I’m tired of being afraid to eat around guys

A few times in any relationship, one gets asked the same, simple question that brings crippling anxiety—at least for me. It’s the inevitable inquiry that comes most appropriately after sex, a long car ride, or in the form of an obligatory anniversary idea. He turns to you with a grumbling stomach and says, “What do you want to eat?”

It has been my experience that if a guy I’m dating is ever left with making a decision of what to eat, the answer will always be drenched in buffalo sauce, purchased for half price, and ordered in bulk. The answer is bacon. The answer is burrito.  The answer is “extra sauce and another Pabst Blue Ribbon while you’re at it.” This has been something I have learned and with every new budding love.

I always limit myself to the soup and salad options in life, almost by default. The idea of talking about metaphysical spirituality or my aspirations with cheap queso drying on my chin leaves me with the most uncomfortable feeling I have ever felt, and I would just rather not risk it. With all of the excessive sauces dripping and the weird noises, the only thing I’m looking forward to is the check coming to the table.

To add onto the anxiety, fibbing about my level of hunger while putting on a “satisfied” smile always seems to feel a little unjust. I’ve had to watch men enjoy their brisket and lick each BBQ-glazed chubby finger in the purest form of happiness. I’ve sat quietly, stabbing each leaf and finishing my salad while making sure I looked like a graceful ballerina the entire time; pushing it away when half done and claiming, “I’m so full.”

The irony: I can eat an entire Chipotle burrito in one sitting.

It isn’t pretty and I don’t care. The burrito is as large as my entire torso and for nearly $7, I make sure I devour every inch. On my own, I thoroughly enjoy everything about this experience: the warm tortilla, the way the sweet corn salsa neutralizes the spiciness of the red sauce. With every bite, a small amount of rice and chicken falls out and creates a natural disaster on the swanky stainless steel table tops and I am eternally grateful that my boyfriend is not across from me watching this.

And then it occurs to me. Would it actually matter to him? What are the chances that he would find my love for Chipotle burritos adorable and quirky? What am I actually afraid of?

The idea that women should remain “lady-like” when doing something that is essential for living is the result of false, dated standards of what women should look like at the dinner table: delicate. But just like mascara or a new haircut, this is another one of those things that men don’t actually care about.

As a matter of fact, if being attractive at dinner is something women strive for, we should let our guard down and pile up on napkins and dig in. Enjoying yourself and nourishing your body suggests that you are not confined by the double standards. And that’s a good look. If men are allowed to have a full stomach, we should too. And let’s not forget to ask about dessert.

Jen Handoko lives in Atlanta, GA and enjoys baking cookies, being sassy, and smashing patriarchy. In her freshman year of high school, her creative writing teacher made her read a very bitter love letter in front of the class and the boy who broke her heart squirmed in his seat and it was in that moment that she decided she wanted to become a writer. She thrives to write honest, personal experiences to inspire and empower young girls.

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