Why does it bother me when people try new things?
January 13, 2013 1:13 AM   Subscribe

I know this sounds weird, but I've been sort of struggling with this idea for awhile now. When we're younger we do things a certain way, like the food we eat, the music we listen to, the traditions we have, they all come from our parents. But when you get older, you grow out of some of those things and into other things. I know this, but sometimes I'll be reading a health food article (for example) and I'll think something like, "doesn't the author feel weird about not eating the foods she ate when she was younger?" Because I imagine she grew up on mash potatoes and meatloaf, not quinoa salad and red snapper. I mean I know that eating healthy is ideal, but it just makes me uncomfortable on some deep level to see people diverting from what they must've done when they were kids. I guess I mean when they're trying new things. I don't know why it should bother me so much though, especially when I am trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle myself?

I know this sounds weird, but I've been sort of struggling with this idea for awhile now.
posted by Cybria to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be because it can be hard to imagine that people sometimes enjoy or make peace with something that to you looks like work? To use your healthy eating example, some people find that healthy eating opens up a whole world of foods and experiences that their childhood meals never exposed them to, and it's a joy and a revelation to them. If you consider healthy eating a chore or a necessary evil, it can be upsetting or frustrating to find others who seem to be actively enjoying it.
posted by Nomyte at 1:19 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you feel some sense of nostalgia or perhaps a sense of a chasm opening up between you and your family or your past when you make changes? But being an adult is about establishing your own identity which can include choosing to do things differently from the past and not following expected norms. Could you be finding that disconcerting? Choice can be a bit scary, especially if you are doing things that are quite different to your family's way or expectations.

Also, you are making assumptions about others that may not be true. My parents used to make their own tofu and bake their own bread every day and give me a glass of freshly squeezed juice every morning. So now when I do those sorts of things, it reaffirms my childhood, not dismisses it. I am fairly certain I was never served meatloaf as a child.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:59 AM on January 13, 2013 [10 favorites]

But what about yourself -- do you feel tied to your kid self? I think I do, which is why the idea of taking up something I used to hate upsets me. I feel like I'm selling out the "real, true me" which is how I was as a 11-year-old. I simply don't perceive myself as a different personality than I was then (although that is true before age 10), so if I convinced myself that doing X was a fundamental element of my idiosyncratic nature, going on to do not-X later would be betrayal. When I have made changes -- for instance, I now eat vegetables -- I have to go through this mental process of convincing myself that I'm still "not really changed." (When, at a reunion, a school bully wanted to put our conflicts behind us, I had to decide: not whether adult me was fine with his apology, but whether beaten-up kid me would have been.) However, if I were observing someone like myself from the outside, I wouldn't be privy to that internal reconciliation; it would be easier to read it as a sell-out, how adults always forget what it's really like to be a kid.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:01 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

That's something you probably want to think more about in terms of where it comes from. It isn't a thought I've ever had myself, so I can't offer any personal insights.

In fact, I was just having almost the opposite conversation with my husband tonight as we were enjoying onion pakoras. "I had these for the first time when I was 18," I said, and we started reminiscing about all the new-to-us foods we had first enjoyed in our teens and twenties: sushi, burritos, pad Thai, papayas, injera, so many favorites.

Not that I don't enjoy meatloaf and mashed potatoes, too! But to keep to a limited range of foods just because that was what you had when you were a child seems like denying yourself pleasure (and nutrition!) for no reason.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:01 AM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Another thought is that I think adapting to changing circumstances is a sign of resilience and growth, not of inconsistency. Someone who joined a "Meatloaf is Evil" club might be irrationally reacting to some unresolved tension about their childhood and might want to take a look at that, but preferring quinoa and fish is hardly a betrayal of their core self.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:05 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, I basically ate the same thing for every meal from birth - when I left home. My parents would serve 1. Meat (beef/pork/liver/chicken) with 2. Overboiled vegetables (usually carrots) and then 3. Starch (always potatoes, either mashed or just chunks, boiled). NO salt or pepper garnished this, and certainly no herbs.

The parents were very rigid re: food and blankly refused eat any 'foreign muck', so this was all there was left. As a person who seems to spend most of the time feeling hungry and thinking about eating (or trying not to think about it), it was dismal. Having macaroni cheese at a friend's house at nine was an amazing, exotic experience for me. You can imagine what happened when I first tried indian at thirteen. Or chinese food (never allowed in our house) at sixteen. I was twenty one when I first had hummus, or tried thai food. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't even know Thai people had their own specific food until I moved to London. Or turkish food. I could go on...

