Unconscious Prejudice and Climbing Shoes.

Yesterday, me and my entirely lovely housemate C were in the unfortunate position of having no option but to go shopping. In Dundrum town centre. On a Saturday afternoon. Yes, it was every bit as bad as you think. But we’re recovering nicely.

One of the things that we needed to do was buy some climbing shoes for C. She knew precisely what she wanted the shoes to do, she had been to all the outdoor shops in town to no avail, and the only thing left for it was Dundrum, where there is a very lovely Snow & Rock where she got some perfectly good climbing shoes* a while back.

It was late-ish by the time we got there. There was only one person working in the climbing section, who was busy discussing shoes with two guys when we got there. We figured the polite thing to do would be to wait for him to be finished with them, and in the meantime we had a bit of a browse around. C tried on some shoes that were already out, I checked out some climbing books.

Those guys took ages to pick out their shoes. No biggie. They’re pretty specialised kinds of shoes, it makes sense that people would take a while picking them out. When the sales guy walked past us (frequently- we were between the other customers and the storeroom), we tried to catch his eye to indicate that we were about when he was done with the others. But he didn’t seem to pick up on us. Odd.

It took them about a half-hour to pick out their shoes and go. When they were gone, the SG came by where we were waiting again- but didn’t interact with us at all until C asked him if she could try on some shoes. He looked up, surprised, and said that the shop was closing now.

C told him that we had been here waiting for a half an hour while he was with the other guys. Again, surprise. And then, “Oh, I thought you two were here with them!”

Let’s go over some things, shall we? We entered the shop at a different time to them. We didn’t say hello to them or talk to them. We spent our time in a part of the shop several metres away from where they were trying on shoes. During this time we picked up shoes, C tried shoes on, and I browsed climbing gear. During the half-hour we were waiting, we didn’t interact with them in any way.

But we were two girls, they were two guys, we were in an outdoor shop- so I guess we must be their girlfriends?

After that, the SG was more than polite. He wasn’t patronising in the slightest. He asked C what kind of shoes she wanted and for what kind of climbing. They discussed it, he made recommendations, she compared a few different shoes, and twenty minutes or so later we left the shop with a brand new pair of lovely shoes to climb in. He treated her like just another climber, he was very professional. And once he realised his slip-up, he did let us stick around in the otherwise-closed shop for as long as it took.

And that is what unconscious prejudice looks like. People who don’t know that they’re prejudiced. Those of us who, when we’re aware of it, treat people equally. Who, quite likely, act in an egalitarian manner the vast majority of the time in our circles of friends and family. Who don’t see ourselves as sexist, or racist, or homophobic or ablist. But lurking in our subconscious, there are so many tiny ways that we can’t get past our conditioning. Conditioning, often, by equally well-meaning people.

It’s why it’s so dangerous. Unconscious prejudice lives in the cracks between the actions that we’re aware of and the things we do automatically while our minds are elsewhere. It’s in the snap judgements that we have to make hundreds of times a day to function in large-scale societies. And because it’s in the things we are unaware of, the things that we don’t even remember doing, it’s incredibly difficult to do anything about. And it does have real-world effects. While that incident yesterday was only a small thing, it’s one of many. It’s one of many that was notable enough that me and C both remarked on it. It’s ordinary enough that we were both able to come up with several similar instances and patterns that we have grown to expect. The vast majority of which are carried out by people who don’t know they’re doing them. And none of which are those which I’m sure we carry out ourselves every day, in a throwaway comment here, an extra few seconds of attention there. Innumerable tiny things.

By the way, before I finish: I’m not saying anything against Snow & Rock, or the salesperson there yesterday. Like I said, he was entirely professional, and they had some great shoes. I’d recommend the place, in fact. I’m just using one instance to illustrate a widespread phenomenon.


*Which have now been passed on to me. Yay! No more climbing failing abysmally to scramble up a wall in trainers!

Unconscious Prejudice and Climbing Shoes.

Why I don’t get to say I’m not a racist.

I’m all for self-identification. People figuring out who they are and who they want to be? People finding words to describe things about themselves in ways that finally make sense, damnit? Finding out about these words and identifications and learning more about the different ways that people can be, can live their lives, can feel and think? The ways in which this adds so much richness to all of our understandings of ourselves, each other, and the very human world we live in? Awesome. Really, incredibly, fantastically awesome.

I get to say that I am many, many things. And I get to say that I am not many other things. And by doing so, I get to make more sense of who I am and what that means.

