Georgie

At our family cabin in northern Minnesota there are, as is the custom, many family photos, including a fine selection of oldey timey black-and-whites of my great-grandparents engaged in various antics. This lady here? She’s my great-grandmother, Georgie McGregor Bronson. She died when I was seventeen. Seventeen! I used to drive over and visit her. She would say I was an angel sent from heaven for coming to cheer her up with what, I now understand, was my sheer youth and existence. Let’s just say this: that wasn’t the usual reaction to me at the time.

So here she is, bathing, in the lake in which I bath every summer. Her daughter was the grandmother I adored. As a kid I swam at that very dock with both of them and pretty much every other member of that side of the family.

But all that is besides the point. I love the picture for those reasons, but I post it here because of words she said to my mother when she was fairly close to dying and was pretty much a fairly cheery pile of skin and bones: all my life, I wanted to be thin, what good does it do me now?

She wasn’t a heavy woman by any stretch, but she wasn’t tall and she had a “nice bosom,” so I suppose she never felt particularly svelte either. Of course, we have photographic evidence above that she was a normal sized, even thin by many many standards, person above.

I bring this up because, if you’re anything like me, you want to feel healthy and look good but not obsess about your weight or be weird and develop what I like to call an “under-control adult eating disorder.” The thing is, maintaining that balance becomes increasingly difficult as middle-age spread sets in and what you need to do just to keep wearing your own clothes is less and less fun.

For example, I would like to be able to eat cheese. Lots of cheese. I love cheese. Every single kind. I don’t want to binge or anything, but I would very much like to eat, say, a couple ounces of cheese everyday. And I used to do so. Happily. Every afternoon around 4 or when I got home and started fixing dinner, I would joyfully eat two or three ounces of cheese. Sometimes more. You know what? That’s no longer such a good idea for me. I’m afraid copious amounts of cheese may have to go in the same pile as smoking: something I’m going to put off for now, but when I hit 80, watch out!

In short, I’ve been working through what it means to work in food and have food be such a big part of my life and such a source of pleasure and camaraderie, while also taking quite seriously that I’d like to pretty much stay this size. Well, I’d actually like to be the size I was before I hurt me knee, which is just very slightly smaller than I am at this exact moment. Seeing how quickly I put on a few while laid up and then what it takes to take off a few at this point in the game is fairly depressing.

So, when I opened New York Magazine and saw this, my inner Joan Rivers shouted “can we talk?”

There are so many ways to read this page it boggles the mind. The skinny-women-are-the-ideal/skinny-women-are-freaks dichotomy is super fun to process, for starters. But as someone who loves food, let me say this: The model may very well believe that she eats “like a normal person,” and maybe she does, but to me it looks like she spends all day barely staving off hunger and then orders the least appetizing dinner I can imagine. Barley soup, a tuna wrap, and cole slaw? Each element sounds okay, but as a meal? Together? That shit ain’t right. There is not a single food episode (I can hardly call most of them “meals”) that she eats that a human could possibly look forward to. It’s all just so Spartan and sad. The ballerina, on the other hand, with her holier-than-thou attitude and bizarre eating schedule (which, to be fair, seems designed around maximizing her energy for performances while keeping her bird-like and lift-able), at least has a few things in there that sound tasty. A crab cake with chopped salad and Pinot Noir? Sign me up!

As someone facing the dreariness of a slowing metabolism, I can’t help but think that the model, who is young and naturally slim, is seriously wasting her time. She could be downing cereal swimming in half-and-half, snacks of steaming macaroni and cheese, troughs of trifle. She could, I bet, ditch the “light butter” and spread her “whole wheat flatbread” with avocado butter, a concoction as decadent as it sounds which a friend and I made way too much of in college, to no ill effect. Instead she lists “ice water” as part of a meal.

It’s enough to make an old lady cry. Instead, though, I hope that when my son and perhaps future grandchildren and even great-grandchildren look at what will be old photos of me someday in the future they will remember that I was active and fun, just like Georgie. And that I never served them barley soup, tuna wraps, and cole slaw. Ever.