Every time I tried new food there was something delicious. My childhood eating habits were borne of poverty and a weird kind of family food racism. I really didn't like what we ate, mostly, and am glad I'll (hopefully) never again eat 'crab flavoured paste' on a sandwich, have a meal I boiled in a bag, or eat cheap beef at the height of the BSE panic (a girl in the year above at school died of CJD).

So eating lots of different foods is a freedom and pleasure to me. I'm not sure it contributes to being any healthier (I still have a sweet tooth and neither pasta or curry is diet food). I do know that as someone who grew up poor, all the food/weight evangelising that goes on now really disgusts me. Yes yes, we should all eat organic and locally and not relish tasty food because that's lower class and uneducated and scummy, we should eat only for health. I think we've all been to that vegan cafe where everything tasted like cardboard and sand and was just a punishment, and you get the feeling the owners/patrons like it that way, it makes them feel pious. And if this is how you've experienced 'healthy eating' I don't blame you for clinging to your mashed potatoes and meatloaf, but you know what? Healthy food, vegetarian food, and vegan food an all be bloody delicious if you want it to be. You can eat healthy without being denied pleasure. And you can even allow yourself unhealthy food from time to time as part of an overall healthy diet.

Being denied things for abitrary reasons like 'because it's not english' led me to believe I was being held back from being the real me, the me who decides for myself what food I do and don't like. So I've never felt like I'm betraying my core identity by trying new things (in fact, the more new experiences I have the closer I get to revealing myself). If you've internalised these foods as anchors of your identity, I can see how it would be unnerving. But you should know that all of your actions and choices are authentically 'you'.
posted by everydayanewday at 2:17 AM on January 13, 2013 [52 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand the question, but I'd like to point out that it's pretty ethnocentric to just assume that your food is the "normal" food and therefore everyone eats what you eat. I had meatloaf maybe one time growing up.

I grew up eating a variety of food. Some of it I hate and will never eat again, some of it is a special treat, some I still eat regularly, but mostly I try to make or try new things as often as I can. I feel 0% conflicted about it.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:28 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find it interesting that you frame this in terms of healthier or better choices than the food you ate in your childhood. This implies a rejection, at some level, of the food provided to you as a child. Could that be a factor in your conflicted feelings about this, implied rejection?

I think there is something especially emotional about food as we grow up. It comes to symbolise so many things and takes on so many emotional connotations. And for me they were not bad connotations. Nevertheless I hardly ever eat any of the food I ate growing up now.

There was no conscious process around this. But I have not lived at home for 15+ years. In that time I have lived in two different countries (from my country of origin), I live alone, I work long hours and travel a lot for work, I have access to ingredients and funds that my family did not have when I was a child. And all these things combine to make my eating habits almost the complete opposite to my childhood family's, where my mother was a hommaker and funds were more limited.

That does not mean that I don't get a warm fuzzy feeling if my father or my aunt prepares a childhood favourite for me. It's just that to cook and eat the way my family used to does not mash with my lifestyle. And my culinary world has grown significantly through living in different countries and being exposed to different cuisines, where different choices are not a choice but are forced on you by what's available...and fortunately many of us come to like the new flavours.

So I am not sure we all make conscious decisions about this kind of thing. Life happens, we are exposed to and enriched by different experiences, a bunch of our taste buds die changing our perception of flavours and all of a sudden our choices can be very different from those of your childhood. Certainly for me it has nothing to do with conscious or unconsicous rejection of the food I ate as a child but a lot with different experiences and circumstances.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:51 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sounds like you're jealous and projecting. They have changed their diet, they are trying new things. You want to try new things but tradition has a tremendous place in your life, so perhaps you feel guilty or something. Then you project that guilt onto someone in an article who is doing something that you want to do, but won't let yourself do?

Good thing, bad thing, who knows?
posted by nickrussell at 2:54 AM on January 13, 2013

It's not really about the food, is it?

Maybe your feeling has to do with devaluation. That is if you do different things, like different things, move on to different things, it's as if the original things are then somehow less valuable. Put in an extreme way, that the person you were who did/liked the old things (and the people who still do) are also therefore lesser than?
posted by likeso at 2:56 AM on January 13, 2013 [12 favorites]

Not that they - things and people - are lesser than!
posted by likeso at 2:59 AM on January 13, 2013

When I think about the food I ate as a kid, I know I was lucky in that everyone in my family could cook. We ate Chinese food and Mexican food, but not much else that wasn't straight up Midwestern American. I was incredibly, incredibly picky, and hated most vegetables.

