It started right after college graduation when I ate my degree. I spent four years working on my bachelors. In a second I had devoured it whole. Okay, maybe not whole. I took the diploma back to my dorm room, climbed under the covers, and with a fork and knife, cut up the piece of paper into tiny square bites. In a matter of minutes I had successfully done what all the popular girls told me to do in seventh grade. Like Weird Al, I ate it. I ate all of it.
I was satisfied at first, but then an emptiness settled into me. I needed more paper. After college I devoured whole books. At first they were small books. Innocent books. Books like The Boxcar Children and Tuesdays with Morrie. But then came Moby Dick. The Executioner’s Song. Gone with the Wind became gone in my mouth. I couldn’t get enough.
“Did you finish my copy of Lonesome Dove that I loaned you last week?” My mother asked me at the dinner table one night. I had just landed a job as an administrative assistant in an office downtown. In hopes of not eating important dental forms, I started asking everyone I knew for large books. They rarely asked for them back. I was safe, I reasoned. What would they care if one book went missing?
“I’m still working on it,” I said. It wasn’t a lie. I started eating ten pages at a time when I hit the halfway point. This way I could save as much paper as possible for when I really needed it.
I needed it at night. I needed it when I thought of my boss, loud and demanding, standing tall behind my computer screen. I needed it when I thought about my ex boyfriend from college whom I had never gotten over after he cheated on me with my thinner best friend. I needed it when I remembered those girls. The ones who always said I was too fat, too dumb, or just not good enough.
It was during the last pages of Lonesome Dove that I realized I had a problem. I had to stop this paper eating business. I had to move on to something else. Something more substantial. It was then that I thought of the Tupperware parties.
Laura, my boss’s wife, threw Tupperware parties every Tuesday evening at their house in Darien, Connecticut. “You really should come,” my boss had said. “Laura needs a certain number of people at these parties. You’ll love it. It’s just a bunch of women talking about dinners.” I agreed to come, but not for the socializing.
“Your selection is fantastic,” I said the following Tuesday evening. I admired red plastic lids with bulging bowls pregnant beneath them. Just a little nibble would satisfy me. Just a taste.
“Tupperware is wonderful,” Laura said, smiling in the same plastic fashion as the containers. Her custom curtains and matching wallpaper was just tasteful enough to avoid the sixties type décor. I wondered if she had grown up with wallpaper like that. She had probably gone to boarding school. She had probably been one of those popular girls. She was probably an ice queen in the bedroom.
Perhaps it was the chilliness of her smile that made me do it or perhaps it was sheer hunger. Maybe it was the need to do something rebellious or unexpected. I’m not really sure. I casually picked up one of the smaller Tupperware containers and hid it under my shirt when Laura’s back was turned.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where the restroom is?”
Laura pointed down the hall. As soon as I closed the bathroom door behind me, I took out the Tupperware container and pried off the lid. I gazed at my reflection in the mirror. Fresh makeup and wide eyes, I didn’t look like a fiend. The bathroom wallpaper had the same floral design as the living room except in lavender instead of yellow. The Tupperware lid rested in my hands. Fresh, synthetic, hardness. I stuffed it in my mouth.
Then I heard it. The click and turn of the door knob echoed through both my ears.
“What the…?” Laura stared at me, her hands covering her mouth. I stared at her, the Tupperware lid covering my mouth.
“You need help,” she said as I guiltily swallowed a giant chunk of plastic.
I quickly pulled out a ten dollar bill from my pocket and stuffed it into her hand, praying she wouldn’t tell her husband or anyone else at the party. I ran outside to my car, determined to quit my job the next day. I called a therapist immediately.
“It looks like you have an eating disorder called Pica,” the therapist said, uncrossing his legs as he sat in front of me. On a slip of paper he wrote down a time and date for my next appointment. “This seems like a deep rooted issue that we should get to the bottom of. I’ll need to see you twice a week.”
I nodded and walked down the steps of his office back to my car. I was just like all the other once-unpopular women my age. Damaged. Suffering from some kind of mental disorder that could be boxed into a category for someone else to dissect.
I took one look at the appointment card and said Fuck It. Maybe I didn’t want the kind of life with matching wallpaper and curtains. Maybe I liked my dirty little secret. Maybe I really would go back to work. I popped the appointment card into my mouth and chewed the paper several times. I took a deep breath and swallowed.
Banner Image: By RageZ (Want some tupperware?) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons