I’m Not Eating That
Don’t eat that, you’ll never get married!
Every family has its quirks. Mine is no different.
I grew up the first grandchild, a girl no less, in an Italian-American household in the seventies. We lived the classic stereotype. Dad worked, mom stayed home with the kids. What made us a little different from the classic American family of the time is that I grew up across the street from nine of my cousins and the Italian-American stereotype permeated the neighborhood.
There are certain things that we remember from our childhood: phrases, jokes, movies. But one piece of advice that sticks with me from an early age comes from my mother.
Don’t finish (insert food item of your choice) or you will never get married. It was an illogical jump from the idea that a “lady” is not a glutton and therefore will not finish the food on her plate or take the last cookie off of the platter. A “lady” especially a young lady must never appear hungry. If she did, she would not be an ideal candidate for a wife.
To this day, I do not finish what is on my plate and I will never eat the last of anything. That hard cookie still sitting in the chips ahoy bag, it will sit there until it gets legs and walks into the garbage. Those last few cubes of cantaloupe I cut up a few days ago and pit in the Tupperware, yup, still in the refrigerator.
It is not a conscience thing. When I think about it, I make a point to finish the food on my plate, there is still some teenage rebellion against mom in this thirty-four year old body, but the thought of not finishing is so ingrained that I rarely think about it.
When my husband and I are at dinner, he will gesture to something on the table and say, “Finish XXX” and I will respond, “I can’t, I’ll never get married.” That always makes him laugh and say, “So what have these last six years been?” But for me it is something special that I will carry around with me—something that is my family. My brother remembers the phrase and he admits that in his dating days he did watch to see if any of the girls would take the last piece of pie or pizza. I think he fell in love with his fiancée because she would eat whatever she wanted to and do not worry about anyone judging her for it.
As I embark on starting my own family, I wonder what I will tell my daughter. Will I encourage her to finish every last piece? Or will I continue to the legacy of my mother and tell her not eat the last Oreo cookie lest she not get married? Will she one day laugh to her girlfriends about her mother leaving one granola bar, one piece of cheese, or one rice cake alone in their bags?