But I don’t get to say that I’m not a racist. Or ableist, or transphobic, or classist, or even sexist or homo/biphobic, or anything like that. You don’t get to say the same about yourself, either. And the reason for this is not just because of the inevitable immediate consequences of a phrase like “I’m not a racist, but..”. While that would be a good reason itself, there’s a more important one.

Being any of those things isn’t about me. It’s about the effects of my actions on others. Replace any of the above words with ‘asshole’, or your favourite non-specific insult of choice, and this will start to make sense. I can say that I’m not an asshole all that I want, but if people perceive my actions as assholish? If I consistently do things which can be defined as assholish? I’m an asshole. Because being an asshole isn’t about me, it’s about how my actions impact on others.

So I don’t get to say that I’m not a racist, or any other thing like that. Because being not-a-racist- or any equivalent for other categories- has nothing to do with what I feel myself to be, or how I identify. It isn’t about me. It’s not a box I can put myself into. It’s the constantly changing sum of the stuff that I do, and what that does to the people around me.

Oh, and I think there’s a rule on the internets that whenever these sort of things are mentioned, the mentioner gets to link to Jay Smooth. So here you go, for your not particularly tangentially related viewing pleasure:

Why I don’t get to say I’m not a racist.

Being Privileged (and not being an ass about it)

Jen McCreight over at Blag Hag just posted about a rather predictable thing that happened when she mentioned her disappointment at an impressively-skewed gender ratio of speakers at a conference. Namely, that only 2 of 15 speakers were women, which would be impressively skewed if it weren’t so darned common.
A predictable reply, of course, ensued:

Jennifurret, do you think the organizers are being sexist? Should they seek out more women to speak? Do you have a list of such speakers you could give them? If you feel there need to be more women at such conferences, then by all means, go to such conferences. Get involved, write articles, get invited. I’d do it except I’m not qualified to be a woman, so you have to.

Now, Jen has perfectly marvellously demolished most of this person’s, eh, ‘arguments’, since she’s got the list, writes the articles, and speaks at the conferences. Booyeah! This is the woman behind Boobquake, fer feck’s sake!

The thing I’d take issue with is that last sentence. You know the one. Just so you don’t have to strain your eyes too much looking up at it, I’ll copy it here for you again:

I’d do it except I’m not qualified to be a woman, so you have to.

This, my lovely readers, is one of the major essences of Being A Privileged Ass. Not only do you get to have bucketloads of privilege, but you also get to completely deny any responsibility for doing anything about it! It’s up to those lazy oppressed people to get up off their asses, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work as hard as all the privileged people have been working all these years! Privileged people have no responsibility whatsoever to even be aware of their privilege, never mind actually giving a damn and doing anything about it. Right? Right?

Which would be great, if it weren’t, in fact, the other way around. Members of any oppressed class you care to mention tend to have a whole lot more to deal with than their relatively privileged counterparts. In addition to this, they tend to be less likely to be in positions of power, and are less likely to be listened to. Not to mention being at higher risk of all sorts of hassle and violence if they do speak up. Because of this, people who are relatively privileged- and as a white, able-bodied, college-educated cissexual Westerner, I’m counting myself in this- have an absolute responsibility to do something about the structures which privilege us. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to add our voices to those calling for more representation of, and necessary accommodations for those who do not share our privilege.

Or, you know, we could all throw up our hands and say that it’s nothing to do with us. That’s sure to help.

Being Privileged (and not being an ass about it)

Attention: women! You might be fat without even knowing it!

According to this charming article which has been lurking about the internet for a few weeks now (several decades in internet time, I am aware), a full quarter of women who are overweight perceive themselves as normal.

Oh, and this is a problem. A terrible, terrible problem, because all of those women? They might not know about all of the horrible health conditions they could be suffering from right at this very minute! These women might even be eating a normal amount of food and not starving themselves, because they don’t even know that they’re disgusting, sick freaks of horribleness possibly maybe kinda unhealthy. Maybe. Because, of course having a BMI over 25 automatically makes a person unhealthy than their 24.9 counterparts. Because a woman could never know herself if she is healthy or not. Because the only way to be healthy is to eat a restricted diet. Because, of course, a person who is overweight can’t be normal.

But less of the snark, and let’s get to actually looking at the article, shall we? Most of the article focuses on the fact that a reasonably large proportion of women feel themselves to be in a different BMI category than they are. Some women who are ‘overweight’ see themselves as ‘normal*’, and vice-versa.
Okay, fair enough. Not all of us have the time or the inclination to constantly check our BMIs. We might be more interested in how our bodies feel and look to us than how this relates to a height-weight ratio that is, frankly, of very little use on an individual level. We might be busy with actually getting on with our lives and have different priorities.

