For my birthday I wanted create a “crazy party” environment by staying up all night, listening to disco music, and eating an entire can of Easy Cheese. My best friend, Allie, and I had an inside joke about cheese. We just thought it was funny. With noticeable concern, my mom bought me my own can of Easy Cheese and a spread of snacks with molecular compounds probably closer to “astrophysical plasma” than “digestible nourishment.” I began video taping the party from my bedroom window when the first car arrived. I wore a blue wig to subtly encourage my 6 guests to indulge in a “crazy party” mentality. 4-5 disco compilation CDs rotated on the stereo in my basement, where we stayed most of the night. Throughout the party video, I can be seen openly suckling on the Easy Cheese can, sometimes staring into the distance in an affectedly vacant manner as it hangs out of my mouth. I made sure I was always eating or about to eat, because it would make the party crazier and because I “deserved it.” I alternated between the Easy Cheese, a tube of raw chocolate chip cookie dough, and a 2-liter bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi. There seemed to be a silent agreement that everything in the basement must be eaten by the end of the night, which for me was around 6AM on a fold-out couch, where I was said to have “blacked out” by Allie, who woke me after everyone else left.
Summer of Carbs
?The summer between high school and college, my new best friend Lindsay and I committed to doing whatever we wanted. I’m unsure if we ever vocally acknowledged romanticizing ourselves as Enid and Rebecca from “Ghost World,” if we each thought it but never said it, or if I’ve just invented that notion over time. When Lindsay wasn’t with her then-boyfriend or working as a cashier at Walmart, she was on the loveseat perpendicular to my couch, usually splitting a giant bag of Tostitos “Hint of Lime” chips (first coated in yellow “queso,” then dipped into salsa) with me. We ate pizza and Dairy Queen Blizzards 3-5 times a week. We invented “pink sauce” (ketchup mixed with ranch dressing) for our Denny’s cheese fries. We got large milkshakes from a place that made its own ice cream and had a parking lot that most people treated like a dining area. We would lean on her car and make fun of ourselves and people we knew as we waited for our milkshakes to melt until they were drinkable. Sometimes we would accidentally earnestly discuss feelings of nervousness about the future before recovering with self-aware comments about what it meant to be 17-year-olds talking about “impending adulthood.”
I don’t think eating was ever the focal point of hanging out, but since we spent so much time together, eating would just happen. I think we envisioned ourselves as passengers to sensation in a world that seemed secure in its extremes of humor and banality, but was also unpredictable and a little frightening – to be placed in this three-month holding tank before our inevitable separations into the unknowable futures which would become our lives, if we’d even ever “become” something – causing us to focus on the stability of immediate returns.
Cookies from Mom
My first year at my second college, I received a belated birthday package from my mom, which included maybe 15 aluminum foil-wrapped Rice Krispie treats and a large Gladware tub of chocolate chip cookies. I remember aimlessly walking my dorm’s hallway holding the package, seeing a well-liked acquaintance’s open door, offering her my some of my “bounty,” then sitting on the floor by her roommate’s bed as people walked in and out of the room, gradually eating all of it, occasionally saying “should I just eat it all” to the room, unsure of who I was asking.
Some time after dropping out of college, I went to an unofficially Popeye’s-themed party directly from my job at a cafe where I had already eaten probably 700-1100 calories of carbohydrates. About 9 other people sat on the couch and floor, watching TV and leisurely picking at the boxes of chicken. People were calling the spicy chicken “space-y chicken” for some reason. I ate steadily for maybe 30 minutes. I wasn’t hungry, and I don’t remember it actually tasting good – I just sat there, eating. The beer was making me feel more bloated than drunk. The need to eat more food felt scary and overpowering, the way I imagine it must feel like to be a character on Ren & Stimpy. Some people said they were going to the 7-11 across the street. I wanted to get away from the chicken and beer, so I went with them. I stared at the refrigerated foods for a long time. No options seemed healthier or more satisfying than any others. The familiar yellow outline of a Lunchable seemed funny and I bought it. After consuming the Lunchable, beers, and 4-7 more pieces of chicken, I went to the bathroom 2-4 times to make myself vomit. I think I told people I was drunk and my stomach was just sensitive to meat or something.
After quitting my job at the café, I had plenty of time to experiment with a wide array of lying-down positions on my bed to refine the most optimal face-to-MacBook trajectory. I lived in my parent’s house in a Baltimore suburb. A few times a week, late at night, I drove to the nearby 24-hour grocery store where I stole small pieces of candy from the bulk bins and patrolled the aisles in a “geriatric mall cop” manner – exuding to the late-night workers that I was “on their side” through a series of physical cues so minute that, if asked what they thought I was doing, their answers would probably range from “tilting her head, maybe” to “I don’t know, nothing.”
I saw my first jar of Nutella in the bread aisle one night at maybe 2:15 AM. It looked like something Ikea would sell. Its starkly ordinary placement next to the peanut butter implied that I had either bypassed it my entire life, or I had spent enough time in the store that I had somehow “unlocked” a secret level of creamy sandwich spreads that would release themselves to me through this portal I had discovered. I didn’t know how I was going to use it, but I knew I had to buy it. In the car I ate my usual two vanilla-chocolate iced doughnuts, then tried the Nutella, sort of hoping I wouldn’t like how it tasted, but going back for several more finger-fulls before I parked in my driveway. I put the jar on the kitchen table, dipped a few Oreos in it, and went to my living room to watch TV. My thoughts seemed to be dominated by what the Nutella would taste like sandwiched between 2 Wheat Thins. I pictured myself “trimming” the .8” Nutella overflow perimeter with my tongue, then licking some tiny squares of salt off the top of the crackers before putting the entire sandwich in my mouth. I brought the Wheat Thins to the couch and ate all the Nutella in maybe 40 minutes.