- girl: come over
- guy: im gay
- girl: my parents arent home
- guy: im literally gay
I did nothing this weekend so today I will be working my ass off and then I will rinse and repeat for the rest of all time. Or something.
We have places that can be marked on a map with bright red Xs and beneath those bright red Xs are memories and moments we have shared. This could mean nothing. It could mean everything. We have places.
I baked last night—cherry brown butter bars. I don’t know why. I was bored. I had a lot of cherries. I still have a lot of cherries.
First, I melted some butter and I did it in a pan instead of the microwave because I was like, “Let me keep stepping up my cooking game.”
No sleep last night. None. I was up thinking and staring at the ceiling. I was mostly up because I have chronic heartburn. I take medication but sometimes my stomach stares down that medication and laughs, cruelly.
All night, my stomach churned with acid. My stomach is still churning.
When the butter was melted, I added sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
I have chronic heartburn because I used to make myself throw up after I ate. There’s a word for this but it always feels strange to use that word with regard to myself. I didn’t do it for that long, I tell myself. That’s not really the truth. I did it for about two years which isn’t that long but it is long enough. Or, maybe I don’t want to use the word because it was so long ago, which is absolutely not the truth. I stopped making myself throw up about three years ago.
Next into the butter sugar melt went flour.
When you’re fat, no one will pay attention to disordered eating or they will look the other way or they will look right through you. You get to hide in plain sight. I have hidden in plain sight, in one way or another, for most of my life. Willing myself to not do that anymore, willing myself to be seen, is difficult.
I was not fat and then I made myself fat. I ate everything and I felt safe. I needed to feel safe. I needed my body to be a hulking, impermeable mass. I wasn’t like other girls, I told myself. I got to eat everything I wanted and everything they wanted too. I was so free. We lie the most to ourselves. I was free in a prison of my own making.
With the flour added, this thing started to look like dough. I pressed it into the bottom of a parchment lined pan. I don’t have a square baking dish so I used a round baking dish.
I got older and I kept eating mostly just to keep the prison walls up. It was more work than you might imagine. Then I was in a great relationship with a great man and I was finishing my PhD and my life was coming together and I thought I could see a way out of the prison I had made.
We suffered a loss and it broke me. I needed to blame something or someone so I blamed myself. I blamed my body for being broken. My doctor did not dissuade me of this blame which was its own kind of hell—to have your worst fear about yourself affirmed.
I put the crust in the oven at 375 for 18 minutes and set to pitting cherries. Here is my cherry pitter. I am very fond of my cherry pitter.
My body was to blame. I was to blame. I needed to change my body but I also wanted to eat because eating was a comfort and I needed comfort but refused to ask the one person who could comfort me for that comfort. This was something I had long known so well. Before then I had often joked that I wasn’t bulimic because I couldn’t make myself throw up but when I really want to do something, I get it done. I learned how to make myself throw up and then I got very good at it.
I pitted a quantity of cherries—enough to fill the bars. I eyed this visually. I am not so much with measuring things that feel complicated to measure. See also: parsley.
When the crust was ready it had puffed slightly and was lightly browned.
I am fat so I hid in plain sight, eating, throwing up, eating, I am perfectly normal and fine, I told myself. One day, my boyfriend found me in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet, my eyes red and watering. It was a nasty scene. “Get the fuck out,” I said quietly. I hadn’t said more than a few words to him, to anyone, in months.
He grabbed me and pulled me to my feet. He shook me and said, “This is what you’re doing? This?” I just stared at him because I knew that would make him angrier. I wanted to make him angrier so he could punish me and I could stop punishing myself. He deserved to punish me and I wanted to give that to him as penance. He is a good man so he wouldn’t give me what I wanted. He uncurled his fingers and let go of me and backed out of the bathroom. He put his fist through a wall which only made me angry because I wanted him to put his fist through me.
It was time to prepare the filling so I cut up a stick of butter and put that in my saucepan.
