The food-as-hospitality equation is beautiful but also dangerous, because some extenders of hospitality take it very hard if visitors do not devour every morsel of every dish. It is to be hoped that hosts will refrain from goading their guests into consuming more than they wish to. Cautious guests can prepare in advance by consulting a therapist, reading pertinent articles, and generally figuring out how to say “enough” in a way that will express abundant gratitude, yet at the same time compel the host to accept “No more, thank you” as a final answer.
Consideration should flow both ways. Before giving a child a drum kit or a smelly chemistry experiment set, please discuss it first with that child’s caregivers.
Here is a thought pertaining to the family get-together. Often, home movies or slides are shown, or photo albums are passed around, and stories to go with them. What if everybody made the effort, this time, to just sort of skip over the more embarrassing bits of historical lore? Maybe there are other ways to have fun besides picking on folks.
Fixing and eating
On the food front, a guest with strict dietary limitations is encouraged to make (or buy) something already proven safe for their own consumption, and bring along enough to share. On the psychological front, Dr. J. Renae Norton recommends rehearsal, which can be done ahead of time with a therapist, support group, or friend. She wrote (for a now-defunct website),
Try to role play situations that you suspect may arise (such as comments about your weight, about your food choices, etc.) Be as prepared as you can to avoid counter-productive coping behaviors.
Another useful concept for the guest is: Lend a hand if asked or permitted, but don’t push it. We have heard the expression, “a one-butt kitchen,” meaning that any additional occupant is more of a hindrance than a help. Also, your host might feel as personal about the kitchen as someone else feels about their bedroom. They don’t want drawers opened, or things fiddled with, moved out of place, or unnecessarily dirtied. They don’t have time right now to teach you how to use the new fancy gadget.
With family members, there are extra rules. If your grown child urges you to “just try one bite” of something, it’s only fair, because when they were young, you probably insisted that they try just one bite. But from anyone else, you don’t need to put up with it.
It never fails
We would all benefit from dislodging certain mindsets, like the surrender mode from which so many Americans conduct their proceedings. We face Halloween, and the next thing we know, it is three days until Christmas and our good clothes don’t fit anymore. What happened in between? A weird species of brain fog prevents us from even recalling.
Now, about that awkward week between Christmas and New Year… If we could somehow know the actual number of people who just give up, abandon all standards, and grant themselves a pass for that whole period, wouldn’t it be appalling? Of course, along with this dereliction of duty, we are somehow able to compose the most sincere vows to reform completely on January 1.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Image by H_Elise/CC BY 2.0 DEED