Plaisir


Food For Thought
February 18, 2009, 4:04 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Food and Beverages, Indulgence

I was lying in bed earlier this week reading, as I usually do before I lay my head to rest, when I realized something.  I took my hand out of the popcorn that I had been scarfing down while perusing David Sedaris’ new book and thought to earlier times this week when I had readied myself for bed.  Today it was popcorn I had been munching on, but the night before it was cheese.  A block of cheese, cheddar actually, sharp and creamy.  The night before that it was peanut butter and jelly.  I even recall laying down with a small tin of lasagna, all of which I had devoured before I got through one chapter.

Eating is fun for most, and with me it’s no different.  It’s a hobby almost.  I enjoy trying new things.  New tastes,
new flavors, new textures.  However lame this may sound, it’s kind of thrilling.  Show me a menu with dishes
I can’t pronounce, and I’ll show you one massive credit card charge.

I had always been this way, ever since I can remember.  But there was a point where it was difficult to control, almost impossible.  Whenever I would play video games, I would eat.  Before or after practicing clarinet, eat. T.V.?  You bet there were chips in my lap.  Movie?  Not without the Jiffy Pop.  Outings, sporting events, family gatherings…you could always find me, as long as you followed the smell of freshly baked cookies.

It had gotten so bad that my parents actually restricted what I was allowed to eat and when.  This of course, never stopped me, as I was a crafty child, but not a very subtle one, unfortunately.  Yes, I could certainly hunt and retrieve my prey and return to my lair in the basement, but the evidence I left behind was mounting.  It’s hard to lie
when an entire unopened box of Fruit Roll Ups are suddenly gone and your mom finds six wrappers in your favorite pair of blue jeans on laundry day.  Everyone knows how they got there.

One night, after these food restrictions had been made, my mom had, per usual, passed out during a marathon of Crocodile Hunter on Animal Planet.  I could always count on Sundays for pillaging.  My mother would be conked out by seven and my father upstairs on the computer or reading shortly after.  It was always then that I made my move.  I specifically remember seeing a new pack of  Ho-Ho’s in the cabinet when my mom asked me to grab the chili pepper while making dinner.  I had to be smart about this though: since the package was unopened, I had to immediately make my lunch after and slip on in so that everyone in the house would assume that they were used for lunches, which was indeed their purpose.

I crept into the kitchen, sensing only argument from my Collie-Lab mix, Sheba.  Not so much argument as genuine wonder.  And with a  beautifully stupid look in her eye, she followed me with her head cocked to the other half of the kitchen, hoping that if she was my partner in crime, she would somehow get a cut of the spoils.  But because she was a dog, she had no clue how I operated.  With me, it’s every man, woman, and canine for themselves.

I silently climbed the first step of the stairs to see if I could clicking from the computer room.  After a few seconds, I had decided that my father was probably in his room with the fan on, and couldn’t hear the debauchery taking place below him.  The worst thing about our snack cabinet was that it squeaked.  Not creaked or even slammed, but squeaked.  And this was no gentle rubber ducky squeak.  It was the squeak from Hell; The noise of a thousand chipmunks begin hung by their necks.  Open the cabinet in the middle of the night, and there was on off chance
that you’d wake the neighbors.  This was always my biggest problem.  When my family was preoccupied with other things, there would be bustling about the house, and the noise would be swallowed by the drone of casual everyday life.  But on a Sunday, it was the emphasis.  A loud, crackling fanfare, alerting the house that there was an intruder preparing to scarf down some snack cakes.

I had one of two options: open the door as fast as I could, or open the door as slow as I could.  Both had their own unique appeal,  but in the end, the same noise would be made.  If it was a fast swing, it was usually amplified, and dogs around the neighborhood would burst into song.  If it was slow, the noise would be drawn out, giving too much time for other ears in the house to figure out what the hell was making the racket.  I opted for slow because it seemed more stealthy and spy-esque.

I peeled back the wood, praying to God that someone had the decency to treat the hinges with WD-40 earlier in the afternoon.   The noise was both strained and somewhat gentle, like a soft fart on a leather couch cushion.  It was just enough to make me pause before I searched the cabinet.  It was also just enough for my father to leave the computer room and come storming down the stairs.

