One by one, my foodie friends are betraying me. It starts like this: “Guess what? I’ve gone on the Atkins/South Beach/brain-and-skin/miscellaneous low-carb diet. And I’m already losing lots of weight!” Then we spend the entire dinner talking about how they can’t have bread — but they don’t even want it anymore. They push every last grain of rice off their fish as if each was dipped in blowfish toxin. They don’t miss carbs at all, it’s just amazing, but let’s just look over the dessert list. Worse yet — and I’m not exaggerating — I catch sly, disapproving looks at my buttered baguette, my glass of beer, my (work-related) chocolate cake. If I weren’t twenty pounds above my fighting weight, I’d clock them.
Not to sound curmudgeonly, but after six months of dining with Benedict Arnolds I do not have the grace to hear this conversation again. All the vegans in my life are respectful of meat-eaters, and we of them. Accommodating friends’ preferences, tolerances, and allergies is just good breeding. And I’ve gotten used to paranoia over fat, salt, refined sugar, and red meat — and have even come up with a stock response: variations on “Has anyone ever proven that eating these things in moderation is bad for you?” Moderation has such a bad reputation in America. It’s so … sensible and muddy.
After a half-year of suffering silently, I’m finally speaking out. Here are my suggestions to anyone on a special-needs diet. Please cut them out, fold them up, and put them in your wallet. If you feel the need to moralize, whine, or boast, whip them out and read them through, then count to ten silently until the urge passes.