But then we get to the discussion, to what is talked about, what is left out, and how topics are actually discussed. While the research itself appears to have included ‘underweight’ as a category, this article defines ‘normal’ weight as a BMI under 25. Can anyone else see the large, glaring problem here? Particularly when being severely underweight comes with rather more acute health problems (actual starvation) than being equivalently overweight (claims that certain chronic conditions are more likely which, contrary to popular opinion, are frequently contested).
When contrasting unhealthy behaviours among people who misperceive their weights, there also seems to be an imbalance in discussion in this article. While ‘normal’ weight people who perceive themselves as overweight are more likely to smoke or take diet pills- both activities which are dangerous in themselves- those who are ‘overweight’ might simply not be restricting their diets. How… terrible?
Later, however, we get to the really peachy stuff**. The last section of the article talks about how the ‘fattening of America’ could be causing people to feel themselves to be ‘normal’ when they are really abnormal ‘overweight’- how seeing other people of similar weights around them causes people to normalise higher weights.
Leaving aside that this is problematised? Again, okay, fair enough. I can see how seeing people like you around you would lead you to think that being like you is pretty much normal. However, let’s go back to the numbers, shall we? Some back-of-an-envelope calculations give me, in this study, 22% of ‘overweight’ women seeing themselves as ‘normal’, and 16% of ‘normal’ women seeing themselves as ‘overweight’. While there is a disparity between the two, I’m going to guess that it isn’t a hugely significant one***. It’s around the same range, ish. Oh, and no numbers at all are given for women classed as ‘underweight’. Surprised?
Which is where we go back to the problematisation of ‘overweight’ women perceiving themselves as ‘normal’. There simply isn’t an equivalent problematisation, in this article, the other way around. It’s not there. The idea that there are every bit as significant a fraction of women who think themselves to be ‘overweight’ when they’re not? The fact that we’re shaming women of all sizes into behaviours that are both unhealthy and damned un-fun in the pursuit of a certain body type, and then writing damning articles about them when they have a healthy self-image? Not there either. And all of this without even a mention of the 49% of the human race left out of this discussion entirely.

There’s just one more thing I want to talk about, regarding this article and the women it criticises. And that is that it appears to me that one of the people they’re talking about here? The people they’re criticising like this for not restricting their diets and being suitably ashamed of their bodies? Is me.
See, I did some calculations over the past few weeks after this article came out. It turns out that my BMI? Varies between 23-ish and 25-ish. If I’m feeling a bit bloated, a bit on the PMSey side of things and happen to have eaten recently? If I’ve decided today that I’m probably closer to 5’2″ than 5’3″? I could, without even noticing, cross that great divide between Normal and Abnormal Overweight, between Healthy and Should Be Starving Herself. Today? I have no idea, and I have no interest in getting on the bathroom scales and taking out my calculator to find out.

*Here I recommend tying a nice pillow onto your forehead to avoid bruising from the inevitable headdesking and facepalming. If you don’t happen to have any pillows of appropriate size, you should be able to McGyver something with, say, some nice thick socks and some string or elastic.
**You might want to make sure that pillow is firmly attached to your forehead before going any further.
*** Feel free to jump in here please, statisticians!

Attention: women! You might be fat without even knowing it!

Weekend omnivory

The ethics of food is an odd one. It seems quite cut-and-dried: eat in a sustainable fashion. Local food, as veggie-based as possible. Steer clear of battery farms, stick to the organic, the free-range, the lovely produce down at the farmer’s market. Not a bother, eh?

Except that, of course, it is a bother. It’s a hell of a bother. And it’s a bother that is far more realistic for some than others. It’s a cliche that veg*nism is a middle-class privilege, but there’s some truth to that. Locally-grown, organic food is often harder to source and always more expensive than the alternatives. Eating well as a veggie or vegan takes more time, effort and thought than as an omnivore. And if you have food intolerances or allergies then, well, it’s a minefield.

Which is a thing that I had been thinking about in the past few months, as I’ve moved from an entirely omnivorous diet to what I like to call weekend omnivory. While I am by no means vegetarian, I keep my meat/fish-eating down to a day or two a week at the most, and veggie it up the rest of the time. What this means for me is that when I cook at home, it’s veggie, and I save my omnivory for when I’m out. The reason for this is pragmatic- it’s as easy for me to cook something delicious and veggie/vegan as it is to cook anything else when I’m at home, but if I’m travelling around the country with work or visiting friends, then it’s often significantly more practical to not be fussy.

