Have you ever been in a well lit pub? Exactly. Microdosed lamps in low ceiling basements with suspiciously expensive speakers hooked to each of the corners of the rooms are a familiar image in my mind. It was in one of the many of these in Dublin city that I hit a new low in one of the most infuriating arguments I have had in quite some time. A lamp – is it a salad or a sandwich? Now, putting the fact that the lamp is indeed just a lamp aside, if you had to choose which category to put a lamp into, and it was between a salad, or a sandwich, which one of you choosing? “Emma”, I hear you think, “is this how you spent your time off from college, lounging in murky pubs throughout the city, making up ridiculous and illogical ‘games’ to entertain yourself and the fool who chooses to go out with you?” Perhaps. Jealous much?
‘Salad or Sandwich’ is one of those games you play during long car journeys to keep yourself entertained and one I discovered when I was around seventeen. Too old for ‘Eye Spy’ but too young to just sit and wait for the destination to arrive (that’s called defeat). Everyone loves a good game – excluding the Saw franchise. A healthy argument, a bit of mental stimulation, exposure to others’ stupidity or dyslexia or colour blindness: it’s all entertaining and just for some fun. All of these elements alongside the inescapable moving car, and presumably those in said car make for riveting discussions. Salad or Sandwich has more of an opinion based factor to it than ‘Eye Spy’. In ‘Eye Spy’, you can be limited by lack of things to spy, or maybe you’ve played with a younger sibling who could only play if you chose a colour because they couldn’t spell and the options were extremely limited. Why do they choose sky as their answer every single time? No personal anecdotes going on here. Anyways, ‘Salad or Sandwich’ has a much broader baseline to play along. For example – a bed. Is this a salad, or a sandwich? People could say it’s a sandwich, (which it obviously is) because of its shape and layers of bedding. Others may stand their ground regarding it being a salad (they’re wrong), calling out that the bed holding all of the sheets and bedding is a salad in a bowl. You could question the situation further, like is the bed made, are they a blanket person or a one flat pillow kind of sleeper, the list goes on.
So, with the basic concepts laid out, I will ask you again – lamp: salad or sandwich?
This was a relentless topic for a long portion of my night in early spring of this year and while I don’t think I argue irrationally, I definitely think it could be a reason why I’m single. It sparked more than a debate in my mind however, more than a need to win. It brought up the idea of mindset and interpretation.
When I was sixteen, I was incredibly nervous to wear a dress I had found one day in a tiny vintage shop in my hometown. It was so beautiful, long and black with tiny red and yellow flower print covering it. In my teenage years I struggled a lot with my identity. As a queer girl with a girlfriend at the time who was more of a fairy than anyone had ever seen, I felt the need to give into some stereotypes. Should I stay more of a tomboy, dress with a bit more of a masculine sense? Even with perfumes I steered myself towards ones with the word ‘musk’, or would borrow my brother’s. While I did enjoy dressing like this and being more masculine, sometimes I felt the inclination to be more feminine, wear more makeup or whatever I felt at the time. But I was tunnel visioned. I felt I had to be what was expected of me, and whilst sometimes I liked how I looked in dresses, I was more concerned with how others would see things on me. So the day rolls around where I’m standing in my room staring at the dress, wearing baggy jeans and unbothered by the weather. Why was I so scared to put it on? But something that has stuck with me beyond all those summers since is my partner turning to me and saying – “you know, when someone looks at you in that, they just see a pretty girl in a dress. They don’t know it’s the first time you’re wearing it or that you’re nervous to be in it. If you’re happy in it, that’s all that matters.”
Everyone has their own perception of everything. That’s the outcome of existing among others. Just because someone thinks a bed would be a sandwich or that a lamp is a salad (a lamp is a salad, a lamp is most definitely a salad), doesn’t mean that a conflicting opinion is wrong. Someone could even totally agree with both sides and stay neutral, because that is just their particular mindset. I don’t know exactly what happened to that dress, it is hiding somewhere to avoid another cycle of moving out, but the fear is long gone from within myself and my attachment to it.
The fear of perception in an age of repetitive posting, liking, sharing and originality is a budding one that can slip into the back of your mind almost unnoticed and casually drop an opinion or two. Just enough to unsettle. But is it ever worth taking notice? A dress is just a dress, a lamp is just a lamp, and a salad and a sandwich do nothing to change the way you address your own life.