Monday, July 9, 2012


"Okay, we'll get back in the car and figure out whose sandwich is whose, and then I get bites from everyone."

By the end of my weekend vacation with my family, I got completely and utterly tired of my mom's demands for tastes of everything anyone else ordered. I don't usually mind sharing my food, but by the end of the trip, I found the nerve to tell her to her face that I wanted her to ask me for it. Three days of "I'm going to take a bite" grated badly, the unquestionable, unarguable fact that mom will eat from our plates.

Part of this, I'm sure, is part of my mother's sense of entitlement, that as the head of her family she has the authority to make decisions on her own, from when our doctor appointments are to what movie we're seeing to when my brothers get their hair cut - which is really not the topic of this blog.

But part of it is from what I'm increasingly worried is an obsession with food since her last Weight Watchers bout. It seems to have worked for her - she's taken up running and dieting, lost a bunch of weight and kept it off for a few years. I don't want to take that away from her. I don't want her to keep asking if I want her to finance a WW subscription for me, but I really don't want to take her weight loss away from her. That's not the point of this post either.

It's the fact that I noticed her eyeing food all weekend. I recognize the look - that's the "I'm still hungry and I'm hoping you don't eat that so I can" look. I like to hope that I've been giving other peoples' plates that look less since I've tried to feel better about feeding myself enough, but I often under-order at restaurants out of some self-consciousness, and wind up still hungry at the end of the course.

I saw that look and the way my mother demanded that she get to try everything else. Not, I think, that she would admit that she was hungry, or just that she wanted it. It reminds me of a dinner last December, during which she got increasingly agitated that none of the rest of the family wanted onion rings.

"Just order them," we told her, "don't worry about it."

But she was clearly distressed at ordering something - something fatty and 'bad' - that only she wanted. She ended up eating half the basket and begging the waitress to take the rest away.

All during the trip, she made sure to order 'good' food. Broiled seafood, never fried. Talapia fish, never anything more robust. Oatmeal for breakfast, no meat. She's long since mastered the art of what you're supposed to eat, and orders the things on the menu billed as the healthiest. Then she finishes her own meal, and stares at ours.

It feels like she doesn't want to 'own' the food. She can't accept really wanting onion rings, fried shrimp, an extra meal, a muffin, whatever it is. It feels increasingly like she won't allow herself to consider getting one of her own. But if it's on our plates, if it's just a bite, it doesn't count. It doesn't have to be tracked and accounted for, it doesn't have to make her guilty. It isn't hers.

So she'll demand, or wait, or in some way find a bite.

I don't know if this is the truth. But I know I recognized something in what she was doing, at all our various meals. And it's not something healthy.

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