Can we talk about something hard? I’m feeling up to it, I think.
Just in case, though — why don’t we ease our way in? Why don’t we gush about Portland, for a second. That shouldn’t be too difficult.
I’m wondering if you’ve ever been to the West Village, in NYC. Yes? Okay, perfect: now picture the cutest street you can remember seeing there. The one with the most greenery overhead. The one with the Instagram-worthy row of pretty stoops. (Hashtag So New York! Except wrong, because the exclamation point is dead in Manhattan.)
I hope you’re standing on the street with the park on one end. Are you? Hopefully you see a dozen shops between here and there. The pricey clothing boutiques, too-cute coffee shops, and Zagat-rated restaurants — are they nestled in between the little bit of old, the little bit of new, and the little bit of brick? Good. You are in the right place. Go to the bakery!
Now pretend someone spent all night spiffing up the street, and insert a bike lane. (Green.) You can also add several benches you would actually like to sit on, someday.
Go ahead and turn the volume down by a decibel or four hundred — however those work. And then, because it’s fun: add a guy wearing glasses and carrying a book in one hand. (And a coffee cup in the other.) Don’t forget the puppy lying lazily at his feet. (Do forget the beautiful brunette who just joined them.)
Arrange all of the surrounding streets alphabetically, and there you have it: that’s what my neighborhood looks like. Actual Downtown is a mile walk away, and while there are a few questionable parts between here and there, overall the city (and everything in it) is just charming as could be.
Okayyy. Now let’s talk about two things that are not so picture-perfect.
1. My job. (Pause: I got a job!)
I have mixed feelings about this job that I got. On the one hand, I have excellent feelings about trying to absorb everything there is to know about $25+/lb cheese. I am basically about to start going to school, for the best of the best in cheese. (Imported and domestic.)
While I’m there, I’ll get to learn all about cheese. All kinds! Where it all comes from, how it’s all made, what it all tastes like, what would make it all taste better. (Fig jam! Seeded crackers! Some kind of wine? Failing that pop quiz. Some kind of chocolate, instead? YES — I happen to be self-taught in chocolate. You come right this way.)
On the other hand, I’m going to work for a massive, massive corporation, and I don’t feel very good about that.
Time for another sip of coffee, I think.
Okay. I’m going to work for one of the largest retailers in the U.S. because it’s not a dead end, the way that working in a small local shop probably would be. It’s actually the opposite of a dead end — it’s the gateway to becoming a specialty food buyer. Which sort of makes sense, as a goal. Don’t you think?
And I’m doing it because I have a very real need to support myself, while I write. And visit every bakery within a fifteen-minute radius.
On that note — I need a job that will eventually pay me well enough that I’ll be able to afford to shop at the sweet local spots I love so much. And because words like structure and low-stress and training program and benefits and overtime sound really, really good. And because cubicle really does not.
So I just need to get over the fact that I won’t be working at a place that feels right up my alley. The way that Food52 did. I just need to get over the fact that I will probably be the not-proud owner of a hair net, for the first few months. And I just need to remember to feel fortunate about the whole thing. Not humiliated. I just need to remember that this is a good, solid start. A smart start.
2. My relationship with food.
I feel uneasy about this too. Inauthentic, I guess you could say.
When, in truth, I can only manage to have little bites of those things. Without feeling absolutely horrible. Without being absolutely horrible.
You see me with an ice cream in my lap, but you don’t see me the rest of the time. When I’m going through more carrots than a bunny could ever dream of. Or drinking more diet soda than anyone ever should, just to feel full. Or copiously chewing gum, because that helps too. Or reaching for raw vegetables, when the things I really want are dusted in flour and doused in butter.
The truth is, I have an eating disorder. (Not just occasionally disordered eating.) I think I probably crossed that bridge a while ago. I thought I hadn’t, because I wasn’t scary thin, and because none of the names floating around out there quite seemed to fit. But I think it’s sort of undeniable, now.
I finally have the abs I’ve always wanted. The abs I’ve wanted for almost my entire adult life. All of a sudden, when I look down, I see a stomach doesn’t look like mine. I have no waist — I don’t know where it went. I have a breastbone and a rib cage and a bellybutton. Then hipbones. Hipbones, too.
But I am starving. Starving for a meal that fills up a whole plate. Starving for a full night’s sleep. Starving for a decent workout. Starving for a break — physically, physiologically. Do you know how hard it is to be happy, when you’re starving? Even when you’re in a wonderful new place.
Yesterday I got a surprise. A housewarming gift! My friend Martina sent me an apron that she’d sewn herself, with me in mind. (With POCKETS! Who needs Anthropologie when you have crafty friends?!)
When I opened it and read her incredibly thoughtful card, I thought: I want to be the kind of girl who will wear this apron. I want to be the kind of girl who bakes. For herself, and for the people she loves.
My eyes filled with tears, and I thought: I used to be the kind of girl who didn’t need perfume because she already smelled like vanilla. I used to be the kind of girl who was sure to have something sitting on the cake stand. I used to be the kind of girl who squealed at the sight of something sweet.
Maybe I can be that girl again, in Portland. Maybe I can try.