Since then, I've lived overseas, and traveled widely. I had my first taste of Thai food when I was thirty, and kick myself for having waited so long. I've had favors and textures that were new to me, and have resonated strongly. At the same time, I've gone back and had some of the food I had when I was younger, and it doesn't hold the same allure it used to, mostly because I'm aware of how bland it is, how altered for the area.

Other than that, as a child, I hated anything spicy, and now I can get enough. I hated BBQ sauce, and now I love it enough to make my own.

It's not that I dislike the food I grew up with, it's that I discovered the world of food available outside of where and how I grew up. To put it another way, when I was a kid, I thought, at one point that the hills in my hometown were actually the corners of the world, and that my hometown was the world. Similarly, I simply didn't know about Indian food, or the food in Bali, or any of the amazing food experiences I've had since then. I still love some of the things I cherished, while others are simply not enjoyable to me anymore.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:30 AM on January 13, 2013

I have the exact opposite. What I've eaten has changed constantly over the course of my life. I have a really hard time imagining people who still eat the way they did when they were kids. It's like people who have the same haircut for decades. Why be so boring?
posted by drethelin at 4:58 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I get nervous when people around me make major changes and i could not figure out why. The hive answers may be relevant to your question (except that you seem to be disturbed when even total strangers change).
posted by TestamentToGrace at 5:09 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is just one snippet from a PDF I quickly found on The Role of Food in American Society. Food and culture are a topic of study for many reasons connected to the important role it plays in society. Perhaps trying to find out more about your own heritage and the role played in your family of origin vis a vis "healthy foods" and/or changing diets away from the "norm" or customary diet may help you discover where your discomfort emerges from. I suspect if you google it should not be too difficult to uncover some papers or the other.

The dilemma has important historical dimensions, of course. To one degree or
another, the question of what and how to eat has confronted every person across
time, and has shaped the activities of individuals, communities, and policy makers. We are united as human beings in our need to sustain ourselves with a diet of
fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Our societies have long been organized in large
measure to fulfill this collective need. Moreover, throughout history, the sharing
of food has served as the lubricant to produce an atmosphere of camaraderie
and congeniality. As anthropologists and historians have emphasized, religious
rituals, holidays and festivals emphasize food’s power to bind individuals into
communities and symbolize their unity and goodwill toward one another.
But food has also played a different role in American culture, acting at times
as a divisive force. Although eating is simply necessary to human survival, foodways have become inseparable from cultural meaning and have been deployed
as powerful agents of social change and reform. What we eat, where it comes
from, and how it is prepared has never been culturally or politically neutral. At
different points in American history, food has served to demarcate “civilized”
from “savage” behavior and to divide the consumption habits of the wealthy from

posted by infini at 5:29 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The first false assumption you're making is that everyone had roughly the same childhood as you. Not everyone grows up on meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The second one is that all our traditions and wants and likes originate with our parents, or that they aren't constantly changing even while we're still kids.

But those are all only tangential to the question of why does the idea of people changing bother you; everyone's getting hung up on your food example but that doesn't really seem to be what you're asking about.

I can't tell why it bothers you. I mean, I could guess that it's because you're young enough not to have gone through many major changes in personality or view or to have ventured very far into "adult" life but old enough that some of your friends have started doing so, or that you're otherwise starting to be confronted with the reality that things are going to change, and change is always intimidating. But that would be just a guess.

I can tell you why it shouldn't bother you, though. The older I get the more I realize that I am a completely different person from who I was five years ago, or ten years or twenty or, god, thirty. Not that I have different tastes or habits, but that I am literally not the same person. If I were magically transported back into the body I had when I was twenty, and the lifestyle I had when I was twenty, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to play along. I'm not that guy anymore. I wouldn't want to be that guy anymore. The way my parents ran their household had a huge influence on me when I lived there, and for a little while afterwards -- but by this point it's more or less completely irrelevant. It would be weird if it were still a strong influence: I've spent more time not living there than I ever spent living there.

It's not that we spend childhood growing up, and then we're adults who stay that way until we turn into old people. Nobody is that static; we continue changing and learning and growing and being influenced by our environment all the way through. That's a good thing. It'd be impossibly boring otherwise.
posted by ook at 5:50 AM on January 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

Because I imagine she grew up on mash potatoes and meatloaf, not quinoa salad and red snapper.

