Today is my birthday, and birthdays mean joy, happiness, and being surrounded by family and friends… but also birthday cakes and bites. Birthday food blows away all the joy for me at least once every birthday party, as someone remarks that she seriously has to start dieting again the day after, throwing a fearful look at the slice of pie. I’ll tell you something: that one piece is not going to bite, nor will it change you at all.
All about the cake
When I was a little kid, birthdays were all about the cake (okay, and the presents of course). I remember how excited I used to be at the prospect of blowing out the candles, making a wish, and then eating the chocolate decorations before digging into the cake. Did I think about what it would do to my body? Absolutely not. There was not time for that; I was too busy actually enjoying being the birthday girl.
“Bite me” and “it bites”
For the past ten years, my feelings about birthdays have changed massively. It started with feeling slightly bad about eating cake, to the point where I would reject all cake (or whatever kind of food) I was offered. When someone had made the cake herself, I felt sorry for rejecting it and wound up having a slice anyway.
I have a very vivid memory from when I was sixteen: one of my friends had baked a whipped cream pie, and she gave me a very colourful and — in my opinion — large piece (if it was bigger than the piece of the smallest person in the house, I freaked out. Were they trying to turn me into a whale or something?!). The piece was staring at me: “Take a bite!” I felt scared, as if it was about to bite me. It wasn’t until someone else started on her piece that I took a first baby bite and sloooowly ate it, while talking to other people (everything to slow the process). The cake tasted nice, much better than those store-bought ones, but instead of enjoying it, it was a dreadful thing for me. It was as if I could actually feel the fat and sugars being absorbed by my body, transforming me in an walrus as we spoke.
Suddenly the most fortunate unfortunate thing happened: my cake was lying in front of me, spread like a blood splatter on the carpet, as if I killed it. This was when I realised my anorexia had killed my ability to enjoy one of the things that makes a birthday a birthday: the cake. In all honesty, I was happy to get rid of it that easily, without having to lie to my dear friend who baked it (“That’s okay, I’ve had plenty and you should have enough pieces for everyone”).
Birthdays, especially someone else’s, became fearsome and scary after that. Not knowing what kind of cake to expect. Not knowing how big the piece would be. Not knowing what my body would be like afterwards. It was terrible.
Big, fat birthday cheesecake
I’m turning 22 today. It’s been ten years since my eating disorder developed. My parents will come over, and we’ll go out for lunch. I baked a cheesecake yesterday. It weighs a kilo, has an entire package of butter in it, as well as lots of sugar and many other ‘bad’ things. I know the exact measures of every single ingredient, but not because I once cared about the numbers. No, it’s because I’ve baked it so often. And you know what? It’s the best cake ever. Tasty, zesty, finger-licking yummy — one piece is not enough. I enjoy it until the last bite, because it’s my birthday only once a year after all. Oh, and because nothing will change. Even if I’d have the courage to take three pieces, I probably will look the same as yesterday. Just as long as I don’t do this 365 days a year, I should be fine.
To top it all off, I’m celebrating my birthday with friends this coming Friday. Although I’m not much into themed parties (or pizzas, as they still belong to ‘slightly scary food’) I decided it should be an Italian food party. I’ll be serving several kinds homemade mini pizzas (with dough made from scratch and fresh toppings), pomodoris filled with mozzarella and freshly baked bread to dip in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Because food should be fun instead of fearsome.