My mom and I eat lunch together most days because we work in adjoining buildings and we’re both die-hard brown-baggers. Every day, there’s cookie exchange: I bring two Chips Ahoy! and she brings two Fig Newtons (they’re fruit and cake!) and we swap. That way, we get both chocolate and figgy goodness.
About once a week, we splurge and get a cookie from the snack bar instead; they bake these double-chocolate cookies fresh every day, and while we’ve agreed they make an excellent treat, we don’t have them every day because that would make them feel less…special. Yeah, we’re dorks.
Anyway, on Tuesday this week, she said she thought it was a double-chocolate cookie day. I just wasn’t feeling it; I really wanted the Fig Newton, so I told her she should go ahead and have the special cookie, but I was gonna go with the Newton. She became…well, pouty, and said if I wasn’t going to have the cookie, then she didn’t need it either.
And I just thought, “This is where it comes from.” No wonder I’m weird about food. It’s a lesson I learned at my mother’s knee.
I was telling my husband about this little exchange, about her inability to give herself permission to eat what she wanted without me participating, and he gave me this raised eyebrow kind of look. He said, “Yeah, that doesn’t sound like anyone I know.”
I may have punched him. Or I may not have. But he’s right; that’s been me for pretty much our entire relationship.
But it’s not me anymore. And I said that to my husband and he agreed that these days, I’m having what I want whether he joins me or not. I want an apple fritter for breakfast and he’s just going to have eggs and toast? Hey, I’m worth a trip to the bakery for the fritter, and fritter-eating is not a team sport anyway, so I can do it alone. He wants pizza and I want a bowl of cereal, then I wish him and his pizza well, but I’m having my frosted mini-wheats, thank you very much.
This most basic form of self-care, the ability to choose something and eat it regardless of what others may or may not be eating, is so hard. It’s hard for my 58-year-old mother and it’s hard for me here at 30 and I know it’s hard for scads of other women, too.
Let’s just stop already. Eat what you want.
We don’t need anyone’s permission to take care of ourselves.