I know this is just something you gave as an example, but how many of these instances of change/discomfort are based on assumptions like this? Because this is a really weird assumption! (I never once ate mashed potatoes and meat loaf growing up, and today I'd only eat it to be polite, but as a kid my mom made me things like fish with grains from the health food store all the time. And I know I'm not alone.) Could it be that at least part of what's freaking you out about this is not that these other people have changed, but that you're realizing your own experience is far from universal?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:51 AM on January 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hmm. Is there an element here of being embarrassed that the way you grew up - or the way you imagine other people grew up - was somehow "incorrect"? That people lived wholeheartedly, for years, in a way that they now have to publicly admit (through their choices) was sub-optimal?

I'm basing this on some feelings I had myself for a few years, when I felt a sense of embarrassment or shame when I had to admit that my preferences (and on occasion, opinions) had completely changed. To me it seemed upsetting to admit that my steadfast belief in total moral relativism as a teenager has... well, changed. I think I felt bad for not getting it "right" the first time, and concern that since I'm almost certainly not getting it "right" now, I'll have to continually go through this process all my life! (Now, I think of this as a GOOD thing.) I even noticed a bit of mental friction when I had to admit that cilantro no longer tasted as awful as it did when I was younger.

If this is the case, remind yourself of what Taylor Mali says: "changing your mind is one of the best ways of finding out whether or not you still have one". When we change our minds, we demonstrate that we are not simply plowing blindly through life, stuck in a rut - we are active participants in making our brief existence what we want it to be.

Also, I'd like to chime in and say that not everybody grew up with "standard" food choices, nor "standard" lives in many other respects. I come from a white, lower-middle-class New England family, and while I grew up with many classics like brown bread, apple pie, baked beans, maple syrup on everything, wild blueberries, and so on, I also had many other influences in my life: my maternal grandparents were progressives who kept up with the latest science and culture, and as such introduced many new foods and habits to the family as they came up. My paternal grandparents worked in India for a year when my father was a young boy, and so my father grew up with a love of Indian food and culture. When I was young, two Thai families lived in an apartment attached to our house, and I was thrilled to learn about their food and culture as we all became friends. I had both a Russian and a Bengali babysitter, both of whom introduced me to wonderful new things. My earliest violin teacher was Iranian, which prompted me to learn much more about that culture. And my parents were young people in the 60s and 70s, and so their tastes (which they presented at home) were significantly widened at that time. I'm in my mid-20s, and I've been vegetarian since I was around 10. You might take a brief look at my white New England family and assume that my diet now is radically different than it was when I was a child, but if you looked more closely, you'd find that I've been incorporating influences from treasured others since the very beginning. Yes, I "departed" from my background and childhood when I chose not to eat any meat, but I don't feel that I am abandoning my past in any way. I feel like I'm celebrating it in the ways that are meaningful to me.

(The same definitely goes for other aspects of life, not just diet.)
posted by Cygnet at 6:03 AM on January 13, 2013

The food I ate when I was a child was mostly a function of ... not poverty exactly, but definitely pinching the pennies. Lots of beans and potatoes - meatloaf was a bit of a treat. I was bored with it and often didn't get quite the right balance of nutrients to allow me to feel my best.

Now I am a grownup with a job, and I can pretty much eat what I want to, and I do.

Perhaps it's food trends / foodyism that's bugging you. It sometimes strikes me that eating certain things is a sort of display of privilege - the money to buy better ingredients, the knowledge and time to do something with them. So perhaps on some level you read "I had quinoa and snapper for dinner," as "Look at MEEEE, I'm so special, I eat fancy stuff."


Just a thought.
posted by bunderful at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do your feelings have to do with an implied rejection or criticism of your parents, their intellect, their beliefs, their choices and thus appear to be some kind of disloyalty?
posted by b33j at 6:15 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I frequently feel the same way, and it's always because somewhere deep down I feel (just like likeso's answer) a rejection of me and my ways. Like, mac and cheese is good enough for me, why do you think you're so much better that you need quinoa? It's stupid. I know it's stupid, but it doesn't stop me.

Maybe look to see if it something about rejection or a personal criticism?
posted by AmandaA at 6:25 AM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand the question, but I'd like to point out that it's pretty ethnocentric to just assume that your food is the "normal" food and therefore everyone eats what you eat.
The first false assumption you're making is that everyone had roughly the same childhood as you.

