A Taste of Honey

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We met at my place, the little apartment I shared with my parents. It was a Saturday in 1961. I don’t remember exactly how it got set up. It was probably her idea — I would have been too anxious to ask her to come over; I hadn’t even followed up after the one date with a girl that I had as a teenager in high school.

My parents were both very busy at their store. Besides the mainstay of drapes, curtains, and yardage they stocked a variety of children’s clothes. It was late in the Fall and the merchandise was focused on Christmas. That and Easter were the two times of the year that contributed the most to annual sales. Perhaps ironic yet typical for such small Jewish-owned businesses.

I led her through the apartment and to my room. We talked and, somehow, we began to kiss. It was probably her initiative — she was small and slight but had a strong personality. She loved a good argument. She was going to engage with the world — and she did. She was just as determined to engage with me.

The next time I remember her was when I visited her parent’s home. I had, long ago, left the city I grew up in and never lived there again. My father still occupied the old apartment and I stayed there with him on my rare visits. He was terribly lonely and was upset that I’d want to spend time with anyone but him.

She looked the same; she had lived overseas for several years — and returned now with her infant child. I don’t know what we talked about. I never told our three mutual friends about the visit. But we did keep in touch, writing back and forth from across the country. In one letter I asked if she might want to get married. She wrote back that she didn’t really think we would make a good couple. I was disappointed, but even then I realized at some level that her adventurous personality didn’t fit well with my search for security in my life and in relationships.

But the memory burned into my brain is what happened in that room in 1961: my first real kiss, warm and wet. In some part of me that was looking on from a distance I was surprised. Not by her kiss but by her taste. She smoked — I did not. I was amazed that she didn’t taste like cigarette smoke. She tasted sweet, as sweet as honey. That taste, the taste of warm honey, is so fixed in my mind that I can almost experience it today.

Sometimes memory is a burden. Reliving an intense emotional experience, whether of anger or fear, of joy or of sorrow, can be hard. The movie “A Taste of Honey” premiered in 1961. The story centered on a young woman’s joyful but brief and ultimately sad experience of love. But for me, the memory of that taste of honey is not unhappy. Maybe because after all these years — and, of course, knowing what was to come — I now understand that she was right, we were too different in nature, in temperament, for a good partnership. Even so, through all the years since, a smile comes, along with a feeling of warmth and, even, of love, when I think of — and in my mind experience again — a taste of honey.

Marshall Sashkin

Marshall Sashkin is professor emeritus of human resource development at the George Washington University. He teaches graduate courses in the area of management and organization development, leadership, consulting skills, and research design and methods. Marshall received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and earned his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan in 1970. Since then he has conducted research, taught at several universities, and consulted with numerous public and private sector organizations (including the American Red Cross, TRW, GE, and American Express). From 1979 to 1984 he was professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Maryland. For nine years after that he served as senior associate in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the research application arm of the United States Department of Education. In that position he developed and guided applied research aimed at improving the organization and management of schools. Marshall has authored or co-authored more than 50 research reports and over a dozen books, including Leadership That Matters (with Molly Sashkin, Barrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2003).

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