Last Monday morning, my family gathered for the bris of my new nephew. He’s the first in his generation, and after several rough years with many funerals, my family was really ready to celebrate. I had offered to bake for the bris, and my sister (the proud mama) accepted, so I spent Saturday night baking up a storm, making some classic family recipes that are delicious, and that would bring the memory of my mother and aunt into the celebration.
Standing around before we got started, the women of the family looked at the trays of goodies that I had baked, and immediately began the traditional recitation of guilt. “Uch, this is SO BAD. I should NOT eat any of this.” “Don’t let me have ANY of this.” “This isn’t going to help me stay good.” And on and on.
You’ve probably heard this guilt choir singing around the dessert trays at your own family simchas (happy occasions), and at your synagogue luncheons. I know it well. But just this once, I wasn’t going to participate, or let it go on.
“You guys, this is a simcha! If you can’t have a dessert when we’re welcoming a new nephew into the world, then when can you? And if you don’t want to eat anything here, you don’t have to, but don’t shame the rest of us who want to enjoy it.”
As soon as I said it, I felt a little twinge of guilt (of course). I didn’t mean to snap at my family on such a good day, but I really couldn’t stop myself. And my family, to their credit, got the message, and snapped out of their fat shaming reverie.
I know the instinct to heap helpings of guilt and shame on top of every cookie or brownie or sweet. And I’m sick of it. Mine is a family of gym rats, long distance runners, yogis, and swimmers. We do not guzzle fast food, or live in food deserts where we can’t access good healthy produce. We are smart thoughtful people who take care of our bodies and happen to come in all shapes and sizes. Eating a dessert at a family event will not send any of us down into a death spiral. And I refuse to let that kind of shame infiltrate an otherwise joyous environment.
I want my nephew to grow up to be healthy and strong and surrounded by a loving family. And I know that somewhere along the way he’ll come into contact with some serious guilt-trippers. But I don’t think we need to begin at his bris.