The reason that I do this? A combination of ethics, pragmatism, and an awareness of my own needs. Sure, it would be better, ethically speaking, to cut out meat and dairy entirely. However, for pragmatic reasons it just ain’t gonna happen. However, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If I can cut out, say, 70% of my intake of animal products, then that’s a hell of a lot better than doing nothing. And, to be honest, I think that 70% is a hell of a lot more important than the other 30. More than twice as important, if we’re being nitpicky.

The other reason that I do things this way? Is my awareness of my own needs, which is something I’ve been reminded of in the past few days by some posts I’ve read over in Voracious, formerly the Voracious Vegan. Tasha, whose blog it is, recently reverted to omnivory, for health reasons, after over three years of veganism. Her post detailing why she did so is worth a read, by the way. As is her more recent post responding to the reaction to her announcement. Yikes.

I can relate to her situation. While I wasn’t vegan, I was vegetarian for about seven years, and my reasons for reverting to omnivory were a combination of pragmatism and health. Pragmatism because I was in final year of my undergrad, barely had time to sleep, never mind cooking, and the veggie options available on campus were rather lacking. Health, because in the months directly preceding my decision, I’d been plagued with an array of weird health problems which I won’t go into in much detail, but which did largely resolve themselves when I reintroduced meat to my diet.

That’s not an easy thing to say- as Tasha at Voracious is finding out this week. Either it means you just didn’t try hard enough, or else it’s seen as a vindication that veggie diets Just Don’t Work. Instead of simply meaning that at some times, for some people, they’re not going to work, but for other people they work just fine.

Which brings me back to sustainability. When we talk about sustainability and the ethics of food, it does seem cut-and-dried. But sustainability is about us, as well as about the world around us, and that is anything but. A sustainable diet* is not only one which is good for the environment, for animals, for others and the world around us. It’s also one which we can practically sustain, which both nourishes us and leaves us time to live our lives.

In short, it’s complicated. Oh, and weekend omnivory is awesome. If it works for you.

*Diet meaning the sum of what we eat, as opposed to weight-loss diets. They’re a whole different kettle of fish.

Weekend omnivory

Yes, I take this personally: bi stereotypes in queer spaces.

So, tonight I was going to write a post about food ethics and part-time herbivory, and possibly round it off with a pretty photo of the delicious lentil moussaka that I just made. However, while I was waiting for the moussaka to bake*, I happened upon a post over on AfterEllen that got me all cranky. See, I really don’t like it when people go around telling me how I can and can’t identify. I really don’t like it when people say that my identity isn’t real, that it’s absolutely fine for them to talk about how it’s not real and to talk shit about people like me. And I really, really don’t like it when they also say that it’s not okay for me to be upset by this.
Which is why I did not like the recent post by Ariel Schrag, Comics ‘n Things: Queer identities in comics.
Now, there were two major sections to this article, which was about Erika Moen’s comic DAR. In the second section she criticises Moen’s attitudes towards transmen. While I think the whole issue of gender and attraction is complicated as all hell and that people should be able to express their gendered preferences, I’m also well aware that there can also be a hell of a creepy (not to mention disrespectful) element to the way that people talk about their attraction to trans people, and that is Not Okay. Nope. Not good. But in this, me and Schrag are in agreement.
My problem is with the first 3 pages of the article. Schrag talks disparagingly about Moen’s experiences as a lesbian who finds herself in love with a man, and the complications of navigating this as a queer-identified person with a big personal investment in the gay community. And then she says that, well, it’s absolutely fine for the gay community to be resentful of her, because after all she has all this het privilege now. And that Moen now has no right to claim a queer identity. And no right to have a hard time with all of this, and to talk about having a hard time. And no right to talk about being happy in her relationship.

You know something? No. Just, no.
If Moen says that it was harder to deal with falling for a guy when she ID’d as gay than to deal with coming out as gay in the first place? Then it was harder. I’ve been there, it’s fucking hard. It’s a hell of a lot harder to come out as something where you don’t get to have a nice neat pre-packaged community of people like you who have clearly signposted places to hang out. I was talking about this with a friend of mine** who put it like this:

“oh no my mother is displeased but all of my friends are incredibly supportive!”
“oh look all my friends are kind of tossing vicious slurs at me.”
“…but my mother’s less disappointed, so WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG”

Which seems to me like a rather succinct representation of the whole thing.

