Written by Ella Pitt
I learnt that we don’t all live parallel lives with identical traditions before I was ready. It was a visceral moment of surprise, like ice cold feet slithering underneath the covers at night to tip-toe over my warm skin.The moment arrived with waking up on an unfamiliar floor in an unfamiliar house, being served breakfast in an unfamiliar bowl. It was none of those things that catalysed this realisation, however. It was receiving a singular weetabix in a puddle of cold milk, the morning after a sleepover at a friends house, that changed the way that my 10 year old mind learned to perceive difference.
I couldn’t believe that there were really households all over the nation that were failing in what should be an innate need, to warm the weetabix before it is eaten. I couldn’t sit comfortably knowing that there were mouths biting into a weetabix that had not been warmed enough to soak up its milk and texturally transform into a thick cement with just a few crunchier edges remaining.
What this cold, tepid encounter really revealed was the tenuity of certainty, and my vulnerability in the face of this revelation. Trivial as the matter of choosing the temperature of your breakfast may be, to me it represented something far more sinister – that I couldn’t count on those around me to always share in my judgements, beliefs and values. Not even my closest friends.
The spectre of the cold weetabix continued to haunt me, transforming into the puzzling choices that my friends would make as teenagers and the bleak political landscape that I began to feel everywhere. What was, in hindsight, a comparatively gentle introduction to the idea that we don’t all think and feel the same, developed into a more gruesome, chaotic reality. In reaction to this, I fought back with certainty and consistency wherever I could. I embraced the opportunity to micromanage everything about my own life. I did this to mask the overwhelming confusion I felt when anybody neglected a moral code that I felt should be arbitrary. My love affair with rigidity has not been passionate, but it has at least been safe, predictable and neat.
As sacrilegious as it feels to admit, the outright rejection of uncertainty in all of its many forms culminates in a rather lonely existence. Really, if I think back to the beginnings of all my own ‘certainties,’ they didn’t exit the womb with me, but developed over time. I wasn’t born eating warm weetabix, and I had to try many things for the first time before they became the blueprint for my existence.
Many, many years after that initial incident waking up at my friend’s house, my now partner stayed at mine for the first time. She woke up on an unfamiliar floor in an unfamiliar house, and was served breakfast in an unfamiliar bowl. Having asked for one weetabix with cold milk for breakfast, she may have been surprised when I came back with three, warmed in the microwave with banana, dark chocolate and peanut butter. Whatever emotion she may have felt at the sight of breakfast was overshadowed by the blissful newness of a fresh relationship. Our tentative hands, guided by desire and the offer of a kiss on departure that I wasn’t sure would be redeemed, taught me to accept the soft fragility of uncertainty and its own governing force.