Sometimes you’re better off not knowing

I’m currently reading a historical novel about Andrew Jackson. It’s a nice change from my usual movie star autobiographies and makes me feel like I’m expanding my knowledge of things beyond Hollywood at the same time.

Published in 1962, the author’s note at the beginning of the novel stated the author did extensive research and while he smoothed parts of the story to make it more readable, it’s all based on fact.

That sounded good. And it was until I got to the part where I learned that Andrew Jackson, after several years of marriage, was no longer quite so head over heels in love with his wife, Rachel, and in fact had become bored with her to the point he preferred to be away from home planning battles instead of being with her. The author said Jackson still loved Rachel and was devoted to her in a distracted sort of way but spending evenings at home with her rated about as high on his list of fun things to do as getting athlete’s foot might.

I put the book down and started crying.

Yes, I realize that was something of an overreaction, but it had been a rough week and discovering the passionate love affair I’d always imagined Andrew and Rachel having instead faded into middle-aged ennui depressed me. It was like finding out Cinderella and Prince Charming moved to a housing development and took up entomology as a hobby. Learning Andrew and Rachel were like most other married people fell squarely into the file in my head marked “Things I’d Really Rather Not Know About. Ever.”

Which got me thinking. There are quite a few things I’d rather not know about ever. Such as:

How much hidden sugar is in mundane foods like ketchup, yogurt, canned soup and spaghetti sauce. If you can’t enjoy the taste of a sugary treat like a chocolate chip cookie or a hot fudge sundae, it seems rather mean-spirited for it to be hanging out in your can of chicken noodle soup.

Speaking of sugar, I’d also rather not know how long it takes to burn one lousy calorie. We had an elliptical machine for a while and using it turned out to be quite the disappointment due to that darn calorie counter. I spent each session with my eyes glued to the calorie counter, marveling over how long it took to swat off 100 crummy calories. It doesn’t seem right that calories are so easy to ingest and so difficult to get rid of.

As long as we’re talking about food and calories, I wish I didn’t know what goes into hot dogs. No one needs to know that. Ditto salami, liverwurst and hamburger.

I’d also rather not know that dogs, the live kind, don’t feel guilt. I always assumed when one of our dogs did something naughty and we scolded him or her, they meant it when they looked sad and sat on the couch with long faces. Turns out dogs can feel ashamed, but not guilty—a fine line, I know—so when they chew up a shoe or eat an entire bag of potato chips, they might be a tad embarrassed to have been caught, but they don’t feel bad about it.

Another item on my list is seeing someone famous and realizing how small they are. When we went to see Donny and Marie in concert, Donny ran from the stage all the way up the three flights of stairs and back down again (while still singing which is pretty amazing for a 60-something year old). As he passed our seats, I was surprised at how short he was. The camera must love petite people, because whenever we’ve seen someone famous in person it’s always a shock when they come up to maybe your chin.

Next on my list is Santa. Sigh.

So back to Rachel and Andrew. I’ve decided to believe the author didn’t know what he was talking about and possibly had very shoddy research skills. After all, he wasn’t there. He didn’t know what Rachel and Andrew talked about in front of the flickering fire at night. He wasn’t hiding under the breakfast table while they chatted over oatmeal. I’m opting to believe Rachel and Andrew had a wild, passionate marriage that lasted until she died and neither of them ever collected a single bug.

I’ve also decided to go back to my Hollywood autobiographies. Nine times out of 10 you know how those marriages are going to turn out.

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