Of course, the spanking I received for being a deviant wasn’t enough humiliation for me.  Sheba, even though she had essentially been an accessory to the crime, got to watch jauntily, as if it were a new game she had never played.  I could tell what her inner monologue was saying though: “See, if you would have promised me a snack cake, we could have gone through this together.”  I suppose I’m just a lone wolf when it comes to boxed desserts.

By my senior year in high school, I had lost a considerable amount of weight.  I was much taller, yes, but the most noticeable thing to me was my clavicles.  They were strong, protruding, almost desperate to escape my body, believing there was something better for them out there in the real world, outside all of the tissue and blood.  They were proud, poised, and slightly gallant.  Even with the body image issues I was trying so hard to work on, I could take one look at my clavicles and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

After my break up with Dave, I began a downward slump in food consumption.  That is, when you live in an attic in Riverwest, it’s safe to say you probably can’t afford Ahi tuna every night.  My grocery cart consisted purely of bread, cans of tuna, and Ramen noodles.  I would usually only eat once a day, after work, mostly to conserve the food, and spend the rest of my night reading, wishing that I had a tin of lasagna to keep me company.

Because I literally couldn’t afford food, my weight dropped from a stable one-thirty-five to a Mary-Kate one-twenty.  My ribs resembles marimba blocks and my pants would sigh and sag if I walked anywhere.  I felt healthy, of course, but I could tell that I wasn’t.  There was, fortunately, a cure, but I wouldn’t discover it until I moved into 1811.

For whatever reason, I was completely against marijuana in high school.  I had only been offered once, my freshman year, and I immediately turned it down.  I was positive that even one puff would make me sink into a depressive haze.  I would become lazy overnight, eating mayo on my Doritos and growing dreads.  To me, weed turned decent, civilized people into zombies that laughed at window shutters and slept until four in the afternoon.

When I moved into 1811, I felt no different.  When my current roommate Brittney asked me if I smoked weed, I kindly told her no, and that was the end of it.  But all it took was one bad day for me to change my mind.  I came home from work, angry and agitated, most likely from something Marie or Christine said.  Brittney, Jessie, Alex, and Ju Muthafuckin’ Bizzle were all smoking out of a bong in the living room when I came home.  When I told Brittney about my day, a strange grin covered her face: “Well, you could just smoke, it will definitely make you feel better.”

For whatever reason, I didn’t have to think twice.  Once all of the finer points of using a bong were explained to me, I lit it and took a rip.  It left a heavy, sinking feeling in my lungs and tasted like burnt graham crackers.  I didn’t feel very different, even as I began to discuss the way I liked to get fucked to Alex and as I devoured hot wing after hot wing.  Later in the evening, I raided my panty for anything I could possibly find, just wanting to taste something new and different in my mouth.  I ate and ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.  I went to bed that night and got the best sleep of my entire life.

Weed made a considerable dent in my bank account during the months to come.  I never bought it; I had no need to, since Jessie and Brittney were always well-stocked.  What actually made the dent was the munchies I got after smoking.  I checked my Pizza Shuttle account at the end February and learned that, even though I had no job and couldn’t afford rent, I had somehow managed to spend almost one hundred and fifty dollars in pizza, calzones, salads, and those little cheese curd things they serve with honey.  And that was just Pizza Shuttle.  There was still McDonalds, Chopstix, Jimmy John’s, Domino’s, and Zayna’s to consider.  Marijuana hadn’t turned me into a zombie, but it sure came close to turning me into a fat ass.

When I got my job at ASQ, I was making double then what I was at the Rep, so not only was take-out much more accessible, I felt less guilty ordering it.  By September, I stopped grocery shopping all together, living mostly off of the vending machine at work, the food court in the mall, and Pizza Shuttle for dinner.  Finally I could afford food, but I was still eating like it was going out of style, as if my five dollar and thirty two cent sub was the last five dollar and thirty two cent sub in the world, or at least the tri-city area.

