Tongue tied and beaten!

It has been a much discussed subject by many a person who has had the profound pleasure of eating with my good self, however, I still get questions about why I don’t eat X Y and Z. The simple solution seems to be to write it down for future reference!

So, we’re at a pub, and someone says “Fancy Pizza?” and I look at them like they’re suggesting I eat my finger, possibly swiftly removing said finger from my ear as a precautionary measure. “Sorry”, I reply, “but I don’t do cooked cheese, or cooked tomato.”. And then the questions begin! Quite often though, after having been offered pizza and refusing, they will say “get something else instead”, but then I will obstinately refuse to eat anything, and generally take myself away from the people involved until they’ve eaten.

The long and short of it is this. I have a stupid tongue. Technically it is called Tongue Tied, or even more technically, Ankyloglossia a condition I have actually written about before on my blog and other places online. What this means is, the tip of my tongue is attached by its retaining frenulum (piece of skin) not to the base of my mouth, but to the underside of my gum beneath the front bottom teeth. Add to that, the attachment to the tongue its self, which is attached not to the middle of the underside of the tongue, but to the tip, and you have a tongue with very restricted movement. I physically cannot lick my lips!

I should note… this condition is easily correctable.. and really should have been done when I was small. Unfortunately, although this condition was known about by my parents, they refused to acknowledge anything was wrong, and so, it only came to pass that I found out about the problem when I started to play a brass instrument which required me to “tongue” notes. Something I simply couldn’t do. As an adult, corrective surgery is not nearly as effective as when done as a child and indeed can cause major issues when speaking while not being guaranteed to be of any real use! One of the side effects of having this condition is that it causes upper pallet and gum issues, resulting in crooked teeth, something I have had all my life and presumably something which could’ve been avoided! The psychological issues related to both the tongue and teeth when going through school, were huge.

“So,” I hear you cry, “What has this to do with eating?”. Well, it is simple. I grew up with a big family. 3 brothers and a sister, mum and dad, all sat round the dining table at tea/dinner time. My parents were strict. Slaps were common and in fairness I have no issue with being hit for having done something wrong. I believe kids today (oh gods I sound old) would benefit hugely with a sound thrashing every so often, however that’s not the point. We would regularly eat foods with gravy on, which invariably would end up around my mouth, and as I had no way to lick it off, and napkins are not something for the working classes, I was left with a mess to deal with which was frankly nasty. Any attempt to wipe it off with my hand, resulted in a smack. Refusal to eat meant being sent to bed. Anything served with mash, presented the same issue. Anything with sauce, ie baked beans, the same issue. The choice was : Go without= go to bed (tea was invariably served at 5pm) or attempt to eat it, feel awful making a mess, then be punished, which possibly resulted in bed anyway!

It got that I hated the food I was served, and meal times were a time of fear for me, not something to look forward to, but something I could at best, hope to make it through unscathed. It rarely happened. In the end, the situation became so bad that I simply refused to eat the food, and so was excluded from the dinner table completely, and was sat, facing away from the family, with a plate of sandwiches, alienated. To not eat what everyone else ate was poured disdain upon absolutely. I was looked upon as “spoilt”, for not being forced to eat what they ate. It’s funny how one persons “spoilt” is another person’s hell.

And so life went on. When confronted with situations involving food, I have now an inbuilt Pavlovian reaction which automatically fills me with trepidation and dread. I rarely, if ever eat out or in with someone who I do not know well. Eating in company is generally a No-no, although a few guinnesses can help shed those inhibitors! I can remember as a child, regularly throwing away Mars bars because they had not come from the fridge, so the caramel was sticky and stringy and impossible for me to eat without making a mess. To not eat what everyone else is eating, sparks memories of being told I am difficult, and different, and spoilt. To eat something else, when having refused the original offer…. even more so. And so I retreat, beat myself up over it, and re-enforce the psychological hold this has over me again! There were incidents with two of my brothers and me, regarding food, and although I doubt they will recall them, the impact they left on me stays strong in my memory, not because of the food, but because of the pure lack of understanding. But then they grew up with it being re-enforced upon them that I was different, and I was spoilt, so I guess in the end I can see where they’re coming from, and their reactions. They were programmed to. They were programmed too. Or at least, I’d like to think that, as it takes away the possibility that they simply chose to not understand, perhaps to continue their re-enforcement of their view of me.

So there it is. It’s not pleasant reading, but consider this. If I eat in your company it is a compliment to our friendship. If I run when you eat, it is through a reaction which I’ve had beaten into me since I was old enough to sit to the table and eat. And if I make a mess, give rise to the thought that, although it might make you shake your head to see such a mess, imagine all the reminders I get, when I see the detritus too!


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