Eating out, Dying inside
There are countless reasons why I hate dating. There is the constant guessing, the money spending, the awkward encounters, the feeling of being on an endless interview, the continuous fear of rejections, and worst of all having to go out to eat. I hate going out to eat, more than most other things that I am forced to do in life. It is a very strange phobia and one that I unfortunately have to pretend not to have when I first start dating someone. I have been told by numerous friends that I can not tell guys about this issue until we have slept together.
I have what is known as a specific social phobia. The fear of eating in public apparently is not common enough to get its own long fun phobia name, instead it is grouped in with a bunch of other obscure phobias. I can’t begin to explain how much I dread eating in front of people. I start to eat and I feel as though I no longer know how to swallow. My throat closes up and I am convinces that everyone is starting at me and judging me. In my mind everyone is asking themselves, “why is that fat girl eating that? She should not be eating anything.” Logically I know that this is not the case, that most likely no one even knows that I am there, but that does not stop the fear. I project onto others what I am feeling myself.
As I have gotten older this problem has become more and more of an issue. I think I was the only college freshman who lost weight. The thought of eating three meals a day in the cafeteria was just to much to bare. My first semester I didn’t eat anything other than tomatoes and cucumbers at lunch and than I would wait until the late night snack bar was open to get a few things for my room to hold me over. During my trip home for Thanksgiving my mother actually stood outside the bathroom door to make sure I wasn’t throwing up my meals. I had lost so much weight she was convinced that I must be bulimic. Once I was able to live in an apartment off campus life got a little easier. At that time in my life everyone was just binge drinking all the time and no one had the money or stomach to go out to eat.
Recently I was talking to a co worker about my problem eating in public. In my typically manor I was just making a joke of how crazy I am laughing about the absurdity of someone my age having such a phobia. She asked where it had come from. Up until that point I had never thought to really pin point when this issue had started. I think I always just excepted the fact that I was born this way. Later that night I got online and started to do some research. Several different sites claimed the same things, that this specific social phobia originates when someone is young and has a traumatic public eating experience. So I thought back to all the times we went out to eat when I was young, this as not many due to living in the middle of nowhere and not having any restaurants within 30 miles. But there was this one time, we went to a sit down Chinese restaurant. I can’t really remember how old I was but I’m guessing it as around ten. There was a large women eating with a man at a corner table. I clearly remember thinking that she probably shouldn’t be eating Chinese food so I asked my father if he thought that people judged other people for their food choices when they were in public. He said very simply, “Yes”. And that was the end of the conversation.
At the age of ten I had not yet realized I had a morbid self image. I did however silently judge everything that everyone ate who was in my peripherals. By the time I had developed my own self image issues this idea of food being the determiner of one image and self worth had be thoroughly ingrained in my head. There was no going back. By the time I was 15 I was convinced that I was extremely overweight and that no one would ever love me because being skinny equaled being pretty and being pretty meant someone would love you. No one other than my family seems to love me, so deductive reasoning meant I was fat. I stopped eating and taking laxatives and diet pills. This continued on until I was 23. The rear times that I would eat more than cucumbers or lettuce, I would hid it. I could not handle the thought of someone seeing me eat anything substantial. I felt as if they would be asking themselves what I was asking myself, “Why would she eat that when she clearly sees how fat she it?”
Although the eating issues over all have gotten better with age, I have never been able to shake the feeling of being judge when I eat. I have to be extremely comfortable with someone to eat in front of them. I avoid eating in front of co works at work and I make up an excuse any time friends invite me out to eat. I no longer judge others, I have no place to judge anyone on anything. I truly believe that everyone has their own issues that they deal with in their own ways. I still judge myself though, every time I eat anything I feel guilty. I go through long periods of not eating ant then closet binge. I feel like people who know me must be so confused because they never see me eat and yet I’m not skinny.
Most people have a sense that I am a little off when it comes to certain things, but I don’t think people realize to what extent these issues affect my life. It would be nice to be able to meet a guy out for dinner and not have to research the menu first to see what I could eat without feeling like everyone will think I’m a fat cow. Or feel like I could finish the my whole meal and not be silently judge. I’m not sure it will ever happen and instead I will eat alone in the copy room at work, or in my apartment by myself where only I can judge myself.