“We bake it ourselves’ the server gushed, ‘it’s just packed with wholesome goodness.”
The women I was with all cooed over it like he had set down a feast of epic proportions. “Gosh’, one of the ladies exclaimed, ‘it’s so filling I don’t know if I can finish mine.”
“And the water is triple ionated naturally harvested from raindrops and processed thru the skins of banana leaves pulled taut by unicorns, and encased in fine ethically designed crystal.”
Okay, that last part I made up. But it sounds just as nonsensical as whatever blah blah he was now practically orgasming to the table of women I was seated with at this networking event.
I had found this group hoping for some business mentorship. But instead the pre-meal talk had been gossip about who weighed the least. And now all of them were gazing at the server adoringly, and nodding along with plastic smiles. It was as though he had served up world peace on a platter and set it down.
I vaguely remember standing up, making some excuse, and walking out. I had realized that I wasn’t going to learn anything from this group. At least not about business matters.
And I would love to tell you that I went to a diner, ordered a cheeseburger, fries, a chocolate shake, and then ate every bite while coming up with a boss babe business plan on a napkin. But sadly, that’s not how this story goes.
Instead, I went and worked out and tried to ignore the growling of my stomach, and the dizziness that hit every time I stood up too fast. I was determined to prove I had whatever it took to make it in this world - whatever that might mean. And what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?
I was twenty years old. Taking classes. Dancing. Dabbling in business meetings with a vague idea that I could become some type of entrepreneur. The brunch I had walked out on was a women’s networking event in Los Angeles. Many of the women though, had “home businesses” - which translates to “we have wealthy husbands and amuse ourselves with jewelry parties to pass the time, drink low calorie wine (yes it’s a thing), and analyze each other’s bodies”.
Despite the fact that I learned no business tips that day, these women had, however, made a lasting impression on my already fucked up view of what mattered. Just before ordering, they had fussed over how petite and pretty I was. They praised how little I was willing to eat. Thin was definitely in, and they made me feel like I had somehow succeeded at something.
Or at least I almost did. I was originally going to order the full portion of toast (two slices), until one of the women admonished me with the caustic question “are you sure you can eat all that?”
Slightly more grownup me looks back and realizes that I don’t blame them. They were simply commending me for what all of us had been taught to value. Social media shows us daily that all we need to be happy is to lose ten pounds and wear the right clothes.
Oh yes, and use the correct face cream to prevent wrinkles or smile lines or really any type of evidence on our faces that we have had an emotion.
Also don’t forget to make our eyebrows look a certain way, paint contours to accentuate our best features with makeup, and cut the tags off our clothes so that no one sees our true size.
Because heaven forbid anyone knows the size listed on the tag. I remember growing up thinking there was a tag police who might notice when I wore a small versus an extra small.
Of course none of us in modern times actually knows what size we are anymore anyway. The same size is not the same from store to store, or even in the same article of clothing among a single brand.
But I digress.
Theoretically according to ads, if as consumers we purchase all the right goods, we have a chance at proving that we are the PERFECT specimen of human.
And then we can be perfectly happy in our perfect homes, wearing our perfect clothes, which fit our perfect bodies, for which we buy the perfect foods to be perfectly content…well, perfectly content admiring the food, not eating it, of course.
The marketing gods lied to us though. I look back at my twenty year old self and understand now that I didn’t feel better even when I perfectly followed their prescription for a happy life.
I didn’t feel better when I was five pounds thinner. Nor ten pounds. Nor bordering the danger zone of underweight.
I didn’t feel better when I bought the pretty latest fashions each season, or had the perfect looking boyfriend (who was great for photos and not much else), or the well paying, “looks elite on paper”, (but obnoxiously tedious) job in which I posed for the website pictures because I “looked the part”.
I didn’t feel better in the exercise gym class that I despised, led by the trainer who constantly commented snarkily on my body no matter how small I got, even as he used me for demonstrations of the perfect way to do the routines.
I didn’t feel better when I compared with my friends to see which one of us ate the least calories, drank the most disgusting “no food used in the making of” diet drink, or left the most food waste on our plates after each meal.
In hindsight, I realize now that for a girl who loves being alive as much as I do, I felt perfectly awful much of the time. It’s a weird realization to understand NOW that I hated life then.
No strike that.
The truth is I think I hated …me.
Because no matter how hard I tried, I never was quite as perfect as society wanted me to be.
In a world that valued me MORE the LESS I showed up, I was simply too much. So I kept hoping I would get smaller. And I did my damndest to try and exist off of as little as possible so that I would be seen as worth so much more then I appeared to be.
I remember this thought hit me one day:
“If I got any smaller, wouldn’t I just disappear?”
I shook my head and laughed my silliness. After all, there seemed to be still so much of me. Like that would ever happen. (Cue my inner mean girl rolling my virtual eyes.)
It’s interesting to note that I am not a large person to begin with. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult American woman is 5’4”, weighs 170 lbs, and has a waist circumference of 38.7 inches. (*1)
My currently (NOT) twenty years old self is a quarter inch shy of the average, weighs about 125lbs, and has a waist circumference of about 28 inches. The 20 year old iteration of me was even tinier. And yet she thought that she wasn’t even deserving of dry stale looking desiccated bread.
Thank goodness she survived to discover that there was more to life, than that.
This memory of that brunch - if we can even call it that - popped into my head the other night. I was walking home, and ran into friends sitting outside a restaurant. One of whom is the owner of that particular establishment, as well as several other incredible restaurants in the town in which I’m currently residing.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, when I paused on my walk to chat. “Have you tried our butter? It’s local, from a wonderful dairy farm, and then we age it ourselves and serve it on bread from the bakery across the street.”
He was so excited to share this tidbit with me. The words coming from his lips sounded like he was detailing a priceless treasure. And in truth he was. It was food, real food, from a traceable source, meant to be eaten, savored, shared, and enjoyed.
But for a moment, I blanched. I WAS hungry from my walk. But freshly baked bread and REAL butter??? I had a flashback to those women drooling over the cardboard cutout excuse for food, after analyzing whether they had earned the right to inhale it.
And suddenly my inner 20 year old spoke up to ask me…Had I walked enough today? Did I earn these potential calories? The previous version of me was having an internal panic attack, and I could feel the denial of “no that’s ok, I’m not hungry” rising to my lips, when…
“That sounds wonderful. Thank you.”
I heard myself say. And then, with a smile, I sat down.
As he went inside to get the food, I realized I don’t need to disappear from the world in order to find my place in it. And I certainly don’t need to “deserve” to eat. It was time that my 20 year old inner girl-child, got to taste some real toast. So I fed her.
Life is meant to be delighted in. And food is a pleasure for the soul, as well as fuel for the body. That night, I adored every single bite of decadently buttered toast, eaten in the company of my friends.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.