Chocolate Won’t Get You Unstuck: This Writer’s Internal Dialogue About Food.
Me: You have this weird habit that I don’t understand.
Me, too: Which one? I have a lot of weird habits.
Me: You’ll be sitting there at your desk, concentrating on a paragraph or a page or on whatever it is that you do, and then you suddenly get up and wander to the kitchen and open up the cabinet and break off a square of chocolate and eat it on your way back to your office. Then you sit down again.
Me, too: That doesn’t sound weird to me. Chocolate is delicious. Everyone needs the occasional snack. And chocolate helps me think.
Me: Wait. I’m not finished. About a minute later you’ll get up and repeat the whole process.
Me, too: Maybe I really went to get two pieces in the first place.
Me: Not buying it. You always have dessert after lunch. Don’t you eat enough lunch? I think you eat plenty of lunch. Also, sometimes you get cashews. Or cookies. AND chocolate. Those little goldfish crackers are cute, too. How many of those are in a handful?
Me, too: Well, there are 55 in a serving. I figure there are about 25 in a handful.
Me: So that’s why you go back? To get a whole serving?
Me, too: You’re starting to irritate me.
Me: You know, your jeans don’t fit, and you bitch about it a lot.
Me, too: I don’t wear jeans when it’s warm outside.
Me: Come to think of it, you’re probably going to need a new, bigger skirt or two if you’re going to go out in public with your new books this summer and fall.
Me, too: It’s not polite to talk about someone’s weight. Shut up.
Me: But you’re eating all this food, and you’re not even hungry.
Me, too: If you must know, it helps me to get up and move around when I’m working. It clears my brain and gets me unstuck.
Me: So why don’t you just walk to the kitchen and back? Wouldn’t it do the same thing?
Hey! Where did you go? Hello?
Me, too: Are you still here? I’m supposed to be writing a blog and you’re bothering me. Blogging is hard.
Me: Do I smell chocolate on your breath?
Me, too: Don’t be rude. It’s, um, tangerine.
Me: We have chocolate flavored tangerines?
Me, too: Blogging is hard. I already told you that.
Me: Let me ask you a question: How many ounces of chocolate make it easier to write a blog, or a book? There must be some equation. Like, two paragraphs for 10 grams of chocolate. A pound every six chapters. Something like that. BTW–It’s really cute how you weigh it sometimes and record the weight and calories in the little app on your phone. But sometimes you don’t. How does that work again?
Me, too: That’s two questions.
Me: It seems to me that this should be quantifiable. We can go backwards if you want. Let’s see…You’ve written—oh, just a guess—some three hundred blogs (including MySpace—remember that?!), seven or eight short stories, five novels, and have edited five more books since 2006. That’s nine years, and the total pounds you’ve gained works out to be—
Me, too: Stop! There are people reading this. You wouldn’t dare!
Me: Wouldn’t I? You know I have a confessional streak.
Me, too: But you’ve never been mean. Not very, anyway.
Me: Okay. Let’s talk percentages. You’ve gained a quarter of a person since 2006. Specifically, a quarter of us.
Me, too: But all that work! That’s not so much spread over nine years. I’m that much older. Practically menopausal! And I’ve raised two kids.
Me: Kids are, indeed, stressful. I’ve seen quite a few chocolate chips and devil’s food cookies consumed after intense homework discussions. How many cookies resolve an argument, by the way? If the cookies are any measure, you’ve done a lot of resolving. Why don’t you take up smoking again? We were really skinny when we smoked. Plus, I liked it.
Me, too: I’m just going to ignore the smoking thing because it gives us bad breath and yellow teeth—but I get your point. You just have to understand that when I’m stuck, or I feel bad, I need something that makes me feel better. Just a little thing. Something to distract me. There’s that moment when my mouth is full of—I don’t know—deliciousness. And everything feels okay. And I don’t have to think about the next decision I have to make. It’s like a moment out of time.
Me: So all these little moments? If you had been doing pushups, or regulating your breathing, or looking at art, or doodling, or filling the bird feeders, or walking outside when you felt bad or were stuck, you wouldn’t be carrying around extra pounds equaling the weight of a substantial four year-old. You’d feel a hell of a lot better. I am only bringing this up because you actually do complain about how much harder it is to exercise these days, and how uncomfortable you are in your clothes. The doctor’s been hassling you, too.
Just remember: Food doesn’t get anything unstuck. Food is the answer to one thing: keeping you alive.
You have to FACE THAT THING THAT’S IN YOUR WAY. That thing that you’re running away from. You’re not a child. You can’t throw chocolate or crackers or ice cream at it any more than you can throw a bomb at it, and imagine it will be solved. It’s just an old-fashioned problem. Something to be pondered and fixed. Problems are hard, Barbie. That’s life! But they’re also part of the joy of life. People who exist without any sort of tension or problems or mental work have their brains turn to mush. Don’t be mush!
You aren’t that old, you know. Think how many more books you could write! What if you wrote five more novels—something totally doable in the next few years. You have plans, right? So do you really want to strap the weight of another small person to your body at the same time? Also—and I hate to mention this—how many pistachios and macarons do you think it’s going to take to get you through your son’s learning to drive?
Me, too: Now I feel awful. And like I can never eat chocolate again, or my brain will turn to mush and I’ll die of diabetes.
Me: No. You’re pouting and exaggerating. You never have been a fan of reality. It’s both your curse and blessing.
Me, too: You’re saying that I’m fat. That’s rude.
Me: I’m saying that you have a tool: food. You just sometimes use it to try to fix something that it can’t fix. Fat or thin—that’s beside the point. Would you try to use a jackhammer to sew a button on a shirt? Or use a car tire to write a poem on a piece of paper? Or a silk scarf to fix a pothole? No. No. No. I’m just asking you to think. Look at reality. Solve intellectual problems with your brain. The weight gain thing is an unintended consequence of an inappropriate solution. I know you want to feel better, to get some relief from the writing tension when it hits you in the face. But food is not the answer. At least not to the questions you face in your work.
Me, too: *thinks about chocolate*