Dining with my family requires an unholy amount of patience and emotional fortitude. By the time the meal has ended, I’m ready to flip a table across a room and have no memory of actually having eaten anything. Did I eat, really? Or did the kids gradually swipe all the food from my plate during the 27 times I got up from the table to respond to someone’s need?
Don’t get me wrong; dinner isn’t all torture. I love hearing about the kids’ day at school or camp or whatever, and I’ve gotten good at feigning interest in their latest Minecraft build. There is still something unbearably precious about how they prop their chubby little forearms up on the table while they smear spaghetti sauce all over their faces. I actually like looking at that. And sometimes, all four of us fall out of our chairs laughing because my 5-year-old has epically farted.
These are the moments we cherish.
But none of this detracts from the overall glaring negative of dinner with my family, which is that I never get to enjoy my freaking food.
Enter “Second Dinner”:
First, before we sit down at the table, I make myself a plate of food … and stash it in the microwave. Then I make myself a dummy plate, the plate my family believes is my real dinner but is really only a few bites spread around for effect. Then I sit down to “eat” with my disgusting, food-smacking family. (I don’t eat the food on the dummy plate. That’s for the dog.)
THEN, after the kids are in bed and my husband has fallen asleep on the couch watching Ancient Aliens, it is time for my real dinner.
My Second Dinner.
I heat my food to the ideal temperature and … I eat it. The entire meal, in one luxurious sitting, ALONE, with no noise, no open-mouth chewing, no slurping, no mid-meal spills, no random temper tantrums, no up-and-down to get crap for people. The only chewing I hear is my own, my ass stays in my seat, and I savor each bite in sweet, succulent silence. Sure, I have to wait an extra couple of hours to eat, but I daresay the waiting makes the food taste that much better!
Second Dinner might appear selfish to some, but I assure you I have my family’s best interests at heart. Knowing my real dinner is waiting for me in the microwave greatly increases my tolerance for grossness at first dinner, the one that will impact how much therapy my kids will eventually need.
Before I created Second Dinner, I used to bite my tongue through entire meals, or if I was PMSing or in an otherwise shitty mood, I would openly rage at my family about how they were obviously all raised in a barn or by wolves or orangutans.
My husband sounds like a cross between Darth Vader and a hunter slopping through a swamp when he chews. It’s not his fault. He has allergies and can’t breathe through his nose, and asking him to just hold his breath while he chews is “unreasonable.” (Supposedly.)
And my children, like most children, are just absolutely disgusting when they eat, and kind of assholey, if I’m being honest. They’ve been known to push plates clear across the table in revulsion. But I am very serious about teaching them table manners, because I don’t want my future in-law children to think I was an incompetent mother. So every night it’s Chew with your mouth closed, Say excuse me when you do that, Use your fork and not your fingers, You don’t have to eat it but YES you have to taste it, Is that how we ask for things? and WOULD YOU GET YOUR FOOT OFF THE TABLE FOR THE BILLIONTH TIME.
Night after night after night everyfuckingnight. I can’t take it anymore! I want to enjoy my dinner! I want to taste my food!
And now I can. Now, with Second Dinner, there is no need to rage at first dinner. I can slouch back in my seat, pretend to eat a bite here and there, and just enjoy my repulsive family.
Because I love my family. And I love food. But I don’t sure as hell don’t love them together. (And I don’t have to.)