an unapologetic ode to food and bellies

notice the way stomach retreats like a hushed prisoner for over two hours and the way that hurts skin’s feelings

A woman walks on stage where even the microphone has a cup holder and she tells a story about her lifelong love affair with cake. Even when she speaks this word, her lips walk further away from her teeth, which part like you hope your lover’s thighs will, and you realize this is more than gluttony; this is true desire. The large, rectangular speaker hangs just above her to the left, projecting each word, which is never a whisper. She is not impersonating a vegan, nor bragging about how her latest cleanse makes her feel even more alert. She is emptying out her pockets, pressing hollow wrappers to the wooden stage. Calling out calorie counts like mathematical poems.

Her belly is soft. Not that I touched it. Not that I was close enough to brush against it. But the way her cotton shirt rubbed up against her stomach allowed me to see its suppleness. I realize I look at bellies a lot. I look at a lot of things, but especially this part which has never been soldier-like for me: firm, regimented and tough. My belly is more like a toddler: squirming and fidgety. It has never been flat, but I’ve also never had a routine to push it into a different shape.

I have a memory of kissing a woman many women and as hands move toward my stomach, it suddenly becomes a turtle, retreating inward. I become king multi-tasker as I pay attention to the language of our tongues swirling and breath bending and skin melting, while waiting for that moment of her hand against my…

This is the moment where I suck it in. All of my breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The snacks and desserts. The second helpings. The late night binges. The sneaky spoonfuls. And as I find somewhere else to put my belly she says:

Why are you doing that? Let it out.

And I wonder if her noticing means she does it too?

There are certain parts of our body that society wants to be flat, while other parts are asked to be rounded out. And I want to request a recall of these expectations.

I, too, like cake. And when I go to a restaurant I like to look at the dessert menu first to see what I am working towards. When I am eating a meal, I am often thinking about the next one. I do believe we have set too many boundaries on eating.

Boundaries…expectations…constraints… harassments…obsessions.

Maybe we just need to talk about it more.

When this woman told her story, I laughed because it felt like mine.

What happens from birth to the beyond-years where food becomes some kind of enemy or the friend that you are really close to, then get jealous of and start gossiping about and then ignore and then lose contact with. What I mean to say is: we aren’t I’m not being honest here. I’ve got some food issues. I’ve got an eating disorder or, disordered eating. There is some chaos in my body, in my eating habits, in the ways in which I qualify my meals.

Maybe we I just need to leave my belly where it is.

* * *

utilize flaps of skin like extra pockets to place grocery lists and recipes

memorize the texture of cellulite
bounce of kernels
un-popped beneath skin