This originally appeared on The Manifest-Station. Republished here with permission.
Eating is not something to be ashamed of.
As I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s yesterday, minding my own sweet business, I opened a package of dried seaweed (the new wasabi kind which is very, very spicy). An older (very much older, like born in the 1800s older) man in line in front of me starts staring at my breasts, then proceeds to look me up and down. With what sounded like a Russian accent comes, “You sure like to eat!!”
What the what?
“I am not sure how to take that,” my reply.
(Why I dignified him with even so much as a word is beyond me.)
Russian accent, “You’ll put on weight if you keep eating.”
Then he walks away. Off to offer his sage wisdom to another unsuspecting seaweed eating stranger, I suppose.
I felt the old need to yell, “But it’s just seaweed! But I am a yoga teacher! But! But! But! Are you calling me fat?”
Then I got angry at myself. Jennifer, you know better! I think I said this out loud but the people that work at Trader Joe’s are totally cool (I hear it’s not a bad place to work, you get good benefits) and my cashier didn’t even acknowledge it, but rather said, “You look great.”
Again, besides the point. Nothing needs defending here.
This creepy old fart, all of a sudden, has taken my power away, and, like magic, everyone, on cue seemingly, needs to make excuses and defend and justify the very, very evil: FOOD. As well as commenting on my figure and it’s curves or lack thereof.
(And side note: Food is NOT evil. I have had some very literal-minded folks read this and write me how food is not evil. Yea. I got that. It’s so exhausting how much we can be at war with it though, isn’t it? The other day in the car, my friend goes, “It’s not the issue you know, Jen. It’s how you respond to the issue that’s the issue.” So, it’s kind of like that with the food/evil thing. It’s not the food, it’s our fucked up beliefs and past and childhoods and things people said and heartbreaks and losses and weird behaviors and stories about our bodies and self-worth but whatever. Another blog post. Another day. Another pack of seaweed.)
But, it’s a fitting statement on our weight/food obsessed culture, isn’t it? That even from an old nosy man, I am getting flack for being too fat or too skinny or eating too much or not enough.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
I had a fear that people would stop asking me “Are you ill?” It made me feel like I stood out. Like I was special. When someone told me I looked “healthy,” I panicked. (I know that this is hard to believe for the people who know me now. I am so at ease with my self
Okay, some days.)
Had the COF (Creepy Old Fart) said this to me 10 years ago, I would have gotten back into my car and had a full blown panic attack. I would have decided that he was right and I eat too much so I would stop eating and lose weight and why was I such a loser and why and why and Oh My God and I can’t breathe and I am a pig and Oh My God and I will just exercise for four hours tomorrow and I do like to eat, he’s right, I am bad….
(The pleasant imitation of said panic attack.)
So many things ran through my blood besides ice after this incident with Mr. Nosy.
Incidentally, he was buying three frozen dinners and a case of water. That can be analyzed later. (Of course I peeked. You would have too.)
The way he said ” You like to eat!” as an accusation, like I should be burned alive at the stake. I realize a lot of women live like this (I’m sure men as well). I used to. Still do at times. When I am depressed or under tremendous stress. This notion that eating is something to be ashamed of or forgiven. I cannot believe the thought crossed my mind to defend myself with it’s just seaweed.
Forgive me Sir, It is just seaweed with a little wasabi. It’s not much? I am so sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry.
And so what if someone gains weight? So what? Then what? You are no longer you? You will no longer have your job or your kids or your thoughts or memories? No one will love you?
I suppose that’s it. Equating our beloved self-worth with our oh-so-very temporary bodies.
I wish I had dug into my cart for my Salt & Vinegar Chips, which I would have done had I been able to reach them.
And just a side note, which I would like to make very public: Yes, I like to eat! I love to eat!
Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature yoga/writing retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, London, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.