December 1, 2011

Let Her Eat Cake!

Originally posted at Proud2Bme.

“Are you sure you’re not hungry?” he asked with grave concern as chicken grease ran down his fingers and his chin. We’d just finished a rigorous hike and I was starving—famished, ravenous and slightly light-headed. I mean, really, we’d been cavorting, frolicking and climbing the local mountains in the summer heat for over 6 hours and I hadn’t eaten anything except for an apple. Maybe.

“Oh, no, I’m fine,” I replied. He paused mid-bite and questioned me with raised eyebrows. “I’m good–really,” I said sounding far too relaxed and nonchalant about something as serious as a meal after physically exerting myself as excessively as I had. But, nope, I wouldn’t change my mind. I was not going to let him see me eat, especially a greasy, messy meal like that. Mind you, this is the same guy I wouldn’t take a pee around. I’d turn the faucet on when I had to go really bad to make sure he didn’t hear me, otherwise I’d hold it until I got home. I know I wasn’t the only 17-year-old girl to pull a stunt like that.

If there was anything I’d learned up to that point, it was that girls and women don’t have bodily functions or odors (unless they’re created in chemical factories and mask your natural female body smells), and they aren’t supposed to be seen eating (unless it’s yogurt, salad or other “girl” food) or sweating (unless they’re sweating like women should—hello, female antiperspirant industry).

Fast forward to 15 years later:

“Are you going to eat that?” the student I had been mentoring asked with nervous excitement. “Yes,” I said awaiting the sweet taste of carrot cake as my fork hovered close to my lips. “In public?” she continued.

“Um, where else should I eat it? In the bathroom or the broom closet?” I laughed as I sank my teeth into the cream cheese frosting knowing perfectly well that those were considered viable options, ones preferred over this scenario—that of a woman eating cake out in public in broad daylight. I’m talking a slice of cake, not a bite of cake and not an entire cake. A slice of cake. On a Tuesday at 1 in the afternoon. There was no special occasion. I simply wanted some cake and I felt no shame or remorse about it.  Shame and guilt had led me to stuff myself in private after starving myself publicly one too many times in the past.

“Wow. I admire you. I wish I could do that,” she said slowly. I asked her what was stopping her and she went on to tell me about her mother, a woman who kept a scale in the dining room so she could look at it while she ate dinner and remind herself not to eat too much. And when it came to cake? Well, her mother always cut much smaller slices for the girls and reserved the big frosted pieces for the boys at the family party.

We continued to have lunch on campus between classes with a few other students for several weeks and each time I’d enjoy something sweet without embarrassment or great fanfare on my end. One day she sat down and said, “I have to tell you something.” She giggled like someone about to dish a shameful secret. “I went to my cousin’s birthday party over the weekend and when my mom handed me a thin slice of cake on a paper plate, I told her that I wanted a big one. She looked at me with surprise as I put the plate she handed me back on the table and grabbed one of the large slices. I felt great.”

“Over It” by Liz Acosta. For the full artist statement on this video, click here.



  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I think it’s interesting to examine how the pursuit of a thin physical framework is normative across different cultures. I think that in Asian cultures, “thinness” is emphasized as the norm for young girls. Mothers are largely responsible for their daughter’s spiritual, physical, and mental well-being. So its scary to hear stories of mothers being very strict with their own diets and continuing their unhealthy routine or practice through their daughters at an early age.
    In addition, women and young girls are very constrained in other ways than their diet. Hygiene for women is non-existent to men. Girls don’t poop is another clique. It’s like girls are no longer actualized human beings. We’ve essentially turned into robots that have no real feelings or expressions. This problem dates back to the systematic oppression of women to exist only for the pleasure of men. One of the soul reasons why women started staying thin was to appear reproductively capable of producing a healthy offspring. Moreover, thinness is a reflection of their self-worth and reproductiveness. So the question is, have we turned into mere ornaments with price-tags for men? I hope not and I hope that women begin to realize that our self-worth is not characterized by the quantity of a slice of cake but by our personalities, our uniqueness, or humor, or intellect, and our diversity as an individual.

    Comment by Joanne S — December 2, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  2. I’m very glad you were able to shut out the nasty voices and be yourself! You are a beautiful woman.
    I would, however, like to address the other extreme.
    While anorexia, bulemia, over-exercise and such are obviously incredibly dangerous, so is binging and poor nutrition. I know many girls, including myself, who shun the media demand for “thin” so extremely that [we] run the opposite direction. Let them eat cake, but [we] would eat half a cake in one day, avoiding the gym, the “jock’s” territory.
    Well, that’s gotten me into trouble. I couldn’t run to save my life, and at such a young age, I have no energy and am developing joint pain.
    I’m taking steps now to be not thin, but healthy. I found exercises that I enjoy, and try to get in at least two sessions a week. Food is another matter- I love sweets! And yes, it IS perfectly fine to have sweets. But over-eating can lead to so many health problems.
    The point of this whole thing is that females, we must seek health! “Healthy” is a very obscure term, but my definition is having a body with which you can fully enjoy life. Pain and a lack of energy are not vehicles of livelihood. So whether you’re naturally petite or curvy or whatever you are- seek balance!

    Comment by HeavySeekingHealthy — June 14, 2012 @ 10:45 am

  3. I have always felt insecure to eat large amounts of food in public in front of guys. No matter what kind of food it was, I would even refuse to eat, even when I was starving, because I would be so embarrassed of spilling or having food in my teeth. It was just an uncomfortable situation in my eyes. After my ex boyfriend and I broke up and I started going on dates again, I got over that fear. I realized that eating is a social thing and it is awkward if you don’t eat. You stand out more and are noticeable if you don’t eat and everyone else does. I feel more comfortable now eating in front of a guy on a date than just sitting at a table face to face talking. It is a part of socializing and part of life that everyone takes part in… everyone eats. In relation to food and weight, who cares what your calorie intake is or what you eat based on your weight. I think it is silly people count their calories or weigh themselves everyday because some people are blessed with fast metabolisms and some are not. It is the way your body is and if someone wants to lose weight, he or she should do it in a healthy manner. Eating is such an important part of every single day and it gives you the energy and nutrients to function as a human being. If you want to feel better about the food you eat, then eat healthier food. It’s as simple as that.

    Comment by Danielle B. — May 24, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

  4. I believed that this article expressed a major theme in the life of women. This idea of holding oneself back from eating most kinds of foods or from appearing in public when not looking the best, is just part of the ‘struggle and obstacles’ that women have created for themselves only to make it seem like that is what makes up the normal life of women, or at least it’s supposed to. Some men may perhaps rather associate with present women with nice bodies and this is something mostly unavoidable. But the way that women treat them ownselves at a young age only reinforces this concept. Women, particularly at a young age, should give themselves more self-respect, be themselves, and not try to hide anything if that is just part of the nature or their nature. I understand that society and mothers are the ones that begin to set this expectations and desires from young women, and that health may also be an important factor, but these women should be able to express who they really are as long as they are not making a move that can ruin their health. Desiring popularity may also be a factor for this ‘royal conservative behavior’ but the truth is that it really isn’t that necessary when it comes to establishing how many people would get used to seeing you, young women, in society. Ultimately, it is just about one man liking you for who you are, and as stated at the end of the article, the older women could careless about hiding stuff in public as opposed to when she was 17.

    Comment by Tamir M. — May 29, 2014 @ 11:59 pm

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