June 25, 2010
Are you and your partner happy even though you are as dissimilar as chalk and cheese, or are you happy because you are very much alike?
About a week ago my brother shared a post called Chalk and Cheese from the Life With the Campbells blog, saying it reminded him of me and my husband. Curious, I checked it out and decided Molly Campbell definitely has a way with words; she is the second-place winner in the 2010 Erma Bombeck writer’s competition. Her description of the relationship between her and her husband is like that of my marriage, except that in our case the roles are reversed.
After reading the post, I decided to see whether she had made up the phrase “chalk and cheese” or whether it was an idiom others would understand. So I visited faithful Google again and found in The Phrase Finder that the idiom comes from England and describes two things or people that are very different and have nothing in common, yet are used together. Think about “hocus-pocus, the bee’s knees, riff-raff, etc.” There doesn’t seem to be much purpose in the rhyming or connection of these words expect that they go together in a fun sort of way.
Certainly you wouldn’t confuse chalk and cheese, just as you wouldn’t confuse me with my husband, even beyond the physical characteristics. This is what I wrote in a comment on Molly’s post in describing how the roles in our marriage are like the roles in her marriage except that the roles are reversed:
He’s an engineer and I couldn’t understand what he does if my life depended on it. I’m a therapist with a spiritual bent and have written three books, none of which he’s read (says he’s not a reader, which is true, but couldn’t he at least read his wife’s?).
When something happens, he takes his sweet time to decide what he feels about it. I immediately know what I feel in a situation. (In psychology this is called being a slow-responder and fast-responder). However, after fifty years, some of his traits have rubbed off on me and I guess some of mine on his.
What two words would describe your relationship with someone with whom you are connected in some way — partner, spouse, friend, child, neighbor, parent, sibling, etc. — that express similarities or dissimilarities?
Would you choose common words like “cat and dog,” which conjures up an image of fairly constant fighting? Or would it be “soft and softer?” There are all kinds of words and phrases that describe relationships. How would you describe yours?