My sister is currently on a diet and I am currently on the opposite of that, so a lot of our conversations recently have focused on Foods She Misses Having the Way She Likes Them and Foods I Like and Can Now Have Again Because Enough of You People Are Going Gluten-Free That Those of Us That Don’t Have the Choice Profit from Your Plumping up the Market. The intersection of these topics is often sandwiches. Sandwiches are hands-down my sister’s favorite food, and hands-up one of the foods I never thought I would really eat again, given that gluten-free breads, for a long time, tasted like little decks of playing cards. But even given the improved gluten-free developments referenced above, it is still the middles of sandwiches I like the best. My sister and I were discussing this the other day.
Sandwich-Loving Sister: How can you love the filling more than the sandwich as a whole? The entire point of a sandwich is the way the texture of the bread works with the texture of the filling!
Me: The entire point of a sandwich is having a lot of mayonnaise. (pause) Or melted cheese.
SWL: Are you insane? The bread is what gives mayonnaise and cheese a reason for being!
Me: Nope. The bread is just the delivery vehicle for the yummy part. THE INSIDES.
SWL: (horrible sound of hair being torn) Are we even sisters?!
In the tumultuous aftermath of this conversation, I realized my position towards editorial letters and the like is exactly the same as my view of sandwiches. And that makes sense because editorial letters are so often constructed just like sandwiches. Criticism sandwiches.
I’m sure you all have heard of this. When one delivers criticism, the theory goes, one is meant to lead with a compliment, touch upon a point that could use improving, and then end with more compliments. As in, “You look so pretty today! Did you know you have a popsicle stick stuck in your hair? Your shoes are heaven!” Compliment, criticism, compliment. Bread, filling, bread.
I get the thinking behind this for sure. But for me, the minute I receive an editorial letter or an email from a friend who has offered a critical eyeball on a draft of something I have written, all I can do is skim until I hit the meat.
Me reading editorial notes: Blah, blah, blah you love me YES I AGREE THAT WHOLE PART STINKS LIKE THE BUSINESS END OF A FARM ANIMAL, kind things, whatever, blah.
All I care about is the farm animal, people. If I am honest, I don’t even believe the bread. I appreciate the gesture of the bread. But the filling feels like the truth to me, confirming as it does my own belief that everything I write is kind of terrible.
I didn’t say I was rational.
But that’s the way it is, and I have to admit I like the symmetry of my reactions to criticism sandwiches and actual ones. I know other people are different. For example, I have a friend who always prefaces conversations about her work with careful coaching. “I need my compliment sandwiches with a lot of bread,” she tells us, and indeed, I am a total bread-giver as a reader. My comments are practically encased in a whole peasant loaf. And I mean every word! So why do I only believe in a full-on Scooby Doo sandwich minus the endpieces for myself? Maybe I am just wary of bread, even when metaphorical. Or maybe I am a little bats. Probably both.
How about you? How do you like your feedback sandwiches? I’d love to hear what you think!