Ah, you say. At last, Jen is going to stop fooling around and do something serious. She's going to talk business, high finance, politics. Explain how the middle class tax rates are higher than the tax rates on millionaires and how capital gains taxes are largely to blame. How instituting regressive taxes now, in the middle of a recession, will only cause a greater drag on the economy and cause more people to fall into poverty while causing millionaires to remain largely unaffected. Yep, that's what I have in mind, all right. Have a seat on the La-Z-Boy, pop open a bottle of Chateaubriand and pour it into your Waterford crystal glassware, because I--
HA HA HA HA HA!!! I knew I wouldn't make it through that paragraph with a straight face. I'm amazed I got as far as I did. No, people, I'm here to talk about food. The Buffet rule. Possibly the most important rule ever instituted in the life of Jen. The Rule is, or was, very simple: Stay the hell away from buffets. They're dangerous. Forget regressive taxes, we're talking regressive eating. Because, honestly, does anybody ever go to a buffet with a plan to have a nice simple meal and hang out with friends? No. You go to a buffet to chow down. To eat until it's coming out your ears, and then to stuff it back into your ears. If you don't knock down at least two thousand calories, you're going to have to stop at an Outback Steakhouse afterward and eat an entire Bloomin' Onion just to keep the universe from falling out of balance. It's all about the food, and as much of the food as you can possibly manage.
The first year I was in OA, I wouldn't have gone within a hundred yards of a buffet. I was having enough trouble with this whole idea of just eating enough food to, you know, live and be healthy, rather than enough food to feed India for a year. Going to a place with scads of food, lots of it being stuff I wasn't supposed to eat anymore (like a dessert table--who in hell needs an entire dessert table?) was just Right Out. Restaurants were trouble enough.
But then something happened where I had a Dr. House kind of epiphany. Our friends T and T wanted to go to the Golden Corral for dinner. (I dunno if you've ever been to a Golden Corral, but it's the buffet to end all buffets, bested only by practically every other buffet on the planet. Let's just say that beauty queens and supermodels do not eat at Golden Corral. Once in a while you might see a decent-looking dude, but he's usually there with his mom.) Anyway, I tried to talk them into the nice Mexican place down the street, but they were pretty dead set on Golden Corral. I think it was shrimp night, or something.
So I pulled up in my car and sat there for a minute. I couldn't believe I was going to walk into a Golden Corral, and I likewise couldn't believe I was going to walk into a Golden Corral and not eat two or three of everything on the dessert table. (Addicted to sugar, remember?) So I sat there, and I fretted, and then I started to have a conversation with myself as though both of us were rational adults. "Jen," I said to myself, "you live in America, in our time. There are going to be buffets. Someday you're going to be at a wedding or a business meeting or something, and there's going to be a buffet lunch or dinner, and you're not going to be able to avoid it, so you might as well start learning how to handle them, like, for example, now." And I thought about Buddha and the Middle Way, neither grabbing for nor pushing away, and I thought, "I would like to go into this restaurant, have a single plate of food, and enjoy the company of my friends."
And I'll be goddamned if that wasn't exactly what happened.
Since then I have been to other buffets. In fact, I went to a breakfast buffet with Joan last Sunday (took my own cute little container of sugar-free fake maple syrup so I could have pancakes). And while all of them have been challenging in one way or another, I've never been as intimidated by any of them as I was by that first Golden Corral. My friend Kellum took me to lunch at Afrah once and when he saw it was a buffet, he stopped and said, "Hey, is this okay? We can go someplace else." And I was able to say, "Yeah, actually, I think I'll be fine." Which was huge. I mean, I've had this eating disorder since I was about four, people. I don't even really have childhood memories that don't in some way involve food. And I'm a whole long way from cured, but that part of it--the buffet part--is worlds better.
Which, you gotta admit, is a lot cooler than high finance and tax rates. At least, I think so.