I sat at the dinner table tonight.
After cooking and serving the kids and Vinnie, then preparing something for myself, as they passed platters of potatoes and pork and started to eat.. I walked out of the kitchen with my dinner salad in hand, and Alex dropped his fork and half-started to stand up from his seat to turn on the TV for me.
And when I took my salad to the table and sat…and my sweet Asher applauded.
It was simultaneously heartwarming and shaming (for me – he had no intention of making me feel ashamed). My son, my nine year old SON, was excited that I wanted to eat dinner with him.
Growing up, family dinners were important. They were a thing. Even if my mother was working, she would make dinner before she left for her shift, and we would eat pate chinois, which was labeled with reheating instructions and left in the fridge for us. My father was good about always having bread and butter at the table and we had a routine of setting the table, folding the napkins, laying down the forks and knives. We ate together and cleaned up together. There was no negotiation on this. Family dinners were family dinners.
And, they are lovely memories, but complex ones.
I’ve had misophonia for as long as I can remember, and so, sitting and eating around any table that isn’t cloaked in the ambiance of a restaurant’s ambient noise, is hard for me. (My GOSH, Alex choosing to snack on pretzels in the next room is hard for me.) And so, there are memories of me, expressing this discomfort, before it was a better understood disorder, and I was simply being difficult (or comical).
But there are also memories of me being asked if I really *need* that scoop of sour cream for my potato.
Because, in a family of skinny kids, I was the average one.
When our kids were little, Vinnie worked a job that kept him out past dinner time, and so, it made perfect sense to feed the kids at our little table and then wait to eat with him.
But, now, he’s home by dinner time…and I still choose to sit alone. In part, because of misophonia, still, always, it’s ridiculous (and I can’t apologize enough to Vinnie for never getting to eat a handful of chips without my utter disgust). I get viscerally angry at most any sound that comes from someones mouth while masticating.
But, also, as a busy mom, I like to finally feel able to relax and watch mindless episodes of whatever is on Food Network after a day of school/editing/exercising/grocery shopping/cooking/cleaning/whatever.
It only occurred to me tonight, that my wanting to eat dinner alone may also come from a fear of scrutiny. As a teen, it was a fear of scrutiny over what I was eating. As a mom, it’s a fear of my kids wondering why I am NOT eating what they’re eating. I never want my daughters (or sons) to compare their dinner options to mine.
I never comment on my amazing children for their physiques. I don’t talk about their bodies at all, unless they have a question for me. Does something hurt? Is something changing and you have questions? Sure. But, I don’t want them, in any way, to associate their affection or acceptance of me, with their physical bodies.
It’s been two months since I shared about my eating disorder and, as writing is therapeutic for me and also a means of closure, by writing about it, I released myself from the negative behaviors.
But, it’s not as simple as I had hoped.
The behaviors are gone, my hair has stopped falling out, but the emotional road is long.
Learning to lean into the waves of emotion and let them rise and fall, is a process.
But, there was a day, two months ago, where I saw myself in the mirror and felt terribly alone and imagined my own daughters, one day, standing in the same position.
And I want them to know, if they’re ever in this place, they’re not alone.
(And, they can have that scoop of sour cream, if they want it.)