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By Charby Ibrahim, The Ancestral Body
An overly firm handshake, a boisterous greeting, a forceful slap on the shoulder, a little banter. Ok, where’s this going? He may as well have lifted his leg and used me as a lamp-post. Yup – Awkward. Even when he makes fun of my shirt, questioning my sexuality, I smile and nod… compliment his ‘lovely’ house. Clare, his wife, shoots me an apologetic glance, served up with a warm hug. I remember why I’m here. We’re old friends; great friends! Geoff comes with the package these days though. I can handle that. “9 beers in, mate!” Geoff announces, interrupting the embrace. “You’ve got some catching up to do, CH-arbs!” A harsh CH- sound, and we’re in nickname territory. I don’t correct him. It’s a different story in my head, a few expletives added. SH-arby! “I’m ok, Geoff. Maybe I’ll grab a glass of red wine in a minute,” I reply. Clare, as though reading my mind, steps in. A brief reprieve – “Speech time guys. The cake is ready!” Time for Geoff to shine. His 15 minutes of fame. Laden with slurring jagged tangents, and anecdotes from his ‘playing days’ – Aussie Rules Football, that is. His son, whose birthday it is, gets the odd mention too. Made in the image of his mother, the kid smiles bashfully between sips of the black fizzy stuff.
Flash forward – “Just eat the f@#king cake, mate!” Two tiny balls of spit fly in my direction. They’re homing in… one lands on the already infamous piece of sweet spongy cream, and the other assaults my left cheek. I wipe it away with an exaggerated gesture… I’m not sure why. Actually, yes I am. I want him to know that he’s out of control, that there’s a strong chance he’ll regret this tomorrow. I even throw him a cheeky smirk. So often I’m the mediator, keeping the peace, politely navigating my way through awkward situations. Not today – I’m not about to be bullied by a man taking umbrage over a piece of bloody cake. Geoff fires up again – “So what… You think you’re pretty good ay? Standing around judging us all. It’s my son’s birthday. It’s my son’s birthday cake! What’s a bloody Health Coach do anyway? Please!” The plate, and a smear of pink cream, now pressed up against my chest. “No thanks, Geoff.” He holds it there firmly, glaring through me. The pointed edge of the square plate digging in hard now. Still, I don’t flinch. Instead, I take a slow sip of my wine, breathing in through my nose. My first glass. I must be miles behind now.
The birthday boy is wrapped around Geoff’s leg, and I spot Clare’s look of concern over Geoff’s broad shoulder. She’s been here before. “Eat. The. F@#king. CAKE!” he thumps. The room falls silent. A pause in the music. An audience to boot. Growing up as a Lebanese kid, I was no stranger to having food forced on me – and even more recently, I know I’ve rubbed the odd host up the wrong way with my ‘peculiar’ food choices. Most of the time though, they could care less. I tend to load up before arrival, pick at what takes my fancy, and we get on with the party. This time it’s different. I’ve been drawn into a one-sided cock-fight, and folks seem more interested in the spectacle than dragging this bloodied rooster away.
“This is my house!” he declares proudly, staring me down. Judging by the football trophies lining the walls of his ‘man-cave’, he isn’t lying. It’s definitely his house. Confirmed. Team photos from 1995 through to 2003. His face growing sterner, tougher, as the years progress. He was promised a long career, but it just didn’t eventuate. One can’t help but wonder if the subtle limp he carries around has anything to do with it. I figure it’s best not to ask at this juncture. A big frame, strong, towering over me, taking up space; much like the houses he grudgingly builds these days. A solid bulging barrel chest, and a round belly way out in the front cabin- not in any of the photos, but a new addition – not quite lived in. “It’s OUR house!” Clare promptly reminds him, “…and you’re being a dick… AGAIN!” They lock eyes for a few seconds, and I’m almost relieved that the attention has shifted, and the pressure eases off my sternum. A new feeling of unease though; the fight response kicks in. What might transpire between the happy couple when the crowd disperses eventually?
Clare’s stare is harsh and piercing. She wears him down. Geoff’s hand forgets that it’s holding the plate. Slowly falls limp. His body folds into itself, starting at the navel. He just about disappears – The cake is sliding slowly off the plate. I watch it with gleeful anticipation, instead trying to stop it. SPLAT! He wears it well down the length of his left leg and shiny shoes. Time for this guy to exit stage door left. I finish the last sip of my wine, grab for my coat, and I get the proverbial truck out of there.
All this talk of cake has my sweet tooth crying out. As soon as I arrive home I snap into action; a fresh batch of gluten free, honey sweetened, dark cacao brownies. Down the hatch with a very generous serve of raw cream, and a handful of mixed berries. You might be asking ‘why’ then? Why didn’t you just eat the damn cake, Charby? The truth is, I really do love a sweet treat, but the refined sugar and the gluten really punish me these days… AND I have an aversion to being bullied. We are social creatures though, and even I turn a blind eye to food quality when I’m out at restaurants, BBQs, functions, and parties in the name getting along. I don’t want to know what kind of oil they’re using, whether the veggies are organic, and what kind of life the animal on my plate lived. I might never leave the house otherwise. So, I compromise. There are some non-negotiables though, and sometimes I say ‘NO’… kindly. A three day gluten hangover just ain’t worth it for this sensitive little monkey. So, I’m making a stand here and now. I’m saying NO to forcing cake on unsuspecting guests. Just say NO… thanks!
PS – The very next morning I received the loveliest apology… from Clare.
Disclaimer- In order to protect the people mentioned in this story, I have changed their names. In order to protect the integrity of the cake, I changed its colour.
About the author:
Charby Ibrahim is the man behind ‘The Ancestral Body’ – Nutritional Health Coach, Personal Trainer, Teacher, Speaker, and Writer. A graduate of The University of Melbourne, The Institute For Integrative Nutrition, and The Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, he has written countless articles for prominent online publications and blogs, is a proud member of Physical Activity Australia, and engages in education programs at both local schools and The Royal Children’s Hospital. Charby’s journey has been a personal one from the outset. He went back to ‘Eating Real Food’, lost a stack of fat, got fit, and is now using his own life skills and experience, on-top of over a decade in education, to help others find the combination of lifestyle factors that best suit their needs. Charby is also a co-host of The Primal Shift, one of Australia’s most popular health podcast shows.
Stay connected to Charby Ibrahim via The Ancestral Body:
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