Ugh. So un-seductive.
Isn’t seduction supposed to be sitting in an opium den, slowly sipping smoke from a pipe, wearing a see-through brocade dress, making eyes at some beautiful stranger I will never see again after tonight?
“I know. It sucks. But that is just simply not the case,” says the Universe.
I’m sitting on an Amtrak train from Harrisburg to New York after a weekend of helping my mother-in-law move. My husband is sitting across from me. I’m tired. I miss New York. There is a peppermint patty in my purse, and truthfully, I want to inject the sugar into my veins with an IV.
As those of you who read my blog know, I am a recovering compulsive eater. I use food like a drug. I have come a really long way over the years, and have a generally awesome relationship to my body and the way I eat. Sometimes, however, it comes back.
Here on the train, I have a hung over/sick feeling in my stomach from the cheeseburger I ate for lunch. It came with a Diet Coke, chips, and so much mayonnaise you would think the thing was made by a diabetes drug company. I feel bloated, and the last thing my body wants is more sugar and chemicals. But the part of me that wants to numb out just wants to mainline that thing.
As I was purchasing it, these were some of the motivations that crossed my psyche:
“I can’t make it 3 ½ hours without sugar.”
“It’s a peppermint patty, not a Snickers. It’s not that bad.”
“I can split it with my husband to make myself feel better about it.”
“It shows that I am independent, that I can make my own decisions” (see the next two paragraphs).
When we were leaving, my husband chimed in that he thought we maybe shouldn’t buy train station snacks because we ate a lot of processed food over the weekend (translation: please can we go to the farmers market when we get home and get some fresh veggies so we are not supporting/taking part in the downward spiral of junk food that is killing America?). My brain, however, turned him into my worst patriarchal nightmare: “What, are you some kind of freak? You can’t live three hours without a sugar fix? You’re lame. Fat. Unattractive. Weak. Stupid. Hopeless.”
In buying the peppermint patty, I got to say fuck you to that patriarchal nightmare: “You think I’m fat now? Just you wait. I’ll show you how fat I can be. How much misery I can take. I’m just getting started. If you can’t take me like this then you can’t take me period. Leave then. Let me be alone so I can eat my way into a numb, miserable, isolated coma. At least it would feel different than this”.
(Please note that none of this is happening on a conscious level .It is only in retrospect that I am able to identify these feelings clearly.)
Then I bring this patty, which now feels like a nuclear reactor in my purse, onto the train. We are riding Amtrak, so of course we are delayed. Part of me wants to eat through my purse to the patty. But I hold off. I am still feeling totally nauseous and I know that eating more sugar will only make it worse. And that is just not what normal people do goddammit, so I’m not going to do it!
Finally, we board the train. I sit in my own seat and listen to the song “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings, breathing deeply and taking in the sunshine. “You are the love of my life” plays through the interlude. I think to myself, “if God were singing this to me, would I eat that patty right now? It’s not that eating the patty is wrong or bad. It’s just that I know I don’t actually want it.” When I slip on the suit of being the love of God’s life, I don’t see myself choking down something that feels like poison. Okay. Good to know. And yet, every 45 seconds, my mind drifts to the ever-present ability to change what I am feeling in the moment with a substance.
You may be reading this thinking, “Jesus! Throw the damn patty out the window if you don’t want it! Or just don’t eat it!” But see, that would be like trying to apply the rules of checkers to a game of chess. By eating the patty, I get to physically act out several beliefs:
1. I am shit. Eating this patty reinforces that, and then when I have the sick feeling in my stomach that comes from eating it, I can blame my problems on my belly, not reality.
2. If I can blame it on my stomach that means it’s my fault.
3. If it’s my fault, I am the one in control. If 1+1=2, and junk food + fat belly = being repulsive and repugnant, I can subtract one from the equation by drinking green juice for the rest of the day. Yes, that is what I need, a good baptismal cleansing of kale. Redemption, atonement, something to make me shiny and new.
After all, when you are shiny and new, things like delayed trains don’t get to you! Shiny and new means thin, beautiful and in control. Thin, beautiful people don’t have to worry about their businesses being successful. It all happens by magic. They certainly don’t have to worry that their nieces are getting older every day which means that once they finally have kids there will be an enormous age gap that prevents cousinly bonding. They don’t have to worry about their parents being sad. BEAUTY FIXES ALL. IF IT LOOKS RIGHT, IT WILL BE ALL RIGHT. RIGHT???????!!!!!!!!!!!!
As a last ditch effort, I got out my computer to write to you. Writing this, I can feel that the jig is up. The cat is out of the bag. I know now that a peppermint patty won’t fix a single goddamn thing. What I want and need right now is to feel the heartbreaking fragility of life. To be nourished by how much my nieces love and admire me, and cope with the fact that someday they will be too old to fall asleep on my lap watching Mary Poppins. To know that someday, members of my family will die. And I will not only be able to handle that pain, but also the pain of seeing my family grieve, and that we will come out of it loving each other even more. I need to acknowledge that right now my husband’s own crib quilt from when he was a baby is in my suitcase. This makes calling the gynecologist to have my ovarian cyst checked out before I get pregnant all the more real and pressing. And I need to be reminded that when it all happens, somehow, it will be ok.
What I have learned is that those opium den moments come and go, but they don’t fill me up for long. Sacred seduction is about long lasting attraction and satisfaction. What is most attractive at the end of the day? The truth. It’s not about having white teeth and perfectly painted toenails. What is attractive is showing self-respect by giving in to the glaring, white-hot, electric, sometimes harsh-as-fuck truth, instead of just eating the crust off the pie of my feelings, and covering the gooey center with a tea towel to pretend it’s not there. We all know that shit seeps through eventually.
After writing this, the feeling of my stomach wanting to be over filled, pulling like quicksand on anything and everything, has reversed. I now feel extremely full, and can feel my stomach pushing back. I can physically feel that I don’t need or want anything else in my body in this moment. That is not a feeling I had 15 minutes ago.
Sobriety, it appears, is extremely seductive after all.
Okay Universe, one for you.