Friday, April 9, 2010

Just the Crust

Because my husband is still away and he is our resident cook extraordinaire, I caved into the kids’ overwrought pleas and took them out for dinner at Pizza Slut. Err, Hut. This was a decision fraught with controversy. 1. Christopher built a wood-fired oven in the yard for his 40th birthday; as a result, the only pizzas I’ve eaten in years are of the papery-crust, wild mushroom with truffle oil variety. 2. Pizza Hut is hell for those recovering from an eating disorder. Stuffed crust pizza (1 slice = 395 calories), Mac and cheese and bacon (1 serving = 1050 calories), and Hershey’s Chocolate Dunkers (1 piece = 400 calories). The only possible thing I’d put near my mouth was a diet soda.

I decided they would eat and I’d watch. Getting my son to eat involves micromanaging, anyway (i.e., playing food slave and dropping the grapes into his mouth), which by default means no time for me to eat. (Okay, lame excuse). But post-Pizza Slut, I’d put together a salad. Not just a measured, anorexic wedge of iceberg, dressing on the side, thank you. But baby arugula, hard-boiled eggs (yes, plural), and olives bathed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic, a slice of homemade sourdough on the side. Surely this is a salad that could stand up to goopy, greasy pizza.

The kids both ordered mini-pizzas of the personal variety: 1 cheese, 1 pepperoni.

“What do you want, Momma?” my daughter asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “I’ll eat later.”

Of course, that has been the difficulty these days while Christopher is away: my eating later and alone. Both conditions feed the urge to both skip the meal (i.e., you’re not hungry anyway and there’s no one here keeping track) and, if I give in and eat (listening to my healthy self), there is then the urge to purge (You think a salad is a freebie?). But there was no way I could eat Pizza Hut, together or alone. I’d be at the toilet in an instant. So I sat with my pitcher-sized glass of Diet Pepsi (already on refill #2) and watched them charge ahead with gusto and bravado—The puffy crust is so good! I’ll finish before you! No, I will. No, I will.

Midway through the meal, my daughter offered me a piece. “I thought you said you’d eat with us!” she said, while nodding—happy to share, happy to share—but there is also the implication of concern. Every night before I tuck my daughter into bed, she gives me a stern look and wags her finger. “What are you going to have for dinner? You’re going to eat, right?”

I run over the intended menu—tuna salad sandwich--while IT derisively challenges, “Eat? What makes you’d think I’d let you eat?”

“Yuck,” my daughter says to the tuna, but then “Are you going to eat now?”

Of course, part of her playing the taskmaster is her way of knowing the night’s schedule, most importantly these days, when I will climb into bed with her. She gets lonely and scared and wants me, me who has failed as a mother in so many ways, me still. But there is also genuine worry: she rarely sees me eat, has seen my body malnourished, and knows that I am often hospitalized. Also, she hears Christopher’s badgering me about meals eaten, meals skipped, and meals purged; her mimicry is heartbreaking. She knows too much.

But still, I refuse the pizza: IT will not give way. She gave the pizza two huge chomps, and then handed me the crust. “You eat it, Momma.”

So I ate, out of love. Just the crust. Because she’s watching and wants me, still.