Drawings by Ria Brodell
FOOD FACES: MELISSA BRODER
In this series, Shane Jones looks at the diet of some of our favorite writers. In this installment he talks to Melissa Broder, whose most recent book is Scarecrone.
I. THE DESIRE TO FILL INSATIABLE HOLES
THE BELIEVER: I’ve been staring at what you eat for a while now and it seems extremely conscious of calories. Are you “counting” what you put in your body? I imagine numbers entering your system.
MELISSA BRODER: Yes. I am eating numbers. And I prefer packaged foods, foods with a bar code, because they make the math simpler and that gives me a sense of peace. Maybe not peace exactly, but an illusion of control—a stillness in my mind—which lends itself to feeling safe.
BLVR: But you’re eating a lot of processed foods that give an illusion of health (Subway, Lean Cuisine, protein bars, Starbucks, Coke Zero). You’re not on some raw organic shit; rather, it’s more about just getting stuff in your body and moving forward while controlling the calories. Health seems secondary. I just thought of this line I really love, from your new book of poems, SCARECRONE: “Dinner is cardboard.”
MB: Right, I didn’t say health. I would not call myself a healthy eater. I am a vanity eater, a machinelike-eater, a suppresser-of-feels-eater. I save the bulk of my calories for the end of the day so that I have something sweet and seemingly unlimited to look forward to. I am an eater who doesn’t trust herself, a bad mommy to myself, a poor steward of my body, an eater of rituals and a ritualistic eater, an eater who knows better but sees no impetus to get better because this kind of works and I like how my body looks at this weight. I am a terrible feminist probably, but a good one in some ways, maybe. I am an eater who is playing a game that mostly exists in my head but has also been curated by various social cues, including my mother (who is probably Jesus in the poem you are referring to in which the speaker is fed cardboard and Jesus is a man). I am an eater who knows that ultimately you are responsible for yourself, an eater who doesn’t want to take responsibility for herself other than to feel safe, a very superficial woman of depth, a disordered eater, and an eater who is scared to be so honest here.