This week’s post has been a struggle y’all. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. Au contraire, I’ve had this idea for a while. Nope, it’s been a struggle because for some reason, I’m trying to becoming the second-coming of Janet Jackson circa Rhythm Nation and taking hip hop dance classes. The teacher is FANTASTIC (In the video, she’s the one in the middle and yes, she deserves all caps) but I am usually riding the struggle bus in the back and then coming home absolutely exhausted. However, endless struggle to be less uncoordinated aside, this week we’re adding to the list of things that people need to stop saying.
A few weeks ago I went to lunch with some of my co-workers. After much deliberation, we ended up at a pizza joint. While typically, I would be this person:
That day I decided to have a salad. But of course, as soon as I placed my order, here comes the peanut gallery with their “Stop trying to make us feel bad” and “Are you trying to tell us something?” Hum…Excuse you? How are my food choices impacting yours? I know they didn’t mean any harm by it but still…
Can we cut that shit out? Because, it’s not cute.
First of all, you don’t know my financial situation. Maybe a salad is all that I could afford and now I’m all embarassed and shit, doing that fake dumb laugh/smile combo you do when something’s not really funny but you’re trying to be polite. My Caribbean/African folks know that smile. It’s the one you give when you go home and people (aunties, cousins, the butcher, the hair salon ladies etc…) come up to you and tell you that you’ve gained/lost a few pounds and/or ask why you don’t have a boyfriend. It’s the smile that says “if I wasn’t afraid of being slapped upside the head, I would tell you to mind your own damn business”.
Or maybe I thought that this particular establishment’s pizza is disgusting but felt peer-pressured into going there because that’s where everybody was going. Or maybe I was dealing with some digestive issues or maybe I was trying to watch what I eat. Or maybe…what I order is none of your fucking business (unless you’re asking me what I got for you to order a different dish so we can share)!
(Thanks Jenna Marbles)
I know people genuinely think that vocalizing the fact that your food choices are making them feel guilty about theirs is supposed to be a compliment. It’s supposed to somehow signify that your willpower to resist temptation is shaming them for not being as strong as you are. But that’s the thing, not only are there assumptions about why you’re making certain food choices; there is also the underlying message that there is shame associated with certain “wrong” choices.
What if I chose the stuffed crust pizza next time? Would I then be part of the “shamed committee” rather than the “shaming committee”? People already have a complicated relationship with food and for some, that relationship can turn into an obsession. What if I had been a teenage girl in the early stages of an eating disorder? Or what if the girl behind you was an ED sufferer in recovery and felt really proud that she finally allowed herself to order a slice of pizza? What messages are you sending to those people?
And a lot of us are guilty of saying this sometimes. It’s mostly a reflection of our own insecurities about what we’re consuming. I’ve said it plenty of times and honestly most of the time, it’s probably not that deep. It is however always unecessary. That day, I ordered a salad because I’m terrible at portion control and they give you a whole pizza. And yes, I am trying to eat to achieve my version of a “healthier” me. Also, the salads are cheaper and “the way my bank account is set up…”
Regardless, it was neither the place nor the time to psychoanalyze my life, jeez. So citizens of the world, stop saying that someone’s else food choices are making you feel bad about yours. Next time you go out to eat in a group, eat whatever the fuck you want and keep it moving. And if somebody opens their mouth to spill some nonesense:
Let ’em know to fall back!
Side note: This was partly inspired by Alyson Weiss’ article. Her article is a personal reflection on how the office environment affected her relationship with food (I highly recommend it). I remembered it after wishing her a Happy birthday and it made me think about why my coworkers comments had bothered me so much.