“Eat your chicken, Jenny.”
“I don’t wanna. I don’t like chicken.”
“It’s good for you, and you’ve barely eaten anything. Come on, Jen.”
“I don’t wanna.”
“You have to eat one bite. That’s all. You can’t leave the table until you do.”
“But I don’t like chicken.”
“One bite. You’re not getting up until you taste it.”
“Mrrrrgghtrmmmrgh. Don’t wanna.”
Conversations like this often went on at my house when I was six or seven years old; I was an adamantly picky eater with an unfortunate dislike for all kinds of chicken. Because chicken was my family’s usual dinner, my aversion caused problems in my house almost daily. I generally managed to force down at least half of my portion, but tonight was different: tonight, the chicken on my plate was coated in some sort of gelatinous slime which puddled around the chunk of flesh like the week-old remains of some animal’s bodily fluids. I would not eat it.
After first asking me, then gently ordering me, my parents finally resorted to threatening punishment and forbidding me to leave the table until I took one bite. Of course, the more they tried to convince me to eat the poultry covered in the unidentifiable pus-like substance, the more obstinate I became. Finally, after everyone else had finished dinner and my parents were cleaning up, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to bear sitting in my cold wooden chair for the entire night. I picked up my fork and prodded at the meat, half expecting it to jump from my plate and spit congealed fat at me. When I was fairly sure that the entity was lifeless, I cut off as small a piece as I could which I thought my parents would deem an acceptable size. Inhaling what could very well be the last breath of my life, I plunged my fork into the chicken and deposited it into my mouth. I almost spit it up again as I felt it squirm on my tongue, but I forced it down my throat and to my stomach, in which I was sure the meat would burn a hole or do something equally unpleasant. After about a minute, I finally regained my composure and announced to my parents, who had their backs turned to me at the sink, “OK, I tasted it. I’m getting up now.”
“No you aren’t, young lady,” said my mother in her sternest voice. “I didn’t see you eat it.”
“But I did!” I shrieked, the tears of frustration already welling up.
“All right,” said my father, always the reasonable one, “Then why didn’t you tell us you were going to eat it so we could see you?”
I truly could not think of an answer. I had been too busy observing the jelly-covered meat to remember about that little issue of telling my parents when I actually ingested it. “Um, I don’t know,” I said. “I just thought you’d believe me.”
My mother spoke again. “Well,” she said, “We’d like to believe you. But how can we know you’re telling the truth if neither of us saw you eat it?”
“I did eat it! Why won’t you believe me? I ate it!”
My mother shook her head disappointedly and said, “Well then, I guess you’ll just have to eat another piece.”
“No! I did eat it!”
“You’re going to sit at the table until you eat a piece of that chicken.”
My father and I settled down at the table again for a long wait. I glared at him, absolutely furious that he could have such little faith in his own daughter. “I did eat it, I did eat it, I did eat it,” I chanted over and over in my head. I hadn’t thought it was possible before, but now I planned to stay there all night. I knew I was telling the truth, and I would not eat that second piece of chicken.
After about an hour of glares, tears, and more arguments with my father, I realized that he would never give in. The lump of chicken mocked me from its place among its own filth in the middle of my plate, and at one point I thought I saw it pulse ominously. Conjuring up my most heart-wrenchingly pathetic face, I turned to my father once more; he stared back, not perturbed in the slightest, and shook his head. I had tried every tactic I could think of, and now eating the second piece seemed inevitable. I sighed in resignation. As my father watched, I pushed the slimy chunk down my throat and vowed that I would never make my children suffer so terribly.