Friday, January 24, 2014

Food for Thought

Ok. Things are about to get weird in here.  I'm weird about food.  I don't know why I am, but that's me.  What does this mean?  Ugh.  There are so many things...where to begin...
While I have never been an adventurous eater, I was forced into eating fruits and vegetables when I was being raised. I never liked them.  Never. Ok, there were some that I liked.  I used to eat onions right out of my Dad's garden. I loved corn, of course, but that hardly counts...neither do potatoes. I can do carrots if they are cooked.  I can do green beans, but I don't really seek them out. 
Ok, I almost just put myself to sleep by writing this already - we get it, Steve eats like a ten year old (incidentally, if you google image search "eat like a ten year old", the picture above actually comes up in the results. Yes, you read that right...if you google "eat like a ten year old", a picture of me comes up. Tragic, no?

This isn't about the fact that I eat pizza and wings more than I should. This is about eating in front of people. It's not always something that I am comfortable doing.  I am not really sure when that happened. I'm not really sure why.  It isn't weight related, as internet research on the subject suggested. I didn't have some traumatic public eating crisis, where I was cutting my chicken breast and knocked my water glass flying, etc. And it isn't always...sometimes I am so hungry that I don't care. Sometimes the friends that I am around are so near and dear to me that I don't have the phobia (phobia? has it gone that far?) kick in.  

It's like when I recall a time when I never thought about dirt under my fingernails.  When I was unaware of what my hair looked like on a given day. Things that most people cannot even imagine not thinking about.  Not that I was unaware of any of those things any time recently, I am reaching far back with this one.  But there just came a day when I didn't really enjoy eating out in public. I don't know if it is food guilt at whatever I am eating, compared to what others are eating.  I don't know if it is fear of food being all over my face, or food getting stuck in my teeth (a constant source of terror...I travel with floss always). Whatever the cause, one day that I can't pinpoint, I decided that I would rather get food "to go", rather than dine in. I would rather take it home, or to a private place and eat than in front of others. 

Ok, before I sound totally crazy, follow me here.  You know when you walk into a restaurant, and as you are being seated, you look at what everyone is eating as you are sat?  You know you do it.  Every human does.  The curiosity sometimes spurs us to find whatever we thought we saw once we receive a menu.  "That looked good!", we might think as we unfold our menu. Well, in this tale, I am the dude who's food you just looked at as he was taking a bite. And something about that drives me batty. My hackles go up, and suddenly I am my dog, guarding a treat when another dog comes over. It's an almost primordial"don't look at what I am can't have it!"...I fully understand that this is an irrational reaction. 

