I have a friend who smacks when he eats. It’s a nasty habit — and not just because that wet smacking sound makes me want to poke four little fork holes in his forehead - it’s because you can see the food become chewed up and squishy in his mouth hole. I had dinner with his family one time, and I was disturbed to discover that his whole family smacks. They’re one of those families that doesn’t talk at dinner until everybody is done eating. So all I heard for 20 minutes was the symphony of grown adults smacking and eating with their mouths open like the Cookie Monster. The nom nom nom family.
My stepmom used to take forever to eat. (She doesn’t smack — she’s super polite.) Long after we finished eating and were lounging around sprawled out in the living room (watching The Little Mermaid or The Land Before Time for the fourth time of the day, the cost of being a big brother), she’d still be sitting the dining room by herself, nursing the same little sandwich. I used to tease that she needed to hurry up and finish that meal because it was almost time for the next one. I studied her eating mechanics and tried to figure out why she was so inefficient at getting food into her belly. She seemed to be busy the whole time, and it’s not like she was taking little baby bird bites. I concluded that she just chews her food more times per bite or something. Women seem strange to me.
I am a really fast eater. I can usually finish any meal in less than six minutes when I eat by myself. I chew my food just barely enough to swallow it down, and then I already have the next bite already in hand. I remember my Dad making me eat in front of a mirror. But the failure there was that I enjoyed looking at myself. I am one handsome devil.
One time my brother and I went to Pancho’s with my mom, and we both finished our first plates before she got to the table. She loves telling that story. In our defense, she was being super pokey — we had plenty of time to wolf down 4 cheese enchiladas and 2 tacos while she piddled around at the salsa bar.
I guess whatever sort of negative reinforcement tactics eventually worked – now I consciously alter my habits in the company of others. I intentionally take my time, pacing out the meal to coincide with that of whomever is eating nearby. I pretend that I’m a normal person instead of the ravenous ogre that I truly am. Rather than trying to finish my meal before everybody has their napkins unfolded into their laps, I’ll kill time by storytelling, or I imagine poking fork holes into the foreheads of anybody who is smacking within earshot, or I challenge the waiters to wrestle.
Waiters probably wear shirts. This was as close as I could find on Google.