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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cupcakes, Light and Dark

Most of Saturday I baked cupcakes. (Vanilla with lime frosting, and chocolate with chocolate mousse frosting.) And most of Sunday I ate them. It was my sister’s birthday and we had a party of sorts at my parents’ house. I say of sorts because my parents are yet again barely speaking to each other. It is not difficult to wish people you love all the happiness in the world. Most hearts are roomy enough for that, I think. What’s nearly impossible is to let them be happy on their own terms, not to interfere with what they believe with all their might is best for them.

But I wanted to write about cupcakes. I wanted to say, in particular, that it was better to make them than to eat them, and not only because those moist, delicate, sweet bites were so ephemeral, and so inevitably tinged with guilt at indulging myself. Even if I brush aside the guilt and the transitoriness of those moments of pleasure, eating them still doesn’t measure up to the joy of making them. Part of it is that virtuous joy that I feel when I do honest work with my hands. And pat of it is aesthetic pleasure. I got such a high decorating the cupcakes, piping the frosting from a pastry bag, placing tiny white and green sugar flowers on top of the frosting, packing them in special cupcakes boxes I bought from Tall Mouse Crafts, to give to my sister as a birthday present. I very seldom let my guard down enough to feel such simple happiness. That old cliché about the journey being what matters not the destination turns my stomach. But I find myself agreeing with the spirit of it, if not its letter.

These cupcakes have a dark side. Or rather my eating self does, and the cupcakes have simply pulled the mask off its face. Yesterday I ate almost nothing but five cupcakes. And how proud I felt of my ability to refrain from eating anything else; how good deprivation felt, what a sense of release hunger gave me. During the past week I’ve lingered over the idea of losing weight, losing and losing till there’s no more to be lost, daydreamed about it like some princess in a fairy tale about her prince charming. It’s been a treat to get on the scale and find myself a pound or two lighter. Oh, those numbers, their power over me. I am not thin by any stretch of the imagination; I weigh a little over one hundred and forty pounds. I’ve weighed less and I’ve weighed more, but fantasized about losing no matter where on the scale I was. And I want to lose not in order to look a certain way, but just because losing seems to me an end in itself, the ultimate good. Yes, I’ve pondered both the literal and metaphorical meanings of diminishing myself, becoming small, unobtrusive, insignificant. But they don’t matter to me as much as this power I have of shaping my body.

The problem is that this power to shape my body is much smaller, even at its full capacity, than the power I have to shape my mind. I went to a bookstore reading last Thursday; the book being promoted was about life after eating disorders. The author gave an impassioned talk on anorexia; she recounted her personal experience and went over some of the newest scientific research done on eating disorders. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I fantasize about having one. So I went to the reading in order to face the reality of it. And the reality is that an eating disorder isn’t just a harmless hobby – yes, amazingly enough, this is how I think of it – but an enormous emptiness that settles into the center of your life and crushes everything in it that doesn’t have to do with losing weight. I haven’t mentioned death, the grim destination of eating disorders, because what concerns me isn’t so much death, towards which all of us are headed anyway, but how I get there. And I don’t want to get there with my mind befogged by lack of nutrients, unable to enjoy the pleasures of a good book or really good conversation with friends. I don’t want to be absent from what’s happening to me.

So I had breakfast this morning. And a bulgur salad with cucumbers and peppers and mint for lunch, along with fresh bread with Earth Balance. Maybe I will even let myself succumb to this cupcake mania again and bake some cupcakes for dinner. Vanilla with raspberry sauce and, oh, yes, peanut butter with chocolate ganache drizzled on the top.


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