Chris Schillig: Keep food-shaming in the family

Chris Schillig: Keep food-shaming in the family

I was in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s when I got the call that, to quote Don Henley, “I didn’t want to hear, but I knew that it would come.” 

It wasn’t an old, true friend of mine, but rather my adult daughter, who has taken it upon herself to guide my culinary choices. Her check-ins come at such inopportune times that I wonder if she has attached a tracking unit to my car. Maybe it pings based on proximity to fast food. 

Rather than admit that I was lusting after two regular burgers, two fries, and a soft drink (my go-to order from the Golden Arches), I pulled out of line before answering. Then I drove to a nearby sub shop, where I ordered a meal about half as artery-clogging and half as tasty.

Such is life with a Food Shamer. 

To be fair, my kid is looking out for me, much as I did for her when she was a small fry. And I need looking out for. After years of staying on the wagon where fast food is concerned, I’ve fallen off in a big way. 

I blame it on teaching. A few months ago, after a night of parent-teacher conferences, I ordered McDonald’s on my way home. Those succulent burgers, indifferently wrapped and carelessly tossed inside a bag with lukewarm fries, scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. 

I was like a reformed drinker shocked to find himself ordering a rum and Coke. Or Sylvester in that old Merrie Melodies cartoon, supposedly cured of his addiction to birding but suddenly back on the Tweety trail.

My wife, the snitch, informed my daughter, who took it upon herself to fix her father. Or maybe to punish me for all the times I grounded her growing up. 

Hence, the phone call on the very night when she knew her mother was going out with friends, just to “check in” and see how I was doing. 

Meanwhile, a perfect gastrointestinal storm was brewing on other fronts. I recently overheard a group of students talking about their fast food jobs, and one mentioned how busy Burger King is when coupons are released. 

“Coupons?” said I. “I didn’t know Burger King had coupons!”

Oh, yes, came the explanation. A Whopper value meal for only $5, or two Whopper Jr. meals for the same price. And they are also available on the Burger King app. 

“Wait a minute, Burger King has an app?” I sputtered. (Sometimes, it’s a toss-up as to who teaches whom.)

I wasn’t going to download any fast food apps — too intentional —  but the universe, in the form of the United States Postal Service, sent me an alternative that very day. The coupons under discussion were waiting in my mailbox. All that was missing was Leonard Cohen singing “Hallelujah.” 

I tucked those money-saving missives away, waiting for an opportune moment to deploy them. It came about a week later. My wife wasn’t feeling well, and our planned meal — a completely healthy entree, for the record — didn’t make sense just for one. I was on my own. 

Like a public official sneaking into a strip club, I made my way to the BK, placed my order under cover of darkness and drove home on back roads to avoid detection. 

I almost ate the Whopper meal in the car, but because it was cold in the garage, I came inside — to find my wife on the phone with the little Food Shamer. 

“Guess what your dad just brought home!” 

“Fast food? Dad, who ARE you?” 

Aaargh. I ate it anyway, telling her that when I am old and institutionalized she can control my diet six ways from Sunday and I will have no say. But until then, I am going to periodically indulge in my fast food obsession. 

In the last week or two, she has instituted a reverse-psychology strategy by bringing me fast food coupons and making guilt-inducing comments like, “If you’re going to ruin your health anyway … ” 

I now have two flyers from McDonald’s, both with tempting offers. I haven’t used them. Maybe her strategy is working. 

I wish I could end this with a heartwarming coda about how I have learned restraint and she has learned to love me despite my flaws. But this is the real world, not some fairy tale. 

Maybe I’m cured, but probably not. One of these days, when I grow weary of healthy options, I will transgress again, likely with hunger gnawing at my stomach and coupons clenched in my hand.

Because cheap, superfluous calories are a heady brew, and a daughter’s love is a small price to pay.

@cschillig on Twitter 

Published at Sat, 03 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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