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Food and friends

By Eda Kamal, April 17 2024—

As Eid draws closer, I find myself less excited than most for the upcoming festivities. My friends delight in their plans to make grand dinners to eat together and get all the fast food they’d ever want. It’s not that I cannot eat as luxuriously as them, but the social aspect of eating is restricted for me. I carry an EpiPen wherever I go and refrain from eating food that isn’t made at home or pre-packaged and clearly labelled. I don’t often complain because I am aware there are worse problems in the world. But the truth is, food is centric to almost every celebration, and it’s easy to feel left out.

I have always had to bring my food everywhere — from birthday parties to abroad. I have mastered the art of sneaking lukewarm, pre-popped popcorn into a movie. When I was younger, I had a phase where I would observe every part of the meal served at a wedding or Eid party and write it down to ask my mom if there was a way for her to make it for me. I would also often be physically separated at mealtimes, either out of embarrassment or concern for my safety. For a few months in second grade, I had to move my desk to the corner of the class facing the wall to eat my lunch. That resulted in a lot of bullying. Food was what everyone shared memories, jokes, ideas, celebrations and happiness over. I felt as though by being unable to partake in these events in the normal way, I was also unable to experience the same social reciprocity.

As an adult, there is more freedom for me to be able to socialize at events not involving food, and my friends are more understanding and accommodating of my safety. However, I have begun to encounter a more commonly faced problem — the prevalence of alcohol at social events. As a Muslim, I don’t drink, and there are plenty of other reasons why adults choose to remain completely sober. So when my friends discuss their favourite liquors or make plans to go to the bar, they’re speaking a language I don’t quite understand. In the handful of times I’ve accompanied them, there is a degree of awkwardness and separation I feel that I’m not sure if my friends can pick up on. I’ve never judged anyone for making choices that don’t align with my religion, but it does create a barrier.

I’m beginning to plan the rest of my life — an exchange semester, moving out, becoming self-sufficient. I have to be able to socialize on my own while staying physically safe. I’ve learned that it’s possible to make friends without having to partake in the same things they do, and the people around me have also matured enough to allow me to be included with accommodations. I’m grateful for that, and the ability to be able to socialize — even if it is inhibited sometimes — is something everyone could be more aware of and grateful for.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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