As I read it, Cybria is trying to understand why Cybria feels this way as part of a broader effort to eat better, not to justify it or impose themselves on anyone else.

Cybria, when you say: I mean I know that eating healthy is ideal, but it just makes me uncomfortable on some deep level to see people diverting from what they must've done when they were kids.

I want to ask more questions, like "were you brought up with a lot of household orthodoxy, religious or cultural or otherwise?" Because I suspect, but don't know for sure, that you might be struggling with a bigger question that a lot of people are facing right now, that of balancing respect and love for their traditions with the complexities of modernity, including better information about nutrition, food availability, multiculturalism and so forth. If that's the case, I don't know how much of an answer I can give you, but as a tactic to change how you feel, maybe you could start with the foods and ingredients of your youth and start to riff on and remix them, to try and add new ideas and new ingredients.
posted by mhoye at 6:28 AM on January 13, 2013

... to try and add new ideas and ingredients, until you've got some healthy, interesting meals you can go to that remind you of the foods of your youth, without necessarily genuflecting to them.

(perhaps an abuse of the 5-minute window, but something something accidentally posted the first one something something.)
posted by mhoye at 6:34 AM on January 13, 2013

You ask about why you feel bothered when OTHER people try new things; but I don't get any sense of what the thought of YOU trying new things does to you. What I mean is - how do YOU feel about trying new things? How often have you done that? Were you discouraged from doing that as a child maybe?

I would spend some time thinking about your own experiences with change and habits, and your own attitudes towards that and where they may have come from. That can help you sort out a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on January 13, 2013

In your example, what you're concerned about isn't actually that the person has changed, but that you think they must have. As many here have amply demonstated, not everyone grew up eating the same way, so there's it's not necessarily true that the person in the article changed at all. Keeping that in mind, it seems like you might be reacting to one of two things (that you're perceiving as this person's change): either the simple fact of this person's difference from you, or your sense that you should/might/will change.
posted by dizziest at 6:55 AM on January 13, 2013

Ignoring the specific example and going for the broader question, I've definitely experienced this as an unwillingness to back down about a previous opinion... Which seems to be leftover from normal power struggles as a small child (things like when your parents suggest you might try a new style of pants and you just flip out and insist that you only like this stye of pants, typical toddler behavior). Doing new things sometimes feels like admitting that the old things were wrong/I was wrong, and no one likes that.

The breakthrough that I had about this came from playing role-playing games where characters are expected to behave consistently, even when it's obvious that doing so is...just stupid. You see this in television, movies, and books, too. If you've ever sat fuming because a character clung to an obviously bad previous decision which led to an hour of movie suffering when the whole thing could have been done in three minutes if they'd just said, "sorry, that was silly, I thought you were wrong at first but you're actually right", then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Now when I catch myself doing that sort of thing, I just remind myself that there are no role-points in real life, I'm an adult who can gracefully admit that a new way is better (when it actually is), and it's worth taking the time to evaluate the old way and the new way to figure out which one is better or even if the optimum involves combining them.
posted by anaelith at 7:15 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

You mention in your previous questions that you're 27. For me, that was around the time when all of the people I went to high school and college with seemed to have turned into adults, not just overgrown teenagers with incomes. They had somehow developed careers and goals and complex opinions and other adult things, and I realized I wasn't anywhere near that grown-up.

I think the late twenties are when a lot of people first start to fully appreciate the passage of time and the evolution of the people and places around you. It can be unsettling, because you feel like you haven't changed and perhaps you're afraid of doing so, and because the things and people you assumed were constant are now moving away from you.

It could be quinoa, or skinny jeans, or the next trendy social network, and so on. People trying new things can imply that the old things are disappearing, and not only is there a chance you might lose a source of familiarity and comfort, but there's a chance you might become out of touch.

Also - not to freak you out - but 27 marked the age when I started to lose several family members I assumed would be around forever, and that really shook me. I think it's fairly common for people in their mid-to-late twenties to be confronted with mortality for the first time. Possibly you're afraid of the idea of people rejecting what they've learned from their parents because you're afraid of losing yours?
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:18 AM on January 13, 2013 [11 favorites]

Of course this is not the real issue, but I am not the only person who grew up not only eating my mom's health food experiments but also being expected to enjoy or at least eat two bites of new things including foreign cuisines very frequently.

