Food Is Not the Enemy

When Jordan was ten, her mother put her on a diet. Her father argued against it - "She's only ten, Delia, she's still growing!" - but her mother would not be swayed. Jordan was already used to whole wheat bread and skim milk and margarine and fat-free yogurt, so at first she didn't notice much difference. She still ate lunch at school anyway.

And then her mother tried to sign her up for Weight Watchers, and her father put his foot down.

"It's baby fat," he insisted. "She'll grow out of it." But Jordan's mother wasn't so sure, and said as much.

When Jordan hit puberty, she grew five inches and put on what her mother thought was too much weight. So she went on another diet. She heard the pediatrician tell her mother that she was in good health but her weight was at the upper end of normal for her age and height. And because Jordan was now at an age where she was starting to notice - and be noticed by - boys, her mother started offering what she thought was well-intentioned but was really just insecurity-inducing advice.

Most of it boiled down to "Boys don't like fat girls". Jordan took it to heart.

Her freshman year of college she gained twenty pounds and was miserable. That summer she lost thirty-four pounds and the next school year she only gained six. But she was still miserable. Her mother suggested she see a therapist, and because her father actually agreed with her mother for once, Jordan went.

The problem was that in her mother's world, food was the enemy. And food had become the enemy in Jordan's world as well.

By the time she was twenty-seven, she'd been heavy, thin, and several sizes in between, and was trying with varying degrees of success to let go of the idea that no boy would ever want a chubby girl. And then she met a boy who did at a Labor Day barbecue party at her friend Lacey's house.

"His name's Noone," Lacey said, pointing to a clump of people near the grill. "He works with me. He's a really nice guy."

"Which one is he?" Jordan asked. She could see three girls and two guys. One of the guys was holding a plate. The other was just holding a beer.

"The one with the dark hair, with the plate. In the green t-shirt."

Figured that Lacey would try to set her up with a chubby boy. Lacey was convinced that every fit, well-built boy Jordan had ever dated was an unmitigated asshole who just wanted arm candy (if Jordan was in a skinny phase) or an easy, grateful fuck (if she was in a fat phase). And most of the time, Lacey was right.

To her credit, once Lacey introduced Jordan and Noone, she made herself scarce and let them get to know each other on their own.

It only took Noone two days to call Jordan and ask her out, and it only took Jordan two minutes to accept.

For their first date they went to the aquarium, walked around the waterfront, and had coffee. At the aquarium he bought her a plush squid and she bought him a plush manta ray, and they sat in the coffee house with their caffiene and pastry and talked for three hours. Jordan noted that Noone drank his coffee with milk but no sugar (she put Splenda in hers) and got a cinnamon-chip scone to go with it (she had a blueberry muffin).

For their second date, they went to karaoke. Noone had a good baritone voice and a dorky love of Barry Manilow, although what really did Jordan in was his hammily over-the-top rendition of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" - he tried to sing both parts - which made her laugh so hard she almost spilled her beer.

For their third date, he invited her over for dinner.

"I cook," he said, "did Lacey tell you?"

"No," she told him.

"You don't have any allergies, do you?"

"No, but I don't really like mushrooms."

He made her pizza. Whole wheat crust, feta cheese, sliced organic tomatoes, basil. They started with a spinach salad with balsamic dressing and ended with blueberries and ice cream. Jordan wondered if that was how he always ate, or if Lacey had told him that she was a recovering dieter.

She kissed him by the sink and told him it was the best dinner anyone had ever made her.

"The first time I made a whole-wheat pizza, it was a disaster," he confessed. "The crust was inedible. But I learned. It's better for you than Domino's, and I'm trying to eat better. My sister-in-law gets on my case. The doctor says my blood pressure and everything is fine, but Peggy doesn't care." He shrugged. "I come from a big family. I'm never gonna be skinny, but I can still try to be healthy. Do you care? That I'm kinda fat? Sometimes girls who aren't fat don't want to date guys who are."

"You're looking at the wrong girls." She kissed him again.

"You just like me for my pizza."

"That too."

And she realized that she really didn't care. She liked Noone - he was cute, he was funny, he was kind of a dork, he could cook, he was a good kisser. So what if he was chubby? So what if she could still hear her mother's voice in her head reminding her to go to the gym and watch what she ate because boys didn't like fat girls?

This boy liked a fat girl. And seventeen years after her first diet, he reminded her that good food, real food, could be an expression of love - or a least an expression of like - it was something to enjoy, not something to deny yourself.

Jordan didn't have the right words to explain that. But she could kiss Noone again. And so she did.