In real life, eventually things don't match anymore. It's called entropy. It means that no matter how many place settings you register for at your wedding, eventually, your plates won't all match. Because things break and are replaced with non-matching things. Even if you get rid of all of the old ones and buy a whole new set (or get re-married), you're only starting over on the same road.

I know this is true. It is true in the house where I grew up, it is true in my own house, and it is true in the houses with yards full of non-matching dishes for me to buy on Saturday mornings. No doubt there are people who care enough to start over with a whole new set when the stack in the cabinet is too low. There are likely more who care enough to do so but find it prohibitively expensive.

But what if matching were not the goal?

I saw a movie where a family had been on the long road of place setting entropy. Their cabinets were full of mismatched plates, and I thought it looked great. It looked fun and interesting and like you might never know what you would be covering with a slice of pot pie. What if instead of fighting against entropy, we embraced it? Wanting everything to match and be "just so" seemed like denial, an effort at control in a world where most control is illusory. People who bought new plates were just unable to come to terms with the fact that living is a messy business.

It's a theory.

I own a large set of white plates. I have dinner plates and bread plates and cereal bowls and finger bowls. They all match. Sometimes, one breaks, but not very often because they're made of unbreakable material created by Science. With my new theory in hand, I anaylyzed my cabinet inventory and decided that I had the plates of someone compensating, with dishware, for a life that bears little relation to the one expected. I would not fall into the trap. I set out to buy plates that did not match. I would not fall into entropy gradually, I would jump happily off the cliff with my best suit on.

First, I picked out a blue plate with pictures of riverboats and cotton mills. Then I found one with wheat stalks. And another with gold rims and Victorian couples reading poetry in the grass. I'd had no idea just how incredible plates could get. Not only was my soul surely more at peace with life, I had some pretty neat looking dishes.

That was all well and good for a while. Sure, it was a little scary discovering which plates were not microwave safe. And it was kind of a bother discovering that plates not made of magic Science material do break quite easily. I could deal with that. It was all just dandy until I went to put away my plates.

They did not stack.

Actually, they did stack. After all, you can stack a mandarin orange on top of an energy-efficient light bulb on top of a water buffalo, but that doesn't mean it's practical or stable. The plates had to go in a very specific order to keep from falling over. I missed my illusory control. At least then I didn't spend an hour unloading the dishwasher. I was three plates into my new entropy-embracing life and already I couldn't stand to look inside my kitchen cabinet.

I had found my limit. A younger me would have rebelled against the idea of a limitation within my own mind. I should be able to handle anything. This was the me who would bicker with friends until they tried new foods or who would argue with my mother that movies with bad words can still have merit. Limits are indeed, well, limiting to a person's experience in life. But a lot of them are not worth fighting about, like the ones that aren't hurting anyone else. If I couldn't abide by Minnasotans, and I had one move in next door, that would be a limit I would have to get over. But if I can't handle plates that don't stack nicely, well, I think I'll just let that one slide. I will never have the experience of having a fully mismatched set of dishware, but my life can still be fulfilling.

The plates that I still owned, the white ones from my previous life in the land of matching dishware, stacked beautifully. And, the company that makes them has been around for many many years and has made many many plates with many many patterns in the same shape. What if I bought plates from the same maker, but with different designs? If that wasn't quite embracing entropy, was I at least inviting it over for poker?

Now, my plates all stack together, ever so nicely, no matter what order they are in. But they are in different colors and their varying faces shine like those in a brochure from a diversity-minded company. When I go to the thrift store, I look for a new pattern to add to my collection. I try not to get repeats. When I pull one out of the cabinet, it's like greeting an old friend, an individual, rather than another in a set. Hello, you. Would you like to carry some pot pie?

Now that I've started to really pay attention to dishes and all the choices out there, I don't know how I would ever go about picking out a set. How could I decide that I preferred this one plate design over all others, that I love it so much that I want to use it exclusively, every day, until I've broken enough to warrant a new set? Humans mate for life, but I see no need for that sort of thinking with regard to finger bowls.

I love the new system. It adds interest. It embraces the inevitable.

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