I thought I had pretty much finished up with my writing prompt on food, but maybe there’s more (as I finish my ritual Rice Krispies bars and Hostess cupcake breakfast). I covered the weird obsessions about size, and weight, that came from the women in my family. I covered the sugar obsession, nay addiction) that I have always seemed to have. I covered seeking sweetness in life as a metaphor for seeking sweetness in consumption, in digestion, in sense of taste. So, what else is there?

The only other thing I can think of is how family life involved food, and sustenance, and how we gave and received sustenance. Gaining sustenance from food was seen mostlly as a given. There were certain traditions around certain meals, like seafood on Fridays, like favorite (or hated) vegetables, like turkey and ham on Thanksgiving. There were just certain things you did.

You didn’t eat meat on a Friday because we were good Catholics, and post-Vatican II, a good Catholic did not eat meat on Friday to honor the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. OK, honestly, that never quite made sense to me, but when you received Holy Communion, the priest said “Body of Christ” as he put the host in your mouth (back in the day, they shoved the driest possible disc of some unknown manufacture onto your tongue, but these days you’re allowed to cup your hands and they drop in a much tastier bread-type morsel that you are allowed to place in your own mouth). So, it had some connection to not consuming the proverbial Body of Christ.

Regardless of theological significance, seafood on Fridays was a big deal culturally where I came from. It was an industry all of its own, and restaurants were packed with diners on Fridays. You just didn’t mess with that, no matter what religion you claimed. If you had a seafood allergy, you figured out how to eat vegetables or something that could pass muster without incurring the wrath of God and the talk of the town. You do what you have to.

Holidays were a big deal for most of us where I grew up, the big ones being traditional Christian ones – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. Thanksgiving you had ham and turkey, plus some traditional incidentals like sweet potato casserole (with pecans mixed in the sweet potatoes and little marshmallows baked on top), stuffed bell peppers, stuffed mirlitons, maybe some green bean casserole with cream of onion soup as a base, and baked onions on top.

Mamas all over town would cook for two or three days to feed everybody on the appointed day. My mama, not quite so much. She did some things, but a lot of the time my grandmother and my aunt would be bringing up the rear so that we didn’t starve entirely.

One year, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, there was a tray of stuffed peppers in the oven, almost done. One of my great-aunts, who was somewhat of a busybody, decided to check on them, and somehow managed to overturn the entire tray. There were crumbs and shards of bell peppers all over the floor of the oven, and that part of the meal was more or less history. My mother was none too pleased, but what can you do?

We had a small house, with a small dining area, so having all those people over to eat for a holiday was a study in tolerance, patience, and choreography. Trying to pass plates, without spilling anything, to someone who was seated almost outdoors was a feat all by itself. Thank goodness I was an only child, because siblings would have caused us to look for rented space for occasions like that.

My mother’s anxiety was usually at a manageable level, my father was in relatively good humor, and I was giddy with excitement like 10-year olds are supposed to be. Having my grandmother there was beyond all my dreams on an ordinary day, but a holiday was over the moon for me. I don’t remember anybody fighting or bickering, and I usually got quite a lot of attention.

I think my mother tried to put a little guilt about how much I was eating out there on those special occasions, but that was pretty muted and I didn’t pay much attention to it. After we’d all eaten way too much, the women folk would start the cleaning up of dishes and tableware, and the men folk (who were in the numeric minority) would retire to the living room, a beer, and the football game.

I usually wanted to be in there, with the football game. It was actually safer, because I always got in the way in the kitchen doing the clean up things, and they would just tell me to go play with something. Sometimes, I think my grandmother or somebody would go with me, but usually I was left to my own devices unless I could sneak into the man cave. Oh, well – shape of things to come I suppose.

Anyway, holiday meals were rather special, and I usually felt pretty good at those times. It was rarely the food itself, although I still hanker for sweet potato casserole with the mini-marshmallows on top from time to time. But, early on, those were great days and I looked forward to them. Christmas was the best, since my birthday was four days after that, and then it was totally ALL about me. As it should be. I’m not kidding.

Easter was fine, but it was just kind of obligatory as far as meals went. We didn’t have lamb (thank goodness) but ham was usually the big thing. I was just in it for the candy. I love white chocolate (which is really not chocolate, but whatever) and I demanded a white chocolate rabbit – solid, not hollow, thank you very much. I finally abandoned the formal Easter basket when I was about 11, but not the solid rabbit.

