I had this crazy dream last night. In it, I was eating an ice cream sundae. Let me just tell you about this for a second:
It was in a fluted plastic cup. At the bottom were melted heaps of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, buried under a thick layer of hot fudge, which was studded with brownie chunks. Fluffy piles of whipped cream hid cool, slick slices of strawberry and banana.
Someone else was holding the sundae. I don’t know who, but I was probably not supposed to be taking so much of it. And I kept spooning enormous bites into my mouth. It was heaven. Cool and creamy and sweet and textured.
I kept having more. Another bite, another bite. I was trying to eat quickly, glancing furtively around. I wanted so much more, but I was trying to hide what I was doing.
And the whole time, I was thinking, “This is so bad for me. I wonder how many calories are in this thing? I shouldn’t be eating this. This is all sugar. Sugar kills. I am basically killing myself right now. I am doing to gain so much weight if I keep eating like this. I need to stop.”
In my dream, I was embarrassed and guilty. For eating an ice cream sundae that didn’t actually exist.
It’s a funny thing, to feel a little liberated for eating dessert when I want dessert.
Why should that be liberating? It should just be normal.
But, you know, that’s why I write this blog. And that’s why I collect pictures of women and girls eating cake (and other desserts). And that’s why women and girls write to me all the time to tell me that they’re looking at those pictures and crying in relief. Or looking at those pictures and grinning uncontrollably. Or looking at those pictures and suddenly feeling like everything is a little better (an endless thank you to all of you in the cake gallery and everyone who keeps sending me pictures and to Gloria Baker Feinstein, who took these pictures for me). Because eating cake is actually a big deal. It’s a little victory, in a way. It is a “yes” to enjoyment and pleasure and a “no” to the pointless, dogged guilt that trails after us, whining about our bellies and our thighs and how we should look and should be. Meanwhile, we are already something. Something good.
But in my dream, I was glancing furtively around, worrying about calories as I ate this perfect dessert that my mind had created for me in mouthwatering detail.
Maybe it had something to do with last night, when we were all watching LOTR in the main room, with the ocean dark in the distance, and I started craving a snack, so I went into the kitchen for a piece of cheese, but the cheese was gone, and there was a little sugar-encrusted donut there, and I picked it up, thinking, “I’ve already eaten sweet things today, I probably shouldn’t have this.” And then I ate it anyway, and it was delicious. I dunked it in milk.
And the guilt over the donut probably has something to do with the fact that I am wearing a bikini for most of every day, here in the Caribbean, where the humidity hangs in the air like a wool blanket and the water is a safe haven of cool. I am always seeing my belly. There it is, exposed, all the time. I am glancing down constantly, to check. Are any stray hairs poking out of my bikini bottom? My breasts, freed from a padded bra, seem meager and a little lost.
But my belly is anything but lost. It is present. It is happy.
So I am walking around in a bikini, wrapping myself in a pink and gold sarong (thank you, Emily!), and I am with my family, all of whom are on a low-carb diet.
I am the one who bought the donuts. And I am the one who ate them.
I ate them in a bikini.
And then I glanced down and worried about my belly. As though the donuts would magically transfer there within moments, adding an extra layer of fat.
Sometimes I see myself for a second in a mirror as I walk by, and I am surprised at how I don’t look very heavy. Not as heavy as I feel. Not as heavy as I look to myself when I look down.
And I think this tiny, dangerous thought. I think, “You look good.”
And then another, “You look natural. Maybe you are supposed to be this weight.”
(and then occasionally, i’m so busy doing something else in a bikini that i forget i’m even wearing one. note the sunblock on my head that makes me look like i have an enormous bald spot. that’s being conscientious for ya! and not in the least bit sexy. but then, who says wearing a bikini has to be all about being sexy?)
It is thoughts like those that lead to donuts in the evening, and a bagel in the morning. It is thoughts like those that enable ice cream sundaes of epic proportions, of generous heaps of whipped cream over wanton brownies and voluptuous rolls of chocolate and vanilla.
Ice cream is about letting go, actually, I think, now that I’m sitting here in the stifling heat, thinking about it.
Because I am afraid. I am afraid that I will lose control. That there is a slippery slope of sweets that I might slide down into unattractiveness. Into sloppiness. Into the helpless zone of being heavy in a world where everyone seems to agree that heaviness is terrible. Where my family praises and praises each other for losing weight.
I am on vacation, and I am bad at letting go. Some things don’t relax so easily. I can’t stop writing. And I am thinking too much, I think.
Bear, my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove to the nearest grocery store. Bear is getting good at driving on the left side of the street, but whenever a car comes at us from the other direction everyone yells “STAY LEFT!” Maybe amazingly, we found no-sugar jam and low carb bread. We also got cheese and meat for burgers. Celery. Carrots. And then, at the last second, I said, “Wait!” And I ran for the ice cream in the back.
I got chocolate ice cream and whipped cream and peanut butter fudge topping and maraschino cherries. Everyone was laughing at me.
“Kate!” said Jake’s girlfriend, in the playful tone she always uses for people who are being ridiculous. “What are you doing?”
“I am making an ice cream sundae,” I said. And then I was sure that I wasn’t going to change my mind and put it all back.
Later that night, I made an ice cream sundae for myself. At the last second, my brother Gabe’s girlfriend asked for one. And we stood there in the kitchen in our bikinis, spooning in enormous mouthfuls of melting chocolate ice cream slathered in whipped cream. I gave us each two cherries.
Now THAT is a vacation.
You know what? I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d eaten an ice cream sundae. I thought that when I get home, I should make them for my friends. It might be a while since they’ve had one too. And it’s nice to relax.
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What’s the most recent delicious, decadent thing you’ve eaten?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look with a slight tan. It happened! I think?
P.S. I really like this site– where women write letters to their daughters/all girls. They’re looking for submissions. Wanted to let you guys know.
P.P.S. Stay tuned for cake posts featuring readers! It’s happening! I already have three lined up. If you want to send me a picture of yourself eating cake along with anything you want to share about yourself, a link to your blog if you have one, and an unroast, I’d love to publish it. I’ll also ask you some basic questions, which you can either answer or not. If you already sent me a picture, or have one in the gallery, but feel like being less anonymous, I’d love to do a post highlighting you. Let me know! I want this blog to be more inclusive, and I LOVE hearing from all of you.