Today, there are four shorter prompts so I’ll see if I can be somewhat concise — not exactly my typical approach. Since there’s no real limit to the writing, though, it’s not a huge issue. The real problem is that all of my mental health difficulties are related to food and eating so tacking these things has taken a lot of effort. I know that there’s no real pressure to do this but I see it as something that is necessary, not just facing the fears, as I have to do that every day, every meal. But facing the necessity to talk about such things publicly.
Write about a lunch you loved…
First, I have to qualify this. I have never had anything that corresponds to a positive relationship with lunch. Or any meal. I eat compulsively and under incredible tension — I am both focused on food and eating every second of every day, no matter what I am doing, and terrified of having done it, having to do it and, more than anything, having to think about it at all. For most people, food is either a pleasure or a guilty pleasure. For me, there’s nothing pleasurable about it — it causes me physical pain, mental trauma and is the first and last problem that has destroyed so much of my life. That being said, there’s nothing necessary about me being the one doing the eating for it to be considered a lunch.
It’s not just food that I have had an unusual relationship with in my life. My experience of school was decidedly different — for one, I didn’t spend the usual twelve or thirteen years there, nor did I go to only one school at a time. And I was a student at the university long before I technically graduated from high school. I did, eventually, graduate from high school in the traditional sense — not so much the getting the rolled up piece of paper and walking across the stage, although I did indeed do that, quite a bit later. I went to grad (or prom, if you’re from the south). No, we didn’t have a grad lunch celebration but I’m getting to that.
I have often said that celebrations are meaningless and contribute to the artificial concept of “special” that we really need to get society away from. Recognizing a time or day as something to look forward to, spending huge amounts of money or effort on making a day unique — the amount of money spent on weddings alone could raise the slums of the world out of poverty. That being said, if the expenditure is kept to a minimum and the effort slight, there is nothing wrong with taking time to recognize accomplishment and be both proud and thankful — proud of having achieved something and thankful for the people who have helped you on the path. It’s very important to be proud of your achievements because, if you’re not, there is a hateful tendency to be proud of things you haven’t achieved — your sexuality, your race and, most destructively, your tribe/country/political affiliations. Those aren’t things to be proud of. They’re things to be aware of and recognize but there’s nothing in being straight or gay or democrat or republican or American or Canadian or Chinese or Indonesian to be proud of. It’s who we are, not what we’ve done. Being proud of someone else’s achievements isn’t just fake. It’s shameful.
So I have only two problems with high school (and other) graduation. One is that people spend a huge amount of money on it. Spending money on occasions is a huge waste and we are already such a wasteful society. If people don’t feel shameful and guilty about spending thousands on a party, they have simply missed the point of how much help those thousands could give to a child who doesn’t have enough to eat or medicine to keep it alive and healthy. How many books for a poor school even in your own city could that money spent on your graduation buy? How many shots for infants could it provide, not on the other side of the world, while that is definitely just as important, but down the street where there are mothers who aren’t able to afford a trip to the doctor so their kid doesn’t contract polio? If you think your partying is more important than the safety of other people, perhaps you need a few more years in school before you’re deemed capable of going out into the world. If you think a night of fun is more important than the lives of others and you’re already in the world, please do us all a favor and step off the planet at the earliest possible occasion.
The second problem is the booze. There is no good side to drinking alcohol. It is a hateful practice. I’m not just saying this because it is prohibited by Buddhist teachings — if anyone has told you that drinking alcohol is acceptable to Buddhists, I would refer you to the basic precepts taken even by beginners, that include a vow never to consume anything that has the potential to change perception of the world. While there are many interpretations of that line, there is no valid interpretation that would allow the consumption of alcohol, whose effect on the human body is perhaps one of the most well-documented of all medical facts. We can certainly look at something like marijuana, whose effects on mental health and pain management are still being investigated, as potentially a medication whose use is permissible in many circumstances. Alcohol has no such benefits — it is, in all ways, a poison. Both of the body and the mind. Whether legal or illegal, though alcohol is a scourge on modern society. It is a much larger problem than smoking has ever been (also outlawed by Buddhist practice, yet another prescription that has been ignored by many people who claim to be practitioners). It destroys lives and families and, in case it is not obvious, the planet. The amount of land devoted to the production of alcohol that could be better used for crops to feed people who are starving — or even for trees that were cut down to make space for those crops simply having been left there to clean the air in a passive way — is staggering. And that’s not even counting the amount of oil burned and energy wasted, pollution created and plastic and glass produced and disposed of, to get the alcoholic beverages from their place of manufacture to your loathsome lips.
