A typical weeknight conversation between me and the drama teen often goes something like this:
Me: “What do you fancy for dinner?”
Her: “I’m not hungry.”
Me: “How can you not be hungry?”
Her: “I ate at Nathan’s. I had some meat ravioli’s.”
Me: “Oh. His mom made them?”
Her: “No, we made them. Out of a can. Chef something…”
Me (recoiling in horror): “Chef Boyardee?!”
Her: “That’s it. They’re delicious! I love them! … Why are you looking at me like that?”
Let me tell you something about teenagers; they will do exactly the opposite of what you want them to do. They’re like cats. Or really clever toddlers. So I guess the idea is to trick them into thinking you want one thing, when in fact, you desire the opposite.
Trouble is, teens don’t fall for this ruse. Especially when it comes to food. They know your eating philosophy all too well. And no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on, they’ll run to the opposite. In fact, the more you insist on healthy, home-cooked meals, the more vile their taste for crap food becomes. Especially when all of their friends are eating it.
I should have seen this coming.
I remind myself that I grew up on the worst the processed food industry had to offer in the ’70s. Pop Tarts, iceberg lettuce, minute-rice in bags and frozen dinners galore. I eventually came around. But perhaps in coming around, my disdain for the sort of crap I ate as a kid has become too dogmatic.
Maybe I lectured a little too long and a little too loudly about the virtues of buying strawberries in season, or why Lunchables will kill you with nitrates, or why one must never bother with mashed potatoes out of a box. The Drama Teen is bound by the rules of her age to rebel against the rules of my kitchen.
Hence her thing for Chef Boyardee.
I bought two cans of the meat ravioli for her the other day, just to see how we’d both react. I recall feeling shame at buying them. I prayed I wouldn’t run into any of my mom friends. How would I explain myself?
I sat them them there on the counter. That afternoon after school she ran into the kitchen and stopped short. “Yay! You got me ravio….why did you buy these?”
“Because you said you liked them.”
She peered at me. “Mom, it’s not like I don’t like what you make for us … most of the time.”
“These just taste good. And I can make them myself.”
“…I just don’t want you thinking less of me because sometimes I wanna eat stuff out of a can.”
I smiled at her, then laughed. “I think I probably ate a can of Spaghettio’s a day when I was your age,” I said. “And I had to wash it down with diet Shasta.”
“Well maybe you can start buying actual Coke…”
“Don’t push your luck, girlie.”
“Worth a shot.”
And so the Drama Teen makes herself a bowl of Chef Boyardee ravioli every now and then and I make myself say something nice or say nothing at all. I’m gonna trust that some of my food dogma will stick to her eventually. Was I ever really likely to make homemade meat raviolis for her anyway? No.
And to her credit, I’m told she’s never actually had a Ding Dong. Impressive. Because I ate a box of those every week, too.
Now excuse me while I run off and make some brownies from scratch…