RE: "doesn't the author feel weird about not eating the foods she ate when she was younger?" the answer is probably no. I have never felt this way even a little bit. Many many parents, perhaps the majority, are not going to feel offended if their child finds a new exotic recipe. I would guess that people who create new trendy recipes for a living probably have moms and dads who like pushing boundaries in the kitchen themselves and/or like eating their kid's crazy food.

On the other hand I can imagine a person rejecting his parents' traditional food culture in a very pretentious way. If you happen to know a smug poseur who refuses to eat mashed potatoes and you think they are annoying, that is reasonable enough.

Most of the rest of us are not that bad.
posted by steinwald at 7:58 AM on January 13, 2013

Why does it bother me when people try new things?

Did you have super-strict parents or grandparents?
Did you grow up in a household with lots of unexplained traditions that you were expected to follow?
Did your friends growing up make fun of people who tried new things?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you try new things, do you feel guilty or uncomfortable, or as though you are somehow deviating from a norm? Did you find your parents very "traditional" or set in their ways? Do you generally dislike change? Do you prefer the familiar? Did you really like your childhood or your parents and want to emulate them? Do you feel disrespectful if you do something very differently? These are a few rhetorical questions that you can ask yourself to try and get some insight on your reactions here.

On a more personal level, I think the folks focusing on the specific foods in the question are missing the point and getting caught up in the wrong details; I read that as being a general example to try and describe how the OP's feeling, not a specific assumption that everyone literally grew up on meatloaf- if I'm wrong, please let me know, OP!

If I'm right, though, I think I can see where you're coming from- many people get a certain idea in their heads of "how the world is" at a certain age, and things that interfere with or dismiss or disrupt that idea can feel uncomfortable, strange, or even slightly threatning or upsetting.

For a lot of people, that bewildering or upsetting change is price fluctuations. For others, it's governmental or regulatory changes. For me, personally, it's old buildings being torn down. For others, it's changes in music or fashion (music doesnt get banned for being offensive, it usually gets banned for being a new kind of offensive. There's been awful, offensive music all along). We don't necessarily reject those changes- though sometimes we do- but we have trouble parsing them. There are certain items that serve to anchor us into a sense that we understand how things are. We don't necessarily recognise them as such, but that's what they are.

As we get older, for many of us, the changes that we have trouble understanding increase, and the number of people who can understand and relate at least somewhat to our idea of "how the world is", who can identify and connect with the same cultural referents that we can, decreases.

The idea we have about how the world is becomes gradually less and less valid and less similar to anyone else's until it's essentially obsolete and we spend more time talking about how things were and what we remember than how things are now or will be.

Some people are more aware of this happening than others and it happens more to some than others. So I think that may play a part in this experience for you, OP- you might be noticing the things that affect how you view the world and wondering why those changes don't effect others the same way. The only answer I can think of to that is that different people have different anchors, and their anchors are not yours.

Also, who's to say that after they write their food articles, they don't go home to mashed potatos and meatloaf, you know?
posted by windykites at 8:32 AM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I find myself throwing the stinkeye at someone for doing something that is objectively inoffensive when examined in the cold light of day I know that the problem lies within me. For instance, whenever I see someone succeeding in music I secretly hate them a little because they're beating me to the punch at something I hoped to succeed in but haven't yet because of fear and anxiety.

So the analogy would be that you have strong feelings about wanting to change things about your life, but you hesitate because changing your life can create fear and anxiety. When you see someone else happily having done it it makes you cranky.

Which is totally fine as long as you remember that you don't actually dislike them and as long as you keep moving forward at your own pace, but steadily and resolutely.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:38 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

From the other side of the fence: I changed my eating habits about two years ago, and I pretty much no longer eat the food of my youth (pasta and meat sauce, bread, roast chicken, potato-based dishes). I miss it a lot, and it does feel weird. I think about this on a semi-regular basis (once every couple of weeks) and it does make me feel a bit weird (doing it, not thinking about it), but it's worth it to me. I feel better and look better, and actually those foods are even more significant to me now because they're a special treat and they taste even more nostalgic and comforting than they would if I still just ate them regularly.
posted by k8lin at 8:43 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

When we're younger we do things a certain way, like the food we eat, the music we listen to, the traditions we have, they all come from our parents.

