Last night, I went to Red Cow in North Loop by myself. My plan was to sit down at the bar and write this blog, but the happy hour fates had other plans. I opened the menu to the back page, and in an almost aggressive manner, the word poutine threw itself towards my mouth-hole.
For everyone reading at home that have never been touched by the poutine angel, a quick description: poutine is french fries, cheese curds, gravy and heaven. Unfortunately, Red Cow uses a beer cheese sauce instead of curds, but I’m not complaining. Because then, I would be a fat boy on a digital and Google-able platform, publicly complaining about the traditions of Canadian cuisine.
Regardless of curd or no curd, when the poutine was brought out to me, I looked around the bar and realized one of my greatest fears: I would have to eat this beautiful delicacy with my fork.
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It wasn’t until college that I realized I had, for lack of a better phrase, bizarre eating habits and even weirder preferences. It was first time in my life that I was able to choose exactly what I wanted to eat. It was also the first time that what I ate — and the way I ate — was up for discussion and judgment by my peers. Needless to say, results included eating two bowls of Frosted Flakes with seven glasses of milk for dinner, only to realize later in the evening, of my lactose intolerance.
Better yet, this cafeteria had an om-e-let bar. I had never had one of those pre-chicken beautiful creations before in my life. So this was pretty much a life-changing moment. I looked at the list of possible ingredients and I was like, What? I’ll take one of everything, please and thank you. But then, the man making them said you could only pick four because otherwise the eggs wouldn’t stick together. Which is when I learned that I couldn’t be that girl getting all of the fixings at the omelet bar. There are people in line waiting for their god-given right to a perfect savory breakfast creation, too. And they are watching.
It was also during this time that I also realized my preference towards eating with my hands. Salads, chicken breast, basically anything except soup, cereal or rice. But I would stare around the cafeteria in horror, watching people consume pizza or fries with silverware utensils. I mean, that shit’s just wrong. Some may say, satanic even. And like I said before, poutine is basically french fries so why wouldn’t you eat with your hands?!
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But back to me, and the bar and the poutine and this motherfucking fork.
The reason that, all this, is so triggering for me is because, a couple years ago, I was at another bar, eating poutine where they make it in the methode traditionelle. And better yet, I was friends with the chef, so she fried those potatoes in pea-nut oi-l. If there were layers to heaven, this would be like VIP status. Like not even Oprah could get in. And if she’s not getting in there, no one is.
But it didn’t take more than two bites into the poutine before I bit down, and heard a quick crack. I had chomped down on the fork and chipped my tooth. It took me back to my first Happy Meals as a child, eating handfuls of fries so fast, that I would bite into the tips of my fingers.
So there I sat in Red Cow, with my eyes on the prize, but the fork frozen in my hand. Because as a fat person, you are constantly on surveillance, especially when you are eating. Or worse, grocery shopping. Because even when people aren’t watching, you’ve internalized their gaze so much, that it feels like your world is the show Planet Earth, and you can hear David Attenborough talking about how much you’re eating. The Minneapolis pig stuffs his face with poutine. But he stops, keenly aware of his surroundings.
Because y’all know that I could have polished off that plate and licked it clean, even though there was beer cheese sauce on it, which completely compromising the integrity of the fry! But people are watching, so I simply ask the bartender, in my most basic voice possible, Can I get a box?
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The first time I wore a crop top, all I could think about was how many people were filming me on their phones. I imagined, what if, somewhere deep on the internet, under the bridge where the trolls live, there lives a meme of me, saying something really mean, but a little funny, like This is what happens when you skip ab day.
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And herein lies my dilemma. The times that I am most insecure are the times that I need to model confidence the most. When I look at myself in the mirror, and have to shield myself from the horror, are the mornings that I have to remind myself that fat and pretty can be synonymous. That having a high BMI is not diametrically opposed to having a high confidence.
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So as I walked out of Red Cow, I carried the sad box of soggy fries in hand, but it didn’t take more than two blocks before I cracked open the lid. Strolling down Washington, I could still feel that sense of watching. Which is why I tucked my shirt into a crop top. Hoping that by time I reached my apartment, I would be a little bit more unafraid of my body, and so would everyone else.