Starve a Fever: Not on my Watch!


I once read that everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. Don’t believe me? Next time someone goes on about an encounter they had, listen to how they frame it. “Sure,” your dopey cousin will tell you, “I hit that runner in the road, but the sun was in my eyes, and I was rushing to the ER, and my mom made me late, and even if it was my fault, I’m a good person, and this isn’t who I am!” See? Cognitive science has shown that we literally can’t make ourselves be the villain. If this is true, then everyone believes that they make decisions using facts and reason, because facts and reason are what heroes use, correct? Not so fast.

Those of you who know me and have been to my house know that on the spectrum of owning shit, I’m a minimalist. I was Marie Kondo-ing my life before she was telling us to toss everything that didn’t spark joy. I look at sleek magazine spreads with nothing on the kitchen counters and five artfully placed books on the bookshelves and think—GOALS! This extends to my fridge and cupboards as well. I hate nothing more than a full, over-crowded fridge. I love the European habit of running to the store every morning, or at least a few days a week, and picking up something fresh for dinner. You can probably see where this is going in the age of Coronavirus, where grocery trips are supposed to be weekly or bi-monthly and currently feel like a run throughMad Max territory.

A long time ago, before I even formed memories, I was malnourished. Through no one’s fault, I languished in an orphanage and had so little to eat that I didn’t have the energy to lift my head. Forget growth charts and percentages, with so little food I was the size of a toddler into my preschool years, and when I was in second grade I wore a dress that fit my daughter when she was four. Other things were affected by my lack of nutrition, including needing special ed to work on my balance and small motor skills, my abysmal math abilities (Dylan’s pediatrician told me that math skills are affected by being malnourished, and I’ve never felt more validated) and there’s the medical theory that my type 2 diabetes may have been triggered by childhood malnutrition. I’ve adapted my life around those challenges, and they are truly no biggie, but here’s where having no food has scarred me.


I am terrified of having no food. It’s a visceral, howling at the moon, beyond-hangry,terror felt deep in my bones. It makes no sense. I understand that I have the money and wherewithal to get my next meal, but I have to know I can get something to eat when I want it. It makes me deeply uncomfortable to have anyone else determine when I eat—from the friend who invites me over for dinner, but isn’t clear when we’ll sit down, to the travel buddy who doesn’t want to stop for lunch, to the husband who can literally go 12 hours without eating and doesn’t worry if there will be another 12 hours till his next meal. These struggles are real.

In normal times, like when I could run to a store or go to a restaurant (god I miss sitting down at a restaurant), this was no big deal. When it didn’t feel like I was putting my life on the line to shop, I never stocked up too much. And yet here I am, living in an apartment on the other side of the country from my old house (which had a gourmet kitchen with a French door fridge, huge pantry and extra freezer), surrounded with cans and boxes of food stashed in random corners: an insult to my minimalist tendencies, but a concession to my terror of having nothing to eat.

Is this reasonable? No. Do the facts support my fear? Not at all. But I have this quote on my board from Eric Weinstein: “You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into” which I deeply understand. We are emotional creatures and it’s our emotions, not reason and facts, that propel us through our life. This is neither good nor bad, but it is helpful in understanding what makes us who we are.

In the meantime, the old adage “Feed a cold, starve a fever” may hold true, but any virus that wants to get me will have to make its way through a layer of food lining my walls.

2 thoughts on “Starve a Fever: Not on my Watch!

  1. Athena says:

    I miss having lunch with you and seeing your face! It’s not an unreasonable fear, hunger, it’s so primal and completely understandable. My heart is going out to you, my friend. I know that fear as well. This too shall pass…and then there will be tacos and margaritas again ♡ (and lots of iced tea)


  2. April says:

    As a result of your food issues, or in spite of them, you’ve become a wonderful cook. I have never left your home hungry, and probably never without leftovers!
    When I get to DC I promise to take you wherever you want certain that it will be delicious! And yes, the ice tea will flow freely!


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