Adventures with Ham-Fried Rice and Respect for Others
My CEO wanted to have lunch with each project manager on the team, so I planned out our lunch appointment carefully. I outlined two successes that my team had experienced and two things I thought our team could be doing better. I even thought carefully about what to order at lunch since my CEO had chosen an Asian restaurant close by, and my CEO is Jewish. I usually ordered the pad thai at that restaurant, but I thought it might be disrespectful to eat pad thai with shellfish included. So I had planned ahead to eat the tangerine chicken instead.
What I didn’t count on was that I’d have to choose sides that weren’t offered with my usual order, and choosing rice proved to be a little sticky. “White, brown, or ham-fried?” the server asked me. Without even thinking, I said, “ham-fried.” Then it hit. Seriously? I couldn’t believe myself. I knew enough to plan out nearly everything, but then in a moment of being off-guard, I go ahead and order pork in my rice.
It turned out fine. My boss is not really judgmental of what we Gentiles choose to put in our bodies. And, it’s not the last time I ate something that went against someone else’s food ethic. Yesterday I went out to eat with one of my vegetarian friends, and I ordered a turkey avocado sandwich. She ordered a butter-cream chocolate Halloween brownie for dessert, and I’m on a diet, so I called it even.
But I do worry about this issue sometimes. I think about whether or not I am I giving offense when I order an entre with meat when eating with vegetarians. It’s because I’m the kind of person who is torn by not wanting to give offense but also has a hard time being anybody but herself (see well-intentioned ham-fried rice accident above). I personally am a picky eater, and I don’t really care for eggplant or pasta or tofu or a variety of veggie options, which is why I am not a vegetarian. Nine times out of ten or even more, I would never choose to order what a vegetarian has ordered. My favorite food to order is filet mignon wrapped in bacon.
The plus side is that I don’t easily get offended either. I entertain clients quite a bit, and so I am used to paying for wine, coffee, or other beverages that I don’t drink. In fact, I have to select and buy coffee quite often when preparing for client visits. I wouldn’t want my clients to feel like they had to ask my permission to consume these things in my presence. I know most people drink coffee, so it’s not news to me that my clients probably drink it too.
So while I personally wouldn’t ask someone to change these behaviors or habits around me, I have heard of other LDS folks doing so. We had a neighbor who belonged to another Christian church who liked to mow his lawn on Sunday. The LDS neighbors asked him not to, telling him that the sound of the mower interfered with their ability to enjoy a quiet Sabbath at home. The neighbor obliged. In seminary, we were taught to ask others not to use the Lord’s name in vain. And I know that often when a friend of mine has left or gone “less active” in the Church, their family members will tell them what they can or cannot do around them (drink coffee at a restaurant, mention another church they attend, hold hands with their same-sex partner, etc.).
I certainly think there’s a part of charity that does not deliberately seek out contention. I also do not usually like to make people uncomfortable “for their own good.” I don’t like to agitate “just because.” However, Christ certainly made people feel uncomfortable, particularly the hypocritical and those who preyed on the disenfranchised and outcast. I have been an instructor at the college level for eight years, and I believe that education requires a little bit of discomfort, so any great teacher will automatically agitate a little with a purpose in mind. Where I draw the line is how and when I bring these issues up. If students sign up for my class, I believe they want to be challenged and learn. Similarly, when people come to a feminist Mormon blog like the Exponent, I believe that they want to be exposed to ideas about Mormon feminism.
So I guess what I am admitting to is that we all have our limits to what we allow in ourselves and what we allow others with whom we share parts of our lives.
What I would like to hear from you is, Where do you draw the line in your own life? How far do you moderate your behavior to match the code, practice, or beliefs of the people around you? How much do you expect people to change their behavior based on your personal beliefs in return?