High school graduation for many people may not be the first time they drink alcohol — I don’t think I knew anyone in high school that hadn’t at least had a few glasses of wine long before they reached that landmark occasion. But it’s the first time that society decided to say it’s ok. While people may turn a blind eye in silence to underage drinking, it’s usually at graduation from high school that the blind eye becomes wholehearted acceptance and, often, expectation, endorsement and encouragement. It’s not just ok to drink at grad — it’s seen as a rite of passage that is assumed to take place to the point that, while most people graduating from high school in North America are still under the age of legal drinking, there are programs (safe-grad being the most well-known but there are hundreds of others) specifically designed to keep students from drinking and driving. It’s an excuse for bad behavior and we must root those out — I would suggest, starting with this one, since it’s the gateway to societally-acceptable intoxication that should never be permitted at any stage of life. Alcohol is certainly not the root of all evils. But if tobacco had been the cause of nearly as many societal problems, it wouldn’t have taken us nearly this long to see it as something shameful and try to stamp it out (however weakly we are doing it with tobacco).
That being said, many of my friends did drink alcohol at grad parties, although very few of them would really be anything I could classify as “drunk”, thankfully. I said for a very long time that I wouldn’t go to the graduation celebration but, at the last minute — ok, one day before the actual party — I decided that I would indeed attend. It cost me nothing and I asked an equally-surprised dear friend of mine to be my date at the event. Thankfully, she had a dress that she was happy to wear and we went off to the party — both the one the school provided, complete with speeches, and several after that. It’s actually the after-effect of that a year later that the writing prompt has brought to mind, though.
The next year, true to form, that same friend invited me to come to her graduation ceremony as her date, at the same school, the same hotel and followed by rather different parties. So I did. The invitation this time was actually extended three whole days before the ceremony, I believe, so I had plenty of time to prepare. Even got my clothes dry cleaned in preparation! The speeches were interesting — my father gave one, not as my father, of course, but as a teacher retiring that year. It was very touching and I remember little other than his speech from the ballroom. I’m sure there was a meal, which I definitely didn’t touch, and dancing, which I may have participated in, although stylized western dancing is something I’ve never been particularly good at, even though I do love to try.
After, we all ended up at one of my best friends’ houses only a few minutes away from the hotel, where we continued to snack (except me) and listen to loud music and in many ways typical to teenagers party away the rest of the night. We all ended up asleep on various chairs and couches and parcels of floor (I did indeed succeed in snaring a couch to share with someone, thankfully, as the floor is always cold there, even in the late springtime, particularly at six in the morning). We were woken far too few hours later around noon by the sound of laughter and sizzling pancakes. I found myself being used as the pillow for a small dog but that was ok — it wasn’t until years later that my allergies expanded to include the canine, sadly. Stiff and exhausted but still somewhat exhilarated from the night before, I woke up, surrounded by a half dozen other recent escapees from the school system, along with my friend’s mother, who was generally laughing at us all — quite rightly so, too, as we looked like we had just been kicked out of a high-end jazz club from the thirties, except that it was the nineties and it was the living room in the middle of the day.
So there was breakfast. And that’s where this all comes full circle. My friend’s mother asked if we wanted pancakes and eggs for breakfast and my friend, obviously barely able to keep her eyes open against the bright sunlight, suddenly sat up and looked at her and said (shouted, although that wasn’t her intent, just hoarse from singing along to music most of the night) “fuck breakfast, it’s time for lunch, mom!”, after which there was a moment of silence and her mother broke out into even more riotous laughter. So we (ok, everyone except me, although I did assist in the cooking, if not the eating) skipped breakfast and had a wholeheartedly massive lunch. That, indeed, is the lunch that I loved — perhaps not the only one but definitely the one that I will always associate with positive lunchtime experiences, likely more than any other.
It is certainly time to contemplate the fact that I have rather overshot the target for a quarter of the prompts for today but that isn’t going to stop me from continuing the trend into the other three, although they aren’t necessarily going to be all quite so involved. Talking about alcohol and wasteful spending, though, those are matters dear to my heart — if not my liver and my purse.