mustard

Well, I spilled mustard on my shirt this morning. Not the Dijon stuff either, but French’s, with that four-alarm-yellow that made it look like somebody sprayed me with plutonium.

The mustard ended up on my shirt because I was in a rush (while making my daily cheese sandwich to bring to work which I know is lame but we got bigger fish right now, people) and the French’s bottle was a squirt bottle. I guess I squirted it too hard because it ricocheted off the bread like a racquet ball, even though condiments aren’t supposed to just bounce off bread like that. (Do your job, bread!)

But there they were – mustard splotches on my shirt. Worse, I only discovered it on the train on the way to work.

My first reaction, of course, was panic. If I’d had access to a pressure washer I would just started spraying myself, ripping the shirt right off my body and probably blowing a hole in the side of the Metro North.

Instead, I sat there. The panic metastasized into horror as we got closer to New York City, where literally millions of people had gotten through the morning without squirting mustard on themselves.

As I took the subway downtown to my office, I tried to calm myself by attempting to analyze the root of my horror.

Fact: I had mustard on my shirt.

“What are you actually embarrassed about?” I was asking myself. And Myself was shouting back “Because you have mustard on your shirt you idiot!” and it kicked over a trash can. But even Myself had to admit that my circular logic wasn’t providing an actual answer.

No, the deeper answer was this:

I was embarrassed at what my colleagues would think when they saw it. Specifically:

1.) Conor doesn’t know how to operate mustard, which means he is somewhere on the idiot spectrum, and my respect for him has dropped.

2.) He doesn’t care enough to change his shirt, which means he is a borderline vagrant, which means he will never be successful and my respect for him has dropped.

3.) He may not even know he has mustard on him, which means he doesn’t care for his appearance, and my respect for him has dropped.

4.) He is either eating mustard for breakfast or he is bringing a single cheese sandwich to work every day. (Dropped and dropped.)

Twenty minutes later, entering NYU Stern, I had to make that split second decision: Do I preemptively point out something embarrassing that I know others are going to notice anyway?

That’s how I found myself walking in and blurting out “I know, I have mustard on my shirt!”

Now, the problem with that is that nobody knows what the appropriate response is. They can’t really say “Are you okay?” because it’s just, like, mustard. So they pause from pouring their coffee to squint at my shirt and go “Huh!”

But there isn’t really much else to say so they raise their mug with that little “Well, cheers, I guess” and head to their office.

And oddly enough, after having blurted it out publicly and awkwardly, the Power of the Mustard Stain vanished.

As it turned out, the fear was all in the apprehension. Once I pointed it out and acknowledged that I felt really stupid about coming to work with mustard on me? That dread and that vulnerability, it all kind of just…vanished.

My wife figured this out years ago in a way that I find borderline-transformational. Here’s how it works:

Liz occasionally leads these weekend women’s retreats at this Christian ministry called We Want More, up in Bridgeport, CT. It’s a place that has changed many, many lives (I’ve done the men’s retreat, so I know this firsthand). The reason our friends, who run the More House, ask Lizzie to lead retreats is because she has a gift.

This is her gift:

When the dozen women are sitting together on the first evening, they go around and introduce themselves and talk briefly about their lives and why they decided to attend this faith-based weekend retreat.

Those answers, as you can imagine, have the potential to be extremely dull and non-specific.

The More House doesn’t do dull and non-specific.

So when Liz leads, she goes first. And with little or no preamble, Lizzie launches into her actual real-life struggles, and her pain, and her fears.

Liz doesn’t show everyone the tidy, Pintrest-y master bedroom with dried hydrangea blossoms on the nightstand that is her life. No, Liz’s personal tour brings everyone over to what she calls her Junk Closet.

She flings it open and she says “This is who I am. I’m desperate to get rid of this stuff, and I need help doing it.”

Liz, in other words, is the one who walks into the office and points out the mustard stain on the inside of her jacket, the one nobody was going to see if she didn’t point it out.

She does that because it helps her heal and because it helps others open up their own Junk Closet so that they can begin to heal, too.

That doesn’t mean Lizzie wouldn’t be mortified by a mustard stain. She’s human. (She also reminded me that she hates mustard, so bad example, I guess.) But she’s learned to own it. That’s what has made all the difference. That’s what I mean when I say the We Want More House has changed all those lives. So hard, and so simple. So impossible, and so possible.

Of course, none of this makes me feel any less dumb about this stupid mustard on my shirt right now. (People are sort of looking but trying not to look – you know what I mean?)

Anyway, here are the Top Five Sandwiches that I Have No Use For:

1. Roasted Veggies.

Seriously with this roasted veggies thing? I have a hard enough time with roasted veggies on their own, now you’re going to wedge them into my sandwich? You gonna key my car, too?

2. BLT.

This is a joke, right? You think you can sucker me into eating a lettuce and tomato sandwich by sticking a piece of bacon in there? Who can even taste the bacon in that Forest of Terribleness? It’s like the princess and the pea with this tiny bacon. I take the lettuce and tomato off sandwiches I actually enjoy. Now you wanna make those jive garden snacks the main event?

3. Prosciutto.

Get outta here with your prosciutto sandwiches. Look, I love prosciutto as much as the next guy. But has anyone in the history of sandwiches ever taken a bite and not pulled out all the prosciutto in the first bite? Who’s tearing through prosciutto with their teeth? Piranha?

