Friday, September 9, 2016

The Plight of Picky Eaters

I was reading Real Simple magazine today and I came across an article about picky eating by Jennifer King Lindley. On page four of the article, I came across something that left me dumbfounded:

If you have a spouse or a friend who remains picky as an adult, ordering grilled cheese at a business dinner, try to muster up a little sympathy. "No one would choose to be an extreme picky eater. It's painful and embarrassing," says Lucianovic. (They're referring to Stephanie Lucianovic, author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate.)

Why was I so shocked by this simple statement? Because they were talking about ME. And in my whole life no one has ever addressed the issue of picky eating as anything more than something I needed to outgrow. I can't tell you how many dinners I've endured where I felt extremely uncomfortable and judged because of what I did and did not want to eat. I've cried in a Chinese restaurant about this. I've turned down a warm invitation to an Indian family's house party because of this. Stephanie Lucianovic is right. It's painful and embarrassing. And Jennifer Lindley is right. A little sympathy can go a long way.

What I'm getting at is this: Unless the person is your four-year-old child, leave picky eaters alone.

"Just try it! You'll like it!"
"You don't like your foods to touch? It all ends up the same place!"
"You would never make it at my house."
"You would never make it in a foreign country."
"That's all you ordered?"
"That's the most boring salad I've ever seen."
"You don't like tomatoes? You need to get over that."

It may seem banal to say any of these things to your buddy over the dinner table, but you don't realize that your buddy hears this everyday. And when you're told that there's something wrong with you everyday, it can be quite damaging.

So here's some training on what to say when you're at dinner and your friend orders chicken strips for the millionth time.


Don't say a dang thing about what they ordered. Ever. They will be expecting some kind of comment. They will be braced for impact. You will say nothing. And then they will relax. They will realize that maybe the world isn't a terrible place. And they can eat their dang chicken fingers in peace.

It's hard and weird to be a picky eater. Please don't make it harder and weirder.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Love Nosy People

I love nosy people. I really do. I'm fascinated by their persistence in gathering information. If they do it without ruffling any feathers, I'm doubly impressed. I've been bad at this my whole life. A friend tells me they're going to an appointment - I don't pry. It could be a hair appointment, a surgery appointment or tattoo appointment. I don't ask. Someone needs me to babysit. They could be meeting with their meth dealer and I would never know. Just tell me when you'll be back. This used to make my mother crazy.

Mom: Is Sarah coming to the Christmas party?
Asia: No, she'll be out of town.
Mom: Where's she going?
Asia: No idea.
Mom: Is her husband going too?
Asia: Didn't ask.
Mom: You are useless.

Part of the reason I don't ask is because I feel like people will volunteer the info they want me to have. The other reason I hesitate to dig for detail is because I'm afraid the answer will be "testicular cancer."

Let me explain.

Once upon a time, a casual acquaintance mentioned to me that he was really sick as a teenager.
"Really? What kind of sick?" I asked, fully prepared to hear about mono or chicken pox.
"It was cancer, actually." Oh gosh. The air of our breezy chat suddenly halted.
"Like leukemia or something?" It was the one form of cancer I was sort of familiar with.
"Um, no. Testicular cancer." Oh gosh oh gosh. Did I do this? Did I lead us down this path? We were talking about his balls. Did he want to talk about his balls with me?
I put on my best "Yes, I understand." expression despite the fact that there's nothing I understand less than tumors of the testes.
"It's ok. I had surgery and everything is fine."
I can't even remember what I said after that. All I know is that we weren't well acquainted enough for me to know he only had one gonad. And I have no idea if he was OK with me holding that information.

I don't pry because I don't want you to feel forced to give me the low down on your genitals. I call it "giving people their privacy."

But the truth is I LOVE it when other people do just the opposite. I have sat on the sidelines of some truly revealing exchanges and for that I am grateful. Some people just have a gift for interrogation. I can think of no better question-askers than my two sisters-in-law. Because of their disarming charm and quizzing skills I have valuable information I never would have acquired alone.

