One memorable Thanksgiving, years ago, back when my family bothered to celebrate Europeans blessing this great nation with God and smallpox, I finished an entire pumpkin pie by myself over the course of one day. Not devoured in one sitting, every time I would pass said pie, I would knife off a small sliver and pop it into my mouth and casually continue, not bothering for a plate or silverware or anything vaguely dignified. Because there is no dignity in eating a whole pie by yourself. Why bother pretending otherwise. By the end of the day, the entire pie was gone, and I—as one might imagine—pretty ill and disgusted with myself.
Generally that’s how fat and sugar works, making a dumb puppet slave out of someone ordinarily of good sense and reasoning. That little caveman buried deep inside of you keeps chanting something about plagues and droughts and famine, urging you to create a nice store of personal fat to feast on when the going gets tough. Only, what with light bulbs and dishwashers and airplanes and First World advantages, the going never gets that tough, and that pie I ate just went straight to my ass and my reserves of teenage self-loathing.
I suppose what I’m getting to here is an overly detailed example of how sugar and fat are the crack cocaine of the dietary world, viciously tempting in the moment and equally vicious on the comedown. Not that I’ve done crack, but I’ve watched plenty of Whitney Bobby YouTubes to get the sense of what it would be like. I do, however, know the overwhelming nausea that accompanies finishing a jumbo bag of sour cream and onion-flavored potato chips accompanied by a bucket of Dr. Pepper, the three-year sugar-high hangover following Erin Bowman’s 1997 bat mitzvah dessert parade (complete with tiki torches and five tables of tarts and cannolis), the regret after thinking chocolate chip pancakes are a great way to start a weekend.
There you are, surrounded by plates scraped clean, chocolate smeared over half your face, clutching your belly and moaning in absolute despair, as though you couldn’t possibly be the one responsible for feeling so absolutely awful.
And this, my friends, is what it feels like to—habitually, compulsively, stupidly— date assholes.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece called “F%*ing Your Friends is Like Eating Your Vegetables. No One Wants To Do It.” In it, I stubbornly described the utter lack of appeal in sleeping and—it goes without saying—dating my male friends who were generally upstanding, intelligent, balanced human beings. Why? Because the guys who clearly didn’t like me were much more fun to chase down! Yes, there is nothing better than sitting in a door jam at 4 a.m., wasted and crying, waiting for a person who cares more about his heritage boots to come and let you in. This, after all, is the real alternative to eating your vegetables.
Yes, for girls with gaping holes who probably need therapy, unrequited affection is just like burying your face into a bowl of sugar, eyes open, mouth wide, and inhaling until you wish you never knew what sugar even was. Then and only then will you be praying someone come and save you, hand you a raw bushel of organic milkweed and tell you everything will be okay. Eventually, everyone wants a vegetable, because vegetables don’t make your stomach turn every time you’re about to meet them, make you wonder just how many other girls they slept with that week, make you think you’re not good enough.
At a certain point, you’ve got to acknowledge that while dating a bunch of self-absorbed, emotionally unavailable jerks in many ways hits some sadistic sweet spot of yours, a body can only take so much abuse. That masochistic button is a false reality and a road to nowhere, unless you count misery as a destination. Nothing good waits for you at the end of that road; it will just continue as such in perpetuity, as long as you allow it, as long as you keep taking slivers off that pie, convincing yourself that One more won’t hurt and, Alright, another one can’t be so bad, and, Okay, you got this far, just keep at it. Eventually you’re just a diabetic with a silver pie pan filled with crumbs and your own tears.