Biscuits and Gravy

“Biscuits and gravy! Heh, I can’t believe she ordered it.”

“Heh, I can. Heh, biscuits and gravy.”

The worst part? Those biscuits were the consistency of spongy hockey pucks, and the gravy something between glue and edible. I picked at them, had maybe one bite, and any part of my appetite not killed by the sad copy of food on my plate was killed by humiliation.

We were on a road trip, to some hot state in the middle of the summer. Hotel prices in the sweltering states were cheaper in summer, and my parents more likely to take vacations. So in the van we packed pillows, Walkmans (Walkmen?), luggage, sandwiches, and our sorry selves. Twenty hours later we reached some kind of human destination, unbearably humid.

The best part of the trip, I remember, was when my dad drove and I kept him company, up front in the passenger seat. It was midnight or thereafter; my stepmother and brother slept in the back. We drove through the orange groves in Georgia. The air was spiced with the scent of the groves and honeysuckle. We played the game from the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, “The Minister’s Cat”.

I’ll include it here, since I still feel warm and fuzzy thinking about it:

The next morning we stopped at a southern version of Denny’s. Shoney’s, maybe. As a kid I hated breakfast foods, except hot and cold cereals, and toast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, English muffins, bagels? Blargh! Breakfast foods were either too sweet or too salty, and sometimes they combined the two in freakish horrors like bacon covered in maple syrup, or the abomination that is chocolate chip pancakes.

At any rate.

So, of everything on the menu, “biscuits and gravy” looked the least breakfast-y. I was hungry, having stayed up all night to keep my dad company while he drove (I was probably 10 at the time). We didn’t have biscuits and gravy for breakfast up North; to me, it was the perfect solution to my breakfast-nausea-dilemma.

I was duly mocked, as noted above. But it didn’t stop there. It turned into the joke of the trip. Then, the joke of the year. The last time I heard it was maybe five years ago, so that’s a good 14 years of torment.

And why was I tormented and mocked for my breakfast choice?

Because that 10-year-old girl was also chubby. And chubby people love gravy, donchaknow!

Maybe they didn’t realize how much their jabs hurt. Maybe they didn’t realize how deeply I internalized the shame I felt, how an intelligent little girl heard, “Biscuits and gravy, heh!” and translated it to mean that she was bad, out of control, a terrible person, a terrible daughter. So when my dad told me later that I should eat veggie burgers, plain popcorn, plain cucumbers, and drink water as my whole diet? I tried, for him. Because I didn’t want him to think I was some gross, out-of-control chubster, some human eating machine that goes bonkers at the idea of gravy. He was the first person to give me diet pills. I lost rapidly, and when I refused to eat even vegetables out of fear of remaining fat or gaining back lost weight, I thought about how I’d vindicated myself. No way he’d accuse me of the sin of “biscuits and gravy” again!

Sometimes, when I’m sitting, my heart flutters in my chest for no reason. I wonder if it has to do with all the diet pills I took when I was a teen. That, maybe, biscuits and gravy would have been a better option than diet pills.

But I guess I’ll never know.

This post is dedicated to my husband, who has never made me feel bad about what I eat.

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9 comments on “Biscuits and Gravy

  1. Cyn says:

    And then parents complain when we get married or leave, and we don’t visit them that often because ‘they are soooooo oooold’. And that’s why we prefer to live and be with the partners who don’t ever mock us for whatever we eat, be it biscuits, gravy, celery, or poop.

    • erylin says:

      i dont think my mom really understands my real reason for never coming home to visit. it was bad enough hearing diet tips from her…but now that shes gone into med-induced anorexia (take enough ritalin and pain pills and you wont ever feel hunger pains) its even worse. “the way i lost weight was i just stopped eating” sorry mom i cant do taht see im not on drugs. ugh.

    • fattery says:

      It’s soooo refreshing to hear that I’m not alone in the “never wanting to visit parents” club. I have only one friend who feels similarly to me–everyone else I talk to either loves seeing their family or at least enjoys it for a while.

  2. shaunta says:

    I had dad and fat stories like this. They are devastating to think about, even 20 or 30 years later. Little girls should come with a note pinned to their blankets addressed to their dad’s that say: Make her believe you think she’s pretty and perfect, or she may never get over it.

  3. kprofou says:

    Right now I’m completely avoiding my dad because of some hateful things he said about a fat neighbor of his. So they weren’t even really directed at me, but they were, you know what I mean?

    I’ve dieted since before I can remember and I’m only fatter. When will parents learn?

  4. I just visited my Grandparents, the only members of my family I am left in contact with. They love me, and keep the food/weight comments to almost nothing (though still make them about other people, people smaller than me) but it is still REALLY difficult to be with them.

    I can’t remember when I wasn’t shamed, ridiculed, teased, judged, policed, and generally just criticised for my body, my weight, my food choices (or lack of choices). Yet somehow, I am the one who is a bad person for avoiding this environment altogether.

    • fattery says:

      Yeah, these days it’s the comments about other people and the all-inclusive “let’s go for a walk to burn off that meal” comments that get to me. And yeah, why are we the ones who are bad for avoiding the environment? Basically, we were the abused, and now we are supposed to feel bad about neglecting our abusers.

  5. radfemlezzie says:

    OMG I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks bacon (or sausage) plus maple syrup equals barfalicious! I have similar breakfast issues, though I am saved in restaurants by a liking for pancakes and oatmeal.

    And similar family issues, of course. When I was in college and my mom was pestering me with her weight loss crap I told her in no uncertain terms that if she didn’t stop talking about my weight/body, I would leave the room. I only had to stand up and walk out once–a birthday dinner, it was–and she’s kept her mouth shut since. Course, I live 2500 miles away from her and haven’t seen her in five years. But still. I believe she knows perfectly well why we aren’t close and also that there isn’t much she can do about it at this point. She had her chance and she blew it big-time for 20 years. Take note current moms of fat kids.

    • bigliberty says:

      Wow, I’m having similar issues with my mom, though it’s actually not because of the fat thing (which was my dad’s obsession — my parents were divorced), but more the neglect-that-almost-led-to-my-death thing. At any rate, we’re not close, and she’s got to know why — especially since I basically told her earlier this year — but she just got this unshakeable complex about being the Best Mom in the Universe.

      My dad, of course, is on another diet downswing. Yippee. My grandma (whom I love otherwise, and doesn’t generally make weight a Thing) recently announced that, “You’re father looks so GOOD. He’s lost SO much weight!” I thought he looked fine before, but whatever. When he’s in his toxic diet phase I stay far, far away until he swings back around again. No, I’m not interested in how many miles you ran today. That’s cool and all, but frankly it’s the Same Old Story of intense over-exercise and under-malnourishment I’ve heard before, before, and before.

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