Also, the ways we do things when we're younger don't ALL come from our parents, so it seems like you're fetishizing (for lack of a better word) the role of parents to some degree with regards to how a person's worldview is shaped. Could a death/hospitalization of a parent when you were young be the cause of your feelings?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:44 AM on January 13, 2013

PS - I'm half-Italian and food is a big deal in my family. That might be why I feel weirder than other people in this thread with respect to changing my food habits. Food holds a lot of significance, and changing my diet in some ways feels like "rejecting" my family. That might be an extreme way to put it, but there it is.
posted by k8lin at 8:45 AM on January 13, 2013

I bet it's not so much about food as about being anxious about change in general. When people change over time, it's unsettling. It suggests that the people around you might change too; or that you'll be expected to do as well.

To use your example. You're identifying with the quinoa lady, which lets you project your own upbringing onto her (you don't actually know that she didn't eat quinoa all her life; you assume she didn't because you didn't; but that's not the point.) The point is that you're identifying with her on some level - otherwise you wouldn't imagine that you know what she grew up eating. So now seeing her eat quinoa, you feel like, if she's eating quinoa, maybe I'm expected to also. What if I'm failing to be appropriately adventurous by eating quinoa? Are my friends all eating quinoa and laughing at me and my meatloaf? This weird embrace of quinoa is a rebuke to my preferences. Why can't they leave me alone?

I think this is about feeling the ground shift beneath your feet as you enter adulthood and being anxious about not living up to societal expectations. Congratulations, we all feel this way to some degree or another.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2013

Just in case you are/were religious, here's a famous quote from Corinthians:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
You could extend this to "I ate like a child" and continue the discussion. Whether or not you are religious, I think it's helpful to realize that people have been having these feelings for thousands of years. They are normal, and there are ways to approach the issue that will help make you a better person from this point forward.
posted by CathyG at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2013

Does it possibly feel inauthentic to you -- like, these people are just posturing by eating different things and somehow trying to be cool or go along with a trend?
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:40 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have this about food, but I understand what you mean. If you and your family are successful doing something, you obviously want to stick with that because that's what made you successful and you figure that the things/habits you inherited from you family was responsible for you success. People who do change to do something else, when they were raised in the original way, can just come across as being pretentious. If you have a specific strong association with food as being a component of your identity, I can see how you would have this reaction.

But some people don't have this same thing about specific foods being tied up in their identity, and even if they do, they don't have to eat as an expression of their identity all the time. (I will enjoy eating something I grew up with because it is familiar, the same way how I enjoy re-watching a favorite movie from my youth, even though I don't eat/watch those things all the time)

The whole thing about how the music you listen to or clothes you wear defining who you are for all time, always, is a very adolescent idea. "We are a family who eats meatloaf" is no different than "I am the sort of person who wears Bennetton" or "I am the kind of person who listens to Morrissey." It is more important to base you identity in actual values, even something as simple as, "I like to eat nutritious food that's not too expensive" or the like.
posted by deanc at 10:50 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can honor your parents and family home without having to re-create it. Eating heirloom recipes on holidays is one thing, but I don't think anyone needs to eat Swanson's TV dinners every night, just to prove that they're not growing away from their roots. I do know people who grew up very poor and worry about seeming "too good" for home folks because they don't want to use Coffeemate and Hamburger Helper. I think that's rather sad, personally.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

...it just makes me uncomfortable on some deep level to see people diverting from what they must've done when they were kids. I guess I mean when they're trying new things. I don't know why it should bother me so much though, especially when I am trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle myself?

These are just guesses, but:

Have you tried some new things lately and been disappointed? I don't mean trying new types of food, necessarily; I mean a new way of living, something that was totally out of your comfort zone that was exciting at first but then turned out to make you unhappy or ended up badly. The reason I ask is because if you were branching out and trying a new lifestyle, and it ended up with you feeling hurt, you might be longing for the comfort of your childhood and wishing you had just kept doing what you had done before.

Or are there family and/or friends in your life who question your attempts at lifestyle changes (whether dietary or otherwise)? Maybe family or friends are feeling like you are rejecting them and are putting pressure on you to come back to the fold or remain "true to your roots." Perhaps they are making you feel doubtful about the benefits of changing at all, and you are projecting this onto other people whom you perceive as making drastic changes to their lives.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's called neophobia. Or conservatism. Either way, I imagine a therapist can help if it bothers you.
posted by cmoj at 12:49 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

When we're younger we do things a certain way, like the food we eat, the music we listen to, the traditions we have, they all come from our parents.

The only person I know like this is very anxious, has a lot of control issues, and has lived almost exclusively in a small Midwestern town.

When we are children, we don't usually know why we are doing a thing or eating a thing and whether or not it is explained to us depends on the type of parent and what mood they are in [Because I say so! What's just the way it is! There is no why!] so they can take on a kind of mystical quality of rightness through familiarity and ritual, or maybe one never questions it because it's always been there. But some of us do question it.

