For the exercise in Write Yourself Right, I need to create a game plan to avoid binge-eating at holiday meals. This year it’s Mike’s family’s turn. Since Mike and I are officially married now, I’m sure it shifts some rules about my role in the kitchen since normally I was shunted right out of it and there’s some very specific Female Competitive Syndrome dynamics going on there with women who have lived and breathed that way since long before I was born. I’m not going to establish any victories there so it’s wisest for me not to try.
I’m looking at the following recurring emotional states that affect my eating behaviors the most:
Anxiety – I think by this time opinions of me are formed, but I still feel awkward answering questions about what I do for a living. I also have to deal with Mike’s father, who makes a sour face when I say “bless you” to a sneeze, and his paternal grandmother, who asks me if I’ve found Jesus so often that one of these days I’m going to tell her to put him on a chain around her neck so she quits losing him.
Boredom – This is the part of all American holidays that I hate. The part where you’re expected to sit together and talk. It’s one thing when the conversations are interesting, but I’ve never had any luck with that.
With my own family it’s a living hell, not just because my immediate relatives have bizarre little fantasies about what I’m supposed to think that completely skip over the basics of considering that I might have needs and wants of my own, but because in the very rare cases where I’m exposed to my mother’s family, I’m expected to coo over baby pictures, give reports and explanations about my life and know the details about people who could never even be bothered to write “happy birthday” on my Facebook page. Basically it’s like someone walking up to you in a club and saying “Do you know who I am?” and then flipping out because you have no reason on God’s green earth to know who that person is.
While Mike’s family doesn’t and won’t have that expectation of me, there’s still the boredom factor. Most of the family is very…churchy. If you read this blog, you know I’m not. And the stuff I like to talk about would horrify Queen Granny and Dull Dad. Since I don’t enjoy video games and I can’t reasonably leave (these gatherings take place in Iowa, where the hell would I go?) I need to come up with a strategy other than stuffing my face to avoid conflict.
So my plan:
For the food:
Go in vegetables first. Remember that this is Iowa, so corn syrup will be everywhere – eat plain foods, nothing from a can, and be very insistent about the allergy. Drink a LOT of water. If people ask about what I’m eating, rather than explain myself ask them what their favorite dish is and why. Try not to make phases at the broad variety of foods involving cream of mushroom soup, no matter how grossed out I am by it. These are American traditions in the heartland, after all, and no one needs to know I haven’t eaten Americana style since my early twenties.
For the Anxiety:
Make sure I do my morning pages. Make sure I meditate. Make sure I pray. Bring along some yerba matte’ tea. Wear comfortable, non-challenging clothing, bring good walking shoes and ask Mike to get us a motel with a pool. Just do gift certificates in gift giving situations.
Also, rehearse a few pat non-answer phrases for inquiries about religion, lifestyle and non child-having. DO NOT MENTION YOU ARE WRITING A BOOK. Talk about things in local rather than personal terms: the weather, recent incidents in local newspapers, etc. Study up for a few days before. Knowing how area sports teams are performing tends to leave a good impression. Come with a rookie-style dessert to contribute, like cookies or rumballs, unless someone ticks me off, and then I’m throwing down the gauntlet with macarons.
I think my best bet is to take up knitting. It keeps my hands busy, allows me to take part in social platitudes and is reasonably non-offensive. It’s the best I can think of right now, and if I start learning now I might even be able to knit myself some interesting tights or leggings for the winter. I gather it also helps with the anxiety issues.
Unless I can luck into shooting pool at Doug’s. Then I’m all over that.