I recently spent an embarrassing amount of time reading Grub Street Food Diaries. Have you ever gone down this rabbit hole? It’s amazing! I really love reading about what other people eat. I also get a kick out of the people complaining in the comments section about all of the vegetarians featured in the series. A meal lacking in dead animal is probably not American enough or something?
Anyway, I thought about documenting what I eat in a week and making that a blog post, but then I realized that I may be in the minority in that I truly enjoy reading about what other people eat. It is highly unlikely that anybody would care to read a detailed report of my eating habits (spoiler alert: I eat a lot of things on toast and I’m loving the plantain chips from Trader Joe’s). It’s a tad narcissistic to think someone would care to read such a thing, isn’t it? Also, I’m a vegetarian, so I would probably bore and/or piss off a lot of people.
As most things do, this topic brought me back to a lesson my dad taught me when I was a kid. I had a habit of a) commenting on what other people were eating and b) giving everyone at the table a detailed rundown of what I was eating and how. Examples:
Dad puts anchovies in salad.
Me: I’m going to eat my chicken first, and then save the baked potatoes for last. I like to keep my carrots separate.
Dad: We don’t need the play-by-play, Tanya. Just eat your food.
When I would make comments about his food choices, my dad would say things like:
- I don’t comment on your food, so don’t comment on mine.
- Commenting on other people’s food is rude.
- You’re not eating it, so why do you care?
Do you notice anything about those statements? First, he is absolutely correct! Commenting on others’ food is rude, and what somebody else eats really is not your business. Why do we all care so damn much about the decisions that other people make that have no effect on our own lives? Of course I’m speaking about headline issues like gay marriage and birth control, but there are countless other life choices that come under judgement outside of the political sphere, in our private familial and social circles. These are the life choices of the people we personally know and care about – our family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Our strong opinions and emotional reactions to these types of life choices are complicated. Certainly whether your daughter chooses to be a stay-at-home or a working mother isn’t your decision to make, but you may argue that it’s a decision that does affect you, because it affects your child and your grandchild. What about your friend who is engaged to marry a person that you don’t think treats them well? You care about your friend and genuinely want what is best for him or her, but does his or her decision to marry this person have such a strong impact on your own life that it warrants your friend taking your opinion into consideration? These situations are quite complex, and the factors vary depending on the people involved and the dynamics of the relationships.
Let us take a step back and touch on the quick, surface-level types of judgments we pass on a near daily basis. Why do I care that the person next to me in a fitness class isn’t following directions properly? Their form doesn’t have an impact on the quality of my own lunges (which I perform with perfect form, of course). Why did I get so angry at the hoards of people playing Pokémon GO at the park? I had to run around them, and I hate running already, so those extra strides made my tough run even more horrible. But really, why should I care how they choose to spend a Monday evening?
I catch myself passing judgement on other people’s decisions often, and I struggle between trying to justify my opinions and convincing myself that my opinion holds no importance in certain instances. Sometimes though, in those moments when the spiritual force is with me – when I’m at at peak yogi – I am able to self-reflect and be honest with myself about why I care abut this specific person’s specific decision.
When I pick on my husband’s outfit or his food choices (I cannot escape the food theme) he often asks me, “Is that hurtful or helpful?” (Such a teacher, he is!) What an appropriate question to ask yourself when evaluating why you have such a strong opinion about someone else’s decision! Do I care about the Pokémon GO players because I worry that they’ll get hit by a car, or am I just being a mean bully making fun of people who are doing something that I think is lame? (It’s the second one, by the way.)
When it comes to judging yourself for judging other people, I believe that being honest about your intentions is the way to go. You may have to recognize and admit to an ugly trait in yourself (envy is a common one for me!), which can be unpleasant. Still, being able to acknowledge these types of flaws in our character plays up one of our best strengths, and that is the ability to improve ourselves. I may always roll my eyes at the person facing the wrong way in yoga class or at the girl taking a selfie at brunch, but I try to do so while also thinking, “You do you, boo boo. You do you.” and sending them a spiritual high five.
Making decisions that others may not agree with is brave! Being yourself and ignoring snark is brave! If you enjoy anchovies on your salads, you are the bravest of the brave. Please remember to pop a mint after your meal. If you enjoy “catching” cartoon characters on your phone, I admire your dedication and hope you can catch them all. Please look up every once in a while to protect your spine.