Of All The Flavors — You Want Vanilla?

Marriage with a Spouse Who Grew Up Without Options

A.J. Bryant
4 min readAug 15


Four metal buckets of ice cream in a freezer; viewed from above. Three are three types of chocolate and the other is pinkish red with dark berries
Photo by Maria Orlova

Heavenly. Peanut butter chocolate cookie, chocolate with chocolate chunks and caramel swirls, white chocolate pretzels, mint brownie. Those were just some of the flavors on offer. I ordered three scoops so that I could have my three choices.

I returned to the car, where my wife Sasmita was waiting with our two kids. I asked her, what do you want? ‘I just want vanilla,’ she said.

‘Wait! What?!’ I said. ‘There are three dozen flavors inside to choose from, plus other loads of toppings, and your choice is plain vanilla with nothing on it. Not even chocolate sauce or sprinkles?’

Sasmita smiled, ‘Nah, get me plain vanilla in a cup, please. We’ll be waiting for you here.’

After ten years, her answer should not have surprised me, but I was caught off guard.

Sasmita grew up desperately poor, in an Indian village, high in the mountains. It takes three to six hours, depending on the season to get to the nearest ‘city.’

She was raised without choices. I was raised with so many it’s paralyzing.

The toothbrush decision

The first time she bought a toothbrush overwhelmed her. Coming from another section of the store, I arrived to find her baffled by the vast array of options.

Toothbrushes abounded in dozens of colors, with varying degrees of bristle softness. Some had distinct angles, to facilitate various brushing techniques. Others had unique brush head shapes, and different bristle shapes and colors. Sasmita needed help figuring out where to begin.

‘What should I get?’ she asked me. I hadn’t spent that much time thinking about toothbrushes before, so I replied ‘Get what you think looks good.’

She fixed me a pained look. ‘I don’t know the quality of these brushes. Just pick one for me.’

I thought about it. I didn’t know anything about their ‘quality’ either. I bought toothbrushes based on bristle size, shape, and softness. Usually, I purchase them from familiar brands. I might have bought a toothbrush based on what my mother previously bought for me.



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, and contemporary India. Prawns are my love language. @adoptedkeralite