Everyone has a natural curiosity to see what everyone else is eating, because as humans, we eat in a pack like style. From the dinner table, to picnics, to restaurants, etc. We gather around a food source, and we devour it together as a community. I get it.  I even like it from time to time when this weirdness doesn't float into my mind. Street fairs that are full of bite size food, galas that have bite size bits on tooth picks floating around on trays, small dinners with great friends, none of these trigger the weirdness to come on. 
"Whatcha' eating?" someone will ask, and my spine gets hot. Maybe it is food guilt, after all. Maybe if I could respond, "green salad things topped with glucose free tofu, spiced with guacamole and magic fairy dust", maybe I wouldn't be so sheepish about it. But no, it's not embarrassment.  I love what I love, I eat what I eat.  I go to the gym almost every day and never eat large portions of anything.  I hardly ever eat dessert. I have no reason to be guilty under the sun. But still...after heating up my dinner in the microwave at a theatre, and before I can get a bite in before retreating to the dressing room, or somewhere where I know no one will be, someone says.."MMMMM, what's that?", and I can't help but think..."Well, it was Peruvian chicken and sweet potato fries, but now it's something that you are adjudicating before I have a chance to enjoy it."  It is as if someone has had sex with my virgin wife before our honeymoon, and everything is spoiled for me after that.
Again, I realize that this is an irrational response to natural human curiosity. I understand that 99% of the time, there is no judgement being passed on me by anyone asking something along those lines. I get it. I get it. I really do.
I am trying to work through it. The other night, while on dinner break, I went to zPizza and had a slice, plus a few wings, and sat in the bar style booth that faces the window.  I ate as people walked by, every single one of them looking in as they passed, as everyone does while passing restaurants. My pulse increased slightly at first.  I dabbed my face and fingers with napkins after almost every bite, careful to also wipe the corners of my mouth meticulously - (MOUTH CORNERS!!! PEOPLE ALWAYS FORGET THIS AND LEAVE REMNANTS OF THE LAST MEAL THERE!).  My dad used to get food on his face, and when one of us (usually me) would tell him so while at the dinner table, he would respond, "I'm saving it for later." I strive to be more like my Dad in this way. No big deal, make a joke, move on. When I finished my meal, I headed back to the theatre, washed my face in the sink, and obsessively flossed. Baby steps.
Now, before I wrap this mess up, I am fully aware that those of you who read this might write me off as a lunatic. I would too.  It makes no sense. But they say to write what you know, and as I wondered what to write about next over dinner break, someone passed by and asked, "Whatcha eating?". And there it was.  
And yes, you can still ask me out to dinner. I will go. After a drink, I won't care who I am eating in front of. But please...for the love of God...if I have some food on the side of my face, please tell me.  I will chuckle, say, "I'm saving it for later!", and live inside a private hell for 5 minutes as I wipe my face like Lady Macbeth, but I would rather all of this than to not know. 
And by the way...whatcha' eating?

So, before I brought myself to post this, I wanted the opinion of my husband and a few friends.  I wanted someone else to read this and discuss it, Because I was afraid that this whole thing made me sound crazy. My husband summed it up for me in a few sentences. 
"Why is the whole world interrupting your world?", he asked. 
And this is why I write these things and ask these questions, because I don't desire or want these characteristics, but want to investigate and find out why I have them. 
Natascia Diaz came to see me perform in the role of SHRDLU in Adding Machine; a musical at Studio Theatre about 5 years ago.  After the show, she told me. "I understand you are a laser.  You are a fucking laser beam. Your laser focus on something is so intense and scary and perfect, and when you focus your laser, it is the most powerful thing I have ever seen."
In my life, I have many projects that I am working on, constantly. I laser beam on them when I need to get them done.  When I do, nothing else exists. When I tend bar, I am efficient as fuck, because I am focusing on it. When I am on stage, there is nothing else. When I write, there is nothing else. (Witness, a third blog in a row after I have lasered on the fact that I have not blogged in awhile.)
So maybe it isn't so much a food thing as a focus thing.
When I am keyed into what I am doing, I only want to do that, with no exceptions. You see, my husband is a Rolodex, and I am a laser. This is how half of our fights happen.  I focus on one task as he focuses on 20. While I am in deep thought about one task, if something breaks my stride, I am undone. When I am focused on eating, that is what I want to do, with no hindrance or interruptions.
This, again, goes back to ADD. 
While we were writing Night of the Living Dead, I had the entire script in my head.  Matt kept asking me when I would write it out, and I kept telling him that I was working on it in my head. One night, he persisted, and out of frustration, I sat down at the keyboard and wrote the entire thing out in one sitting.  Laser. 
So my husband's insight of me has explained this weird trait. I can focus solely on one thing at a time, and when derailed, I can't deal. I don't like this trait, but it is great to know that I have found the cause. 
When you are my friend, there is no other friend.  When we are hanging out, there is no one else in the world. When I am making love, there is no other love in the world.When I am eating food, there is no other food. When I am writing this blog, there is no other blog. And now it is time for bed...and there is no other bed.



Greg Maheu said...

I'd never considered that someone wouldn't be interested in discussing what it is that they are eating. For an oft shy and socially inept person like myself, food can be a wonderfully innocuous social lubricant. Lesson learned-- don't interrupt this particular freight train when refueling at the station.


Oh no, Greg, feel free to interrupt me any time at all! I know you, so I wouldn't care! Lol