Monday, March 09, 2009
“That’s about 5,000 calories, you know.”
I turned to face the smartly dressed middle-aged man who had sidled up to me at the hotel buffet breakfast counter.
“That”, he said gesturing towards my plate, “has around 5,000 calories in it.”
I looked down at my Full English breakfast, which comprised a sausage, some bacon, a little scrambled egg, a tad of baked beans and a solitary grilled tomato. Delicious.
“It’s going to take a long time to burn all that off!” he continued, somewhat triumphantly.
“Yes,” I replied, gritting my teeth, “I’ve a long day ahead, so I need a hearty breakfast.”
He tutted at me, loudly, and, extricating myself from him, I went to rejoin the group I was with, my face red with anger.
It may seem like a small thing that I’m blowing out of proportion, but this incident really got me mad. Because I’m a woman – and my physical appearance/body is up for discussion (and consumption, but we’ll save that argument for another day) – and it’s considered acceptable to pass judgement on how women look, or what they eat or don’t eat, this man – a complete stranger to me – felt entitled to comment on the contents of my breakfast. I doubt very much that he would have said the same thing to another man.
Women and issues around food go hand in hand: if you’re female, a restaurant visit will usually entail another woman saying “I shouldn’t!” when desserts are offered, or a waiter urging, “Ooh, go on, be naughty!”, as if eating a slice of chocolate cake is as rebellious as giving a hand job under the table; it’s not. Food is food. Eat it, don’t eat it, but please, don’t bore the fuck out of me by droning on about your diet, or about how ‘bad’ you’ve been because you ate something delicious, or because you’re worried about what others might think of you if you’re seen eating more than a damn salad. Food is nourishing and delicious, and putting it in your mouth is almost as pleasurable as sex, so if some women have hang-ups about the former, it’s no surprise that many also have problems with the latter.
I’m sick to death about the obsession women – and society at large – have with food, appetite and body shape, but it’s not just women that are neurotic about their own – or others’ – bodies, it’s men too. This breakfast incident reminded me of a similar situation that occurred on a one-night stand I had some while ago, where I was confronted by a harsh judgement.
We had met at a single’s night. He seemed warm and charming and sexy and we left the event early to grab a late-night dinner together, before heading back to his place to have sex. When naked I was conscious – and a little insecure – about the difference in our body size: I’m not slim, but I felt like a galumphing whale in contrast to his skinny shape. I tried to ignore my mental discomfort about this, even when the sharpness of his hipbones was hurting me as he thrusted, and instead, I focussed on my impending orgasm; climaxing usually helps remove any anxiety I have, I find.
The next morning we woke together, all snugly, and he offered to make coffee. Did I take sugar? he called from the kitchen. Did he have any sweetener? I called back. No, he didn’t, he replied. Sugar it is, then, I responded. A moment later he appeared in the doorway.
“I don’t think that’s going to make much difference!” he snorted.
I was confused. “What?”
“Your having sugar.”
I was still confused. “What do you mean?”
“Having sugar now, is hardly going to have an impact, considering the huge meal you ate at midnight last night!”
He then exited the room and returned to making coffee in the kitchen, whilst I sat there, open mouthed, silenced by the shock of what he said and the assumptions he had made.
He thought I wanted sweetener because I was watching my weight. It hadn’t struck him for one minute that I might have requested a sugar alternative because I could be diabetic (I’m not), or because I try to limit sugary drinks for the health of my teeth (I do). He had just jumped to the conclusion that I must want to lose weight and felt it was acceptable – after knowing me for less than 24 hours – for him to comment on that, and cast his own judgement on my food intake, if not my body itself. This was bad, but added to this was my suspicion that his opinion of how I looked, his response to me, and his own extremely skinny body size, hinted at his own hang-ups about food, and my gut reaction was: get out of there, quickly.
When he handed me my coffee, I gulped it down, and made some excuse about having a meeting I had to attend, so I could dash out of there, speedily. He had demanded my phone number, which I gave to him grudgingly, and before I’d even arrived home, he’d texted me to say how much he’d enjoyed the evening and that he’d really like to see me again.
I felt like texting back, “The sex was great, and I enjoyed your company very much, but if you think you have the right to comment on my food intake, you can fuck right off” but I didn’t. I avoided responding for a few days and then phoned him to say I didn’t want to take things any further. He was persistent and asked why, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit the real reasons to him: that although I didn’t particularly find his body that sexy, it was his hang-ups about body size in general that I found unattractive.
That’s not to say I don’t have body issues myself – I’m sure every person does, to some extent – as was evident when I compared his and my body, and there are certainly things I would like to change about my appearance: I know I need to work out more, and certainly would benefit from losing a few pounds, but I refuse to be part of the binge-purge-denial-starvation diet culture – which, lets face it, is worth billions of dollars a year to the ‘diet industry’. Eating, for me, is not filled with guilt or shame: it’s a sensual, pleasurable experience, so I make a point of avoiding people who count calories, or deny themselves nice food, and there’s no way I could bear to be with a man who expected me to view food in that way.
I suppose this makes me sound like I’m harsh, that I was just as judgemental as this guy was, because I rejected him solely due to his body issues, and perhaps I was. I sincerely hope I’ve matured since that night, and become a more understanding person, who could support someone if they’ve problems around food, or other issues. However, the crux of the matter is still, for me, that if I’m going to be intimate with someone – whether it be casual sex, or a long-term partner – then I need to know that any judgements they make about me will be based on whether they think I am kind, or intelligent, or fun to be with, and not based on my enjoyment of food, or even, my enjoyment of sex.
It’s hard, I guess, to look beyond someone’s outer shell, and I can be as shallow as the next person by mentally saying “Pwhoar!” about a fit bloke I see walking down the street. But after all that’s said and done, what’s important to me is the generosity, compassion and thoughtfulness in a man, not the definition of his abs. And likewise, I hope, one day, to meet someone who wants me just the way I am – a clumsy, awkward, dork – and, who, when he knows I am hungry, will offer, “Sushi or my cock, darling?” and take pleasure from me enjoying either.