Published 1/15/2008
by Eddy Robey M.A.
  Issue: 9.01
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Resolutions seem to be the topic of choice for everyone this month. Personal conversations, magazine articles, and advertisements are overwhelmingly concerned with efforts to be made for the coming year. I must admit to a certain weariness with hearing or reading about popular schemes for self-improvement.

The first item on many resolution lists has something to do with losing weight by controlling intake. This is quite often combined with exotic notions about substances to be eaten or avoided. Now, I have nothing against such decisions, since they are a private matter. The most important word in that last sentence is private. Unfortunately, people with food schemes seem to think that their decisions make for interesting conversation. Indeed, it is often next to impossible to get an enthusiastic dieter to shut up about what they are or are not consuming. The worst of these folks are guests who feel entitled to grill their hosts about menu selections, then preach to the assembled company about why these things are important.

Now hear this; a good guest is not dramatic. It is possible to follow a plan in a modest fashion, those who keep kosher do it all the time. If invited to a home where the level of kashrut is in doubt, we offer to bring our own food and utensils. After all, the important thing about an invitation is a chance to enjoy being with the hosts, not getting a free meal. Those on weight-loss or other regimens would do well to emulate this behavior, rather than attempt to force their choices on others who only wanted to spend a little time together.

It is not often that I bemoan the good old days, but this question of courtesy has me wishing for them. I was taught to accept an offering graciously, or decline it with a quiet no thank you. Sometimes, choices were offered, but it was considered rude to make a request which a host might be unable or unwilling to fulfill. Thus, when planning a party, it was perfectly correct to make a tray of cocktails, merely having a pitcher of ice water available for those who did not care to imbibe.

Of late, I've been quizzed as to whether a soda was sugared or diet, the caffeine or lack thereof in coffee, and even if the water was filtered. This presumptuousness has often begun before an event, with people asking what I plan to serve or who the other guests will be.

As a planner, I ask any first-time guest about allergies, or foods they absolutely hate, but do not feel any responsibility beyond that. Should someone present me with an extensive list of preferences, it is likely that the first invitation will be the last. As a hostess, I am outraged that anyone would feel entitled to know the identity of other guests ahead of time. People who come to my home, are coming to see me; they are not dining from a restaurant menu, nor editing their personal social register. How I wish some people would make a resolve to be polite themselves, rather than filling my ear with complaints about youngsters and their lack of niceties.

A resolution can be a fine thing, particularly if it has to do with making the world a better place. I would be delighted to learn of a friend's decision to donate an afternoon a month to their local library, hospital, or botanical garden. Likewise, I applaud those who are making an effort to be more kind towards neighbors, or to do something good for the environment. It would be lovely, for example, if those who want to eat less decided that they would donate food to a shelter, rather than consuming it at home. However, if a resolution is purely selfish, perhaps it should be kept to oneself.


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