Almost all food is regrettable, if you are a woman.
I know that’s a bit of a generalization, but I really don’t know a single lady who doesn’t in some way loathe her body.
Some of us break the loathing down into manageable pieces, as in: I can’t stand my breasts, belly and ass. But then, for form’s sake we’ll add in some trivial body part that we do like. I always mention my feet, which I adore, as they are entirely symmetrical and tidy and relatively small.
Sometimes, if we are foodies, or gourmets, or simply love pastry, the regret is foisted upon us, like a kind of citizen’s food police, or a Homeland Security of eating.
This happened once when I was coming back from a Polish bakery on East Hastings Street in Vancouver. It’s not like I had made a special trip to this bakery; I’m sure I was returning home from my indentured labour job as a sessional instructor at Simon Fraser University. I still had a whole hour left on my transfer (the one and only great thing about Vancouver transit is that one bus ticket buys you two hours of unlimited travel, more if you crumple the transfer and flash it quickly and artfully).
I decided to do a pit stop at the Polish bakery, and heal my exhaustion and low self-esteem with torte. I had recently been in Ukraine, land of my parents’ birth, and I had partaken of all manner of exotic and glamorous tortes there. The torte display at the Polish bakery would serve as a kind of corrective to the low-grade sense of loss and displacement I had felt ever since I’d returned.
It was probably pay day, because I bought not one, but three slices of three different kinds of torte, and the dour Polish lady behind the counter reverently placed them in three small white individual cardboard boxes, like they were fancy pieces of jewellery.
Trying to reduce my carbon footprint, I turned down the kind offer of a plastic bag, which meant that I ended up back on the by-then rather crowded Hastings bus with three small square white boxes balanced precariously on my lap. Still, I felt pretty good about myself. I’d just been paid about $120 for about 160 hours of work, and I’d spent a good chunk of it on enormous slices of Ambassador Torte, Black Forest Cake and Dobosch Torte, which I hadn’t eaten since I was a kid.
A dyke I knew got on at Commercial Drive. That’s the thing about Commercial Drive, you’re always going to run into a dyke you slept with, or hadn’t slept with and wished you had, or had slept with and were no longer speaking to. This woman, tall, sporty, Nordic, with some kind of Scandinavian accent, smiled when she saw me and made her way over to my seat. We’ll call her Gretchen.
What’s. In. The. Boxes. Gretchen asked aimiably.
Torte. I mumbled. You know, cake.
All of it? All three boxes?
Uh. Yeah. I looked around, hoping no one else was listening.
What will you do with all that cake?
Eat. It. I whispered.
All by yourself?
I nodded, shamefully.
I desperately wished I could tell Gretchen that I had hungry mouths to feed; that I was hosting an elegant tea party; that somehow, the eating of these cakes would contribute to the greater social good. But three hours of teaching Women and Popular Culture had pretty much cleaned me out of my repertoire of funny and untrue stories.
Wow. said Gretchen, shaking her head. You. Really. Love. To. Eat.
And that was really regrettable, because of course it was hard to enjoy the torte after that. I did eat my three slices of cake, every last crumb, once I got home, but I did it as more of a political act. As though I’m someone who really loves her body, and could care less about what people think, and yet, regrettably, it seems that I do.