Wednesday, 16 February 2011

On Public Eating

I am really looking forward to spring. It was supposed to be warm and sunny today, but as things stand, there is no sun. 40 degrees (5 degrees celcius) is certainly better than the way-below-freezing temperatures we have been having recently, so I really shouldn't complain.

In case you happen to be like me, always wondering why every single interview with a Hollywood actress or other female celebrity includes details of how much they happened to be eating at the time of the interview, check out this article in the New York Times. The phenomenon, you'll learn, is called the documented instance of public eating, or DIPE. As stupid as the whole issue seems (certainly there should be more substantial things to write about), I actually have some personal experience with this.

When I was younger I was constantly asked whether I had an eating disorder, to the point where I often felt self-conscious about eating in public. If I wasn't hungry, I'd eat anyway, just to get people off my back. It always seemed weird to me that people (both women and men) were so interested in what I ate. Women checked out what I ate to see if I ate at all, and men to feel good about having a woman around them who ate "like a man". I didn't order salads at restaurants even if I wanted to, because eating something unhealthy was easier. There was no need to assure my co-eaters that I wasn't on a diet, and I didn't have to deal with men rolling their eyes at "yet another woman who eats like a bird". There was even a time in my late teens and early 20s when I'd avoid going to the bathroom after I had eaten, to make sure people didn't think I was bulimic. Today, this seems horribly unhealthy to me. I don't know how it got to the point where other people's perceptions, remarks and worries about my thin frame got to me to such an extent.

I don't know if people pay attention to what I eat these days - I have stopped paying attention to them long ago. Last year there was an incident where a woman comletely unknown to me told me that I should have dessert, just after I had mentioned to my husband that I didn't feel like eating anything sweet. The woman looked at me up and down, told me how skinny I was, and that of course I should have dessert. I felt like telling her to go eat x, x being something she didn't want to eat at that time, like worms or raw ground beef. I got flustered and couldn't think of anything witty to say. It was the first time in a long time where I felt like I had to somehow prove to a total stranger that I had a healthy attitude toward food. Feeling like you have something to prove, of course, isn't all that healthy. But I didn't have dessert. I just took a mental note of having gone the distance from being a way-too-self-conscious nervous public eater to just getting angry, which, I concluded, was better. I'd rather get angry than worry about the remarks of others to the point where it would control my behaviour. I still wish I had had the nerve to tell that woman to mind her own business, and yes, to go eat worms.

Dress: second hand, Valtteri flea market
Top: Gina Tricot
Cardigan: Benetton sample sale
Belt: second hand, Plato's Closet
Boots: Max&Co.
Pendant: birthday present from Chris


Rad in BK said...

I have some experience with this (although it was more a problem when I lived in the midwest, where thinness is less frequent than here in NY). I actually have digestive problems that have required special medical attention (related to stress), so sometimes I am highly limited in what I can eat. I sympathize with you and the actresses. I do find it suspicious that actresses seem to talk about food so much in interviews, but it's probably become one of these tropes for starlets, like sexy photoshoots for lad mags.

Cynthia said...

Us rounder people get the opposite, of course. We have to do documented instances of public non-eating. I don't quite get why people think they get to force their opinions about food onto strangers. I mean, I don't walk up to people and tell them "you should read a good book instead of that celebrity mag, because it's rotting your brain".

And men who hold the two mutually inconsistent positions that a woman should be able to eat big like a big man while also remaining thin piss me off SO much.

That's all about control, though.

Charlotte said...

I have no thoughts worth reporting on actresses and eating, but I really do like this outfit you're wearing, Waves. It looks so polished & comfy at the same time.

Frankie said...

I am naturally thin and have been the same weight since my late teens - about 9 years now. Growing up I experienced similar situations to you.
Now, the issue of weight always comes up at work. I am a long haul flight attendant and what I eat is always being scrutinised by the other flight attendants. Being vegetarian I am limited with my food choices on board so often don't eat a lot while at work but I make up for it before and after.
I am always being told that I need to eat. I find it a bit rude when someone is questioning my ability to feed myself based on the way I look. It used to bother me a lot so I would take huge amounts of food to work and eat numerous bread rolls to prove I do eat, but I have learnt to ignore the comments now.

disconaplondon said...

This is an ace outfit and glasses really suit you.
I hate it when people comment on other's eating habits. I'm a really fussy eater and it's only since I've started standing my ground and just telling people I will eat as little or as much as I want, of the things I like, that I've actually managed to chill out about it a bit. I don't mind being watched but I hate being forced to have seconds or "just to try it once". Six-year-old me says NO!

Anonymous said...

I was quite old, in my mid-twienties actually, when I discovered that no matter what I do, I shall never satisfy the others. I will always be too thin or too fat - or usually both at the same time. Marrying at 22? Way too early for most of people I know, for some of them though my engagement was too long. And so on. I used to be very self-conscious about it all, then one day suddenly I stopped caring. There are moments, still, when I get angry at people commenting on how thin/fat I look. THis is - as you put it - none of their business.
Anyway, what a brilliant NYT article, I swallowed it in one astonished lump. One of those things that you never actually notice, but when pointed out to you, all pieces fit! The whole celebrity business is enormously funny for me, as people somehow tend to forget that what they look at, are not - sort of - real people but marketing products, who will say whatever the marketers want them to say (ok, maybe it is a little exaggeration...). Never will an interview with a elebrity look the same now.
Cheers to you and wishing you the spring asap!

Jane W. said...

That's a wonderful dress! This happens to my husband a lot. People are always telling him to eat, and it drives him nuts.

Excellent point, Cynthia.

DanaVM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
K.Bean said...

I like your long, loose layers here.

I think Cynthia is really on to something: so much of the policing of female public eating is about control. The notion that our bodies are "wrong" and are thus open to public correction applies to thin women, rounder women, and don't even get me started about pregnant women.

Terri said...

I think most of us have had encounters with folks who do not think before they speak. It is particularly bad when one is a young mother and every one believes they know better than you how to raise your child.