Most of life isn’t cut and dried, unless you are an herb. The bulk of our days operate on a continuum, with each of us finding our own way forward. There’s lots of room for middle ground. You may give a book or movie three or four out of five stars. You might kind of, sort of like your uncle Jim, but only in small doses.

People, places, jobs, homes and our neighborhoods all fall somewhere on a spectrum that can vary from day to day.

But some things are black and white, with nary a shade of gray. There is no time for dangling your feet in the water. You are either in the pool or out, wet or dry. You can’t have it both ways, despite the fact that the word damp exists.

There are many important and not so important areas where we choose between black and white.

Let’s start with the obvious: spiders. No one wants spiders inside the house, but when they do creep in, what you do next comes down to a black and white reaction. You either bring the spider outside or you kill it; one or the other, black or white.

Speaking of that, there’s coffee. You take it black or you take it white (with cream) or you don’t drink coffee at all, but that’s another story.

Squash, as in acorn or butternut, is flanked by two groups: the lovers and the haters. You’re in one category or the other. And it’s likely your own family is divided over the squash debate. It’s even possible the squash debacle has nearly ruined a Thanksgiving or two. It is a controversial fruit masquerading as a vegetable. When it’s put that way, it’s pretty obvious why so many people have trust issues with squash.

Yams and sweet potatoes have reputations similar to squash; many people love to hate them, but carrots skate scot-free. Just about everyone likes carrots, and they’re just as orange as squash and grow underground like yams. People should probably be more divided in regard to carrots, but I’m not advocating divisiveness; to the contrary.

Bananas; some like them all yellow, others prefer splotches of brown. Peanut butter; you are either crunchy or creamy. Hamburgers are either with ketchup or without; yes to pickles or no. Some people I know even put peanut butter on their hamburgers; some add pickles on top of that. It’s safe to say they are in the minority, but they do exist; as does Bigfoot, aliens, the Yeti, ghosts and the Easter Bunny. You either believe or you don’t. I do, because I like chocolate eggs as much as boiled ones.

Paper products; some of us sensitive softies go for the ultra-soft, while the pragmatic patrons go for ultra-strong. Apparently when it comes to toilet paper you can’t be soft and strong at the same time, so you have to pick. There’s an invention waiting to happen.

Vacation transportation preference falls into two factions: the drivers and the fliers. Drivers prefer to see the countryside. They want to be in control of getting from point A to point B. Fliers are anxious to get to their destination and see driving as a waste of time. Drivers hate flying and fliers hate driving, unless it is in a rental car; preferably a convertible.

The next area is skydiving and bungee jumping. You are either in or out. In a transposed sort of way, those who are in are actually out and those who are out actually stay in. Get it?

I hesitate to mention “the elephant in the column,” the “p” word: politics. If ever there was a topic that was black and white, I think politics fits the bill.

Some things in life you love; others you dislike completely. Other people, even people you live with, may have completely opposite opinions. That’s OK. Even though issues may be black and white, there are no rights or wrongs. Eating a slice of creamy peanut butter toast topped with a brown banana and accompanied by a cup of black coffee for breakfast might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t have to be.

As long as we can agree to disagree and no one gets hurt, I think we’ll be all right.



Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. More columns are available at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.