I have always hated cheese and been surrounded by people who love cheese. Social interactions always included pizza, for example—valued for its high cheese content. Grilled cheese sandwiches, where generous hosts would insist on adding extra cheese. Spaghetti, my favorite meal, ruined by so-called friends who would pile small mountains of parmesan without asking. You can’t tell people you don’t like cheese, because they always react the same way: “You don’t like cheese!?”
These years of pent-up, cheese-fueled resentment were likely one of the reasons for why Lua and I bonded so deeply. Our identity was steeped in anti-cheese values. Together, we were each other’s best sidekick, protecting each other from cheese snacks and protecting each other’s plates from cheese surprises. We made fun of people who like cheese (that is, everybody else) and enjoyed, for once, having someone who understood our hatred of the flavor. At eighteen years old, and with the big cheese secret out of the way, we gained new confidence and went out into the world.
Eventually, we moved away from each other, still speaking over the phone to share our news about love, work and lack of work. There were never any secrets between us. But that all changed one fateful morning when I awoke, alone in my apartment in Lithuania, thousands of miles away from Lua, who was in Namibia, with a stomach-churning, mouth-watering, overwhelming craving for cheese.
I fought it, telling myself I was going mad. Surely my tastes weren’t so fickle as to change overnight? Surely I was still myself, a Person Who Hates Cheese? Who was I without this hatred? The hours passed as I went to class, then to work, but the hunger only got worse. Finally, as I got off the bus in front of a grocery store, I couldn’t help myself—I bought the biggest bag of shredded cheese I could find, ran home, and stuffed my mouth with handfuls of cheese, right there on the kitchen floor. It was a revelation.
“I have a confession to make,” I told her on the phone some days later. She could tell something was going on. I had been avoiding her calls. “I like cheese now. I’m sorry.”
There was silence over the line. It extended as far as the gap between Lithuania and Namibia. I prepared to list the reasons for why we should remain friends.
“Me too,” she whispered. “I just didn’t know how to tell you.”
2020 Update: I no longer like cheese, although I will occasionally dip my hand into a bag of shredded mozzarella. Lua, on the other hand, has fully converted.