Months later, here I am, eating just to fill time.  People tell me not to worry: “Have you seen yourself lately?  If anything, you need to eat a sandwich!”  I’m constantly asked by friends if I’ve begun any “unhealthy lifestyle choices.”  I shrug to this, since I feel like I’m starting a new one everyday, but if they mean laxatives or running eight miles a day, I have no interest in doing either.  Genetically, my family is prone to weight issues, and while all of the children in my family are stick thin, I can’t imagine this is going to last forever.

I decided to sit down and figure out why I associate sleep with eating, or why I associate reading with eating, or whatever it is.  What I found was strange and actually kind of unnerving.  Every night so far this week, I have eaten nothing before I went to sleep.  In fact, I’ve barely eaten anything at all.  It might have something to do with stress, but I, and doctors around the world, were probably under the impression that when you were stressed, you tended to eat more.  I, however, found out that I ate when I was content, happy, and reassured about things.  Once again, I get to be the exception to the rule.  Too bad I’m getting tired of it.

I think back to a simpler time when food was mostly used for enjoyment.  I ate Ring Pops because they were fun.  Mashed potatoes satisfied me.  And even Ramen noodles seemed like an adventure.  Now, food has become something I have to worry about.  I have to worry about having it, preserving it, not eating too much of it, not eating enough of it, eating the right kinds, realizing the wrong kinds…with all of this stress, I feel like I want to throw up my hands and start munching on grass.

I still love food.  Food is, and will probably always be, my one and only true love.  As they say, “There is no love that is more pure than the love of food.”  But food is a fickle lover.  The secret?  Coddle it before you go to bed, and chances are you’ll be able to make it through the night.

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The Numbers Game
February 8, 2009, 8:59 PM
Filed under: Age and Maturity, Indulgence, Love and Relationships

“Age is just a number.”

This is a phrase I’m told frequently, usually by my subconscious or through newspaper clippings of the Anna Nicole ordeal.  I believe it, but that’s not saying much, since I tend to believe anything if it’s repeated enough.  When you think about it, age is almost too definitive.  People say to me, and to others, “Oh, can’t you just act your age?”  That’s when I wonder when the age etiquette handbook was released, and if I can still buy it in paperback.

I was having a cigarette upstairs with my new roomies, when one of them put her face into her hands.  When she emerged, the expression she had on was a mix of uncertainty and mirth.  She said: “Oh, man!  I can’t believe I’m going on a date with an eighteen year old!”  I’ll have you know this girl is twenty, hardly the correct age to yet be considered a cradle-robber or a cougar.  She begged others and herself to confirm that this date was a good idea.  Of course, trying to be as biased as possible, I told her that I had dated men with relatively large age gaps before, and we never really had problems, except for the fact that we were at completely different stages in our lives.  But eighteen and twenty was, at least in my eyes, the same word with a different spelling.

My other roommate said it best: “It’s not the number, but the maturity level.”  I can’t even begin to explain to you how true that statement was, but I suppose I’ll try.

In my past, I had the tendency to date older men.  We’re not talking hospice old, or even mid-life crisis old, but generally the man of interest was anywhere between four and ten years older than me.  I justified my apparently inexcusable choice by saying that I needed someone with a higher maturity level then the guys I dated who were my own age.  But in order for that to even be viable, I had to date someone who indeed was my age, otherwise the jig was up, and I would go from looking like a noble, headstrong young lad to a lonely teenager searching for a sugar daddy.

When I went on my first date with Thomas, I knew it was doomed from the start, because I didn’t treat the situation correctly.  I saw of him more as a lab rat than a boyfriend.  He was my test subject to prove to myself and, more importantly, others, that I was right.  I was too sophisticated, too witty, and too worldly to date someone my age.  My cockiness clouded my ability to even have a good time with him, but his cockiness made it impossible to want to try.

We went out for coffee at 10 PM, which used to be a normal coffee hour for me.  The conversation was carried, not surprisingly, by me.  Because I’m a big fan of flowing conversation, I won’t shut up if the guy across from me has nothing to add.  I’ll talk about seedless grapes, the hair on my knuckles, or even radiology, so long as there isn’t the awkward first date silence I dread so much.  But I honestly wonder sometimes which is more awkward: the silence, or the silly queen who goes into detail about his childhood love affair with orca whales.

