“On the Side” a.k.a. High-Maintenance

The 1989 hit movie When Harry Met Sally is a beloved favorite for men and women alike. It was then and remains today a spot-on, hilarious narration of the intricacies of the male/female romantic relationship.

A couple of weeks ago while I was folding some laundry, it came on the TV and of course, for probably the 18th time… I watched it. And once again, for probably the 18th time… I laughed. Only this time I laughed at something I’d never really noticed before, but has since become a regular source of conversation and comedy in my own relationship.

Early in our relationship, my boyfriend and I watched this movie together. One night, months later, when we went out for dinner he called me “Sally Albright” after I finished placing my order.

At first I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about—Sally Albright. Sally Albright? First of all, WHO is Sally Albright and WHY exactly, did he think that I was SHE? Then he reminded me of the following scene from the movie when Sally Albright and Harry Burns sit down to eat at a diner for the very first time:

Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode. 

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode. 

Sally: But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing. 

Waitress: Not even the pie? 

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

OK. So maybe Sally was a bit, shall we say, particular about how she wanted her meal… but come on, she’s paying for it. But what I call “particular,” most men call “high maintenance.” And such was the case with Harry / my boyfriend.

Of course, what I want to know is: What is wrong with wanting things “on the side?” Salad dressing on the side… sour cream on the side… guacamole on the side… extra avocado slices for your sandwich on the side… extra limes wedges for your margarita on the side… an extra shot of tequila for that same margarita on the side? Since when did asking for anything “on the side” turn into being “high-maintenance”? To answer this question, I’ll refer to a scene from later on in the movie:

Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: Which one am I? 

Harry: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: I don’t see that. 

Harry: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you. 

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it. 

Harry: I know… high maintenance. 

And there it is. The male take on “On the side.” But I still don’t see the problem here. This is, after all America, and if we CAN have things “on the side,” then why are we considered “high-maintenance” just because we ask for it?

There are things that I prefer a certain way… and if, by requesting them, I am not placing anyone in harm’s way… then I just don’t see the problem. For example:

  1. I like to sleep with four, fluffy, down pillows. But only at night. During a nap, I prefer ONE down pillow and a body pillow.
  2. I like to wrap up in soft, fluffy blankets and it doesn’t matter where or from whom I have to steal them.
  3. I like so much ice in my drinks that with every sip I get the sensation of licking a glacier.
  4. I’ll only drink the orange juice that has NO pulp in it (served over ice).
  5. Individual foods on my plate must NOT touch one another. Unless it is Mexican food. And I prefer to eat one food at a time around the plate… usually in a clockwise direction.
  6. I feel it is perfectly appropriate to call the front desk and register a complaint if my hotel room does not look exactly like the one on the website.
  7. I feel it is equally appropriate to request that compensation be made for the aforementioned false advertising. And that said restitution ought to be delivered in the form of additional fluffy, down pillows.
  8. I place all of the items on my desk at 90 or 45-degree angles and specific items must be parallel or perpendicular to one another or I cannot get any work done.
  9. I must arrange my highlighter pens according to the colors of the rainbow.
  10. I like all of my picture frames to be turned at exactly the same angle on the desk / shelf / table / dresser / entertainment center… and just because I can immediately, upon entering the room, determine that one of them is a degree or two off and I cannot sit down or relax until I fix it…

    Do these things make me high-maintenance?

Sally Albright. It is a nickname that my bf still calls me to this day. And although I have absolutely NO idea why… What else can I say?

I just want it the way I want it.


12 thoughts on ““On the Side” a.k.a. High-Maintenance

  1. Oh my gosh, this had me laughing so hard that I had to stop…begin again…and re-read. FOUR TIMES.

    Joanna, this is my NEW FAVORITE!!

    As a fellow “Sally”, I found this to be spot on. haha

    Keep up the great writing!! :]

  2. Adam says:

    I think the ironic thing is that most guys probably wouldn’t want to be with a lady who wasn’t high-maintenance – dudes are low maintenance, most of the time, and look like it, most of the time.
    We just like to make fun of the things we secretly appreciate!
    And I can go along with some of the things on your list, even (eating food one item at a time, no touching), but ice in OJ? Blasphemy!

  3. Heather says:

    I was TOTALLY with you, until…

    Individual foods on my plate must NOT touch one another. Unless it is Mexican food. And I prefer to eat one food at a time around the plate… usually in a clockwise direction.

    I’ve seen this behavior in others and, I have to say, it’s annoying as hell and just really strange. Which is not to say YOU’RE annoying or strange… just that I might agree with your BF on this one. Regardless, you’re an American, dammit, and it’s your RIGHT to have things exactly as you want, so get down with your particular self!

    • Ha! Thanks Heather. Yes… I am probably a little vexing about that particular eating habit. I HAVE loosened up in my “old age” but I don’t see it going away completely. I’ll probably be “THAT” lady in the the home who is a total bitch b/c I just want it the way I want it, but I will have lost all sense of social and cultural direction and I’ll wind up smashing my food tray into the wall or something heinous like that. 🙂

  4. Deletrius says:

    Couldn’t stop reading! Great post. I find that the older I get the more particular I become – I wonder if I’ll have your list soon enough!

  5. It’s not high maintenance, just quirky (and perhaps a bit obsessive compulsive).

    Quirks make us interesting, which is why this post is so amazing and hilarious! Love it!

  6. Love this. And I love that movie too, but I did always disagree with his take on the high maintenance thing. I think it’s a good thing, because really, it’s just another way of saying you have high standards, which is another way of saying you believe in your own value. I kind of think that guys in constant search of low maintenance women are just lazy.

    Also – I eat my food clockwise too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s