When I was growing up, taking food from another's plate was OK... if you were a toddler. Once you were 3, you were expected to know it wasn't cool to swipe a meatball from your sister's plate, even if you'd finished all of yours and hers looked especially tasty. But grownups with otherwise impeccable table manners eat from my plate all the time. It's not unusual to glance down and see a friend's fork carrying off what I'd foolishly believed was my dinner.
We're at an upscale restaurant. My entrée arrives. As I look forward to savoring every morsel, forks come flying in from all over the table. Most folks, granted, will ask before they strike. "That looks scrumptious! Can I have a tiny taste?" Say no and you're a killjoy. But say yes and you've given the entire table the go-ahead to share your sirloin.
I just want to enjoy my own dinner. All of it. I don't like to share my food. Is that so terrible?
You bet it is! Breaking bread together isn't supposed to be about zealously guarding the food on your plate from hordes of incoming forks. Instead, it's about caring and sharing, savoring not only your own ravioli, but the people you enjoy it with. Food is love. When I deny you a taste of my delicious pasta, I'm saying I don't love you.
But that's not true! I don't want to withhold my affection -- just my entrée. Look at it this way: If I'm on the sofa snuggling with my guy, I don't expect a friend to say, "That looks like fun! Mind if I join you?" And if I'm lost in a good book, I'm not going to let you carry it off to enjoy a chapter. So, plunge your fork into my pasta and you'll plunge me into despair.
There should be 12-step programs for folks like me. "Hi! I'm Roz! I don't like to share my food!" We'll all get together and work on not wincing when friends eat from our plates. We'll learn to say, "Help yourself!" instead of "Hell, no!" when you ask us for a taste. Finally, we'll test our new friendlier dining skills by going out for Chinese food, where it's practically illegal not to share.
If this sounds as appalling to you as it does to me, you can always resort to desperate measures. When your meal arrives, blast it with a big loud, honking sneeze and exclaim, "If only I could shake this awful cold! Hey, who wants a bite of my ravioli?"
The silence that ensues will be almost as satisfying as your dinner, every morsel of which you may now savor in peace. Bon appetit!
This essay first appeared on Purple Clover.