During the conversation, Thomas was staring into his soup, which meant there was no eye contact.  ‘There’s one strike’ I thought.  If there had been something in the soup, a finger, a fly, a bone, I could have understood, and maybe even forgiven him.  But with this soup came no surprises.  It was chicken noodle, just as he had ordered.  What did he expect?  The soup to begin a whirlpool and suck him out of this horrible, miserable date he was on?  Not on my watch.

I spun the conversation toward music performance, a topic I can never fully cover, because no one ever wants to hear what I have to say.  I figured Thomas would interrupt me whenever he got too bored, as most men do, so I began my speech.  As soon as I mentioned I played the flute, he did indeed interrupt, but not with the comment I was expecting.

“Well, of course you play the flute.  You’re gay.”

I tried to hide my incredulity, but being a homosexual and an actor, that was no simple task.  I waited for a “Just kidding!” or “I was being sarcastic!”  All I got was him somberly spooning at his broth, as if it was his last meal before his happiness was finally sucked out by my constant jabbering.  The gall!  The nerve!  I wasn’t actually mad, in fact, I was secretly quite pleased.  This meant that I could go home and prove to all who doubted me that I was meant for something better than this.

“So, how did it go??”

“How do you think?  He was nineteen!”

They would all cringe, console me, and remind me not to waste my time unless the man I was with was finishing his doctorate.

I learned not too long after that date that it didn’t matter what degree a man, he could still be an immature dickweed.  About a month later, I had met the man that I, at the time, figured to be absolutely perfect for me.  His attractiveness was staggering, as was his passion in the bedroom.  His wit was sharper than mine, which took some getting used to, but I ended up actually enjoying laughing at someone elses’ jokes for a change.  He love classical music, poetry, and art.  He was bright, charismatic, opinionated, and strong-willed.  He was also twenty four with the demeanor of a sixteen year old.

Sal and I had our first date at Cafe Hollander.  I looked like a complete fool, which usually happens when I try to hard to impress someone.  It’s one of the most obvious statements you can possibly make that says, “I really like you, and I’m probably not worthy.”  It was exactly how I felt, but not how I wanted to look.  I ended up calling Erin before the date and I couldn’t shut up about how I knew that he was more attractive than I was, and that this was going to be a total disaster.  She promised me it wouldn’t be, but she said if it was, that I should try and steal his leftovers when he goes to the bathroom.

I was unbelievably nervous when he sat down, mostly because the anticipation of his arrival had made me even more skeptical about the date.  I could feel my armpits getting wetter and wetter every time I spoke.  I double-checked my sentences before I let them out, and I tried way so hard to plaster a smile to my face that my chin was actually trembling at one point.  I was no longer appeared to be a sophisticated young lad.  I appeared to be a heroin addict suffering severe withdrawal.

I nearly fell off my chair when he asked if I wanted to go back to his place for a drink.  A sensible first date answer, no matter how well it went, may have been a simple “Thank you, but no, my cat needs feeding.”  But this was no sensible first date, and I was no sensible person.  I graciously, almost eagerly accepted his offer, and we drove to his condo when we had finished eating.

His condo was exactly how I imagined it.  Nearly pristine, but not like a museum.  The architecture and furniture gave the impression that it had been lived in, but the cleanliness gave off a pompous air that smacked me across the face as I entered.  There was a breakfast bar, stainless steel everything, a fancy T.V., and of course, a balcony, for the finishing touch.  “Cigarette?” he asked, pointing to the balcony.  I nodded, the lump in my throat making it nearly impossible to talk.

I ended up spending the night that night.  Judge me all you want, but after three glasses of gin and tonics, an entire CD of Prokofiev, and a beautiful man constantly reminding you that you, as well, are beautiful, I’d like to see you try and take a bus home.  We saw each other the next day as well.  And the next.  And the next.  He quickly became a staple in my life, and for two weeks, we would call each other, not to see what day we would hang out again, but what hour.  We also attempted to do daily runs, something I killed immediately after we first tried it.  He was so regal and impressive on a treadmill.  I, however, looked like a greasy pig that needed a severe hosing down.

