“Just give it to Claire,” he said. “She’ll take care of it.”
The “it” was a giant turkey leg that my friends had been picking at. You know the ones. You buy them at Disney World or Renaissance Faires and they’re comically large. Disturbingly large once you realize that you can’t recall ever seeing a live turkey with legs that big.
“She’s good at eating these,” my husband explains with just a hint of pride in his voice.
He's right. I am good at eating those turkey legs. I am good at eating meat that comes attached to a bone. I’m really just pretty good at eating.
I've always been pretty good at eating. If you think I'm good now, you should have seen me when I was a teenager; those were the days. My metabolism seemed like it would never slow, and the world wasn't just one oyster, it was all the types of shellfish.
The fact that my family is pretty "pro food" probably has something to do with it but, however it came to be, I very rarely care about what people think of how/what I eat. This is great news, considering what I do for a living. (I even keep a blog of my daily meals -- when I remember to update it -- because I find mundane details of people's lives fascinating, and assume that others must as well.)
I’m pretty proud of my adventurous and voracious eating style. I am fun to go to dinner with. On a recent trip to Georgia, my brother called me an “aggressive orderer” and now I want that on a T-shirt. I scored 2 out of 87 on that “Picky Eater” Buzzfeed quiz. (Though, to be fair, that was a pretty tame list of foods.) I like food and no one (not even my husband or family) gets to make me feel bad about it.
But I do feel bad for the women in this Daily Mail article.
I know that The Daily Mail is not the best place to go sniffing around when one is looking for sanity, and that most of it should be taken with a grain of salt or ignored completely, but I'm assuming that the three women featured in this article are not fictional characters and actually feel this way.
Abi Steel, Ali Ogilvie and Melanie Carson don't feel comfortable eating in front of their husbands -- in their own homes -- because they are concerned about being perceived as "greedy" or "unattractive." The husbands are not entirely to blame (though one seems like a real penis). Ali's husband seems like a pretty okay guy; he even (gasp) seems to like the idea of his wife enjoying food. "The day we order a cheeseboard for two in a restaurant and I can sit and watch her indulge to her heart's content is one I will cherish," said Stu, because he is a completely normal and well-adjusted human.
These three cases are a little extreme -- Abi takes most of her meals in the kitchen and finds the idea of eating cereal or corn on the cob "so unappealing" -- but the notion that some foods are "feminine" while others are "masculine" isn't a new one. If it were, that old cliche where the woman orders "just a salad" in order to seem "dainty" or whatever wouldn't exist. There wouldn't be entire articles and lists dictating what you shouldn't order on a first date.
Based on a broad (and fairly quick) survey of these "guides," I gathered that one should not order sushi, soup, anything that requires chopsticks, salad (wait, what?), large portions, too small of a portion, a big steak, chicken breast (don't be a bore, darling), anything that's too spicy, ribs, broccoli, beans (because bodily functions are the worst), anything with garlic or onions, shellfish, ad infinitum. Taking all of this into account, the only acceptable order left would be something like:
"Um...I guess I'll have the baked potato, plain, with a side of the veggies that come with the chicken wings, but no wings. Oh, and a glass of tepid tap water; that pairs well with an utter lack of enjoyment."
Seriously though, if you can't deal with the "unseemly" sight of a woman enjoying her favorite foods because it is so grotesque, I don't think you're a great candidate for the role of "life partner." If you don't have the stomach for a woman enjoying ribs, there's no way you can be trusted to care for her when she's sick or --heaven forbid -- pick up some tampons. If your delicate sensibilities are offended by the sight of a lady chowing down a burger, I have no idea how you are going to deal with childbirth.
My recommendation for ordering on a first date is to order whatever looks good to you. If there's no second date because you were so bold as to a order a spicy, garlic noodle soup, I would say you dodged a bullet. Life is too short to let the terrible attitudes of others deprive you of your favorite things. Does your partner need to be sexually aroused by the site of you gnawing on a rib bone? No. They are of course entitled to feel however they want about ribs and those who eat them, but they have no right to enforce their preferences on you.
My husband is a picky eater. He really hates the sight and smell of shellfish. Looking at a crustacean freaks him out, bless his heart, but he'll still take me to get stone crab during stone crab season because it makes me happy and he loves me. I don't know if he thinks it's "attractive" or not but, to quote Amy Poehler, I don't f*cking care if he likes it. People have to eat to survive, and a partner who "can't deal" with me enjoying crab claws or mussels is not one I want to have.
It's not my or anyone else's job to be the walking embodiment of sexiness and desirability at all times. It is no one's job to be that at any time. Of course I want my husband to find me attractive the majority of the time -- it's a pleasant and natural part of a romantic relationship -- but it's not my primary goal in life.
As a partner (or potential partner) it's probably best to mind your own damn plate. You don't know what kind of issues your date may or may not be struggling with. If you do make it from "potential partner" to "partner," your role is to be part of a team and to provide needed support. If your significant other is struggling with or anxious about food and eating, you are there to help them, not pass judgement or push your own issues on them.
And though I can't be sure because I don't know Abi that well, I don't think that her husband's "appreciation" for her "lady like behavior" is really helping. Abi's husband likes that she eats in a completely separate room: "It shows she cares about how she behaves in front of me; too many women don't. She doesn't make a big issue out of it and is very discreet. I would find it unattractive to see Abi tucking into huge portions or unhealthy meals."
To that I say "Great dude, I'm glad your wife is "discreet" enough with her insecurities so you're not burdened with something so vulgar as her mental health. I would hate for you to be inconvenienced by something like compassion for the woman you married."
Eating food is a normal, healthy activity, but navigating a world where one's perceived worth is largely dependent on one's physical attractiveness makes it more difficult. "Your man" (or anyone else) shouldn't get to tell you how or what to eat, whether through words or passive aggressive actions. If you want a salad, eat a salad, but don't eat a salad if you really want ribs.
Life is too short to pass up the ribs.