Brat Farrar (bratfarrar) wrote,
Brat Farrar

On the eating of free food

I grew up ... not poor, but on the edge of it. Well, maybe we were poor. It's hard to tell in retrospect. We always had enough to eat and clean, mostly unragged clothes to wear; a roof over our heads and heat in the winter and water and electricity. But there was always an awareness that money was finite, and that the reason we moved when I was a kid wasn't just that the house was getting a bit small, but that we needed to live within walking distance of my dad's job because we could only afford one car. This is what it's like when you live on the income of a junior professor at a very small, independent seminary: you eat the same ~10 meals over and over and over; you wear second- and third-hand clothes; you own a house only because your mother's second husband's bank account helps cover the down-payment; you drive a Volvo that's 12+ years old, and you drive it until it dies, at which point you replace it with another 12+ year-old Volvo; your kids don't have allowances and learn to hoard birthday money from relatives (and start working a paper route at ages 8 and 11); you have a piano only because someone gave it to you, and your child has piano lessons because (again) of your mother's second husband's bank account. (Ditto braces for your kids, ditto ... a bunch of things, actually.)

I loved my childhood. I don't regret my parents' decision to live on one income so my mom could stay home with us kids. Despite the constant awareness that money was very finite, there was almost never any visible worry over it, and only ever because of a particular set of circumstances that was always surmounted (though, admittedly, sometimes thanks to my grandmother's second husband's bank account. Not a nice man, but his bank account made for a handy fairy godmother).

But there are consequences to growing up this way, beyond the tendency to not spend money if you can help it. Negative ones, I mean. Like the habit of hanging onto things regardless of whether you need them, want them, or even if they're fully functional (because, theoretically, you could fix them, and then that's $xx saved, even if you wouldn't have bought one in the first place). Or an inability to say 'no' when someone offers you something, even if, again, you don't need/want it. Or (and this is the one I'm currently struggling with) having to eat free food just because it's there. You're not particularly hungry, it's not your favorite food, or even something you'd likely order in a restaurant, but it's there, and it's free, and so you eat it. And then wonder why you've gone up almost a waist size in 4 months and some of your shirts don't button right anymore.

Well, no. You don't wonder, because you know why. What you wonder about is how to get yourself to stop, because this is something you've been doing from childhood, which was okay until your job started supplying free Wawa breakfast sandwiches most days of the week.

And actually, you don't even wonder that. The thing you wonder about is why you aren't doing the things you know you could/should do to avoid putting yourself in a situation where those sandwiches are even a temptation. Like getting up earlier so that you can eat a healthy breakfast before work, or leaving the building during your lunch break so they're out of reach--particularly since you can turn that into a walk and burn calories instead of consuming them. (Okay, so the current staffing situation doesn't exactly allow for that, half the time, but still.) And you make all sorts of mental commitments and then break 99% of them. You really need to stop doing that. And by "you" I mean "me", so I should probably just shut up and get off the computer.

Yeah. So. This has been Confession Time with Brat. Tune in next time to hear me whine about how I can't keep my laundry off the floor.
Tags: personal things

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