I will never use, nail files, soap, olives, crackers, strawberries. I try to do homework in the bathtub, crossed legged in orange laced knickers and the pink t-shirt on which you gave me, lay on the big white hotel bed with the heat on.

At ten PM, I drink cava from plastic hotel cups. I’m waiting. This morning: Glasgow, Merchant City, coffee, work, promote, sell, Dundee. Tomorrow: Dundee, work, Glasgow or Edinburgh, home to the chaos and noise. Home to study, to read.

Everything scrutinised. But tonight I am waiting. Tonight I’ll drink cava until I can’t feel my tongue.