Today I went to Walgreens to fill a prescription for a toothache. This was the giant display next to the pharmacy counter. Skinny Pop. Rows and rows and rows of Skinny Pop, which I found ironic considering I wouldn’t dare eat popcorn with this toothache and which got me thinking about fad diets and about my girlfriends eating popcorn popcorn popcorn instead of dinner and wondering why you need Skinny Pop popcorn because isn’t regular popcorn non-food enough but it must sell like mad because there’s this giant display and oh what about gorgeous Olivia Pope on Scandal who lives on the finest red wine in long-stemmed glasses and popcorn and about how you can’t eat popcorn and all those carbs if you’re on a low/no-carb plan and how my dad used to sit in his recliner on Saturday nights with a giant mixing bowl of popcorn and … it was my turn in line.
When my Skinny essay came out this weekend I felt the sickening rush of exposure I always feel when an essay comes out, but mostly I worried about my sister and what she might think. If she would be hurt, or mad, or quietly sad. My sister and I are one year apart; we like each other; we blow up the phone lines with long loud (really loud, according to my husband) animated calls. And yet we have never once in our lives discussed food or fat or a single scene in this essay. You know I’m thinking about that. And our dad’s popcorn in the first paragraph up there. The first thing my sister said after reading was, You kept a lot of things to yourself. I’d say we both did. My sister tells me she goes to the gym at 5:30 every morning before work; she had a personal trainer for a year and half; she eats well and gave up sodas 4 years ago and never fries a single thing on her stove, and still, the daily struggle. How have we never talked about this?
Yesterday a good friend sent me this note: It’s frightening how insidious and at the same time “in your face” our learnings about our bodies are transmitted. Whether subtle family joking (or not) or mass cultural brainwashing it’s still going on even if we logically know better. For women, getting dressed means spanxx, make-up, hair: cut, colored and coiffed, high heels and a bottle of water so we feel full. But changing our thoughts is like fixing a leaky roof, there’s always a drip, drip widening into a torrent. I found myself admiring a woman’s body on the beach yesterday and as she passed I realized she was about 13 years old. How sad is that?
It’s afternoon. I’m back at Walgreens to pick up my meds. I had to skip lunch with this toothache, so I’m standing in line and staring once again at the colorful wall of Skinny Pop, the popcorn I can’t have. And I see these enormous blue letters above the display: PRESCRIPTIONS HERE.
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