After the second week, Sal didn’t call.  For an entire week.  Day after day, I would call, my confusion slowly moving to suspicion, to anger, to a state of sheer panic.  It was unfair of him to say, when he finally did pick up, that I was being crazy and neurotic, since I wouldn’t have acted that way if he had just picked up the phone.  It’s the romantic equivalent of water-boarding.  It seems cute and harmless at first, and then…

When he finally did pick up the phone, I tried immensely hard not to scream at him for ignoring almost ten calls in six days.  Even before he began the sentence, I could tell by the tone of his voice, that it wasn’t going to end well.  Something was different about the way he spoke to me.  His manner was curt, almost business-like, and highly inappropriate for a break up conversation.  “Listen…this…just isn’t working out.”

I knew I should have just went home to feed my cat.  “Wait, what?  What…what did I do?”

He paused.  “Well, you didn’t really do anything.  It’s just…you’re still very young.  You have a lot to learn.  I just don’t feel like we fit, you know?”  What he meant, in uncertain words, was that I was immature.  I can’t always pride myself on my looks, or on my intelligence, and sometimes even on my own natural talents.  But the one thing I can pride myself on is my maturity level.  This set me into what Webster’s Dictionary defines as a “gay tizzy.”  I shouted.  I cried.  I begged.  I stomped all over what was left of my integrity, just to convince him to stay with me.  It’s not that I didn’t think I could live without him or anything crazy like that.  It was mostly because I wasn’t about to let a guy break up with me because I still had “growing up to do.”

In the end, all of my efforts were futile, and to a point, they made matters worse.  After the tears and the yelling, I was near positive that he thought I was even more immature than before.  At that point, I was too livid to give a damn.  We left it on what he would consider decent terms, and what I would consider “I need a shot” terms.  I drank myself into oblivion that evening, hoping that even just the stench of liquor on my breath would make me feel fulfilled.  Of course, all it did was make me puke.

I respected Sal in the days to come for handling the situation so well.  I was over it quicker than I thought I would be, but the bad news was that I would still have to see him, as some of my things were being held hostage at his condo.  I sent him an email while I was at work one day asking him nicely to return my favorite pink tie at once.  He obeyed, and said he would drop it off after work.

I walked up to his car and opened the door.  There he was, all grins as usual, and I could feel the lump in my throat rising, choking me.  “Hey,” I said.  He continued to smile.  Then, without warning, he started driving.  I shot him a strange look as he said to me:  “So, are you hungry?”

‘Do I even have a choice now?’ I thought.  Since I was kidnapped, things were, as usual, completely on his terms, and I continued to ride as a passenger.  We went to Beans and Barley where the conversation flowed seamlessly, as it usually did with us, and as the check came, he paid for it.  I objected, but only slightly, since he was, you could argue, the reason I had lost my entire helping of Qdoba nachos during the vodka binge.  ‘Eh, you owe me.’

Turns out, he never even brought the tie.  Which meant that we would have to return to the condo, the once active set of our former relationship, to retrieve it.  Saying that I was upset is an understatement; it was the last place I wanted to be.  Yet the butterflies that I had felt that night at Cafe Hollander were fluttering again.  I had seriously considered downing some antifreeze and killing all of the fluttery fuckers, but I couldn’t see a bottle anywhere.  It was probably in the trunk.

After we got the tie, he dropped me off and said he wanted to hang out Friday.  For some stupid reason, I nodded and smiled.  I justified it to myself by saying that I did have a fun time, and now we could just become really good friends.  I should have known better.  Two people who make the bed springs squeal that much can never become just good friends.

We ended up going for a “run” on Friday, so when I got over there, I was already dressed the part.  He however, was sprawled on the couch watching reruns of Golden Girls and looking sorry for himself.  I didn’t listen to Four Minutes the entire way over there just to join a pity party, but I asked anyway: “You okay?”

“Eh, I just…I don’t know, I don’t feel well.”  This wasn’t a statement.  It was a whine.  It was cute while we were dating.  Now, it seemed infantile and off-putting.

