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Daze of My Life: Invitation for Trouble

Daze of My Life
Invitation for Trouble

If you're like me, and I doubt that you're any more like me than I'm like you, the prospect of sitting down for an unknown dinner at a person's home with whom you've had very little contact is the definition of anxiety. The reason I say this, the reason I experience this is, my eating habits. Or perhaps I should clarify and explain, my habits of eating. And of course by habit I mean, something I do repeatedly, rarely without fail, and having continually done so for years, probably decades, if I were to be honest about it.
And I have no problem being honest about it; the problem I have is, dealing with it. And the problem is, that I don't eat anything, and if I don't already eat it, I'm loathe to even try it, especially in public, in front of other people, and with respect to this upcoming dinner invitation, extremely uncomfortable at the thought of having to do so.
But what am I supposed to do; besides get my head examined? I'm over age 50 and have been eating this way ever since I can remember: double-stuffing the original Oreo cookies way before Nabisco ever thought of doing it, as an example. And whether the dinner offering is dessert, appetizers or the main course, the likelihood that enough of the choices will be in my wheel house and thus edible, rather than un-edible and thus pushed into some hiding place in my plate (which of course doesn't really exist on a round plate), is somewhere between slim, which I'm not, and none, which is the number of similar occasions which have not already ended badly, for me. So even though I've been there, and not been able to do that, the experience, unfortunately, has served no purpose.
All I can do, all I have done, is attempt to deflect any attention away from me and my plate, sit off by myself somewhere or, at all opportune moments slide the remnants of my uneaten portions onto my wife, Dina's plate, and hope that she's hungry enough to eat her way through a second helping so that I - and she by association - aren't forced to explain our presumed disinterest in the meal.
Though this situation may sound a bit warped, it's nothing that Dina and I have not endured - and attempted to manipulate - countless times before. Still, the whole situation makes me incredibly anxious and makes Dina incredibly frustrated. You think she isn't tired of eating/preparing the same meals with the exact same ingredients - and side dishes - going on 30 years, when she could have eaten any and all varieties; cooked or uncooked, land or sea, vegetable or potato, from this country or any other? Of course, she is, and added to that frustration is her having to cover for me in what appears to be a normal and nondescript manner in a relatively cozy environment where not much of what happens - or doesn't happen - will be lost on either the guests or the host/hostess.
And though Dina is certainly not the cause of this discomfort, or the potential embarrassment, she will bear the burden, perhaps even the stigma of it, more than I.
Though it's definitely stressful, as I've noted, it is my life and I have already lived it for many years. As a result, I am OK with it and can live with the consequences of my non-actions. It's much harder on Dina, however. She has not so much lived with it as much as she has married into it. It's not second nature for her and thus she can't be expected to roll with the peculiar punches that make up her husband's adolescent eating habits. And even though I am clearly dreading that initial pre-dinner moment when the appetizers appear, and then the subsequent conversations begin about the main course, dessert and so forth, it's not an experience with which I'm not unaccustomed. I imagine it's a similar feeling to how professional athletes, politicians, performers, etc., perform under pressure - like normal, as if there's no camera or audience whatsoever. So I'll manage, although it won't be pretty. It's my wife, Dina, however that I worry about. She's normal. She welcomes dinner invitations.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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