My girlfriend is always on a prescribed diet of some kind, including frequent “juice cleanses.” I find this to be really unattractive. —Dave
This isn’t a standard-issue relaysh-ish, my dude. (I’m very over abbreviations like these in general, but when given an opportunity to make something as overcooked as “relationship issue” into something as gross-in-a-fun-way as “relays-ish,” I’m going to take it. Come with me on this magical journey!) When food is involved, especially “food” plus “girls,” the problem will always be considerably more complicated.
Don’t roll your boy-eyes at me. The ideas and choices around food and eating, especially when it gets down to diets and restrictions (diet-diets, but also cleanses, effective or bullshit, and intolerances, real or faked) are how we evaluate and understand (read: judge) each other. Isolate these food-feelings from the context of your relationship: what you’re doing is extrapolating meaning from someone’s decisions around what to eat, because to you it is emotionally, socially and aesthetically meaningful. We all do it. Meat-eaters get so wrecked about vegans; the bread-happy say “gluten-free” as though the words themselves are as poison-bitter as quinoa cookies. (Hot tip: don’t buy quinoa cookies.) Typically calm, cool people become irrationally furious about what other people choose and value when it comes to food—that, or my parents are just trolling me when they refuse to acknowledge the fact that I buy organic whenever I can (um, but not on Taco Bell Saturdays). I do it, too: I have an ex-boyfriend who orders steak well done. Well-done! Who even are you?
Food is—focus up—a drug. The only other life-thing that has as significant an effect on our energy, thoughts, feelings and physical function is, I guess, actual drugs. What someone has decided is the right food for them, including a juice cleanse they read about on the internet, or Dukan or Atkins or Clean or chemically-flavoured doughnuts during a PMS rage-day, or meat or wheat or all-organic-except-Taco-Bell-and-also-literally-any-ice-cream-based-dessert, is so completely their own decision—completely their own—because they will feel how the food makes them feel, and their body will respond to how food makes them respond. There are other, righter things to do if you’re seriously concerned about someone’s mental or physical health, but you, bro, are just irritated in the way I’m irritated by my ex, and in the way my parents are irritated by me. It’s a fundamental human disinterest in understanding, on all of our parts, because food is a constant and tactile measure of who we are via what we are choosing.
Now, let’s reintroduce the fact that you’re in a sexual relationship with a woman whose food choices you are eye-rolling, and let’s consider as related to that the classic, punishing, no-way-out double bind that women live inside when it comes to food, where a woman—the same woman! Every woman!—is expected to be casual and low-maintenance when it comes to food and eating, but also a certain version of thin and physically fit. I don’t think a lot of guys do this consciously, and it’s not as though there are two options of “good” or “bad” when it comes to bodies or food and eating, but it is high-level hilarious when a rando man has an expectation that a woman should eat whatever he wants her to eat, and at the same time, should look however he wants her to look. This may not apply to you, bud, but it applies to “world,” where the effort of achieving something is always supposed to be invisible, especially for women.
So, look. It’s good and fine to want to date someone who has similar ideas about eating, more generally, and how it should fit into a day and a life. That’s kind of how it works out anyway, right? Like, my vegan pal once told me he mostly found other vegans sexy; I couldn’t marry someone who maintained a singular orthodoxy about how and what food should be. But, in a relationship, you still have to make an effort to empathize and understand the decisions that turn you off or upset you. You are allowed to say “I love it when you do this” but you’re not allowed to get pissy when they do something else that they’re trying out as a way to feel better, or be better. Really being with someone else will always involve some strange, uncomfortable realities of another human body, and sometimes that’s going to include pineapple, cayenne and maple syrup juice. (It’s actually really delicious.)
More great advice from Kate: