Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Sharing Food Sucks: Confessions of a Fat Girl

I hate sharing food with people. And it’s not because I’m fat. Actually, no, it is, but not for the reasons you think.

When you share food with people, it’s a community plate. There is, of course, a rule of courtesy that dictates you must eat only your share of the food and no more. The problem when you’re big is that often people will give you side-eye when you’re putting your serving on your appetizer plate or sharing a communal platter, as though you've done something wrong.

A plate of nachos arrives at the table. Now it’s every man for himself where the cheese melted to the plate is concerned, but otherwise everyone courteously digs in, grabbing a couple chips at a time, and shoving them into their mouths in the most dignified way possible. Then at some point, you reach forward to grab another chip--the pile of nachos is getting low and soggy, so it’s best to get some while they're still edible, and a person at the table glances from the plate to you for a split second. But that second is all it takes. Given that one is unlikely to be share a meal, let alone a plate, with someone you strongly dislike, it is likely that the side-eye is completely unintentional. They may not even be aware that they’ve done it. But it comes off as “I am judging you for eating more than I think you should," and "I can't believe you're eating that." Sometimes it’s not even side-eye. Sometimes it’s the dreaded double take.

Maybe you're sharing a bag of popcorn with someone. You're both reaching in for popcorn here and there. Maybe they stop for a minute to do something, maybe get up and go to the bathroom. They come back to eat more, but as they grab the bag from you, they do a double take. They look at the bag that is lighter than they think it should be, they look at you, they look at the bag, and then they look anywhere but back at you. You can see them trying to figure out if maybe they're just being paranoid and then concluding that they aren't. They probably go on to eat from the bag until they've had their fill because God knows if they'll get anymore. But that double take? That look clearly says, “I am noting how much you have taken.” To a fat person, this comes off as, “Holy shit, fatty ate all of the food!” Possibly even worse than the double take is someone noting--outloud--how much someone has consumed.

I remember I got a box of candy one holiday--one of those super fancy boxes of chocolate. A person I know got the same box of candy. I was hanging out at their house and they had their candy out. They offered to share some. I told them I just wanted to try a few nibbles--not much more than that. Being that we’re close, sharing the same piece of candy is perfectly acceptable. Except it turned out it wasn’t okay to take those nibbles. I had probably taken a bite of 4 pieces, maybe 5. And there was the great exclamation, “Oh my God, my candy! You ate so much of it” I felt terrible--”I should have just kept my hands to myself and waited until I got home!” I thought, embarrassed beyond belief. And then someone else joined, teasing me about how if only I was as hungry for the good things as I apparently was for the bad things, like chocolate. And it's just friendly teasing, right? Wrong.

And then I died a little inside.
Then the icing on the cake: The person who gave the candy to me and the other person arrived at the house and was appalled when the person with whose candy I had DEVOURED exclaimed, “She ate a bunch of my candy!” The reaction was an annoyed, “Keep your hands out of her candy. You’ve got your own!”

Shame spiral, party of one.

I was so devastated by the whole experience that 4 months later that box of fancy chocolates is still sitting at the top of a cabinet, uneaten, except for one piece, which I took a bite of, but threw away. Not to be contrary or passive aggressive, but because I didn’t feel happy when I ate it.

My one of my biggest joys in my life is sharing. I love it so much that sometimes I’d rather forego things for myself just so I can share something with another person--it makes me that happy. Except I don’t like to share food, not really. Because I don’t want people I love to give me side-eye or do the double take or actually note aloud what I’ve eaten.

If I do share with someone, it’s a mark of how much I trust them. In general, I still share with people because it’s the best way to try many things on a menu at an economical price. And it’s polite to go with the flow of the group. But to be honest? I spend the entire time counting every bite I take, making sure that I take less than I’m due, that I don’t put too much on my plate at one time, and that I am very, VERY selective about which people and dishes I share.

I know that sounds like a lot of low self esteem with a big helping of egocentrism (SAT word), but any person who’s ever had food issues (whether it’s overeating or undereating) can tell you that it feels like people are sometimes watching what you’re eating and sometimes it’s not your imagination. And the result? Feeling like absolute shit. Like you're someone who's out of control, a selfish individual, consumed by the desire to stuff your face. It's beyond humiliating. So communal plates or small plates? Not my favorite.

Also, I just freaking hate tapas. Give me a damn entree.