But yes. Not cool, Schrag. Seriously.

And any other points I would like to make are going to have to wait, because the timer just went off on the oven and it’s Delicious Moussaka O’Clock.

*it smells yummy. Yummy, I tell you!
**who insisted on either remaining anonymous or having an obscene pseudonym. Prudey McPruderson over here has decided that this means anonymity. So there.

Yes, I take this personally: bi stereotypes in queer spaces.

On side-effects.

Before I say anything: this isn’t directed at any particular person. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed over the last while- there isn’t any single incident that led to this.

Recently, I’ve been in the interestingly prosaic position of dealing with an incredibly irritating, but also harmless, eminently (and cheaply!) treatable, and not in the least bit icky, sort of condition. A bit of an inner-ear thing, I gather, which is a very lovely and simple (and did I mention treatable?) explanation for the last six months of strange hearing, balance and general oddness issues that had been worrying me quite unduly*.

So for the next couple of months I’m on a cocktail of cheap and easily-available OTC meds. Grand, so. I’m sure that many of you pop these things on a regular basis without a care in the world. In fact, I’ve been hearing all about it, pretty much any time I mention anything to do with this.

And you know something? I don’t want to know. I really, really don’t want to know. I don’t want to know that you can take these things that I have to take every day for the next couple of months without side-effects. When I’m trying to find a balance between the pills that will make me sleep for twelve hours straight and wake up exhausted, or the ones which leave me anxious, jittery, flying off the handle at a moments notice and in a constant low-level state of panic? I don’t want to know that you can pop either of them and barely notice a thing. It doesn’t help.

What would help? If you’ve been in a similar situation, tell me about how you dealt with it. If not, then just agree with me that it sucks, and listen when I tell you that yes, I really do need you to talk more quietly. I’m not saying it to be annoying, I’m saying it because certain sounds make my head feel like it’s going to explode.

But you know something? I have it lucky. I have a temporary condition which I expect, with any luck, to be sorted by Christmas. I can easily afford any meds I need, and I don’t need any gatekeepers to give me access to them. Dealing with affordability issues and gatekeepers as well as balancing effects and side-effects? Owch. That must suck.

*Yes, I went to the doctor expecting a diagnosis of Advanced Imminent Painful Death, or at the very least Untreatable Condition, Just Live With It. Don’t we all, though? ……Don’t we?

On side-effects.

More on Neda: extremism, religion, power and ‘us’.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Neda today, since watching For Neda, the doc I linked to in my last post. I’m still trying to work out how to relate to and conceptualise what happened. I don’t think that’s a process that I’ll reach a clear conclusion with any time soon, if ever.

My first and strongest reaction is, of course, a deep-seated sense of sorrow and of horror. And of shame, at my own intrusion into such a.. senseless is the wrong word for this act. Because it wasn’t senseless. On the part of the Iranian government, killing its citizens was (and continues to be) a calculated act. On the part of the Basiji who killed her- well, it must have made sense at the time.


I want to know more about these Basij, these government militia. I want to know more about who they are, about why they are part of the militia. About how they became who they are now. Who taught them. What their lives are like. If it is fear that makes them beat and kill or if it is just a hunger for power? Where in society are they from- are they from all social classes or just some? This is what I want to know. This is what I want to understand. I can empathise so easily with those who mourn Neda, but in order to help to end this, I think we need to understand those who kill, and would kill, those like her.

There’s a quote from that doc. I can’t remember it exactly, but it involves some Basiji women who confronted Neda in the days before she died, saying that it was dangerous for her to be outside because she was beautiful, and ‘they’ hate beauty. That they cannot control themselves around it, and they need to control themselves or else they will be wicked, so they must destroy it.

I want to know how people learn to hate that much. I want to learn how to empathise with that hatred, to understand it, deep in its most basic motivations and impulses. Not to forgive, mind you. To understand, because you can’t fight against a thing you cannot comprehend.

about religion.

I don’t think it’s about religion, although it is, of course, always about religion. However, it’s so, so easy to point and say “this is religion” or “this is Islam”, when discussing what appear to be fanatical, irrational motivations. These people believe one irrational thing, so why not another, and another, and another?

