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Before Dinner

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Sometimes at social gatherings, I get hit with a kind of epiphanous, out of body experience where I see everyone as if from a different perspective (not really bird’s eye, more like a less godly 40° angle) and am simultaneously bequeathed with a profound truth about humanity.

Perched on a stool at a swanky Mexican restaurant a few nights ago, surrounded by a gaggle of loosely associated girlfriends, I was sipping a delicious mango margarita, listening to scattered conversation, and munching on nachos and guacamole.

Speaking of nachos and guacamole, do you know how some people eat their nachos by literally just dipping a corner of the nacho into the dip? I don’t get that. Yes, I understand the meaning of the word ‘dip’ as both a noun and a verb, but when I eat nachos, I use them like excavator buckets, one in each hand. Because how can you get any flavour out of the dip otherwise?

(And since I’m on the subject, I’m pretty certain that I’ve broken the world record of the amount of ranch dip you can balance on a slender celery stick several times now, too.)

But on this evening, I was civilised. I daintily dipped just the corners of my nachos into the guacamole like everyone else, I ordered a salad as a main dish like almost everyone else, and even passed on dessert like everyone else. However, the only reason I could do all that without dying of hunger and frustration was that, right before coming to dinner with my girlfriends, I’d had a full, cooked dinner at home. (Namely, two  delectable, cheesy croque-madames.) With a salad, like, on the side.

The truth is that, with the Christmas season in full swing and social occasions abounding, fortifying myself prior to going out to eat with people has become a habit. The reasons, a result of long years of awkward experience, being purely social – rather than have everyone wait for me while I solitarily devour my starter and polish off my dessert, or incur upon my companions the unfair expense of my consumption on an equally split bill, or, heaven forbid, eat the entire contents of their fridge and half the pantry, I prefer to pre-fuel at home and then be as normal as possible during the social event – eating as much (or as little, tee-hee) as everyone around me.

(This doesn’t apply to my closest friends, most of whom are gluttons after my own heart. Among ourselves, we can gobble down an entire pizza and order seconds immediately afterwards, with still enough room left for dessert, and not even blink.)

Of course, you could argue that I could have just eaten a little at the restaurant and then, if I was still hungry (you bet!), had something at home later. But that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because, firstly, there’s nothing worse than being in a restaurant and ordering half of what you crave, and because, secondly, when I’m left hungry at the end of a meal I’m less likely to focus on those magical moments of conviviality and conversation and laughter and cheer. In short, my method works.

And so, as I sat there at this swanky Mexican restaurant, noticing how we all picked at our salads as if in slow motion, leaving the side plates of tortillas and mole virtually untouched, as if none of us really wanted to eat at all, I suddenly saw everyone at a 40° slant, and then was hit with a revelation.

What if we’d all had a full, cooked dinner at home right before coming?!

Because, honestly, if that’s the case, if we, women, people, really do this, trying to conform to a norm that is entirely fabricated and that continues to be perpetuated by a sheer fantasy, well, then, the truth needs to be dragged out into the open and discussed with honesty and courage. Ideally, over abundant cheese boards and sulphite-free wine.



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