One Easter, I had the flu. I couldn’t go out to Easter dinner, wherever it was that year, and was stuck at home. My father brought me a huge – and I mean HUGE – solid chocolate basket from a local and favorite candy maker, that was filled with miniatures of their flagship candy. It had a stuffed rabbit on top, and it was quite a show piece. It was probably the most favorite thing my father ever did. My mother was furious, since…I was too “chubby” to be eating all of that fattening chocolate. He ignored her, and so did I. It took me days to polish that off, and I was a happy child while doing it.

So, I guess I am uncovering the roots of how big meals with people who love me constitute…happy. In a way, I guess I am continuously recreating that scenario. Perhaps that’s why having a neurotic person crash the entire vibe at lunch yesterday made me want to carve that woman’s heart out of her chest. While it was still beating. Interesting connection for me to note.

So, the whole notion of food being equivalent to warmth, and family, and safety, and everything is OK is a big deal. Maybe it’s a bigger deal than I thought. As I’ve said previously, I am more than capable of dining alone in a restaurant, or at home. It truly does not bother me to do that, and sometimes enhances the ritualization. But ideally, I get more satisfaction and happiness from dining out with a group, with people I feel are supportive of me, and who accept me. I suppose I thought all that was an only child thing, but maybe it’s a bit deeper than that.

Since I’ve lived on my own, my weight has moved up the scale, and down the scale, and then back up the scale. For a long time, I did not believe that I ate enough to facilitate my overweight status, but I was always told that I have a “slow metabolism”. Whatever. Less food, more exercise is really the only way to lose weight, and when that has worked out for me, I’ve been satisfied with the results.

The issue for me, though, is…when I have adhered to better habits, gotten more exercise, eaten more responsibly (or at least more healthy – that sounds better), I’ve not been able to maintain the change in habits. Something happens, something changes in my life, one day I wake up and just don’t want to do it any more, and then…back to the old habits. I remain convinced this is addiction. It feels like addiction. It smells like addiction. It barks like addiction. It’s annoyingly familiar, and it feels like defeat.

I don’t want to feel like defeat. Tired of that feeling of “you knew you couldn’t do this” or “why did you think it would work this time?”. I have read all the books, watched all the videos, talked to all the specialists/doctors/experts. I understand how weight gain works, how digestion and metabolism work. Yes, I understand that I have to be willing to make a change.

I am totally willing to make a change, but at some point, the willingness seems to remain but is weighed (pun fully intended) down by abject fatigue. Mental fatigue, and even phsyical fatigue. I don’t have the stamina, on any level, to keep up the routines. It feels like the ever present core nightmare is coming through – I’ve been faking things all this time, talking a good game, and now reality has caught up with me and this is what is really under here – a fraud. A fake. A loser (well, one of those can’t-lose losers, to be precise).

What is truly left is somebody who is tired and resentful that life has to be this effing hard.

I don’t really want to go through the rest of my life feeling resentful, particularly toward myself. It would not take me long to come to a place where I feel that I can’t be here, that I can’t be anywhere. Some of how and why I feel that I’m not supposed to be like this isn’t mine. The fixation on weight and size was literally taught to me, and societal dysfunction did the rest. Looking like Twiggy or Kate Moss is not normal, particularly for people with my genetic profile. It took me a long time to realize that, and to reject those images summarily.

But, the fact remains, that I’m not entirely happy with how I look and how other people judge me for how I look. Yes, yes I understand that I judge myself for it, long before anyone else has even seen me, but that self-judgement didn’t crop up just yesterday. I’m not stupid, nor blind, and I see how people react at times to what they see. And yes, yes I understand that I don’t need to worry about those people, but I’m tired of wrestling with it, tired of thinking about it, tired of being concerned with it at all.

One of these days…I’ll be comfortable in my own skin. One of these days I won’t have to worry about whether or not I’m can squeeze myself in between tightly packed tables in a restaurant without sitting in someone’s lap to get by. One of these days, I’m not going to have to worry about being so incredibly uncomfortable in a movie theater seat that I’d just rather not go at all. One of these days, I’m not going to be preoccupied with how I look walking down the street, and whether or not my over-sized t-shirt is covering my belly AND my butt. One of these days, I’m going to be able to walk into a department store and buy whatever appeals to me, from the regular sizes in the women’s department, and have it fit. One of these days.

Until then, I’m going to do what I do, and try not to be concerned with what other people think of me. I’ve been told before that what other people think of me is none of my business. So, maybe I should be more concerned with what I think of me. Right now, what I think of me is that I’m here, that I’ve got some things to do, and that some of me needs to be OK with the rest of me. I am SO not in the mood for a civil war going on inside my own body.

Whachoo lookin’ at?

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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