To say so, however, is to be lazy and simplistic. To hijack religion to explain the acts of extremists is to throw up your hands, to not have to bother thinking about any implications of other, more uncomfortable elements of a more complex explanation. While it is impossible to deny the religious motivations of the Basij- they are serving the Islamic Republic, after all- it would be unfair and inaccurate to deny that many, including Neda herself, practiced and lived a spirituality and religion entirely different, sharing only a name. The religion of the Islamic Republic, here, can be seen as a cover for power, for fear of the Other, for motivations I am too ignorant and too distant to begin to guess at. The religion that they use, however, can only be diminished by understanding those facets, the context within which it occurs. Simply brushing aside heinous acts by blaming the religion of their perpetrators is not only unfair, it is blatantly inaccurate.

us (westerners).

I’m a European, middle-class, college educated, urban, white cis woman. I don’t know what you are, but since this is the internet, it’s likely that you and I share at least one or two of those characteristics- although you’re probably American, not European. What I’m about to say has been said before, many times, but it stands saying again. The death of a young, attractive, cosmopolitan woman- wearing a baseball cap, no less- is going to resonate with people like you and me. Demographically speaking, she ticks all the boxes.

I don’t say this to be flippant. I definitely don’t say this in order to wave away the tragedy and disgrace of her death. I just say it in order that I might remember that the deaths of people who are not young, people who are not beautiful, people who are not cosmopolitan, who dress in unfamiliar ways and whose lives and dreams are not so similar to mine? Those deaths are tragic, they are disgraceful every bit as much.


I don’t know what to say or to think about this. I still don’t. I circle it, theorising around the edges, never getting closer to the centre.

More on Neda: extremism, religion, power and ‘us’.

But I like to like the things I like! Sacrifice, enjoyment and ethics.

“You can tell I like food too much

I really, really dislike it when people say that. The most recent time someone said that to me was today, and I was at a loss as to how to respond. I know that what the person meant is that they would like to be skinner, but food is delicious so I eat too much of it and now there is too much of me. They say it with a rueful, regretful tone. If only they had more control, if only food didn’t have such power over them, their virtue would shine through their lean, lean bodies.

I’m always amazed at how our society manages to make a sin, make a wrong out of our most basic desires. There’s a pervasive idea that virtue and goodness are things which happen when we prevent ourselves from experiencing ‘too much’ enjoyment. Especially when what you’re enjoying is something basic, something uncomplicated. People don’t get called sluts or pigs for enjoying too much opera, or too many good books.

The thing about opera and good books, of course, is that you have to learn to like them, and not everyone has the combination of resources, inclination, cultural and social incentives, and time to do so. No matter how gluttonously you devour yet another deliciously marvellous book, no matter how delightfully the prose sends a shiver up your spine, you would never be expected to show regret in your enjoyment. Enjoyment of a good book sends a signal that you are a person who is educated and classy enough, intelligent and cultured enough to choose to do so.

Food, though? We think of food very differently. Where enjoying a good book is purely enjoyable, food is fraught. It’s tied up with bodies, with perceived attractiveness, with class, with self-control or ‘letting yourself go’. It’s not just pleasure, it’s a guilty pleasure. From carrots to cookies, every item of food comes with its own moral weight, its own message of virtue or sin.

But you know something? Food is lovely. Food is delicious, and it is satisfying in a way that nothing else can be. And while it can worry and evoke guilt, it can also comfort. A month or so ago, I made a rather terrible cheesey pasta bake, which I managed to ruin in precisely the same way that my granny sometimes used to ruin macaroni cheese. At the end of a long day, I could imagine nothing so comforting as this lumpy, grainy sauce, tasting like my granny swearing blind to my mother that she hadn’t done anything wrong and hadn’t left it, not for a second, and didn’t the child like it anyway*?

I don’t think that we should need excuses to enjoy food, though. Not that we were ‘good’ and went to the gym earlier. Not even that it’s been a long day and this tastes just like the way my granny made it- although that is always wonderful. In and of itself, food can be delicious. We have to eat it several times a day- why shouldn’t we enjoy each of those to the full? Let go of guilt, of a sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ foods, eat when we are hungry and until we are full, savour and enjoy each bite to the fullest extent? Forget about ‘too much’, and enjoy as much as you do, like as much as you do, take as much pleasure from food as you can? Can’t we let go of rueful, self-effacing resignation, of judging and being judged as greedy, of giving calories a moral weight, and simply like to like the things we like?


*turns out she was right, actually. I didn’t leave it either- I managed to mess it up in an entirely more creative way. I’m not going to tell you what it is, though. Making lumpy cheesey pasta sauce like my granny did sometimes is something I’m going to keep between me and her memory 🙂

But I like to like the things I like! Sacrifice, enjoyment and ethics.