Living with my parents continues to be interesting.
I am not feeling as panicked around food as I was when I first arrived; my mother continues to make comments about my eating, but I have been feeling much less defensive and just rather amused. I have not given her the big talk that I still feel brewing in my head, but have been deflecting.
For example, the other night I went food shopping with my dad, and the store had a sale on Ben and Jerry’s. I love Ben and Jerry’s because I totally love the kitchen sink approach to ice cream – the more stuff in it, the merrier – and so I picked up two cartons. (Boston Cream Pie and Snickerdoodle Cookie – both flavors were fabulous.) That evening I scooped out some into a little bowl and had it while watching TV with my mom after my dad went to bed. I had offered my mother some, and she wasn’t interested, but after I ate mine, she said, “wow, you ate that pretty fast.”
Which is pretty hilarious – as my husband and many of my friends can attest, I am a pretty slow and methodical eater, and was even before doing the nutrition program. And I really wanted to taste and savor the ice cream, so I definitely ate it at a pace where I was getting maximal enjoyment out of it. (An aside: I really want to get a collection of demitasse spoons for eating stuff like ice cream and yogurt – I swear food like that tastes better when eaten with tiny spoons.) So I just said something like “no I didn’t,” and went back to watching TV. Her perception clearly didn’t have to do with reality – as if there is an Official Ice Cream Eating Speed Limit! – and it clearly was about her issues and not mine.
Now that I have more emotional distance and feel grounded again in how I eat, it actually rather amuses me to watch my mother’s reactions to my food. The other week I was eating salad for breakfast, which I totally love and it will keep me going for hours – arugula with avocado, tomato, feta, and sunflower seeds, yum – and every morning, my mom could not help herself from saying things like “really, wow, salad for breakfast, my goodness, who ever would have thought? I don’t think I could ever do that. A salad. For breakfast! Who ever heard of such a thing? And oh, that cheese! What is that again? My goodness, it is so stinky! I can’t believe you can eat that! Wow, salad first thing in the morning!” I had no idea that I was so transgressive in my breakfast choices!
Then the other day, my parents decided to go out to dinner and invited me along. Earlier in the day, I had been helping my mom in her garden pulling up weeds, and when I was done I had a late lunch (of aforementioned salad) because I was ravenous and couldn’t wait the few hours before we went to dinner. By the time we got to the restaurant, I was a little hungry, but not very much, since I had had lunch so recently. So I ate a small roll when they came out, but when the family style salad came out, I declined to have any, because I wanted to save my appetite for my meal, and I had just had salad earlier that day and wasn’t in the mood for any more.
And this just about blew my parents’ minds. They just could not believe that there was salad on the table and I wasn’t going to eat any. Even after I calmly and matter-of-factly explained my reasons, they still pressed. “Are you sure? Look how much there is. You don’t want it to go to waste. Are you sure you don’t want any salad?” And I just laughed and said, no, I’m fine, but seriously, it bothered them until the meal came.
My dinner was a little on the disappointing side – my scallops were a bit rubbery and my asparagus dry – but I ate enough to be satisfied, leaving probably a quarter of the food left. My mother finished as much of her food as she wanted, but then kept trying to feed me what was left of hers. I kept having to say, no thanks Mom, I’m full, no thanks. I eventually did capitulate and have a fried shrimp – which was way tastier than my scallops and wound up being a nice way to end the meal – but it amazed me just how invested my mother seems in other people’s food.
Then again, it’s not like my mother lives in a vacuum – the Food Police are rampant in American culture (something I didn’t miss one bit in Europe), and she’s not immune to the conflicting messages we get bombarded by. I’m finally feeling able to step back and realize that it’s virtually all about her and her own unexamined issues, and doesn’t have anything to do with me at all. I am feeling very comfortable in my ability to choose my own food for my own reasons without the emotional baggage any more, even around my mom’s angst. I am delighted that my ice cream is not forbidden and sinful, nor my salad virtuous and moral. For me, it really now is just a salad.