I was alone in the house, but I still looked furtively around before putting my spoon down. Then I placed my hands on both sides of my bowl, pinky fingers delicately extended (as if to show that what I was about to do was proper etiquette). I raised the bowl to my lips and saw strands of shredded wheat cereal floating in the dregs of the milk. Then I tipped it and the deliciously cold milk filled my mouth.
Please don’t judge me unless you’ve never dunked a sandwich in your soup, split an Oreo cookie and licked off the cream filling first, stirred ice cream into a soupy mess before eating it or snacked in bed. If you can honestly say you’ve never done anything like that – then you’ve earned the right – go ahead and judge.
I’m a grown-ass woman and I know better. The proof is that I would NEVER do it if someone else was around. But there’s something satisfying in the gesture that is a throwback to the simple days of childhood.
I remember a home movie my father took during a family vacation at a lakeside cottage. In it, my youngest brother sits at a picnic table under the shade of a tree eating a big bowl of cereal. He is about six years old, a chubby little boy with a round face and a white-blonde crew cut. Oblivious to the fact that he’s being filmed, he picks up his bowl and his face disappears behind it when slurps the last of his milk and cereal. He puts it down, spots my father’s camera trained on him, and breaks into a good-natured, unabashed grin. There’s just pure delight on his face – no sign that he’d been caught doing something embarrassing.
And this got me thinking. Are these things we mostly do in private bad habits or guilty pleasures? Well, the research is unanimous: A guilty pleasure is something we enjoy but that we think would be looked down on by others or seen as unusual. A bad habit, on the other hand, is defined as a negative behaviour pattern that can be harmful, like smoking or stress eating.
Table manners and etiquette shouldn’t be thrown out the window. But since slurping cereal or dipping a sandwich in soup is harmless, I might continue to indulge once in a while. You can too and, best of all, you can leave the guilt at the door.
P.S.: See point 5 in this link. WikiHow embraces drinking cereal in this article on “How to Eat a Bowl of Cereal” !