The other day, I unintentionally participated in a values clarification exercise. You know, those would you rather-scenarios that can help one prioritize their values. They are usually hypothetical and fairly mundane; something along the lines of, “Would you rather work outdoors or indoors?” Maybe, “Would you rather work on a project on your own, or in a group?”
I have seen these exercises turned into a party game with extreme would your rather-scenarios: “Would you rather your upper lip smelled like crap all the time, but nobody else could smell it, or would your rather have terrible halitosis that you never notice?” I saw one online that asked, “Would you rather immerse your naked body in a bathtub of cockroaches, or dive head-first into a pool of tobacco spit?”
I imagine the mundane ones can be useful in sets so as to prioritize one’s preferences, needs, or values. Some of the creative ones, when answered, can actually provide some incite into an individual. And more still can be just gross.
In this particular situation, I was put in a position where I had to choose between avoiding something I loath, and potentially experiencing something I love.
I had to ask myself, “Would I rather avoid the company’s Christmas party, where I will be subjected to large crowds of people I barely know, forcing me into situations that require nauseatingly plastic small talk, or would I rather go to the Christmas party, which is catered, might have some good free food, and there might be a chocolate fountain?”
The aforementioned “would you rather” is a bit long. The essential question is, “What level of discomfort am I willing to go through for the possibility of food that may lead to some fleeting joy?”
Both elements in this equation require further exploration, so allow me to provide some perspective.
How deep is my obsession for good food? Please review Exhibit A–select food-related behavior:
- I would rather eat a great meal than see a great show. For my partner’s birthday, we went to see the musical, Wicked, and to a nice restaurant, Jardiniere. While Wicked was an amazing production, the dinner afterwards was the highlight of the evening for me.
- One of my top ten goals in life is to eat at all of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants despite the fact that this is an ever-changing list, and I could possibly go broke trying.
- I almost always plan trips and vacations around visiting a great restaurant if one is in the area. When we went to Las Vegas, my partner looked into seeing a show, finding a fun dance club, getting a massage. I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out if we could eat at both Mario Batali and Bobby Flay’s restaurants during a trip spanning roughly thirty-six hours. On a trip to Napa, during which my
partner was looking to relax, do some shopping and go to a spa, I schemed and planned our way into dining at two restaurants on the top 100 list.
- I will decrease my quality of life for a period of time if it means I will have one delicious meal. In graduate school my partner and I attended a professional conference in Philadelphia. At the time, I was obsessed with the Iron Chef (who am I kidding, I am still obsessed with the Iron Chef). I actually convinced my partner that we should go all out at Morimoto’s restaurant despite the fact that we barely scrounged up enough money to attend the conference, let alone splurge. We ordered Morimoto’s Omakase menu–a seven-course meal, and the most expensive option on the menu. The two of us ended up eating cereal, macaroni and cheese, and anything still lingering in the freezer for the next month. In my defense however, it was, and still holds up as the best meal I have ever had in my life.
- I will inconvenience others for the possibility of having a good meal. The aforementioned example proves my point. A more egregious example of my blatant lack of consideration would be from this past sumer. I dragged my pregnant partner, with swollen blistered feet, around three quarters of Rome, on foot, in search of hand-made pasta that ended up being literally five blocks from our starting point. Again, in my defense, we later agreed that it was one of the best meals of our summer.
- Moreover, I have trouble making rational decisions when food is involved. Earlier today, I seriously debated whether or not to interrupt my supervisor’s one-on-one meeting with her supervisor to find out if she wanted me to order her take-out for lunch. This was a serious dilemma for me, as the folks going to pick up the food were leaving at noon, right when her meeting was supposed to end. In my mind, I was thinking: If it were me, I would definitely like to have sushi rather than being subjected to whatever the cafeteria has to offer. I would want to be interrupted, and I would be really upset if I missed the opportunity. It turned out that, yes, she wanted sushi, and no, she would prefer not to be interrupted should a similar situation arise.
Yes, I know this is a bit of a problem. I know there are more important things in the world than the food I deem to be delectable. Maybe food is my vice. I would certainly be a financially more stable and considerably slimmer individual if I had little regard for the work of talented chefs. To put a more positive spin on it, I’ll just say, I love delicious food.
Conversely, I am a socially awkward creature that tends to avoid uncomfortable situations. On the spectrum of discomfort–on the low end, mild annoyance, and the high end, actual physical pain, both small talk with people I don’t know very well, and large crowds actually rank fairly high as you can see on my personal discomfort scale below:MILDLY ANOYED itchy tags on tee-shirts sticky condiment bottles Mark Wahlburg acting (with the exception of Departed) SOMEWHAT IRRITATED face talkers playing defense against sweaty hairy shirtless guys who like to initiate contact VH1 reality television NOT SO COMFORTABLE men resting scrotums on communal locker room benches without towel as buffer throat swabbing
large crowds SERIOUSLY UNCOMFORTABLE raisins wedgies getting vaccinated FAIRLY PAINFUL phony small-talk (tie) a minor kitchen accident involving some sort of blade & public speaking trip to the dentist involving drilling OUCH CHARLIE, THAT REALLY HURT! (click to understand reference)
I think the fact that I would rather get vaccinated than engage in fairly painful small-talk speaks volumes. Compound that with large crowds, which I dislike far more than when men rest their manhood sacks on communal seating without a buffer, and you have yourself a situation I would really like to avoid.
So what happened when my most powerful vice engaged in an epic battle with my personal titan of discomfort? The vice won! Intellectually, I cannot believe that the possibility of a decent morsel of food was strong enough motivation to brave an almost unbearable social situation.
I ended up going to the Christmas party. How was the food, you ask? Eh, it was so-so. There was some succulent roast turkey with cranberry sauce and horseradish aoli, but other than that, not much to write home about, and alas, the chocolate fountain did not make an appearance. I gambled and lost.
I was able mitigate the impact of the crowds and small-talk, sort of. I dragged a friend of mine to the event, for she had not yet to experience its fabulousness. After braving the food lines, I set myself up against the wall between two trash cans and subtly maneuvered four friends into position to act as a buffer between myself and the crowd.
The experience was till slightly agonizing. Vaguely familiar people would pass stop and talk about the weather. Individuals, who’s faces I remembered, but names escaped me, would smile and talk about how they can’t wait for Christmas break. I found myself daydreaming about what rehab for my food addiction might be like.
I did experience an entertaining moment during which I accidently paid the awkwardness forward. The president, complete with festive Christmas hat, walked by. I have only met the man once, and he has probably met thousands upon thousands of people. But in that moment I decided to smile and wave.
About eight feet away, he stopped, smiled, and waved back. Then the president paused just for a split-second, and through his made-for-shmoozing smile, and glazed eyes, I am pretty sure I could read his thoughts: “Wait… I don’t have the slightest clue as to who this guy is. Just keep smiling and waving. The awkwardness will be over soon.”