As a young child, I was known for being headstrong and stubborn. My mother was not to assist my stubby, inexperienced fingers as I attempted–and frequently failed–to get my frilled socks on right or my shirt on straight. I often stole my brother’s fully articulated G. I. Joes and Transformers to play with, and I was not afraid to tell any adult (willing to listen or not), about the dangers of global warming and how we needed to do a better job of taking care of our environment. I was most obstinate, however, about my relationship with food.
I was picky. For several years, my preferred menu consisted of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. Things that were leafy or green were totally out of the question, as was any portion of food larger than my fist. And while I’ve slowly grown to expand my culinary horizons, I realized that I may not be the only picky eater in the family.
When I got home that day, I asked my father for his side of the story.
“When you didn’t want to eat something,” he’d said, “we wouldn’t make you eat it. We’d encourage you to try it, but we wouldn’t force you.”
When I pressed further, he appeared to have no recollection of requiring my brother and I to sit at the dinner table for hours, as my mother claimed we had.
I found this contradiction fascinating, but unsurprising. My parents have completely different stories regarding the origin of my first name, so why wouldn’t they have different memories of the events in my early childhood?
After a while, my father said, “If I did do something like that, I’m sorry.” He scratched his mustache. “I shouldn’t have.”
I appreciated the apology, but couldn’t help but wonder if he remembered those long nights at the dinner table after all. Perhaps my father–outed as our new resident selective eater–could now sympathize more with the notion that some foods are simply unpalatable to certain people.
This duality shared between my father and I–the mutual understanding of choosing only to ingest certain foods, our pickiness–should foster more understanding between us, rather than friction. I may not be the most adventurous eater in my family (and neither is he), but at least I am no longer the limiting reagent for communal meals. I call that a victory. Perhaps he’ll share the winner’s circle with me one day.
(Comic originally published in Sweet: A Literary Confection, issue 4.3.)
Categories: Leslie's Voice