Example one. My eldest brother married a girl named Lacy. She's DE-lightful. One summer my family took a vacation to a cabin in Tennessee. We spent the long days tubing down shallow rivers. Warm nights were devoted to playing card games and singing songs in rounds. One evening after the babies had gone to bed, my mom, Lacy and I were lounging on the couch talking about boys and celebrities and tv. I don't know if it was sleepiness or mountain air that caused present company to shed a layer of propriety, but that night Lacy got information out of my mother I had never before heard.
Lacy politely probed and my mother obliged with tales of her troubled childhood, torrid affairs and adventures that would make any memoir a best-seller. Lacy pressed for all the whos and whens and wheres. The stories unfolded like a book I had always seen on the shelf but never bothered to open. I sat quietly between them on the green sofa with rapt attention as my mom revealed a full and exciting life she'd lived before I was even an idea in her mind. Was the reason I didn't know my mother's history because I'd never asked? I was grateful that night that Lacy was nosy.

It should be noted that on this trip Lacy also played investigator to my younger brother and I learned far more about his "intimate" life than I really wanted to know. This was not even the brother she's married to. She really is a go-getter with those questions.

Example two. Kaitlin. She's my favorite person born on Christmas day. Put down your pitchforks, nerds. Jesus was born sometime in April. Anyway, it's thanks to Kaitlin that I married my husband. Well, sort of.
When Austin and I met, he was "waiting for a missionary." This is in quotes because he wasn't very good at it, obviously. I knew he had a girl somewhere in the world that he had once pledged his affection to, but I also knew that we were having a great time together. I didn't ask about her because I was fairly certain I was winning whatever game of emotional tug of war he was playing in his heart. But Kaitlin had the guts to actually ask.
We were all chilling in my mom's living room when the subject came up. Kaitlin boldly asked about the other girl. Was she still in the picture? Was he still writing her? "I was," he explained, "But I haven't contacted her in a while." How long? Is this because of Asia? Oh man, she was good. Rapid-fire. Austin didn't hesitate. I didn't blink. "A few months, actually. Things have just been going really well and I want to give Asia my full attention." I nodded in a solemn "good to know" gesture.

Thank goodness for nosy people. I salute you and applaud you. But mostly, I love being there when you pry open the doors I'm too shy to even knock on. May you continue seeking answers and may I be there when the goods come out.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Four Things Girls Should Stop Saying About Being A Girl

When I was in college, someone asked me about my siblings. "I have three brothers," I told them. "Oh," this person remarked, "That's why you're so cool. Raised with all boys."

At the time, I wore this like a badge of honor. Yeah, I thought, I'm awesome because I have all brothers. Thank goodness I'm not one of those pansies that was raised in a family of all girls!

Since then, I've realized that this was kind of a crap thing to say. My brothers were indeed cool. But it wasn't their "boyness" that made them that way. Nor was it exposure to testosterone that made me who I am.

Over the years I've heard various versions of this sentiment from men and women alike. Call them microaggressions if you want. I call them "statements that bum me out and make me want to violently hug you." So I've compiled a list. These are the false badges of honor I've heard women pin on themselves. Or maybe they were pinned on by someone else. But... can we please stop being proud of these things?

"I'm cool because...

1. dad wanted a boy."

I've heard this when women want to explain why they know about cars or guns or whatever. It's depressing for a few reasons. First, your dad wanted a boy? What the heck? Besides this being a serious and horrible issue in China in the 1980s and 90s, it's just a plain awful thing to say. I hope your dad never actually told you that. Or if he did, he ended the sentence with "...but what a fool I was! You're a precious angel from Heaven." Second, girls can know things about cars and guns and whatever just because that's what they're into.

2. ...I'm not like other girls."

What's so wrong with other girls that you need to distance yourself? There are no "other girls." We are all girls. Which is bomb, btw. One of my absolute favorite Buzzfeed articles discusses this concept hilariously.

3. ...I don't have many girlfriends."

This is a tragedy, not a victory. Here's one of my favorite comics on the subject.

4. ...I'm not very good at being a girl."

What does that even mean? All you have to do to be a girl is have a vagina. If you're not good at make-up, then say that. But girls aren't given a handbook on beauty and fashion when they're born.

Basically, being a lady is great and we should stop belittling it with tiny, weird, negative thoughts. My identity as a woman isn't based on how well I've been able maximize the influence of men in my life. Or my ability to curb the influence of other women in my life. I've benefitted greatly from the support and encouragement of many people, men and women inclusive.

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