FOOD AND WASTE
Food was the symbol of many different things through the past, comfort and control being the main. I had always been a healthy child growing up on fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. My mother was a fantastic cook and fed the family well. We understood where food came from and the benefits of it from a young age. I enjoyed cooking and helping her in the kitchen. If anything, it was more time to spend with her.
As I headed towards my teenage years my father took my sister and me to restaurants as a treat. He often left my mother behind. I began seeing this as a regular way of life. Sweets and chocolate began to appear in the house and I revelled in it like most young teens would. My mother still encouraged us to eat well and usually I did but if I wanted anything ‘naughty’ my Dad would never refuse it. Not because he couldn’t say no to me. He just treated this as a way to point score with his wife. The children were a competition to him and food was the start of his game playing.
In later years (as the trouble grew worse between me and my father) food became a source of genuine comfort to me. I would regularly binge eat at dinner. My father and I never sat at the table together and enjoyed a meal. Instead I was forced to eat in my bedroom to avoid conflict with him. He knew what I put in my mouth as we always went food shopping together every week. Something I almost looked forward to.
However the supermarket was a place he would frequently choose to humiliate me. If I wanted to get something I may not have finished before he would begin a rant on my ‘addiction to wastage’. He’d tell me I had no consideration for starving children all over the world and no concern about money. He’d continue to insult me and if I argued that it had happened only the one time, he’d accuse me of attempting to deliberately agitate him. Again, his voice would change and all this would be said through gritted teeth and glaring eyes. Often he would behave like this in public places where the normal reaction of strangers was to stop and stare over at the strange ‘couple’ having an argument. He enjoyed my humiliation but never saw how he humiliated himself, after all at this time I was a grown woman.
On one occasion, my father began a petty fight as we loaded our items onto the conveyor belt. I remember the cashier and the customer ahead of us watching curiously. The customer, a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties, couldn’t stop herself from watching. Her judging eyes buried themselves in me. I know how we looked. I get it. It sickens me. My father’s rant was not subsiding, it only grew worse as I tried to pacify him. To him, I was patronising. He stormed off. I panicked. I had no money on me to pay for the shopping. I could see him leave the supermarket in a powerful rage. I stood there, shocked watching our shopping edge towards the cashier. The stranger’s eyes were still burning through me when suddenly, she spoke.
“Don’t worry, my husband is a lot older than me too. Older men are like that”.
I was horrified and immediately repulsed.
Her face automatically dropped when I responded,
“He’s not my husband; he’s my father”.
The brute returned within moments and began ordering me to “MOVE!”. The stranger looked appalled and full of regret. I imagined she wished she never spoke to me. I did to.
After we returned home I ran upstairs in a fit of tears. He couldn’t take my crying, it was a weakness to him and he’d use it as a chance to insult and criticise me, saying, “Oh here come the waterworks!”
This was such a regular incident. Something would happen every week. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the food I would get to eat when we returned. I was dependant on it to make me happy. Upstairs, I’d take: one plastic bag of shopping, filled with a high calorie sandwich, an energy drink, doughnuts, chocolate and two or three bags of crisps. With the TV on high, I’d sit and gorge on my selection to the point of feeling sick (although, back then I never actually did throw up). It satisfied me. Immediately I felt ashamed of what I had done, often shoving the remnants under my bed or frantically stuffing it in the bin.
Guilt would encompass me and I would dramatically berate and condemn myself. That’s when self-harm began to find a place in my life.
© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013