I believe in the unconditional: no strings attached, no stipulations, no doubts, no fears, no regrets. The unconditional is unbreakable, unquestionable and wholly satisfying.
I have what some might call an eating disorder, although not the normal two that all parents fear for their teenage daughters. I simply do not like very many foods. The ones I do like, I eat in massive quantities, like pasta, cereal and corn. The ones I don’t like (green beans and meat of any kind hit the top of the list), I don’t let anywhere near me. That doesn’t sound bad until I tell you that there are entire years of my life where I didn’t eat anything other than pasta and cheese.
Needless to say, holiday dinners have not been very comforting times. Everyone gets together to eat the gigantic meal prepared by whichever cousin is hosting that year, and I get out the little Tupperware dish of homemade macaroni and cheese, which accompanies me to all family functions. It doesn’t sit well with most of my family because, along with my other sins — being a registered Democrat, skinny and preferring novels to football — it makes me different. I’m the family oddball, and no one enjoys having me to dinner even though I am quite possibly the easiest person to cook for on the planet.
I suffer through the same questions every year from all sides. “Why aren’t you eating what we’re eating?” “Didn’t your parents teach you any manners?” “How do you expect a man to love you if you won’t eat normal food?” On and on they go, every year, and every year they get the same answers. “I don’t like what you’re eating.” “My parents taught me manners — I’m using a knife and fork, aren’t I?” “Any man who truly loves me will love all of me, including my eating habits.”
Which brings me to the point: these are my relatives, yet most of them would rather have a date with an angry rhinoceros than try to appreciate my differences. The people who should love me without fail place restrictions on their love. While everyone else in the family has solved this problem by conforming to those restrictions (or pretending to), I cannot. I believe that love should be unconditional, especially love within a family.
What my family (and perhaps everyone else) needs to understand is that everyone has their differences, and that’s what makes us individuals. Forcing anyone to conform to personal guidelines is what breeds hatred and prejudice. And throwing children into that kind of environment is unacceptable. I am the way I am both because of, and in spite of, my family. I have learned from their mistakes, made my own, and decided that while they are good people, they are also too set in their ways to accept differences.
So I will eat my macaroni and cheese and suffer through more taxing dinners with my family, simply because I love them, flaws and all.
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