Home is where the food is

This week, I sat in a chair that hailed from a high school.

That, in itself, isn’t anything out of the ordinary. I mean, I sit in school chairs all the time. But this chair was wooden. And stamped with an SD 57 (Prince George) logo.

And in Gastown.

I had to take a calming breath before introducing my behind to such a thing, because, I mean, I’m on Spring Break. These are the weeks where I pretend that I can typically stay up past 9PM on a weekday. Where I hide my marking.

Where I refuse to admit that I’m still woken up by work nightmares mid-semester, even when my classes are actually really great.

So, the fact that I willingly planted my ass on an old-school wooden chair is a big deal. Because I was far from work. I was there with my awesome partner in this adventure called life.

And we were going to share appies.

Yes, that’s right. Appies. And this was totally worth getting over the fact that many a teenager butt had laid claim to my chair before it showed up at Meet in Gastown. Because I haven’t shared appetizers with my husband since before he was my husband.

We haven’t shared food in nearly a decade, and I know that weird. I understand the temptation to smile and nod. The instinctual impulse to guffaw. The desire to sarcastically check my temperature and ask me if I’m feeling okay.

Honestly, I almost wish someone would do the last one. Because, yes, I’m feeling great. I have been feeling great since my husband and I were able to make a meal from shared appetizers at a restaurant.

And I’m not just talking about how happy my stomach feels.

Because my stomach is not friendly. It’s not welcoming. It revolts against dairy, egg, and gluten. And by revolts, I mean it feels like I’m being stabbed from the inside. Like a blade is being dragged through my intestines. Like every time I put food to mouth is a gamble, and I’ve lost all claim to luck.

Basically, eating sucks. And eating at a restaurant? Well, it’s an uncomfortable combination of feeling shamed that I’m even asking if there’s anything I can eat, and guilty that I know the staff will need to go through extra effort in an attempt to not ruin my night.

And, let’s be real, the latter doesn’t always happen. I’ve had salads that have made me ill. Steaks that have seared my insides. Chicken that has tried to scratch and claw its way through me.

So, eating out is a challenge.

For most of the time that we lived in the suburbs, there was one restaurant I could go to with any sort of expectation of feeling okay when I left. One. And I could eat one dish.

Right before we moved, a chain restaurant got on board. I could get a burger in a lettuce wrap. Served by a manager, who singled me out every time to let me know that the entire kitchen had paid special attention to how screwed up my insides are.

Now, I appreciate the concern the kitchen put into my food. I really do. But, man, what I wouldn’t have given to just feel normal. To feel like I wasn’t a pain in the…anything.

To feel like going out for dinner with my husband wasn’t a massive, terrifying ordeal.

So, this week, I planted my butt on an old school chair.

I ordered three appetizers.

They were delivered to our table without fanfare or flashing lights.

And we ate them. Together. Because we could.

This is a novelty that I struggle to explain to those who can eat whatever they want.  The best example I’ve been able to come up with is the time I wanted cookies when I was completing my Bachelor of Education degree.

I really, really wanted cookies. And I didn’t have any. So I ended up in my kitchen. Sitting in the middle of the floor. Fighting back tears. Because all I wanted was a freaking cookie and I couldn’t have one. I couldn’t even buy one at a local grocery store. Buying gluten, dairy, and egg free cookies meant driving a half-hour to a specialty grocery store.

So I did it. And I battled tears the whole way. Because, really, I just wanted a cookie. A cookie. It was so easy for others, but it was a cross-city quest of epic proportions for me.

But picture my cookie breakdown on a larger-scale. On a scale where I need food to survive, and where food is such a social thing. The act of going out with friends. Sampling a dish. Sharing a meal and feasting on life together.

I miss out on all of that.

And I can pretend that I don’t care as much as I want. I can ask friends to use their adjectives to describe food and creepily smell it all I want. I’m still on the outside, because my insides won’t let me join in.

It’s like I watch people eat cookies constantly, like it’s no big thing. But I’m not allowed to have one.

I’m never allowed to have one.

But, this week, I almost cried again. Because I ate gluten-free beer battered cauliflower. Dairy-free ranch dip. Fries with cashew gravy.

And it wasn’t a big deal at all.

I was just one more person in a restaurant, enjoying their evening in the company of their choice, getting some tasty nourishment. It was such a little thing. But to me, it was huge.

Food is such a big part of life. And this week, a year after moving into our Vancouver condo, there’s no doubt that I’m home.

Because home is where I feel welcome. Where I feel safe. Where I feel like I can be myself.

And sometimes, that takes the form of wooden school chairs and shared appies.