Published on June 6th, 2018 | by Colleen Rothman2
There’s something about hosting a nine-month interloper that can fuck up even a previously healthy relationship with food. It could begin during those early waves of nausea, or the later trimesters of heartburn, or when the app that compares your growing fetus to an increasingly large series of fruits warns of the dangers of burrata. For me, it was around hour twenty of labor, when I begged to eat something, anything, and was handed a plastic cup of ice chips. My hunger was no longer relevant.
When I was finally allowed to devour the chicken pot pie they wheeled in on a tray, it was as a person transformed: someone else’s food source. The months I spent “eating for two” made food even more of a functional chore. A previous version of myself scoffed at people who ate to live instead of living to eat, but there I was, Googling galactagogues, eating to keep myself and a tiny human alive.
In that other life, food was everything—my paycheck and my pastime. In the mornings, I’d chase down chefs in the walk-ins at the restaurant where I worked to write that day’s menus. At lunch, I’d tear off a chunk of napkin-wrapped French bread from a loaf too hot to touch as my friends and I debated where to eat dinner. My twenties were an endless stream of happy hours and BYOB joints and holes in the wall that served bowls of pho so perfect they’d bring a tear to your eye.
Two years of motherhood have destroyed my appetite, and I don’t just mean the parts in which I share meals with a toddler who’s prone to gagging on mouthfuls of Chex and shitting his pants while buckled into his booster. From menu planning to emptying the dishwasher, I now dread every part of meal preparation. A big green truck delivers our groceries because I no longer have time to squeeze every avocado in the pile. I end up with the firmest ones in stock but over-tip the driver anyway, praying he won’t judge the ratio of fresh to frozen items in the bags he lines up next to our fridge. Many nights, my cooking involves little more than opening a box from the freezer and pressing a preset on the microwave. The only other device I use is the Instant Pot, my new personal assistant that prepares dinners while I’m in another room thinking about anything other than food.
Still, I must eat, because of this whole business of having a body that requires feeding approximately every six hours. Whoever the hell invented humans in general and the digestive system in particular needs to resolve this major design flaw. Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t evolved past it, creating a more perfect world in which no cow ends up in a Hardee’s wrapper, no child flunks a test because she didn’t eat breakfast, and no couple gets hangry at IKEA.
Here’s where my mother would interject, “You just need a night out,” as she FaceTimes me from a hair salon that’s five states away. We’ve tried. But escaping to some trendy restaurant full of hipsters on Tinder dates no longer provides the same entertainment it once did. I don’t have the patience to stand in line for a thirty-dollar burger or a cereal-flavored milkshake served with a glazed donut on the straw. I’m sick of admitting I haven’t “dined with us before,” because, dude, I’ve been to a restaurant in the past decade, so I’ve got small plates mastered, okay? I was up three times last night, and I want to sip strong coffee from a non-ironic diner mug—or better yet, a Sazerac prepared in a very dark bar by someone who knows what they’re doing—and think for a second.
More than anything, I want this loss of appetite to be a phase, like every other part of parenting has been. I wonder how long I’ll have to wait for this pleasure to return. In the meantime, I scroll past a bird’s eye shot of another camera-eats-first meal; an overexposed snap of a local delicacy in some city I can’t visit; an artfully styled holiday spread from some so-called influencer peddling lifestyle envy to her thousands of followers. Then, a friend’s photo of a full mug—tea re-nuked three times that day but never consumed. I double-tap, not for aesthetics but in solidarity. We’re in the shit together.