Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Parable of the Pans

Britny and I spent a few hours last night packing everything from my kitchen into boxes in preparation for the new floor and cupboards being installed over the next few days (yay!!). The kids and I are moving soon, but unfortunately, moving day is juuuust far enough away that leaving the kitchen packed up until then is unreasonable (boo!). So, we packed a few permanent boxes (decor, cookbooks, etc.) flung the rest into whatever boxes and laundry baskets I could find, and treated ourselves to sour cream lemon pie from Marie Callendars. Everything from the cupboards now resides in the family room (and was a real treat to tear through 20 boxes looking for my cell phone charger after dinner tonight) and all the appliances are sitting in my living room. The kids were weirded out to be grabbing drinks from the fridge that is now where the couch used to sit. And we microwaved our dinner in the family room and ate it on the back porch. There is nothing in the kitchen. Not a shelf (yet), not an elevated surface, my voice eches in there and I know for a fact that the floor is the cleanest it will ever be again. It feels like Wonderland around here. As I was pulling dusty, never used things from the back of the pan cupboard, I came across what was left of the pan set that J and I bought when we were first married. I had a genuine chuckle when I remembered 'the parable of the pans.'

It all started when we were engaged. J wanted to go to one of those sales pitches where they lure you with free stuff in order to sell you timeshares/vacations/kitchenware. We went for the free stuff but walked out of there completely suckered. To this day, I am ashamed of the amount of money we talked ourselves into spending on pots and pans so lets just get wild and say they were forty thousand dollars (they weren't, dad...). What got us was not the amazing sales pitch we got, but our solid belief in that we were doing what the other one wanted. That's not to say we were not impressed with what the pans could supposedly do. Waterless, greaseless cooking!! ("so healthy!") practically self cleaning... ("more time to spend with each other, babe...") and on and on. In addition, with the purchase of the pans, we could get a great deal on their different styles of china ('Babe! China! Surely in our future together we are going to want china to eat Thanksgiving dinner off of for the next half century....Someday the kids will fight over it for its sentimental value...") Despite this, we both recall getting through the presentation and feeling like we could live without forty thousand dollar pans. But when that salesman sat us down and pitched his 4 piece 'student deal' we looked at each other and completely caved.

What followed was some classic miscommunication, the details of which would spark good natured arguments for the next eight years as to who was more responsible for the purchase. I recall looking at him and seeing the excited "should we go for it?" look on his face. He recalled me looking gooily at him as though I couldn't live another day without those pans, and he wanted to give me what I wanted. He claims that he didn't realize that pans weren't supposed to cost forty thousand dollars and my argument is that I was taken in by the idea of purchasing the very first possession for our future together, and he seemed interested, so... (Although I will admit to being fully aware that pans did not have to cost that much, but what my baby wants...!) We should have genuinely talked it over and walked out of there and straight to walmart where we could have furnished our entire kitchen for half the price. But, neither of us wanted to tell the other one 'no.'

We bought the pans. To our future shame and chagrin we bought forty thousand dollar pans that came with a manual and an instructional video but did not, in fact, cook anything waterlessly or greaselessly :-) It turned out that the pans burned everything, needed to be washed by hand and treated with a special polish. On top of that, we misunderstood '4 piece set' to mean four different pans. It actually meant a pot, a frying pan and a lid for each. We used them out of sheer stubbornness for a year or so until we really began to resent them and caved in to a $20 walmart set that had teflon and wasn't carving little monthly nicks out of our meager finances.

Over the years, the subject would come up and each of us would cheerfully blame the other for influencing the purchase, but what it really comes down to is that both assumed we knew what the other wanted and neither of us did. We ultimately determined that everyone has to make some dumb financial decisions and even though the amount we paid was exorbitant, it was a lesson learned much more cheaply than by overextending ourselves on a fancier car or house than we could afford. We called it the 'parable of the pans' and figured that when our children inherited the pans (because we assumed that only when our great-grandchildren were cooking on them, would they be worth the price), we could use it as a teaching opportunity. We would remind them that communication is crucial and also that it's never a good deal to sign up for something that only gives you 48 hours to reconsider (long before we had even received the product). Ironically, this was a concept we completely forgot when we signed ourselves up for a vacation credit deal, remembered it in our sleep and cancelled by the following morning. We thought the 'parable of the pans' might be a good lesson for us to remember to actually communicate, instead of assuming we know what the other is thinking.

I hate to say it, but we did not learn that lesson well enough, and the fall out has been extremely "expensive." I'm processing my life and my situation, but I am not trying to be a victim. As such, I can acknowledge that although nothing I did or could have done gave him permission to cheat, I bear some blame for cracks in our relationship and one of those things was not being open to better communication. I assumed I knew what he was thinking and I think he did the same, but neither of us really asked. We laughed and we planned and we walked through many peaks and valleys together and there was certainly enough substance to our actual relationship that it would have been fixable with the right kind of work. But if it is only an option for one person, it's not an option at all. My focus right now is not regretting 'buying the pans,' but being grateful that I didn't also 'buy' the china. On my good days, I can see some value in that.

I threw the last of the pan set away last night and it kind of made me sad. It is not something that will be kept around for a laugh anymore, but I think I may have finally learned my lesson. Sometimes the things you don't talk about CAN hurt you. Not asking when something feels wrong CAN turn around to bite you. Honesty might suck sometimes, but it does build a bridge of communication if it is done with love and respect. If I ever sail the murky waters of another relationship, fixing this aspect of myself (and being ok with hearing the answers) is going to be paramount and will be something I will take with me. The world probably won't end if you disagree or refuse to bring potentially unpopular subjects up. It just might end if you don't though.

I'm starting to wonder if those pans might have been worth every penny after all!


  1. I had forgotten about the forty-thousand-dollar pans. And I've never heard the parable- what a good lesson it (still) is!

    BTW- one more lesson? Listen to your little sister- I told you the day after you got the pans they were a bad idea :)

  2. yeah....that wont be happening... ;-)

    (know it all!)

  3. Very good advice about the whole communication thing. Isn't it so vital? We live and learn, even when we get taken for a ride.

  4. Great post as usual Cyndi. This is one of your relatives speaking and I know this isn't the point of the post at all, but I had to laugh because fyi I actually spent about 1/2 a summer one of those college years selling that Waterless cookware, along with some beautiful china and crystal. (Appointments in people's houses at that time) I have the china boxed up and used maybe a few times in my life. The crystal has seen more action, but I never actually got the pans myself, just the demonstration pan which is as you described and only gets used for sauces etc. and I lost the most important of all...the lid! You are making it through all of this with flying colors in my book. Keep up the good work!

  5. Dear anonymous relative...please don't ever, ever tell my dad how much we spent on those pans!!!


  6. Ok I am intrigued I really really want to know how much you spent on the pans! :-)