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The Girl That Didn't

My boyfriend's father was in town visiting last month. He seems like a nice guy - he has definitely been kinder to me than would be advised - but he said something one Saturday night at dinner that really bothered me.

We were out at a new restaurant, a local Mexican one. I had decided to try something I had never tried before. This was my second night of trying a new restaurant, new dishes, and I totally out of my element. If I could live without eating, I would. And contrary to what some people love telling me, no, that's not just a sentiment. I wasn't anorexic by accident. And maybe that time in my life left me scarred with the way I currently experience a general lack of hunger. I don't know. What I mean by all this is that I don't do this very often. It's not easy and it's not necessarily fun, and I don't like being pressured to try new things for simply the sake of trying. I want to decide to try new things for the sake of trying them.

This is all the more complicated because as I grew up, trying things was encouraged - but I was punished if I didn't like them. I was a picky eater anyway even on top of my vegetarianism. So if I succumbed in the hopes that hey, maybe I might like this, it was a big risk. If I didn't like it I would still have to eat the whole thing, slowly, surely, painfully. My mother always told me a couple bites would be enough. Then she insisted I needed 30, and better yet, after I'd eaten the dish a few times I would get used to it and like it. This didn't prove to be true in my case. It ingrained a fear in me about trying new things. And it used to be worse than it is now.

My college therapist always told me to just eat what I felt like because it was more important to feel safe with food than for me to feel it was a burden. This was how I came to eat small meals throughout each day.

For the purpose of this writing, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of my troubles with food and its consumption. I do however feel that it was very unnecessary for my boyfriend's father to say that he felt sorry for me while we were at the restaurant. It has bothered me greatly ever since I first heard it.

I don't need someone to feel sorry for me about all the things I don't enjoy despite that others happen to like or love them. I don't like a lot of things and I think that should be okay. I am not less of a person for it, nor am I missing out on life. It's my life, and not liking many things - especially foods - is a part of it. Maybe if I genuinely don't like something it's not meant to be a recurring part of my life. And that could be a good thing. If life is short and valuable, why should I force myself to keep eating foods I dislike when there are enough out there that I do like a lot?

Look, I won't deny I can be quite the masochist. But not ever when it comes to food. I can't do it. Blame it on my conditioning as a daughter, on my stubborn stupidity, or on the foolish choices I fell into as a teen.

When you say you're sorry for me, I hear how you want me to change, to fit what you think I should be. I will probably never be someone who wants to go out and try everything. But I do try. I genuinely tried. Why can't that be enough?

© 2017 by Ameka Menes.

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