“Life is the flower for which love is the honey” ~ Victor Hugo
When I was little, I loved to stare at the row of honey jars at the local green grocers.
The grocer didn’t mind that I came over after school every day to stand, neck craning and with a silly grin on my face, counting the jars and imagining what the contents would taste like.
The grocer was a family friend who once rigged his store raffle so I would win the stuffed puppy he had as a prize—he admitted to it when he was very old and after much pestering from me to confess.
We had a good laugh about it.
That honey looked so much better than the one my parents had in their pantry—theirs had been there forever, and looked suspect.
But these jars of honey promised delicious pleasures. There were so many different kinds to choose from! Dark buckwheat honey. Creamy, clover honey. Liquid wildflower honey.
I literally jumped up and down with excitement when the grocer told me about all the meadows that the bees would visit to gather their precious pollen.
I wanted to try the honey!
And one day—after a few futile attempts to get my mother to purchase some for me—he asked if I wanted to try one.
“She doesn’t like honey,” my mother stated.
Well, I didn’t like the honey at home, that was true…and I’d only had it with my lemon tea.
But when the offer came to try it, I just couldn’t decide which one. They all looked so exquisitely promising.
Jan and I decided on the creamed clover honey. Creamy. Clover. Honey. All those words fit together like poetry. Poetry for the mouth.
I stood expectantly. He let me pick the jar. It was small, with a label that said creamy and delicious.
It must be so, I reasoned with my ten-year-old brain, if it said as much.
And besides, the cuddly bear on the label looked properly convincing.
I sat on a high stool behind the counter, already pleased that I had been allowed into the inner storekeeper sanctum. I waited with bated breath. Jan passed the teaspoon with a perfectly scooped sample on the end of it…oooh, the honey underneath the top layer was a bit more golden. I stared at it, fascinated by the variance in texture and color.
I was a strange child…you may be gathering this already.
I put the spoon in my mouth—
My disappointment was paramount!
“You don’t like it?” He asked, surprised and a little upset at my crinkled nose. He’d wanted so much to make me happy.
“No. It’s sooo sweet!”
“Vat did I tell you?” Exclaimed his Russian wife, hands on her hips.
“What? She wanted honey, I gave her honey!” I stared at one then the other, not sure how to react to their sudden raised energy.
“She doesn’t like candy! She like pomegranates and limes. She likes speenach. She does not like sveet tings!”
“I like doughnuts!” I piped up. To clarify, these were Polish doughnuts with plum jelly in the middle. But she was right, I preferred savory to sweet any day. Still do, give or take some European cheesecake or an almond croissant. I’ve only started liking chocolate after 40.
(You see? Weird.)
“Vat you don’t like about the honey, honey?” The grocer’s wife broke into peals of laughter. I had just learned to speak English so I wasn’t sure what the funny thing was.
“It looks better than it tastes.” I was so disappointed that I started to cry.
“Ya. Like men and coffee.” Nina explained, to a ten-year-old who had no hope of grasping what she meant, although my first taste of coffee brought her words back in a rush.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ~ Winnie-the-Pooh
And so it was with men, love and sex.
I sure loved the look of men. Promising. Enticing—strong arms and muscular hands. Men with charming smiles, seductive words spilling from their mouths.
Yum! The advertising caught my attention.
I whipped myself into a frenzy of expectation. Mind you I came from a strict home so there was a lot of looking and dreaming but not much of touching up to a certain age…which I am not wont to disclose.
Such a display of chivalry and promised delights. I believed everything—naïvety is charming to men, but not so useful to young girls. So much to choose from. Although I had definite preferences, I still thought that variety was a game God played to make women insane.
When could I have my first taste? What kind would be best?
I wanted to be that honeybee in a meadow of wildflowers, gathering pollen on the ends of my delicate but efficient fingertips.
I did research. I read. Everything. Sex, love, romance, broken hearts. I devoured my objects of fascination via fictional rendition.
I wanted to lose myself in the ambrosia of masculine mystery.
But as it turned out, I was the flower and the men were the honeybees.
My first tastes were granted sometimes with eloquence and sometimes not, but either way, since I was the inexperienced one, theirs was the expert pollen gathering. Until I got the hang of it that was, and then I, too, became the connoisseur.
It wasn’t what I had anticipated…exactly. Like the creamy clover honey, my first experiences were a surprise. The headiness, the rush—almost too much, and better in teaspoons rather than tablespoons. I thought I wanted liquid wildflower, but found that buckwheat was awesome too. Sometimes I cried…either from ecstasy and other times from the shock of vulnerability that came with such intimate encounters.
A few times I said yuck. Because a man could turn out to be a hornet in bees clothing.
A few delicious times I dipped into more than one jar of honey at once. I was simply curious about texture, color and taste—and the dynamic between men when they have to share. Exquisite.
Sometimes the honey from bees who look a lot like me was tempting.
I found that I still loved savory more than sweet. Savory meant connection. Sweet was quicker. Savory and sweet was what I was after—a balance of words that penetrated deeply and the touch that unwrapped my sins.
I learned that not all that looks delicious will actually make my tongue tingle or my spirit soar.
I learned that sweet love will only tempt me for so long, after a while, I will need a bee who can appreciate the devil in me. After too many years, I realized that one must know themselves well to dip into that perfect jar of honey.
And one must be honest about what one likes.
If you need buckwheat, clover will never do. If you need a fervent lover, all naughty words and demanding hands, don’t pretend that the one who only deals in polite and pleasant will tempt you.
You can settle, but sooner or later, you will wander into the wildflower meadow.
My Russian friend was right. That first taste can be disarming and seemingly not what it promised. I grew into men, they became an acquired taste that I developed over time, while my taste buds adjusted to their strengths and differences. I started with boys, and in time was ready for something more refined and challenging to my tastes.
Now I know that every jar of honey has its own delights. But I need not taste each one. I can be choosier…because what I need has evolved.
Right now I am enjoying honey that rides my tastes with little effort. He is all that he says he is, and more.
I can expect what he offers, and be satisfied.
So if you’re going to try some new honey, leave room for the mystery. The first taste should leave you open to change and adventure.
Leave expectations behind.
Author: Monika Carless
Editor: Renée Picard