But I Don't Wanna Be The Protein Cookie Lady!
I worked a booth at a wellness event a few weeks ago. I was the last table in a short line of health and fitness professionals that included another personal trainer, a life coach and a representative for a protein cookie company. Everyone was smiley and friendly to each other as we set up but it didn’t take long for the life coach and other personal trainer to turn on the protein cookie lady. She was the only one with samples so she was already the prime target for interrogation. They studied the ingredients on the back of the package and what started as a cordial “not for me” pass on the samples escalated to passive aggressive brow raises then quickly on to a flurry of questions that bordered on bullying.
“High fructose corn syrup? But why? Why put that in?”
“Whoa! That many grams of carbs. I mean sure, this would be a great cookie for my cheat day. Ha! Ha!”
“My cheat meal is a piece of dark chocolate”
“I would never recommend this to anyone. How can anyone in the fitness or health industry recommend this to anyone?”
The protein cookie lady grasped helplessly at the product’s selling points: they were vegan, gluten free and kosher, which according to the other women were laughable positives in an ingredient list full of harmful negatives. She might as well be selling packaged Ebola! After all that is also vegan, gluten free and kosher.
Once the questions (accusations) started there was no time between them to hear the protein cookie lady repeatedly say she didn’t work for the company, had no tie to the product and had simply answered an ad to pass out samples to make some extra money. (She had an Indian catering company she was trying to get off the ground but, and probably for the best, she only muttered this once under her breath so as not to attract more personal harassment.)
The eye rolls, the pity laughs, and the outrage went on and on. The protein cookie lady fell silent, I answered a few texts and when I tuned back in, the life coach and other personal trainer were comparing their eating habits in the most backhandedly judgmental and confusing way possible. It was like being at a catty Paleo/hippie/wilderness/back-to-basics grocery store stockroom meeting.
“Have you even tried milking out your own walnuts?”
“I tried that bread but the grains had been plucked in October so I obviouslydidn’t buy it again”
“Do you take skaboadopotaha to boost your glutamixgophah?” (honestly I’d never heard of the words and body parts these women were talking about.)
My metabolism sped up just trying to follow the conversation so I guess I have to thank them for that but that experience alone gives me anxiety about this year’s Thanksgiving. I’ve spent the last four years in LA for Thanksgiving and each year brought its own challenge and learning experience.
For the first year, I tried to cover my sadness of being away from home by being excited that I would be celebrating with friends just like they do in EVERY sitcom! I was invited over to a friend’s apartment and wasn’t in charge of much cooking so it was the perfect baby step in celebrating on my own. It was my first experience cutting onions and eating around emotional tension that some couples brought as their side dish.
For the second year, my roommate and I decided to host at our house. I use the term ‘host’ loosely because it was just me, my roommate and my brother. This was another nice baby step because there wasn’t a ton of pressure to get all the food done at the same time. Which was great because it definitely wasn’t. We boiled a hole in a pot trying to make mashed potatoes (what can I say? I like my taters tender) and the only thing consistently warm was my body temperature, is it normal to sweat so much when you cook?
The third year was my second attempt at hosting. My roommates were out of town so I had actual guests to feed and talk to and not have a mental break down in front of. We had a ham courtesy of Forever 21, my friend’s employer, and it took roughly 7 hours to cook, an interesting contrast to the 1 minute and 35 seconds for the microwavable mashed potatoes (I had learned from the previous year. I had also not bought a new pot.) I invited people over at 3 and we ate at 9.
Last year was just me and my brother for the ol’ Turkey day. We didn’t have a Forever 21 ham at our disposal and I had no desire to cook an entire turkey for just two people so I decided that getting thick slices of turkey at the grocery store would be just fine. What I was envisioning as thick, delicious, Thanksgiving-type slices of turkey looked more like Oscar Meyer pre-sliced deli meats. It looked like I was serving a Lunchable. But it was just me and my brother so who cares. He hated it, I ate it all. We topped off our sibling Thanksgiving by going to a movie and we ran into my landlord outside of the house. He peer pressured (he’s actually 70 so is that still considered a ‘peer’?) my brother into drinking a full glass of straight Patron. We were on a time crunch so he chugged it and off were went to the movie, Eli 6 shots deep and me nursing an incredible stomach ache.
But here we are, Thanksgiving year 5 is upon us and a new challenge is looming in the distance. This is the first year that I’m a vegetarian and for whatever reason, I was invited to several Thanksgivings. But the challenge is not having a meatless Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have meat at the steel-laced mashed potatoes Thanksgiving of 2011, the challenge is being the vegetarian guest at a holiday centered around a dead bird.
I already get anxiety about being in a room full of people I don’t know but add in having to sheepishly ask if there is meat in all the delicious, slaved-over, home-cooked, family recipe’d dishes makes my palms sweat. I don’t want to be like the personal trainer or life coach and analyze and question every ingredient in every dish. And I don’t want to be like the protein cookie lady and end up eating all meat because I’m embarrassed, overpowered and outnumbered.
So to avoid both of these extremes that would probably not happen, I’m celebrating a small vegetarian Thanksgiving with some vegetarian friends. It’s sure to be the first year that it’s challenge free!*
*most definitely will not be challenge free.