Ire about cooking query may be sign of deeper demon

Worker ought to ask why relative’s inquiry unleashes such rancor.

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I work a desk job, and my family member has been a homemaker for as long as I can remember. We talk most nights, and both enjoy it.

BUT: Almost every call, when I’m on my way home to my takeout or quick meal, she makes a point of asking me what I’m “making for dinner.” I usually avoid the question by turning it around, but it makes me feel horribly judged that I don’t have the time/energy/desire to cook a lovely meal for myself after a long day at work, and I don’t know how to get this question to go away forever. Thoughts?

– Dinner-Judged

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DEAR DINNER-JUDGED: You could just admit it’s a sore spot for you because you miss cooking, but it’s not practical with the hours you keep. A nice family member will then at least try to break the habit of asking.

But I’m guessing a bigger payoff awaits if you attack it from within, as your own demon. Why do you see more value in making a “lovely meal for myself” than in making a living? All of us assign different values to things. Presumably you’re comfortable with the larger idea that some people value paid work more and some value domesticity more, right? And that some have the energy and interest to sustain both? And some are indifferent to both? And all this human variety is a good thing?

So why is this particular exchange with this particular person over this particular point so abrasive to you? Do you wish you didn’t have to work, or did have the energy to cook? Do you have a history of competing with this relative, and if it weren’t about dinner you’d torment each other through books read or vacations taken or names dropped? Have you considered this is as much her insecurity as yours?

Are you living a different life from the one you’d always envisioned?…

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