Who Loves Cheese?

What is that one thing you always come back to? That one thing you can never not adore? For me, it’s cheese. Cheeeeeese.

I came up with this while playing around with poetry as short-form memoir during Creative Writing class.

Only Love Remains

How did we begin, my one true love? My passion for you endures unabated. I remember in the early days, a hastily ripped cardboard box, frantically searching for the indented foil seam and ripping back the shiny slick casing. Carefully fingering you onto my tongue as that first mouthful dissolved into creamy liquid that slid slowly down my throat. The melting plasticity of Velveeta cheese food product will always take me back to our first time. As Mom swirled Velveeta into hot elbow macaroni noodles in her blackened bottom pot, the liquid gold slithered through the curved tube creating a heavenly goo so runny it had to be eaten with a spoon.

Changing circumstances took their toll on our relationship over the years. An absent father with dark secrets coincided with subtle shifts in refrigerator contents. Slabs of dense government cheese-American, of course, Ronald Reagan’s gift to the Dairy Farmers of America, filled cheap bread several meals a day. My abandoned, anxiety-ridden mother despised my gluttony, hated me fat, but couldn’t stop me from eating. She had enough on her plate. Dad showed up long enough to forbid her from taking charity and then there was no cheese at all.

How I missed you.

Then, the joys of marriage and two modest incomes provided several packages a week where we could hide the knowledge that we had made a colossal mistake. What better way to fill the holes of missing pieces than with grated four cheese Mexican flavored topping.

Inevitably, backlash came in the form of self-imposed hungry years. Fat-free feta and scant sprinklings of parmesan marked by long periods of abstinence. I shunned you, please forgive me.

And now, now that we have reconnected, slim slices of Manchego and pungent veiny Amish bleu, artfully arranged with seasonal fruit and paired with a crisp Rosé fill my palate with undertones of bourgeoisie as we stroll into the sunset. I will never leave you again.

cheese

Feeling Free

A couple of weeks ago I found myself free to do as I pleased for a few hours on a summer afternoon near a beach. What more could a person want? Souls savor stolen moments.

Signage at the top of the steep wooden staircase read:

Clothing optional

No gawking

No cameras

I already knew the beach was clothing optional, but it was breezy and cool, so I had no intention of stripping. Let other people freeze their naked butts off. The last time I had been to a clothing optional beach, a woman who appeared to be a supermodel stretched out beside me with a friendly smile, her perfect breasts pointing to the sky. I just couldn’t join her.

At the bottom of the steps, a string of brightly colored sarongs caught the wind like wanna-be kites reaching for the brilliant sky. Sand and water swept the horizon before me. I put my phone away, took off my shoes and began to walk, toes digging into the soft sand. Happy as the proverbial clam.

The days prior and the days ahead were busy and emotional. Long awaited visits with my adult children behind me and my long awaited second marriage just ahead, brain and body needed the off switch. Worries, plans, and body aches vanished with the first step.  By the tenth step, I was sweating, because the breeze had also vanished and the sun was flexing its muscles. As I wandered down to firmer sand by the waterline, I noticed several naked bodies.  They were tan everywhere. Some of these folks must be hard core beach nudies. Huh. Not a perfect physique in sight.

I walked as far as the beach allowed and doubled back looking for the right driftwood log to lean against, wondering what it would be like to be naked here. The perfect spot appeared, so I plunked down in the sand, squinting and cursing my lack of sunglasses and empty water bottle. Sweat ran down my back into my underwear as the sun blazed hotter. As I scanned the horizon, a middle aged man sauntered past, penis swinging and free, utterly unselfconscious. Huh.

I furtively slipped out of my clothes and spread out my sweatshirt to sit on, unwilling to get sand absolutely everywhere. I glanced around. No one was anywhere near me, no one to see or care, so I settled back to watch the clouds and waves. I noticed that the breeze wasn’t entirely gone; I could feel it gently caress my body in places that had never felt fresh air before. My skin felt grateful and cool.

As the rhythm of the waves lulled my senses and swept out my brain cobwebs, someone with clothes on walked by and glanced quickly away with an awkward jerk of his head. Wonder what his problem is I thought, having already forgotten I didn’t have any clothes on. Oh yeah, I’m naked, I smiled to myself and felt sorry for him in his heavy cotton tee shirt and cargo shorts.

How did I come to be comfortable in my own naked bag of skin in my fifties after a lifetime of excruciating self-loathing? I was taught shame as a fact, that my female body was an offense, dangerous if uncovered, an abomination if fat, a death sentence if used. I carried those judgements like chains, even in my defiance of them. I don’t care anymore. Those chains may have left a few scars, but somewhere along the way they dropped off.

I wonder at the weight we carry sometimes. We can change inner dialogue from defensiveness to openness; allow others to carry their own opinions, their judgements, their perspectives without hefting the load. We can show ourselves compassion, too.

Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I would add, it is the mark of a free mind, as well.

I can’t wait to see if Facebook deems my knee and shoulder inappropriate.

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