December 8 , 1999

The holidays are upon us. We're in the thick of Hanukkah or Chanukah (or however you spell it). Only how many shopping days until Christmas? Then there's Kwanza. Or is it the other way around: Kwanza then Christmas?

How many of you knew that the spirit of Hanukkah is a celebration of oil? OK, you may know that the holiday is based on the fact that the oil Judah of Maccabee found in the temple was only supposed to be enough to burn for one night and burned for eight nights, long enough for more oil to be made so that the eternal flame could keep burning; but did you know that all the food surrounding this holiday is oil-based. Look at latkes. Fried in oil. Large quantities. All the cake recipes for this holiday are oil-intensive. Just FYI.

Those boxes of See's chocolates are starting to appear on desks all around the office. Batches of home made cookies. Muffin baskets. Let's not forget those gargantuan tins filled with three kinds of popcorn. And thank you oh gracious coworkers who put out little baskets filled with candy canes and seasonally dressed M&M's and Hershey's Kisses.

One coworker likened our fellow coworkers to ants when it comes to these seasonal treats. They take one piece, leave, and then keep coming back. Like there's some sort of trail with the scent of the bounty between their desks and that tray of treats.

I have a strange relationship with food. OK, I love food. I'm a good cook. I figure that's my excuse for the extra 20 pounds I carry around with me. But, I wish I was thin. I used to be thin. I was very thin. Once. Now...not so much. I mean, I'm not fat, but I'm not what anyone would consider thin.

I'm not one of those people you meet who will remark at the end of a a very long day, "Oh, I guess I forgot to eat today." OK, I've skipped meals. Usually I pass on breakfast. Sometimes I work through lunch. But forget to eat? No. Not ever. If I ever come close to forgetting a meal my stomach is there to remind me, in no uncertain terms, that it has not forgotten. It is hungry and will soon shut down all my vital functions if it is not appeased.

When I was pregnant, pity the fool that got between me and food when I was hungry. Here's a hot tip: if you have a friend who's pregnant and she says she is hungry, feed her immediately. Pregnant women, or at least this woman, when I was pregnant, did not like to have to wait for her meals. (Chuck may recall an ugly incident that involves Target and lasagna, but that's a story for another time.)

Growing up there were the requisite admonishments to clear our plates. There were children starving in Eastern Europe so we should clean our plates. This logic eluded me and my sisters and when we were old enough to be smart-asses we always suggested boxing up the leftovers and sending them to these starving children. Nevertheless, something must have stuck because I grew up with the compulsion to clean my plate.

Many years later a fellow coworker of mine, who was quite slim said that the reason he was so thin was that when he was full he stopped eating. If it was after one bite, so be it. He did not feel the need to clean his plate. Ever.

I decided this was inspired advice and soon took it as my own. Only ate three bites but full? Done. Thanks very much. One bite left on the plate? That's OK. No need to cram another morsel in. I'm full. Thanks.

How hungry I am on any given day seems to be inextricably tied to cycles of the moon and my hormones.

There's the Any Side of Beef Will Do time of the month. That time of the month is usually the week before "that time of the month". So named because that's the way it is. I am hungry. All. The. Time. Feed me. Anything. Now.

OK, that's the only cycle of hunger that has a name but it earned it.

There's the times of the month when the only thing I want to eat are Hostess products. Ding Dongs particularly. I am not proud of this but there it is.

Lately though, I haven't been very hungry.

For a long time I had a handle on the whole snacking thing. I wouldn't. I don't really need it. I would only eat when I was hungry. Not for comfort. Or out of boredom. Or just for the sport of it. It was a sustenance thing. Feel hungry: eat. Pretty simple.

But as I said, lately I haven't been very hungry. That, however, has not stopped me from eating. The snack machine at the office just got refilled. The guy put Ding Dongs in there. Are my telepathic skills that spectacular?

A cranberry apple crunch muffin in the morning. I'm not really all that hungry but it looks so delicious. The usual whatever for lunch. Then a little grazing in the afternoon. Then dinner with my family. I'm not even hungry yet I cook a meal and sit down and eat it.

Food is comfort for me in a lot of ways and I have been feeling in need of comfort lately.

I'm feeling pretty beaten down by this whole baby (or lack thereof) thing.

Matters were not improved when I took Zoe to a birthday party on Sunday and I felt like I was at a fecundity festival. A backyard full of women with their charges. Four of the 15 or so women were pregnant. Two had infants. This is in addition to the two or three others, under age five, they had running around enjoying the festivities. The whole lot were the stay at home variety of mother. I swear they travel in packs and I don't have much, if anything in common, with any of them.

Shortly after the mother of the birthday boy expressed her sympathy for my inability to conceive, and spoke in hushed, and what I perceived as condescending tones, to me about it, I took Zoe and left.

I came home and cooked dinner.

Until next time...

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