“Well, we don’t necessarily have to run.”  The honest truth was that I didn’t enjoy exercising with Sal.  I don’t enjoy exercise at all really.  For me, it has to be cleverly disguised, like putting a pill in a hot dog for the family dog.

“We will.  But can we just finish up watching this?  It just started.”

“Sure.”

I sat on the opposite side of the couch purposely, which annoyed both him and myself.  ‘Look at yourself, playing games.  He doesn’t want you anymore!’  I hate my conscience sometimes.

He gave me a quick look, “You know…you can sit next to me.  I don’t bite.”

‘Yeah, maybe not necks, but souls are fair game, right?’  I moved anyway, to avoid awkwardness.  I began to feel awkward though, and I turned to him to see a pained expression on his face.  Again, I took the bait: “What’s up?”

“I want to ask you something, but I don’t know if I should.”

Blank stare.

“It might be inappropriate.”

Blank stare.

“Never mind…never mind…”

‘Oh, GOD, just spit it out already!’  I wanted to shake him.  All of the mixed messages were driving me closer and closer to sawing my leg off with a steak knife.  But I blinked a few more times, and eventually he asked.

“Would you…mind giving me a head massage?”

‘Of course I would, you twit.  I used to hold that head when you…’  But he had some sort of strange effect on me.  It was his eyes, I’m sure of it.  One look, and you can fall right in.  So I shrugged, told him to sit on the floor, and began my assault.

Sal begged me for head massages constantly.  He claimed that my fingers were magic, but it was a statement that, no matter how many times it was repeated, I couldn’t bring myself to believe.  He would coo and purr as I kneaded my fingers through his hair, grazing his scalp, and felt all the creases of his brain.  Sometimes I would imagine that I was reading a crystal ball, as if by doing this, I could learn something new about him through osmosis.

The massage apparently made him sleepy.  So we moved the massaging into his room and against my better judgment, onto the bed.  And his bed, I guess, made him horny.  I hate to quote Genie in a Bottle right this moment, but I find it not only applicable, but absolutely necessary: “My body’s saying let’s go, but my heart is sayin’ no.”  It was exactly how I felt.  Oh, the passion!  The ardor, the fire, the spark!  It was heady, potent, making it’s way through my veins with no apologies and no reassurance.  Just simple pleasure.  And, within twenty minutes, it was over, and the reality check hit me like a drunk stepfather.

I left immediately afterward, canceling all plans to run, as I was sure we had had enough physical activity for the day.  He gave me a kiss and said he would call.  He didn’t.  Ashamed, used, and downright depressed, I knew I couldn’t use alcohol to fill the void this time.  Good thing we had weed.

That wouldn’t be the last time he pulled something like that with me either.  In months to come, he would use me as he saw fit, knowing full well that I still had an emotional connection with him.  Regardless, I would come running like a lap dog, eager for some of my master’s, err, milk.  And every time it happened, I was given the same line.  “I’ll definitely call you tomorrow!”  Tomorrow became weeks, even months.  It was the third and final time that I realized he was not only immature, but selfish and slightly cruel.

It’s strange.  I told myself that older men were better, because they were bound to be more mature.  Yet I almost exclusively date older, even if it’s just a year, and the relationships usually don’t work out because of maturity issues.  They say I’m the problem, but really what they’re doing is projection.  I’m not perfect, and yes, I do have a lot to learn.   But the men I seem to snag are constantly stuck in the past.  Maybe because I’m younger I bring it out in them.  Maybe they feel they need to “sink to my level,” so to speak.  Or maybe men are just, in general, wild and untamed.  They live and roam free until they find the one that can give them a reason to domesticate themselves.  I guess I just wasn’t that person.

Thinking about all this as the conversation in the attic continued made me snap back into focus.  My roommate was still talking about this boy, who was, apparently, cute, charming, cordial…all good and wonderful things.  And yet she couldn’t seem to place why this was bothering her so much.  I smiled, because I understood all too well.  I lit my cigarette and said, “Babe, age is just a number.”

Realizing that is half the battle.  I’ll let her figure out the rest for herself.