After that, he tried to never leave me alone. He tried to save me from myself. Ha! Ha! Ha! I’m better, I told him. It’s over. I was better, I suppose. I was better about hiding what I was doing. He couldn’t follow me everywhere. I learned how to be very quiet. We were better or as better as we ever were going to be and then I graduated and I moved and I was finally living alone and I could do whatever I wanted. I was an accomplished professional so it was easier than ever to hide in plain sight.
In a separate bowl, I whisked two eggs and some sugar then added vanilla, a bit of flour, a pinch of salt and I went rebel by adding some almond extract.
In the new town no one really knew me. I had “friends” but it’s not like they came over to my apartment or knew me well enough to know anything was off. When out to dinner, friends remarked on why I went to the bathroom after I ate. “I have a bad stomach,” I politely demurred. It was a half-truth.
I was, immediately, extraordinarily on the rebound, involved with a guy but the one time he caught me throwing up he said, “I’m glad you’re working on the problem.”
For him, the problem was my body and he never let me forget it. He punished me and I liked it. Finally, I thought. Finally. He made his cruel comments and gave me “advice” which only reminded me that everything wrong with my body was, indeed, my fault. “Why are you with this asshole?” so many people asked. The longer I stayed with him the worse he made me feel and the better he made me feel because at least, someone was telling me a truth about myself I already knew.
I added the cherries to the cooled dough. This was relaxing, carefully placing the cherries.
Something had to give. Something always gives. My grief began to subside. I was way too old for this shit, I realized. The heartburn had started up and I realized I needed to stop punishing myself. I had finally, after more than thirty years, found a best friend who saw the best and worst parts of me and even if I didn’t talk about what was going on, she was there and I could have told her what was going on and it would have been fine. That’s a powerful thing, knowing you can reveal yourself to someone. It made me want to be a better person worth revealing.
I wanted to stop but wanting and doing are two different things. I had a routine. I starved myself all day and then I ate a huge meal and then I purged myself of that meal. I made myself empty and I loved that empty feeling. I ignored my yellowed teeth and my hair falling out and the acid burns on my right fingers. “Why is my hair falling out?” I asked the Internet, as if I didn’t already know.
The butter needed to brown and I wasn’t entirely clear on how I would know the butter had browned but I decided to go with common sense and my eyes.
I became a vegetarian about three years ago now. People always ask why I became a vegetarian, particularly so late in life. “I’m not a moral vegetarian,” I say. “I just loved meat too much.” And my mom has been a vegetarian for most of my life. These things are all true.
When the butter was browned, I whisked it with the eggs and then poured the mixture over the cherries. I may have overbrowned the butter a wee bit but worry not.
The truth was more complicated. I didn’t know how to tell people the truth because it would mean confessing this secret that really, no one knew about me and that no one would probably want to know about me because a fat body is a problem that needs to be solved by any means necessary. We have to worry about the emaciated girls being fed through a tube in the nose, not girls like me. And also, I was really so old to be dealing with what we think of as an adolescent problem. I was embarrassed. I am embarrassed. You can’t look up to me. I’m a fucking mess.
I can’t even believe I am writing this right now but I was up all night with my stomach killing me and also I had seen The Purge 2: Anarchy and I guess I needed to purge in a healthy way. I became a vegetarian because I needed a way of ordering my eating in a less harmful way. I needed something to focus on that didn’t involve bringing my guts up every day. I thought I would only be a vegetarian for a year but it seems to be sticking. I am finding better ways to change my body. My body is not a problem. My body is my body and I am ready to live in this body without keeping it a prison.
I baked the bars in my lie oven for forty minutes and when they came out they were probably a bit overdone. I just really hate my oven. It never can make up its mind about how to perform. Regardless, the bars are delicious and I recommend making this for brunch or something. Ina really loves brunch. She likes to brunch with friends.
The word heartburn is rather misleading. It has nothing to do with the heart. Or it has everything to do with the heart only not the way you might think.