It probably would have made more sense to post this earlier in the series, closer to the other stories about ham. But I really didn’t want y’all to think every single one of my memories had to do with pink meat, or that all I eat is pork (though I do actually eat a lot of it since getting over my fear of it).
Early in my high school years, I quickly realized that though I was able to leave school to get lunch off-campus (so to speak; we didn’t have a campus, per se), it was not financially feasible for me to do so daily. My weekly allowance was $5 and my morning bagel with cream cheese ($1) or Boston cream donut (50c) really cut into that – though math wasn’t, isn’t, and likely never will be my strong subject, I knew that logically, I could not sustain that lifestyle on my allowance.
It occurred to me that my mother would not object to me feeding myself from her fridge. Among the items that were a staple in her kitchen at that time were: bread, mayo, and generally at least one type of lunch meat.
Unfortunately, during this time, my mother and father really enjoyed ham- to the extent that they bought mini hams from Costco that they then sliced themselves (using a meat slicer they’d purchased for just such a reason!).
Despite my pleas to buy roast beef (my favorite cold cut at the time), economically it made more sense for them to buy ham – both what they preferred (and they ate far more sandwiches than I did at the time), and what was cheaper.
As it made more economical sense for me to just suck it up and eat what was available, I did.
I began making ham sandwiches to bring to school. At first, one… then two – one for breakfast, one for lunch.
Then three. Two for lunch.
Hey, I was a hungry, growing teenager.
This continued for a few weeks and worked nicely. I’d slap together a few ham sandwiches in the morning, run off to school, and eat one for breakfast before first period, then one or two more for lunch. I saved money.
(To be clear, this was a year or two before The Very First Bento.)
One morning, as I miraculously arrived at school early, I sat in front of my locker, reading a textbook and eating one of my sandwiches. I thought nothing of it as I flipped a page idly, wondering how long till first period started as I was bored. A few minutes later, a boy in my homeroom whose last name came before mine alphabetically arrived and said good morning to me. I think I even had a minor crush on him at the moment (the sort where I’d realize I thought someone was cute, but lose interest just as easily).
“Hi,” I said, absentmindedly still flipping through my textbook.
“Ew,” he said, wrinkling his nose at me. “What are you eating?”
I said the first thing that came to mind (a terrible habit of mine), “a sandwich…?” very confused because what was so ew about a sandwich? I believe I even said that – “What’s so ew about a sandwich?”
“For breakfast?” he countered.
I shrugged, still confused. I think the conversation stopped at that point (this was 18 years ago; yes, really).
I stopped bringing sandwiches to school after that, or if I knew I’d be hungry in the morning, I’d eat them in private. Soon enough, I got a job so I could pay for whatever I wanted to eat or do, instead of relying on $5 a week to cover all the things a kid could want that costs money.
In case you haven’t figured it out from my previous stories, I was an incredibly insecure teenager and cared an awful lot what other people thought of me (even if sometimes it seemed like I didn’t care, based on the things I did or wore or said… I really did, though, a great deal). If this happened today, I’d have probably started off with “your face is ew” or something equally inane. I’d also point out that plenty of people eat breakfast sandwiches, though perhaps not with mayo as mine was, it’s still not weird to eat a sandwich for breakfast.
I wonder if he even remembers this occurrence. I doubt it.
This was just one in a long progression of people saying “ew” to what I ate. In grade school, my mom would send me to school occasionally with lunches that other people turned their noses at. In high school, my sandwiches, or my propensity to eat chicken cutlet sandwiches slathered with tartar sauce if I ate in the cafeteria (before you say “ew” I ask you this: what’s tartar sauce but mayo, pickles, onions, and sometimes lemon juice? perfectly normal sandwich condiments, neatly blended together!). In college, the deviled eggs I made using the salad bar items as the rest of the cafeteria just grossed me out earned me strange looks from my ex-boyfriend and his friends. At my first real job, making my own chicken to top salads from our subsidized cafeteria salad bar made someone question why I wouldn’t just eat the chicken from the salad bar (it was more cost-efficient to make it myself at home; I knew what was going into it if I made it myself; I didn’t care for some of the ways they prepped theirs; the list goes on). A short while after that, my bento had people peering into my lunch and saying all sorts of silly things like “How is that enough food?” and “That’s so fussy, I could never” and… it goes on.
I really, really, really hate when people say “ew” to what I’m eating.
No one’s asking them to eat it, so they should probably keep that sort of comment to themselves.
But at least now, I know exactly what to respond to people to let them know how rude I think they are when they do make those comments.
“Your face is ew!”