Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Looking Elsewhere

From Bitch Ph.D, I learned of a blog called Cancer, Baby, home to the witty, wonderful writings of Jessica, who died last week from ovarian cancer. Jessica wrote a post about guys she called "mood oglers," those men who see an unsmiling woman and are presumptuous enough to suggest, "It's not that bad" or "You should smile." Jessica's title of mood ogler inspired me to come up with a name for that oh-so-annoying group that I encounter ever so often--the food oglers.

While mood ogling may be primarily the domain of guys, most food oglers I have encountered have been women. They have somehow ordained themselves watcher of everything other women put in their mouths. Food ogling is usually accompanied by a disapproving shake of the head, a softly murmured , "You aren't going to eat all of that, are you?" or an ambiguous sniff. Most troublesome for me, something about seeing fat women kicks food oglers into overdrive. Not only can they execute the above mentioned shakes, murmurs, and sniffs, they can peer into my grocery cart and shoot me an approving smile when they see my lowfat milk and fresh produce. They can comment on how my physical attractiveness would be greatly enhanced if only I would.... And they can hide behind the cloak of medicine and science and pretend their concern is for my health and not my ample bosom and generous waistline. All this from women I don't even know. That's right--complete strangers have often decided that it is well within their rights to comment on my food choices, whether at the grocery store or in a restaurant.

To be fair, food oglers not only want to redeem the fat, they strive to preserve the slim. Best Friend Texas, who is usually a size 6 or 8, finds herself regularly food ogled and admonished at work. Her sin? Daring to actually eat some of the miniature candies in the office candy dish. (Silly chick hasn't realized the candies are for decoration or for men that stop by.) Apparently, some of her coworkers count how many times she walks towards the candy dish. The girl loves chocolate and is totally unapologetic about it, but still, food ogling works her last nerve.

I saw a food ogler in action today. I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant and was seated next to a couple of co-workers. One woman had ordered sopapillas that came glazed with honey with a scoop of ice cream right in the middle. She smiled as the server brought them to the table, probably already savoring the crunchy sweetness. But before she could take her first bite, her companion said, "Good Lord, I hope you're hungry." Sopapilla orderer immediately snatched her hand back and contritely agreed, "It is a lot. I didn't know it would be so much." For the rest of lunch, I ogled the ogler. Even as she commandeered the conversation, her eyes rarely left the dish with the sopapillas, gaging how much her co-worker was eating. For her part, the sopapilla orderer broke each piece of pastry into incredibly small pieces and used them to take miniature dips in the ice cream. Gone was the pleasure with which she'd greeted her dish. She didn't dare pick up a sopapilla and bite into it or use her spoon to scoop up the cinnamon dusted ice cream.

Food oglers have been amazingly succesful. In general, women's conversations abound with declarations of, "I couldn't possibly eat that," and "This is soooo bad for me," and "I'm full already." More specifically, they've driven me to make sure any less-than-healthful foods are at the bottom of cart, away from ogling eyes. They also had me, at one point, unwilling to go to a restaurant by myself. Their gazes alone seemed to say, "Not only is she fat and by herself, but she's also eating. Dear God!" If you've never seen a large woman trying to disappear into her seat, trust me, it's a sad, sad sight.

More recently, however, I've been trying to take my cousin T's lead. At the steakhouse we frequent back home, her favorite meal comes with a several-ounce ribeye, a baked potato, and a salad. T always cancels the salad and gets an extra baked potato. Her order has caused more than one ogler to look at her askance--T is a size 22 after all and probably should be ordering three salads, no potato or steak, in their opinions. One night, after her food came out, a particularly bold ogler gave a customary sniff. T, great lover of confrontations, asked, "What?" Of course, ogler became immediately sympathetic and concerned, advising T that she should make sacrifices for her health. T's response: "I don't like salad. I don't eat it. I love baked potatoes. And if that bothers you, maybe you shouldn't be looking."

Revolutionary thought, that.


RageyOne said...

Oh wow! That is a good term food ogler! I know a few people like that and I don't go out to eat with them anymore. They generally depress me.

One that can ruin a good meal, in my opinion, is for one to talk about how much they need to workout the next day after eating a salad, baked chicken (or fish) and water. Um, hello! You didn't eat anything fattening! What the #*$*%@?

In my quest to lose weight one thing I have not done is deny myself. Last week we went out to celebrate a friend successfully defending her diss. Did I not indulge? Yes! That cheesecake was quite good! We were out half the night and ended up at the late night pizza joint. Yep! That pizza was delicious at 2 am! Healthy for me? Probably not. But, boy was it good! My food ogler friends would have admonished the others and I. I'm so glad they were not there.

I love your cousin's response! Classic!

Rebecca said...

The first time I went out with my current boyfriend, I ate one giant hamburger, a full plate of fries, a salad, two beers, and an ice cream sundae. He watched me eat, well ogled actually, and I thought, well, this will be our first AND last date. After I was done, he looked me in the eye, and said, "Gosh it's nice to go out with a girl who acknowledges her appetite!" It was a nice moment!

Elle said...

i know, it's nice to feel free to eat sometime.

Quinn said...

Interesting post, and great word choice.

I think the gender aspects are particularly interesting. When I was pregnant, I was a notorious eater... Chili's Baby Back Ribs. All the time. I would drag my spouse to Chili's, where I would eat my plate of ribs, my baked apples, my french fries, finish whatever was on his plate, and then order dessert.

Since I'm petite and not obviously pregnant in a seated position, women would look rather askance at this display. But at least twice, the male waiter commented to either me or my spouse (in an approving voice, no less!) that I could really pack it in.

Is this women-policing-women aspect getting a little Foucauldian? Why are guys so surprised to see a woman eat? Are the days of Scarlett stuffing herself before the barbeque that far behind us?

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...