is it okay: for a woman to order large?
A few weeks ago I went out for lunch with a friend. It was noodle soup. I’d been there before and he hadn’t. We ordered different sizes. When the waiter approached our table holding the large, he looked at my friend and said, ‘I assume this is for you.’ Naturally this resulted in everyone feeling awesome. Fortunately I had just enough noodle soup to eat my feelings.
Women are supposed to eat smaller helpings. If there is an odd number of sausages or potatoes, the person who gets more is usually going to be a man. It makes sense I guess. They’re growing. They lift heavy things. Food should be proportional to size. Despite this, seeing this happen has always made me feel irritated, even as a small child. I like to think that it was because ten year old me wanted to fight against this division of gender roles, but I suspect that in reality it was because I had a stomach of steel and wanted to nom all the things.
As I got older, life started to include more and more dinner parties. No longer was I allowed to hide in my parents’ bedroom with a glass of milk and a VHS full of taped episodes of Xena, I slowly had to spend more and more time at the adult table. I started to hear things like ‘only a little bit of rice please’ and ‘I’m on a diet’.
When the plates were cleared and cake came out husbands would have what looked to me like a normal slice, while wives would say things like ‘no, no! Half that size!’. It was here I learnt the word “sliver”*. It seemed entirely foreign to me to see grown women turning down food, when at school, Friday meant lunch order day and was the highlight of everyone’s weeks purely because they could eat party pies and spend fifty minutes chipping their way through a frozen chocolate milk.
Somewhere between then and now we all learnt that we are fat. Or soon to be fat. And that cake is to your butt like a pump is to an air mattress. Or spinach is to Popeye’s arms. My school group went from party pie Friday to formal diets.
I’m not saying that we should all dash to McDonalds and chow down a Big Mac with the same relish as a bra burning. Firstly because buying a Big Mac is like putting a down payment on your future heart disease, and secondly because bras are actually really expensive and burning them is financially irresponsible and if you relish financial irresponsibility then you should be running Facebook. Also it is probably bad for the environment.
What I’m actually saying is that eating a hearty meal is masculine and good, whilst picking at a salad is feminine and dainty. And that is stupid. We should all be eating healthily and we should also stop dividing food along gender lines. It goes both ways. My ordering a large soup gets an awkward pause. A man asking for a sliver of cake gets laughed at and then given a normal sized piece anyway.
There is a valid argument in the fact that in general men are bigger, they can eat more food and they probably need more energy. But how much of the difference in appetite lies in actually genetics and physiology and how much of it lies in what we’re conditioned to think we want in terms of food from a young age? I don’t think it’s enough to form a chasm of difference between cake size preferences.
*Why even bother? You’d get more cake by licking it than you would through eating a “sliver”.
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