April 8th, 2014
When I go to breakfast at a restaurant, or to a pastry shop like the one on the corner of Hargett and Mullins, right past that giant oak tree before Sanders Bridge, I inevitably feel an intense kind of craving wash over me (Maybe the kind that would be common if I was pregnant). Even if I hid it well, I would be no more enduring than a kid in a candy shop. Before I know it, I’ve already eaten a blueberry muffin that is more than a day’s share of healthy calories. At least if I was pregnant I’d have an excuse.
But it’s worth it. Or at least, when I’m eating that blueberry muffin, it’s worth it. Nothing could taste so good at that moment – perfectly warm, soft texture, cinnamon sugar crusted on the top, with sweet blueberries dotted throughout the creamy, rich cake dough. Even if I tell myself that I’m just going to eat a bite, I blink my eyes and I’ve already eaten two of them.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve eaten a day’s worth of calories in just one meal. It doesn’t matter that I’ve consumed two day’s worth of saturated fat in one sitting. And it doesn’t matter that if I decide to try to keep my calorie intake at a reasonable level for the day. I’ll be hungry when I go to bed, because a blueberry muffin is not very filling, it only tastes good. But when I take a bite, that is the only thing that matters. It tastes good.
But when I’m done eating and I leave that damn good little pastry shop and go back into reality, a feeling of dissatisfaction bears over me. A strange hunger starts to creep in – not hunger from my stomach, but some kind of weird hunger that is entirely psychological. My stomach doesn’t need more food, but my mind wants it.
This hunger gives way to a kind of gripping shame when I realize I’m not full, even though I just scarfed down two breakfast pastries so fast that I couldn’t really enjoy them the way that they were meant to be enjoyed – but that was part of the problem, wasn’t it? They were so good that I ate them faster, which didn’t allow me to enjoy them. So how are you supposed to eat blueberry muffins?
I’d felt this feeling before – this feeling of being full but still wanting to eat more, or having eaten but wanting to taste more, combined with the shame of having gluttonously consumed more than I should have.
Several years ago, I went on a spring break trip to Panama City Beach with my girlfriends and a couple of guys. The feeling of freedom that I finally experienced that week was invigorating like nothing else. For a seventeen-year-old girl, being free and being unconstrained by the amount of life that it took to fill me up as compared to the amount of life that I wanted to taste was enlightening. With the same vigor I exuded when I scarfed down those blueberry muffins, I embraced the sun-kissed, bikini-clothed late night parties.
The week ended in one final moment – A moment of freedom or a moment of utter loss of self-control, depending on how you view it, or depending on what mood I’m in when I tell you about it. I lay down in a tattoo parlor and paid to have the awkward skinny skeleton of a tattoo artist touch his pen to my shoulder and make his mark.
When I stood up and looked at my naked shoulder in the mirror, red and tender, I had the exact same feeling that I would feel after scarfing down a blueberry muffin – The freshness of life still tainted my tongue, and I wanted more.
So I got more.
I would rather be caught pregnant in a bikini than be caught in a bikini now (at least then I’d have an excuse for a swollen belly). My tattoo doesn’t look like it did when it landed on my shoulder for the very first time. My stomach is never full, and my hunger for life is never really satisfied the way that I want it to be.
Slowly, over a long, long time, I started to rein in the hunger that gnawed at my mind and my belly. I lost the weight that I’d gained.
Sometimes I lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling, feeling my swollen belly, thinking about whether or not there actually is anything that could satisfy my taste, and not just my hunger. Something that could actually stave off my tongue, not just bloat my belly or my life.
I’m not sure there is anything like that.
But I still want that blueberry muffin.
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