27 May 2013

'Joey doesn't share food!'

Friends' fans will probably remember the storyline that quote comes from. Joey Trebbiani, one of the lead characters, makes the comment after a woman takes chips from his plate during their first date. Her action leaves him hesitant about seeing her again. In Joey's case, his unwillingness to share is a result of his great love of food.

I'm equally unwilling to share, though for a very different reason. My reluctance stems from my desire for perfection, which often manifests itself as a need for 'wholeness'. In the case of food, it means ensuring I eat the whole bag of crisps, or chocolate bar, or fruit... This can make things difficult in social situations.

At lunch with a colleague in one of our office cafés, I elected to have a sandwich and a bag of crisps, while he chose just a sandwich.

'Can I have one of your crisps?' he asked, pushing his hand into the bag and helping himself. The crisp was in his mouth before I could even shriek 'No!', let alone lunge across the table, rugby-tackle him to the ground and pin him down in a half-nelson.

For anyone with contamination isses, he'd probably have ruined the whole packet. I'm more careful than most about hygiene, but my concern with germs isn't that severe. It was the simple loss of the crisp that niggled: he'd spoiled my lunch by destroying its wholeness.

It's one of those indefinable, it-just-doesn't-feel-right reactions that drive so many of my OCD compulsions.

And my reluctance to share is nothing to do with being mean. I'd gladly have forked out 95p to buy him his own bag - it was one of those exclusive, 'garnished-with-sea-salt-harvested-by-mermaids' varieties of crisp (price tag further inflated by the café's on-site monopoly in stocking that brand).
Photo: Peter Gettins Photography

Likewise, a former boyfriend once declined my offer of an apple. No sooner had I cut mine up, into eight pieces, than he asked for a segment.

'I thought you didn't want an apple?' I said.

'Well, I didn't want a whole one, just a bit,' he explained.

Well, sunshine, I didn't want just a bit, I wanted a whole one. Besides, they recommend five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, not four and seven-eighths. Where was I going to get the missing eighth from?

I'm just as irritated with myself if I drop what I'm eating on the floor. If I'm at home, where I feel (illogically) that I can trust the cleanliness of the carpet, I'll probably pick up the dropped item and eat it, rather than 'ruin' my meal. 

Oh, and by the way, whatever you do, don't go out for a Chinese meal with me and choose dishes 'for the table'. There's no such thing in my world.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

You gave a great description of your sense of perfectionism. I'm not a perfectionist about eating "whole" amounts of food, but I can understand your view of things needing to be a certain way or the anxiety ramps up. Perhaps having your colleage take one of your chips was a good way to practice not being whole? Sometimes it helps me if I force myself to deal with the anxiety--sit with it--and not give in to the compulsion. Easier said than done, I know. :-)

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for the comment, Tina. I often find myself feeling uncomfortable or edgy about situations like this, but, equally, am often unable to avoid them - as in this instance - so find myself in the middle of an enforced Exposure and Response Prevention exercise! No bad thing. I'm also currently actively trying to resist some of my compulsions - with varying degrees of success. I'll report on those efforts in a future post.