Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

[Disclaimer: I fully realize anyone still left reading must be awfully bloody tired of reading about binges and recovering from them, but that seems to be my life these days. And this string of binges over the past few weeks has been the most consistent bingeing I've done in more than five years.]

Another week, another binge: This one on at a boring Super Bowl Sunday party I attended with a friend. A couple of renegade pigs in blankets kicked off the binge, which then degenerated into sneaking out to the Duane Reade, and then coming up with reasons to disappear on my own into the multiple levels of the party so I could hit up various buffets.

I felt so wretched, defeated, sweaty, sick and disgusted on Monday morning – and yet still wanting to eat – that I debated taking a Percoset I had leftover from my wisdom tooth extraction just so I could sleep all day. What I wanted, besides to feel normal, was to get through one day without bingeing, which it did not feel like I would ever be able to do again.

I didn't take the Percoset (or Advil PM, the alternate). Instead I struggled to sit upright and concentrate long enough to file my story. I had skipped breakfast – too full at the time – but I ended up eating it sometime after dinner, rationalizing that it was all in a day's calories. Messy. Then I ate a couple of S'mores balance bars I had in the refrigerator, a couple of Kind bars, and some other bits. What I had really wanted was an ice cream sandwich like the one I'd had the night before, but I was both lazy and afraid to venture out for it. It wasn't even about the calories at that point – it was more that I knew myself, and that if for some reason the ice cream sandwich didn't satisfy whatever urge I had (and if history is any guide, there was little reason to think it would), it would kick off an epic binge.

Finally I decided to go have it. It tasted OK, but still I wanted more. I stood on the corner, debating a trip to the CVS to buy some diet soda. Next door to the CVS is a Dunkin Donuts. I could almost taste the sugary sweet glaze – and could almost feel just how sick I would feel the next morning, because there was no way I would have just one.

I walked resolutely into the CVS. Usually when I go in there I just buy my soda or toilet paper as if on autopilot, but this time I went looking for trouble. I debated ice cream sandwiches (another brand) and all manner of the sort of disgusting cheap pastry and chocolate on which I like to binge.

Today already is a wash, I thought. You can just try again tomorrow. I thought about the fact that I had to attend evening events for the next two nights, and how bad it already was going to be to try to find something to wear to them. Full-out bingeing another day in a row just would make it worse. Then, of course, that only made me want to binge more – so I could have the evening off from worrying about it (and the other fashion week events I had on tap, and whether I would climb out of this binge.)
I don't know how, but I went home without buying anything else to eat. I might have eaten something else at home; I can't remember. But it wasn't an epic binge.

Tuesday I woke up feeling, for lack of a better word, unwilling. The hours stretching before me felt like a mountain up which I did not want to trudge. I dragged myself to a spin class, which I did half-heartedly. I put one foot in front of the other and then headed off the debate I had to attend. That was followed by a book party, where I met the daytime bartender at the Carlyle Hotel (who quickly pointed out his girlfriend) and a tattooed, pierced video production guy who I thought might be gay but instead punctuated his story of how he and his girlfriend re-met at their 10-year college reunion by kissing her throughout. I did not binge. Narrowly.

And then came Wednesday, a fashion show to kick off New York Fashion Week featuring aging supermodels, B/C-list actresses (Minka Kelly, Rose McGowan), and, er, Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour magazine. I had some champagne and started contemplating the canap├ęs. Instead I sneaked into the bathroom and ate the dinner I'd brought (the evening was supposed to be quite long). I pawed through the VIP gift bag to see if there were anything to eat. No such luck. (What was I expecting at a fashion show? Though there was a Subway gift card..) The person who'd invited me – an old contact – decided she wanted to skip the afterparty and go to dinner, and I could not see telling her I'd already eaten (since the pre-show had started at 5.30 pm).

We waited for the car service and I tried to figure out if there were any way I could sneak off and get something to take the edge off. I wanted chocolate. I wanted to feel full. I did not want to sit through a polite dinner – and I feared a second dinner (my own had been smallish, but still) would kick off (what else?) a binge later. But there was no way to sneak off.

