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Let Her Eat Cake
Let Her Eat Cake

By Melanie Klein--“Are you sure you’re not hungry?” he asked with grave concern as chicken grease ran down his fingers and his chin. We’d just finished a rigorous hike and I was starving—famished, ravenous and slightly light-headed.

I mean, really, we’d been cavorting, frolicking and climbing the local mountains in the summer heat for over 6 hours and I hadn’t eaten anything except for an apple. Maybe.

“Oh, no, I’m fine,” I replied. He paused mid-bite and questioned me with raised eyebrows. “I’m good--really,” I said sounding far too relaxed and nonchalant about something as serious as a meal after physically exerting myself as excessively as I had. But, nope, I wouldn’t change my mind. I was not going to let him see me eat, especially a greasy, messy meal like that. Mind you, this is the same guy I wouldn’t take a pee around. I’d turn the faucet on when I had to go really bad to make sure he didn’t hear me, otherwise I’d hold it until I got home. I know I wasn’t the only 17-year-old girl to pull a stunt like that.

If there was anything I’d learned up to that point, it was that girls and women don’t have bodily functions or odors (unless they’re created in chemical factories and mask your natural female body smells), and they aren’t supposed to be seen eating (unless it’s yogurt, salad or other “girl” food) or sweating (unless they’re sweating like women should—hello, female antiperspirant industry).

 

Fast forward to 15 years later:

“Are you going to eat that?” the student I had been mentoring asked with nervous excitement. “Yes,” I said awaiting the sweet taste of carrot cake as my fork hovered close to my lips. “In public?” she continued.

“Um, where else should I eat it? In the bathroom or the broom closet?” I laughed as I sank my teeth into the cream cheese frosting knowing perfectly well that those were considered viable options, ones preferred over this scenario—that of a woman eating cake out in public in broad daylight. I’m talking a slice of cake, not a bite of cake and not an entire cake. A slice of cake. On a Tuesday at 1 in the afternoon. There was no special occasion. I simply wanted some cake and I felt no shame or remorse about it.  Shame and guilt had led me to stuff myself in private after starving myself publicly one too many times in the past.

“Wow. I admire you. I wish I could do that,” she said slowly. I asked her what was stopping her and she went on to tell me about her mother, a woman who kept a scale in the dining room so she could look at it while she ate dinner and remind herself not to eat too much. And when it came to cake? Well, her mother always cut much smaller slices for the girls and reserved the big frosted pieces for the boys at the family party.

We continued to have lunch on campus between classes with a few other students for several weeks and each time I’d enjoy something sweet without embarrassment or great fanfare on my end. One day she sat down and said, “I have to tell you something.” She giggled like someone about to dish a shameful secret. “I went to my cousin’s birthday party over the weekend and when my mom handed me a thin slice of cake on a paper plate, I told her that I wanted a big one. She looked at me with surprise as I put the plate she handed me back on the table and grabbed one of the large slices. I felt great.”



“Over It” by Liz Acosta. For the full artist statement on this video, click here.

 

 

