The polarization out there just never ends, does it? Blue states/red states, global warming, gun control, Affordable Care Act, etc. On any given day I’m either laser-focused on some of these issues, or I’m figuratively wearing blinders and earplugs to ignore the madness. One needs to find a healthy balance especially as another election season approaches.
So what better way to cope sometimes than with a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. After all, you’re in the safe environment of your own home, a place where common ground and mutual acceptance of all views is guaranteed, right?
Well… yes and no. At least in my house. Wine can be one of those hot-button issues in our abode that creates its own unique kind of polarization. As with many political struggles, it becomes a battle for purity; a fight for one’s own belief system and values.
Of course, a less pompous way of explaining this is to simply say “marriage” and be done with it.
At one extreme stands my lovely wife, holding a wine glass containing a pinot noir produced at a small, craft Willamette Valley winery. At the opposite end is me, clutching a spreadsheet in one hand and a glass of middle-shelf cabernet sauvignon in the other.
It’s not a sexy look being the bean counter.
We are engaging in our own version of a first-world class struggle; a relative quiet war as conflicts go. In fact after a few swallows it barely feels like there’s even any acrimony. Under the surface, however, lies a breach that we haven’t yet filled during the previous five years.
It’s wine shop vs. supermarket, top-shelf vs. lower-shelf, bottle vs. box, etc. On a really challenging day it can even be cork vs. screw cap (sorry, Aussies and Kiwis: between me and thee, though, you folks are actually right about that particular argument).
If taste is subjective, I argue that so is cost. We can yin-and-yang this till the cows come home (or should that be “grapes dying on a vine?”), but I swear in a previous life my taste buds once belonged to a bookkeeper. I can’t enjoy something if I’m feeling self-conscious about whether it was too expensive.
Well, that’s not completely true. I bet I can taste notes of tobacco and pepper, or smell terroir aromas, when it’s a bottle of wine from your cellar. I’m a wonderful guest; invite me over and I’ll prove it!
At the moment for me, all of this goes to the essence of the early retirement experience: enjoy your life and the newly found freedom, but at the same time stay within a spending plan and budget. Those extracurricular consumptions of my salaried years are now a (mostly) happy remembrance. I hold them close but not too close. Each trip to the store’s wine section is a search for that illusive needle which also happens to be bargained priced.
For Gorgeous on the other hand, purity is central to her belief system. A cook and baker of notable skill and knowledge, she insists it doesn’t matter whether it’s coffee, olive oil, flour, farmed vs. wild, etc., the final result must be better tasting, better for you, and made with the finest ingredients possible. She will abstain from consuming rather than having to ingest anything inferior.
Browsing the wine offerings at the store becomes a test of wills between us; each one pulling bottles from our respective price categories and ignoring what the other is selecting. One comical result is that we later suffer from mild aches and pains in different areas: her neck hurts from looking up at the higher shelves, and I’ll get lower back pain from stooping to the lower ones.
Our conversational interactions never vary much from shopping visit to shopping visit:
“This Sonoma syrah looks good.”
“It’s $31. That’s a lot of money. How about this $8.00 one instead?”
“No. And anyway I’m not familiar with wine made in Alabama.”
“Hmm. Really? I could have sworn it said Alsace.”
Ultimately we end up buying her choices because in fact she pays for the groceries under our budget. But I’ll usually slip out on my own and pick up the odd bottle or two, and so in the end we always have a mix of “hers” and “mine.” It’s probably not too difficult figuring out which ones are the last to be consumed.
Where all bets are off is when we visit an actual wine store or gourmet food market. That’s when I wave the white flag and spend most of my time around the free sampling tables. She’s in Eden; I’m nervously subtracting years from my future RMD’s.
Within a very short few years I will no longer use the “early” preface to describe my retirement. Additional liquidity from the start of 401(k) distributions, followed later by Social Security payments after my full retirement age, should, at least in theory, allow this boy to stop being so miserly. In the meantime, I’m satisfied consuming from my own “popularly priced” selections.
But please, don’t be afraid to come for a visit. I promise we’ll only serve you what Gorgeous bought. I’m a generous host.
Until next time…