Food for Thought.
by Abby Margolis Newman
I love the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times with a passion. I look forward to reading it every week, and I save it for last, like dessert. First, I read the news section, which habitually makes me feel helpless and depressed. Then I move on to the Week in Review, a summary of news from the past week (obviously) plus editorials--and I adore Frank Rich's columns with an intensity bordering on sick, according to my husband (if Frank Rich is on vacation, I sink into a deep funk, only to be roused by the Styles section.)
The Styles section is sometimes referred to as the Women's Sports section (yes, sexist), because it is sort of like a print version of a chick flick. It regularly includes voyeuristic articles about the rich and snobbish in New York: the competitive parents who buy $1200 strollers for their daily trips to Zabar's; who are rejected by East Side co-op boards because they're not quite rich enough; who can't sell their $5.5 million homes in the Hamptons in this depressed real estate market; who scratch and claw and bribe their way into Manhattan's most elite preschools. It's hilarious and fun. And then, of course, there are the Weddings pages, which I still read avidly even though most of my college classmates are way too old to be getting married--at least for the first time.
That's why this past Sunday's Styles section was so distressing to me: the featured story on the front page was entitled, "The Guilt Trip Casserole," and frankly, it was too close for comfort. Instead of taking sneaky pleasure in the trials and tribulations of wealthy and whiny New Yorkers, this piece was a direct punch in the gut, to me. As a friend of mine put it, instead of being a guilty pleasure, this week the Styles section just made me feel guilty.
We've all heard about the studies saying that families who sit down to dinner together raise kids who are more well-adjusted, do better in school, are less depressed, less likely to be overweight, etc. But according to this Times article, the latest study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) also shows that "teenagers who eat with their families less than three times a week are more likely to turn to alcohol, tobacco and drugs than those who dine with their families five times a week."
FIVE TIMES A WEEK?! Wait, let me rephrase that: THREE TIMES A WEEK?!
I'm a mom of three boys: two teenagers (ages 16 and 14) and one 10-year-old who is becoming a teen prematurely (more on that in a future column). My husband is a CFO who, although he works 15 minutes from our home, is gone each weekday from about 7:30 a.m. until at least 7:30 p.m. The boys are at three different schools and are involved in sports and theatrical productions. This situation, needless to say, is not conducive to cozy family dinners during the week. Frankly, we're lucky if we even get one sit-down dinner per week—and I mean at the table, not on the family room couch while watching "The Simpsons" (more on that phenomenon later, too).