With my parents and some good friends, it is just known as “my food thing” or alternately “my stomach thing.” We are referring to my inability to eat at restaurants with new peoples, specifically dates, and sometimes family. My stomach starts knotting and then my insides twist all the way up my esophogus, my teeth clench and all I can do, if I’m lucky, is drink water or coffee.
The first time I remember “my food thing” was at a fancy french restaurant with the whole family. It might have been in Texas and it might have been in Terre Haute. All I remember is that I barely ate and I spent a lot of time walking to and from the bathroom–the obvious result of my liquid diet for the night.
It got better and then in high school it got really bad. Then my inability to eat at restaurants was coupled with a nervous stomach. If I did eat, then I would feel sick and would spend part of the night on my knees in the bathroom. It wasn’t bulimia, trust me, there was no bingeing and purging. It was involuntary and embarassing. It would happen on dates, most memorably at homecoming my freshman year of college. Somehow I made it through dinner, but at the dance I got nervous and sick and had to be returned to my dorm room by, my now best friend, Ryan.
Then I spent the summer in San Francisco. I saw what a strong person I really am and that there was no reason dinner should be so scary or dates should be so scary. And I was cured. It was gone. Until I got back from Argentina.
Then the stress of re-entry, job-hunting, thesis writing, misplaced romantic intentions, and general 22 year old angst brought it back with a vengence. My food thing was bad the entire time I was in Colorado. The worst was my long awaited first (and last) date with Aaron. We went out for breakfast. I got an omelette, forgetting that at the time I didn’t like eggs, and spent breakfast pushing the omelette around the plate and drinking buckets of coffee.
Nearly two years ago to the day, I had my first (and last–we were both moving away from Durango) date with Jeff Pendarvis. Jeff is a trivia whiz and my main competitor in Lunacy. Jeff and I went to Ken and Sue’s East. We shared an appetizer, I had steak, we shared the chocolate cake for dessert. And I ate everything.
My food thing was gone. On a date. At a new restaurant. On a date.
Then I moved to Chicago and the food thing has come and gone. It was fine in Japan, it was terrible in Minnesota, and it’s been okay in CHicago. I think it has improved, in part, because I admitted I had “my food thing.” That instead of being stressed about ordering food and not eating it, I simply didn’t order food or I ordered my food to go towards the end of the meal.
In London, I went on a couple dates and the food thing was gone. It was so gone, I didn’t even think about it. Then last night, as I was standing outside of Sharoi Hana on Clark, I remembered the food thing. Here I am, waiting for my date, at a sushi restaurant and I might have the food thing. Shit.
Then my date arrived and I quit worrying. We had, after all, just had dinner two nights earlier together. It wasn’t a date, but I knew I was interested, so according to my stomach it was a prelude to a date. I was fine at the diner and, last night, I was fine over sushi.
I won’t go so far as to say I’m over the food thing, but I can think of five or so dates in the last two years when I triumphantly ate my dinner. However, it was a huge relief not to feel the familiar tightening and anxiety and to be able to pop the wasabi laden fish into my mouth and swallow.
Rest in Peace Food Thing.