What we want, of course, what lies in the cupboard marked 'important,' is connection, love: If the deepest source of human hunger had a name, that would be it; if the boxes of constraint in which so many women live could be smashed to bits, that would be the tool, the sledgehammer that shatters emptiness and uncovers the hope buried beneath it.
In one of the largest surveys of its kind to date, nearly 30,000 women told researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine that they'd rather lose weight than attain any other goal, a figure that alone suggests just how complicated the issue of appetite can be for women. This is the primary female striving? The appetite to lose appetite?In fact, I suspect the opposite is true: that the primary, underlying striving among many women at the start of the millennium is the appetite for appetite: a longing to feel safe and secure enough to name one's true appetites and worthy and powerful enough to get them satisfied.
We did not learn how to feel or experience our bodies, how to appreciate our own strengths, how to value or respect or understand the packages we came in. Instead, we learned how to look at them, to pair sexuality with desirability, to measure the worth of our bodies by their capacity to elicit admiration from others.
Dogs possess a quality that's rare among humans--the ability to make you feel valued just by being you--and it was something of a miracle to me to be on the receiving end of all that acceptance. The dog didn't care what I looked like, or what I did for a living, or what a train wreck of a life I'd led before I got her, or what we did from day to day. She just wanted to be with me, and that awareness gave me a singular sensation of delight. I kept her in a crate at night until she was housebroken, and in the mornings I'd let her up onto the bed with me. She'd writhe with joy at that. She'd wag her tail and squirm all over me, lick my neck and face and eyes and ears, get her paws all tangled in my braid, and I'd just lie there, and I'd feel those oceans of loss from my past ebbing back, ebbing away, and I'd hear myself laugh out loud.
And so I was scared. I was scared of my own sexual hunger, which felt so secretive and uncharted, and I was scared of the sexual hunger of boys, which felt so vivid and overt, and I was terribly uncertain of the relationships between sex and power and value, which seemed so merged and hard to tease apart. In the midst of all that, I didn't exactly loathe my body, or feel ashamed of it, but I was deeply ashamed of my fear, which felt disabling and immature and woefully, painfully uncool, a terrible secret, evidence of some profound failing and ignorance on my part. Other girls, or so I imagined, knew what to do, how to use their power, how to derive pleasure from it, and in contrast, I felt not only freakish but isolated, as though I was standing outside a vital, defining loop.
So it persists, for many of us, hunger channeled into some internal circuitry of longing, routed this way and that, emerging in a thousand different forms. The diet form, the romance form, the addiction form, the overriding hunger for this purchase or that job, this relationship or that one. Hunger may be insatiable by nature, it may be fathomless, but our will to fill it, our often blind tenacity in the face of it, can be extraordinary.
One thing I've noticed since I quit drinking is that a person usually has two or three sets of impulses scratching away at some internal door at any given time. If you're sober--if you're alert, and paying attention to those impulses, and not yielding to the instinct to anesthetize them--you can receive a lot of guidance about where to go, what to do next in life.
Something is missing: that's as close as I can come to naming the sensation, an awareness of missed or thwarted connections, or of a great hollowness left where something lovely and solid used to be. ...There is something fundamentally insatiable about being human, as though we come into the world with a kind of built-in tension between the experience of being hungry, which is a condition of striving and yearning, and the experience of being fed, which may offer temporary satisfaction but always gives way to new strivings, new yearnings.