Late in the winter, I unknowingly offended the gluten free community.
To be fair, it was my 140-character compliment, in which I gushed over print design and food photography for a digital magazine serving the gluten-free community that sent me into a war zone.
I was backed, virtually, into a corner for more than thirty minutes while some stranger made me forget how to swallow my fear.
“Cute,” I’d said.
It was one word, intended to describe the magazine’s bright and fun color scheme. But this guy didn’t think so.
“There is nothing cute,” he said, “about being gluten-free.”
And then, as if taking a virtual breath, he unleashed so much anger and frustration on me that I literally sat on my living room couch reading the words out loud, desperate to make him understand that I had merely been awestruck by the way the colors danced across my computer screen.
I had merely been gawking at the way somebody turned food into something magical.
My relationship with food has been, for most of my life, a relationship. Which sounds pretty dumb, if you think too hard on it, but I don’t think any of us remember a time before food was good or bad, revered or ignored. I don’t think any of us were ever allowed more than a few years of “eat whatever you’d like, whatever makes you feel good inside.”
Maybe the cavemen were. Maybe. But choosing to eat something has always been a bit like finding the middle school dance partner in the swell of hormonal and anxious bodies grinding in the cafeteria: nerve-wracking and thrilling.
Choosing to eat what you want should feel like asking that cute boy from your art class to jam out to Blink-182 with you Friday night in the cafeteria. As in stellar. Just stellar.
It shouldn’t be hindered by whether you’re able to walk in heels or the strobe lights block your vision of him or the popular couple shimmies past and you suddenly feel that sense of defeat all over again. But it is. Many times, it is.
I’m 22. That’s young, I know. But in five years, I’ve driven all over the food relationship map.
I’m there now. It’s kind of like standing at the dance after the last song, the lights coming up and the boy from art class sliding by, glancing over as if you have forgotten him, as if he cannot come over and ask you to fist pump, no no no. It had to be your doing.
That’s how it feels, sometimes. Like you took those four hours of techno music and strobe lights for granted and now you are starting at square one again.
I know how gluten-free guy feels. I am there. Trying to figure out what, if anything, doesn’t keep me awake until two a.m. trying to figure out why I entered an abusive relationship with food in college, one that’s screwed me over.
It’s anything but cute. The photos might look glamorous, the plates shining white, the dairy-free, gluten-free plated entrees all properly aligned and unified on the digital page.
But it’s still hard. Still something I haven’t mastered. Still a relationship that keeps me up in the middle of the night, mad for the mistakes I made in the past.
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