4. Walnuts in the Chicken Salad Sandwich.

You wanna put walnuts in my chicken salad, you better serve it to me on a bridge because otherwise you’re going to have to let me borrow your car and your phone so I can google-map the nearest bridge because I’m going to drive that walnut chicken salad sandwich to that bridge and I’m going to throw it off it.

5. Anything on Pumpernickel.

Try to serve me pumpernickel bread. Try it. You’ll say “Here’s your sandwich” and I’ll say “I don’t see a sandwich” and you’ll say “What are you talking about it’s right there” and I’ll say “A sandwich is something made with two slices of bread” and you’ll say “That’s bread” and I’ll say “That’s not bread, that’s a pair of brown fossil chips, so if you wanna call that ‘egg salad between brown fossil chips’ then we can talk about that but that ain’t no sandwich.”

What can I say, I’m a big sandwich guy.

By | 2018-07-18T07:36:32+00:00 July 18th, 2018|24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Mark July 18, 2018 at 7:50 am - Reply

    My respect for you has increased.

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Spread the word, brother!

  2. Amy July 18, 2018 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Clearly the bacon ratio in your BLT history has been off. Love your writing Conor. And I love cheese sandwiches with yellow mustard.

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Cheese sandwiches! People have been giving me grief about this forever. But it’s cheese. And everyone likes cheese and what am I going to do, sully that up? No.

  3. Kathryn Thompson July 18, 2018 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I think this is my favorite!!!!

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Whoop!!

  4. Bill Shope July 18, 2018 at 8:44 am - Reply

    What a fantastic piece! I’m laughing while I read this on the train. Though it’s a comfortable and smug laughter since I do not have mustard on my shirt.

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:45 am - Reply

      I’m coming for your shirt with BBQ sauce. You won’t know where it’s coming. And you won’t know when. (Actually, probably next Tuesday, outside your house, but lemme know if you’re going to be in town because I’m not fighting traffic to Westport for nothing.)

  5. Mari Catherine July 18, 2018 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Okay, now I have spilled coffee on my shirt, thank you. Reading your blog, laughing out loud and drinking coffee is not a good combination. Anyway, LOVED it. Oh, and #6 for your list? Sprouts. Who needs to floss while eating? Great writing, my friend!

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:46 am - Reply

      Sprouts are useless!! Wish I had thought of this. They taste like nothing. They’re like an environmental hazard.

  6. Heather July 18, 2018 at 8:58 am - Reply

    I agree, the bacon to tomato and lettuce ratio is off. Here in North Carolina, BLTs are only second to BBQ, and the bacon to garden fruits and veggies is infinitely higher. We like the meat! Put on more bacon and mayonnaise, and you won’t taste that pesky lettuce or that fruit masquerading as some kind of edible vegetable. I love this post!
    .

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

      I never considered that the ratio was off. I figured I put more bacon on there somebody is going to swoop in with a head of lettuce and just shove it on there. I’ll need about a pound of bacon, though. This might be my weekend project.

  7. Tracy July 18, 2018 at 10:42 am - Reply

    This is awesome. I am totally guilty on both counts. I walk into my office (or small group) and tell them “I spilled coffee all over myself on the car so I’m sorry if I smell like an old coffee shop” or occasionally “I don’t remember putting on deodorant so please tell me if there’s a problem.” To which everyone laughs and feels safe to be equally honest when it’s their turn.

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Yes! It works! I love that.

  8. Cindy Halsted July 18, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Haha I love you conor! I laughed … then I teared up with the shout out… then I laughed again at the prosciutto! (Had to look back how to spell that because even my iPhone was struggling). Your blog is like life Conor. It makes you laugh and cry and exposes in an honest and real way! I’m a Conor fan!

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      I think I spelled prosciutto differently every single time I wrote it. Autocorrect had no suggestions. Thanks for nothing, autocorrect!

  9. Jill July 18, 2018 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    You are WRONG about BLTs. My favorite sandwich is actually a BLAST (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Swiss, on Toast) and it’s a blast to eat and order. A plain cheese sandwich with yellow mustard is sadly missing some essential BACON.

    • Conor July 18, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      See, now you’re talkin’. I would totally make that sandwich. But I would pull out the lettuce because lettuce is distraction. It’s like tossing a frisbee around a cocktail party, every minute you gotta think, where’s the frisbee? Where’s the frisbee? You can’t just enjoy yourself. Talk to me when you’ve edited out the lettuce. Little BAST sandwich action??

  10. Anita Marshall July 18, 2018 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    You are funny! Love your blog…keep on blogging!

    • Conor July 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anita!

  11. Naomi Korb Weiss July 19, 2018 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Omg, I laughed so hard I cried – multiple times. Keep em coming!

  12. Conor July 23, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Naomi!! Thanks for reading! So great to hear from you! 🙂

  13. brnoze July 24, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Picture this, Grandpa holding his 4 year old granddaughter while wearing a navy polo shirt with tiny little red polo guy embroidered on shirt. Granddaughter asks what’s that and while grandpa ponders how to explain polo, she answers her own question….Ketchup! Even without stains you can give the wrong impression. Conor. I enjoy how you think and love to read your blogs. Thanks.

    • Conor July 24, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

      Kids seem to take special delight when we spill. Ketchup is more entertaining than Polo, I’m guessing…

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