I asked this person in her early twenties why she used certain brands she used: because that's what her mother used. She never read labels, she didn't know what these things really were, she used Listerine because it had mystical rightness qualities and that horrific flavor that made her think it was "working." Her response to my telling her dentists found rinsing with hydrogen peroxide at least as effective was, "I could see that." I'm sure she still uses Listerine, but maybe in a less horrific flavor option. The point is, she doesn't ask why or really want to know things and avoids thinks about things. I suspect she doesn't really "believe" in science and "manages" her issues by being buzzed most of the time. She's also quite racist.

But she has changed because it would be too weird if she didn't basically conform to society on a superficial level. While my suggestion to get a cell phone before going on a trip seemed ridiculous to her, to not have one now would be extremely unusual.

This just in: cmoj has it.
posted by provoliminal at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was dealing with a different deep-seated discomfort with others' personal choices, I was also dealing with a ridiculous amount of anxiety. Now that has been treated, and other people's lifestyle differences and choices do not bother me so much. So, maybe it would help you to look at it as a symptom of something bigger, but YMMV.
posted by tweedle at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you generally afraid of new things? Do you visit local sights, go to different restaurants or parts of the city? Try new fashion trends or types of clothing you haven't worn before? Do you travel? In other words, is your question about new foods, or is it about new things or change in general?

In my family, trying new things/foods/places/activities was normal, the idea that forming your own preferences could be construed as 'a rejection of something' is as foreign an idea to me as it isn't to you.

Everyone is allowed to decide what they like.
posted by Kololo at 2:03 PM on January 13, 2013

Sounds to me like a kind of vicarious frustrated nostalgia. I can feel vaguely happy when I eat something that reminds me strongly of childhood, just like walking by my old grade school or baseball field or other standard nostalgic reminders. I have definitely also felt vicariously happy from seeing someone else experiencing that. And I can imagine feeling vicariously sad from seeing someone do ...well, not the "reverse" exactly, but something that made it seem they were really disconnected from their childhood. But it would be more like sadness than discomfort.

Does that ring a bell? Because if that's what you're experiencing, I can relate to it somewhat, and it wouldn't really demand as much of an explanation in your own psyche as a lot of people are proposing. You might just be overly ...empathetic? I don't know the right word. Doesn't seem like such a disturbing reaction to have, though.
posted by pete_22 at 2:49 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Allow me to recommend the movie Toast, which is a retelling of English chef Nigel Slater's childhood. Without giving away the plot, if you want a reasonable scenario for someone (mostly) rejecting the food they grew up eating, here it is.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:34 PM on January 13, 2013

You might be able to change this by trying to think about it more.

Watch someone eat a burger and wonder if they ever ate meat as a child.
posted by yohko at 6:21 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, first, I don't think you should feel it's weird. It's how you feel, and it's not weird. It's probably not common though, so presumably there's some specific reason for it. Perhaps something in your upbringing? For example, did you grow up in a conservative family that instilled a sense of guilt if you didn't follow traditions?
posted by Dansaman at 11:46 PM on January 13, 2013

Thinking about the meatloaf/quinoa just as an example, you might have an as-yet-unexamined belief that adding new things means having to reject the old. That's sometimes the case (someone who learns they have a food allergy and so has to eliminate that food, for example), but much of the time, it can be a matter of expanding the circle of things you enjoy, rather than having a one-in-one-out kind of thing going. So looking back at the meatloaf/quinoa example, somebody might have quinoa and snapper for dinner one night, then meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner the next, and still enjoy each dinner.

The discussion of meatloaf and childhood food favorites now has me hankering for the spinach-and-almond nutloaf we used to have when I was growing up. I need to go track down some possible recipes, I think.
posted by Lexica at 9:19 AM on January 14, 2013

Do you feel like you are compromising loyalty to your family when you try something they did not do? Most of us have seen one being ridiculed for abandoning traditional ways. But being open to something new does not mean we must abandon tradition (though most of us think it does). We are raised to think in a dualistic way. For example, "I hate the bully or I condone his behavior". But it is possible to forgive the bully without condoning the behavior. It is also possible to try new foods without believing that your childhood diet was wrong. I can still respect my family tradition while being open to new perspectives. Embracing something new does not necessitate that the old was wrong; simply different.
posted by lake59 at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2013

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