A little while ago some friends introduced me to “Mira”. She is a lot of fun, very intelligent and well read, and quite outgoing. Several months ago a mutual friend hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for some of us who could not go home for the holidays. They provided the turkey and dinner staples, and the guests were encouraged to bring a dish to share. The couple slaved all day over the meal and when we arrived at the house the smell of the turkey was absolutely amazing.
I was aware that Mira was a strict vegan. The couple, also aware of this, provided several vegetarian dishes for their guest (a few others were also vegetarians, though not as strict as Mira). Mira also brought her own dish. While Mira was quite outspoken about her dietary choices, and her moral reasons for them, this was the first time I had ever been in a social situation with her where food was involved. She commented more than once on the “stench” from the kitchen. When the turkey was uncovered, we all commented on how good it smelled and looked, Mira made loud and very rude gagging noises, and made comments like, “I don’t know how you can eat that!” I was astonished that this intelligent, mature woman would make such rude comments to our gracious hosts. Since they were much more familiar with Mira than I, I thought maybe it was some odd inside joke. Surely nobody would be that rude as an invited guest.
Fast forward to this past week. Some friends decided to have a pot-luck gathering and I agreed to host. I made plenty of food, and while I am not a vegetarian, I prepared some dishes for friends who are, including a lentil soup and some beautiful vegan rolls from a nearby bakery. Mira was among those invited, and when she arrived she went straight to the table and proceeded to point at dishes she didn’t approve of, saying they looked disgusting, turning up her nose, and in general being unbelievably rude and obnoxious. I was hurt that my culinary efforts didn’t meet her standards, but I mostly felt embarrassed that my friends, who had taken such care to prepare delicious food to share, were being insulted by this woman. I tried to quietly hint to Mira that her comments were probably hurtful, but she either didn’t get the hint, or she simply didn’t care.
Once the meal was over we played some games and Mira returned to her usual charming and gregarious self. By that time, the mood had been altered and I found it hard to enjoy her company, knowing what a bore she was when food was involved.
I have no problem with anyone’s dietary choices, or whatever reasons they have for making them. I would never force Mira, or any of my vegetarian friends to eat something they didn’t want to eat. I would expect the same courtesy in those friends to refrain from making an issue of my choices. I do wonder if I should have said something to Mira about her behavior. She certainly will not be invited back to my home for a meal. 0217-15
The subject of today’s post is not about the merits of vegan eating so don’t waste your time defending/criticizing that culinary option. What I will use this particular story is to illustrate how self confidence, or the lack of it, shapes behavior.
Mira’s comments reflect just how insecure she really is about her own life choices. She issues forth with critical comments and snide judgements about non-vegan food choices as a way to bolster her own very shaky, weak foundation for what she believes to be right. There is a considerable amount of emotion that Mira is using to express her negative opinions which reveals, again, how weakly she holds her convictions. People who are at peace with their life choices and their convictions are not likely to rely on emotionally charged, rude comments to others who may believe or act differently as a means to strength . It’s as if rude behavior is the concrete that shores up their foundation. We’ve all seen this behavior before…think back to middle school where girls rate, judge and express a critical judgement on the looks of others and all the while demonstrating just how insecure they are about themselves in doing so. (And therefore I would disagree with the OP’s assessment that Mira is “mature”. ) This does not excuse Mira’s behavior but as the observer, it is useful to realize that Mira has inadvertently exposed a weakness in her armor and frankly, is to be pitied.
Likewise, confident people who are secure in their choices, their beliefs and convictions walk through life not being affected emotionally in the least by opposing opinions. Guests at the above dinner parties who are happily and confidently secure in their omnivorous dining and cooking choices are not going to be emotionally drawn into being offended at anything Mira has to say. They may acknowledge that she is quite rude but her proclamations have little effect on their emotional well-being or how they react to her. In response to Mira’s gagging noises (very juvenile) and demand, “How can you eat that?”, I would have replied, “With great relish! Watch! Yumm…nom, nom, nom!” Sometime during the dinner I would have effusively complimented the turkey chef for providing such a splendidly roasted bird. And then I would have mentally dropped the issue because it is not worth my time to fret over whether Mira dislikes my food choices and I have better things to do, like enjoying my meal.
If you happen to be an observer of the “Mira Effect” (negative commentary) you have the power within you to change the mood by offering positive feedback. An example of this happened just last week when the husband and I went to dinner at a Japanese steak house for our anniversary. While grouped in the lobby waiting to be taken to our table, both DH and I realized that one diner was a blowhard and we were secretly wishing he would not be seated beside either of us. Fortunately we were at one end of the long table and he at the other and predictably he began to act like the arrogant blowhard we suspected he would be. He was jibing the chef and griping about very minor things in aloud, blustery manner and I had a momentary second of realization that this man had the potential to create an unpleasant dining experience for all us by making our chef unhappy and tense. Time to take action! My plan was to engage the chef one on one with compliments, pleasantries and gratitude because of where I was seated I was actually the closest to him. The very first time I put my plan into action, the chef caught my eye and there was a non-verbal understanding almost immediately between us because the man was looking for an ally and I was communicating to him that I was on his side. Every time a new menu item landed on my plate, I thanked him and smiled, there were times I held up forkful of food and told him, “This is delicious, you did it perfectly”, I laughed at his jokes, applauded the knife tricks he did and made sure I set the tone for the table, not Mr.BigEgo. It worked. We had a great meal, one of the best I’ve had at that restaurant, Mr. Big Ego got quieter at the meal progressed because his negativity was being drowned out by positive happiness and the chef ended his food preparations in as good a mood, or better, than when he started. Mission accomplished. Etiquette once again empowers to take control of the situation.
Be the force for good with calm, non-emotional, positive affirmation that tells the world you are a confident, secure person.