I had bread, dinner, all of the amuse bouches served in between (contact is a serious VIP at that particular restaurant), cocktails and dessert. I fought down the urge to attempt to sneak out for more, partly because we were in Midtown East (a desert at night in terms of bodega-type places), and partly because it was freezing. I worked hard to concentrate on each word she said instead of the debate raging in my head. It was like taking a spin class, I told myself: Instead of focusing on getting through one song at a time, just focus on the words.

When we left I was still sneaking the mints from the car service – not a good omen. (In England my playing with the brown sugar cubes – translation, eating them – usually portends a binge.) My thoughts drifted to Magnolia Bakery, which I knew was still open. Maybe I could just have a piece of cake and go home and go to bed...

I did not want the cake. Well, I did, but the cake was not going to give me what I wanted, which was a feeling of ease and lightness and that I am OK and that everything will be OK and I will not always be alone. In my circle there has been a spate of babies and announcements that babies are coming – and while I cannot even say for sure whether I want one, I cannot help feeling that sooner or later I will not have that choice. There is this almost daily feeling that I am getting farther and farther behind in the game of Life (yes, I picture the board game) and that I will never be able to catch up. (Pause to note irony that my most recent New York Times article was a wedding trend story.)

I thought about the cake – a two-minute break (if I could even make it last that long) from dealing. I wanted to dive into it and pull the frosting up over my head.
And then I thought about how hard picking myself up the next day would be – harder, probably, than saying no to the cake tonight. I imagined stopping would be like stopping just before the top of a steep hill on a bicycle. It's nearly impossible to pedal to the top at that point. Or some other tortured analogy that made sense at the time.

Despite feeling lethargic and just plain large and having a lot of events to attend, I have not binged again. (I nearly typed a "yet.") This week is also crazy, and then I am off to see Friend Bearing Chocolate in Toronto.

One day at a time, It's all I can do.

PS I may just be saving my Percoset for Fall 2012, which is when several designers have assured me that the "must have" piece is sequin pants (of the American variety). I nearly had to bite my tongue not to say: "Must-have for whom?"

Saturday, 4 February 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Halfway through drinks Wednesday I started plotting my binge. I reasoned that it was only Day 2, and that I could start again the next day.

The editor/acquaintance I was having drinks with was talking about something – maybe it was the Obama book, maybe it was the story of how she met her boyfriend – and I was thinking about what I would (or could arrange to) pass on the way home. Or maybe I should just try to overeat like a normal person and just have whatever I wanted for dinner? But what was that? I decided I just wanted to binge.

I tried to focus on the conversation.

I went back to binge plotting.

It was probably about 8 pm as we got up to leave, maybe a little later. I'd had an extra afternoon snack because I felt like I was starving at 5 pm, an hour after my first snack. I settled into the idea that I would binge; that resignation mixed with fear and loathing.

And as I put on my coat I had – I wouldn't say it was a ripple of fear so much as a sense as a foregone conclusion that if I binged that night I would not be able to come back from it quickly. It wasn't terror, bizarrely – just this eerily calm vision that it would be days or weeks or even months before I would get a grip on myself.

And so I did something I have only managed to do once or twice: I pulled out my phone and started calling people. I knew I needed to keep myself occupied until I could get home safely. (Though frankly, given what the last binge started on, I'm no longer sure how safe I am at home. But that's another story.)

I left a message for one friend. I dialled a second one; someone who shares a version of this problem. She picked up.

"What's your plan for the evening?" she said. "Map it out for me."

And so I did. A simple dinner – when I'm in that sort of headspace making a lot of decisions is impossible – and then, bless New York and its cheap nail salons with late hours – a manicure, which would ensure that I could not be eating at least for an hour or so. Plus, I needed the manicure – I had a meeting today at the sort of magazine where they would notice any infraction of New York grooming laws. (I did keep my hair curly though; I have not succumbed to blowouts.)

Binge averted.