Once, after a night of drinking, my friend Brian and I went
out for pizza. We got our slices, greasy and perfect on top of a belly full of
whiskey. It might have been the alcohol, or it could have been the hour and
the florescent lights buzzing overhead as if we were in a surreal
nightmare-world where our brains were about to be eaten by zombies. Regardless, three
bites in, Brian put his slice down on the paper plate in order to watch me eat
"What?" I said.
I was eating the way I always eat
pizza–spinning it around and starting from the crust down. You see, the tip
of the pizza, that’s the best part. It’s the cheesiest, and it’s got all the
exciting and delicious grease sliding down, and it is the single best mouthful
of pizza you will ever taste, and shouldn’t that be the mouthful you eat last?
Of course it should be. So I always start at the crust, which I don’t like very
much, and I eat my way down.
I explained that to him, and he did not get it. "I
don’t get it," he said. "What’s not to get?" I said. As it turns
out, he didn’t understand why I would eat the crust if I don’t like the crust.
I didn’t want to say, "So I can get every last bit of value out of this,
the last piece of food on earth I may ever eat!" because that is
embarrassing. Also, stupid. Also, stupid because it’s true.
Right there, encapsulated in that single sentence: the two
things that have been my problem with food for the whole of my life.
That second part, where I must finish all the food because
who knows when I’ll get it again? It means that the break room at work was a
terrible and dangerous place for me. If someone left free cookies, I had to
eat those cookies. Because they are free! If I missed this chance for free
cookies, I would die unhappy and alone! Cookies don’t grow on trees! Oh my god cookies I will die without you nom
nom nom nom. And, scene.
If we were having a going-away party for someone, I would have
a lovely conversation with my coworkers, standing by the table laden with chips
and donuts and deviled eggs, and the entire time I was watching those plates
from the corner of my eye, hoping to God someone didn’t steal the last
chocolate sprinkled. It was like I was raised on the tundra, and food was
scarce, and I was known to have killed polar bears with my bare hands just to
keep my family alive. Except a lot less impressive than that. Maybe, a little
sad. Especially sad now that I can’t eat the chips, and the donuts and the
It is getting better–food is becoming less dangerously
fascinating. You’d think I would be even more irresistibly drawn to the elusive
and beautiful things I cannot have, such as cake and Hugh Laurie, but (in the
case of cake, anyway), I have found myself–perhaps in an amazing and
evolutionary attempt at emotional and psychological self-preservation–drifting away. I have not found myself
face-planting a pie and breathing deeply, or climbing inside a vat of French
toast batter and sobbing quietly to myself, or wearing a bag of cookies on my
head. Mostly, I get along fine without my friend chocolate chip cookies, which
is fine by me, because chocolate chip cookies never loved me back.
It has become a sort of puzzle, looking at a spread of food
at a party. Let’s see: what I should have, what I can have, what I can get away
with, and what I will not touch. The will not touch category is growing, as my
ass is shrinking, and I am pretty proud of myself.
The first part, though, where I save the best bit for last?
That’s been a hard-as-hell habit to break. My whole life, I’ve done the weirdo
pizza thing. I’ve eaten sandwiches around the perimeter, to save the
filling-rich part for last. I ate the
shortbread off the Swiss
Fudge cookies and made a little stack of the fudge to eat last. I’d
drink all the broth out of my soup, and
have a bowl full of delicious noodles to savor. You see what I’m
always seemed like the smartest thing to do–by getting through the
part and saving the tastiest for last, I was brilliantly postponing
gratification, which science tells us is the emotionally intelligent
do. High five for me!
The thing about having my belly surgically reduced, however,
is that there is no longer room for the things I don’t like, or even things I
don’t love. I have to be careful about eating right, getting an appropriate
amount of nutritious with a healthy helping of delicious before I am stuffed
full. It’s like, there is a window of opportunity here, every three to four
hours, and I have to make the most of it. Eating the crust? That is not making
the most of it.
I go right for the tip of the pizza, I tear off the crust
and take my first bite right out of the center of the sandwich. I have learned
to enjoy things, immediately and with great pleasure. And when you’ve had
something so immediately gratifying, there is no need to keep going. You toss
the crust, you ditch the shortbread, you enjoy the best parts of your meal and
don’t waste your time with, or your calories on, the rest of it. I wish I had
learned that years ago. I don’t miss the looks I used to get for my backwards