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Comments

Thu, 10/24/2013 - 15:43.
Marty789 (not verified) says:
We cannot stop our self if we started to eat cake because not even it taste savory it's also taste so sweet. - YORHealth
Wed, 07/24/2013 - 22:55.
Arield says:
It is so upsetting how women are forced to believe and abide by this fallacy of having to have the perfect girl. The mass media portrays all women as flawless, unbelievably beautiful, thin, sexy objects of fun that must have big perfect breasts and ass. If not, there is something wrong with them or they are not pretty/beautiful. The media shows images of models that are touched up by photoshop and other technological editing tools. Women are trained to believe that they need to maintain this image and that is the norm. These expectations vary between culture, race, and several other factors. Funny how the animated woman shown beside the comment box on the right is a blonde hair, blue eyed, tall, skinny woman. Even this image is heavily influenced by the media! Although it is a far fetched thought due to the fact that we live in a patriarchy, I hope that women will be given some relief from all the pressure and stress placed on them by society and gender roles.
Wed, 07/24/2013 - 05:25.
Qujuan F says:
For me, I don't care if women eat large amounts of food in front of me. Most women are scared to eat certain things because they thing guys might see it as unattractive. although that might be true with some people, not all people are like that. When it comes to being peer pressured into not eating a lot by your family members, it leaves a life long effect on you about how much food you eat at once.Family Peer pressure is a reason why some girls have eating disorders.
Fri, 07/19/2013 - 23:14.
KaylaAr says:
When reading this article, I realized how accurate it was. Everything said in this article related to my life in some way. Coming from a family with two brothers, I never felt really uncomfortable eating in front of boys. I would eat hamburgers, ice cream, french fries, cake, whatever and never was really embarrassed.However that quickly changed at age 10 when I was at a family birthday. I went to grab a large piece of cake. When i started eating, my mom came up to me and quietly told me to clean my mouth, eat less, and be less sloppy. She said to me "Girls do not eat like that." Like your student said, my mom started of giving me smaller portions then my brothers. She gave me healthier food and keeps on reminding me not to eat too much. As of then I have never try to really eat anything messy in public especially in front of men. This article made me realize how so many girls act like this. Every time I am out with girlfriends we eat literally like pigs, not caring one bit. However when one guy is present, even if we don't find him attractive, everything changes. We start eating food like salad and sometimes nothing. There needs to be change. We have appetites and we should be able to eat anything we want without feeling guilty.
Fri, 05/24/2013 - 21:09.
Brenda S. says:
Reading this article, really had an impact on me, because I could really relate to the issues mentioned. Everytime I eat something I am always thinking about the calories, and if I eat this now then I have to work out later. Even though I am aware that this mentality to so sick and wrong. I just can't seem to stop myself from thinking this way. However, now I have to just keep reminding myself that I perfect just the way I am, and I "kinda dont care!" I too hate eating in front of people, especially guys because I am afaid they will think that I "eat like a man". But what I came to realize is that, gender classification is all socially constructed. Girls just like guys need to eat. Also the images that media portays make girls believe that they have to have thigh gaps and flat stomachs to be perfect, loved and accepted. But in reality, all of those images are photoshopped so we are comparing ourselves to created images that are impossible to attain. Girls and women, need to start embracing their bodies and becoming comfortable in their own skin they way they are, and enjoying food without feeling guilty or bad!
Tue, 05/07/2013 - 21:37.
Jnaziri says:
After reading this blog, all I could think about was how this is the story for almost every girl out there. I believe we all have that moment where we don’t want to eat “fatty” foods in front of males because we don’t want them thinking we’re “fat.” I think its important to eat what you want, but in proportion. If you don’t feel comfortable eating fatty foods in front of a male you want to impress then don’t. I do believe we as girls do get judged on what we eat and how we perceive ourselves. Its not fair that we always have to order the healthy stuff on the menu when going out. I personally sometimes don’t feel comfortable either, but it depends who I’m around. if I was around my male crush, then no, I would watch what goes in my mouth. When I’m with my family, I’m comfortable eating, but I don’t blow it out of proportion. I do enjoy eating health foods rather than greasy because I tend to work out a few times a week. Now discussing the cake part, all I have to say is wow! How can a girl ask you if you’re going to eat the cake in public? First of all whats it to her? Second, why would she put her shame on you? Reading this blog, I can come to conclusion that her mom was very crazy and made her daughter feel very bad when she wanted to eat junk food. I find it pretty crazy that her mom had a scale in the living room so she can look at it every time she ate. Thats sounds bizarre to me. I’m sure if this girls mom was not around all the time, she would be rebellious with what she put in her mouth every day. It really upsets me that she has had so many incidents where she has to starve herself in public. I’m glad at the end of the article she asked her mom for a bigger piece of cake. Sometimes in life, we need to overcome our fears and act as our own person. Always caring what other people think is very uncomfortable and will cause a great deal of madness in the future.
Tue, 04/30/2013 - 02:55.
JasmineGh says:
Personally, a close family member of mine has Type II Diabetes and I find it really challenging to eat a sugary dessert like cake when I am home. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to eat anything sweet when I go out and I definitely eat the food I want to eat when I am around my boyfriend. However, at home I don't feel I should be having a large piece of cake. I almost feel guilty when I eat anything sweet because I feel I am breaking an ethical code. I am not ashamed of my body and I know I could be having it, but a surge of guilt goes through me when I eat a cake in front of some members of my family. I don't know if I could enjoy the sweet effects of a sugary dessert at home, but I hope one day I could eat a cake without feeling ashamed.
Tue, 12/04/2012 - 07:30.
WendyA says:
I used to do the same thing I would never eat in front of my boyfriend especially messy foods. I would say no when offered food even if my stomach was growling I would refuse. When I got more comfortable I started eating more now 4 years later I eat whatever I want wherever I want in front of him or anyone for that matter. I realized why am I going to hide the fact that I eat if I’m hungry I’m going to eat regardless of who is around. As far as cake I do see girls that will not eat a piece a cake I think it’s a shame because they are preventing themselves from eating something good and leaving themselves with the craving instead of being satisfied. It’s a shame that girls and women feel as though they cannot eat foods besides salad in public. Society has caused women and girls to be paranoid that they can’t even eat what they want when they want to. People shouldn’t feel shame when eating its natural you need food to survive. I will never go back to my old ways I love the freedom I have when eating I don’t feel guilty eating in public and that’s the way it should be.
Sun, 05/06/2012 - 19:28.
Molly says:
Hi Natalie, That's an interesting observation and I have definitely noticed the same thing. I agree, we definitely need to start educating people. I think there is a huge lack of awareness around these issues and that is one reason why they continue to be a problem.
Sat, 05/05/2012 - 22:26.
Natalie P says:
This article had me thinking about a lot of things but brought up some new thoughts that were very interesting. I have met very few men in my life that are cautious about what they do or do not eat in front of others. Besides comments on whether the taste of what they are eating is good, great, or how satisfied or full they are, there is no other talk focused on the food. On the other hand, there have been very few times that I have heard women express the same feelings about food, without additionally commenting on their diet, or their body, or whether they, not the food, are “bad,” or “good.” In more recent years I have begun to see a different version of women’s statements on food and eating. Now, with female family members or friends, usually in the company of other women, it seems it is important for them to point out that they don't mind having a burger, or indulging in dessert. Instead of feeling refreshed or comforted by this pointing out what they are eating, I feel more frustrated and concerned about the female relationship with food. Pointing out to others that they can eat "this," or "that," usually doesn't feel genuine, but like they still need to justify what they are eating. It is obvious that we are still just as preoccupied with what we are eating in front of others. Instead of this seeming as though women are making progress in feeling confident in what they are eating in front of others, I feel as though most of us women have just found another way to hide our discomfort and shame about food and body. I have spent most of my life preoccupied with what others will see and think about what I eat. Even through the personal work I have done with regards to food and body, I have only just begun to see that we need more than just individual work. We need to speak out, and educate others on these ideas, assumptions and social expectations, and it cannot be accomplished without the willingness of men and women alike.
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