Last week, my boyfriend and I took his teenage daughter to a major league baseball game with seats in a corporate suite. As with most suites, the food and drink were complimentary. We arrived before the game and were able to enjoy several different types of ballpark food—nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. My boyfriend's daughter helped herself to a few things, one of which was a hot dog roll—just the roll, no hot dog. While I thought this odd, it was no big deal. About 20 minutes after that, she went back to the buffet and took two more rolls and ate them both! After the game, I mentioned to my boyfriend that I thought this was inappropriate, given that the rolls were there to accompany the hot dogs and that most of the other suite guests had not arrived yet and therefore had not had a chance to get food. He felt that as a guest in the suite, she was entitled to whatever she wanted and however much she wanted. And he said that there was no formal etiquette rule to address this. What do you think?
—Ms. Everything in Moderation
Oh boy, does this take me back to junior high and the early days of high school....those days when half of my friends dabbled in vegetarianism, and the rest were old enough to wonder about what was in hot dogs, but too young to come to terms with their concern.
Please be clear: I'm not belittling vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice--just laughing a little as I recall the legions of girls I knew (I may have been one of them) who adopted it for a week or two, and whose vegetarian diets consisted of tater tots, Skittles, and Big Macs without the burger. (Only years later did I learn from my brother's committed vegetarian friend that, of course, thanks to animal-based gelatin, Skittles aren't vegetarian at all!)
In those days, the sophisticated way to respond to ballpark food was "Ew, gross, I would NEVER eat that," while creating some modified version that in fact was much grosser and much worse for you (spreading nacho cheese on hot dog buns, for example...)
For me and my friends, it wasn't even really about trying to lose weight or be skinny (though I'm sure it is for many young women). It was more about pressure to conform: if one person said "hot dogs are so gross, what is even in there?" we all said, "Oh, totally," and began sneering at hot dogs. I mean, what could you do, pick up a dog and eat it? Of course not! (Six years later we are pretty much all avid hot dog eaters).
Prudie responded that she thought the girl was just really into carbs. I think, rather, she probably thought she was being "healthy" by loading up on the plain buns rather than the mystery tube steak that's supposed to accompany it.
The bewildered woman thought the girl was being rude by taking all the buns ("that CAVIAR is a GARNISH!"), but in a corporate suite like that, especially one that's all you can eat, I think they'd be refilling the food as it runs out. I have heard the legends about all-you-can-eat baseball boxes from SK and his friends. A teenage girl picking at hot dog buns is not even a blip on the radar of "all you can eat" when a group of men in their 20s are in the room.
There are many young women dealing with severe eating disorders, but this doesn't sound like one of them. (If it were, she'd probably know exactly how many calories were in the bun!). Sounds to me like someone who is trying to figure out how and what she wants to eat, now that she's old enough to have the freedom to choose. Food is an easy rebellion, and inevitably there will be some strange patches. Like the time my mom asked me how I wanted my sandwich sliced, and I said I didn't want it sliced at all. She sliced it anyway, and as an act of defiance I held the two pieces together as I ate them.
Teenagers are weird. They mostly get over it.