Ice cream is no fun by yourself.
That’s what I thought last night as I sat with my little bowl of orange sherbet carved from the brick of Turkey Hill I bought last week for $4.99. I was sitting alone on the first floor of the house I live in, where all the lights are on timers to make it look like people are home when we could be anywhere in a hundred mile radius.
It was probably the fifth time I had ice cream last week, other times eating it straight out of the container because you can do that when it’s all yours and you’re never expecting company because the few friends you have in the City either already live with you or wouldn’t come visit because it’s too far for them and you wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting them over to a space that isn’t really yours.
Ice cream. By oneself.
Even when it’s eaten for the joy of the flavor, temp, and texture, it feels like I’m eating it out of loneliness or depression — eating my feelings — when I eat it by myself. Food, it occurs to me, is a social activity. It’s not just me, my mouth, and whatever’s on my plate. It’s meant to be enjoyed in the presence of others.
Considering my upbringing, this only makes sense. Food (especially dinner and, almost more so, ice cream) was always a family affair, something we gathered around in some sort of order, everyone in their seats, places set, eyes on the serving dishes, thoughts on their stomachs. It was almost a contest to see who could get the most — seconds, thirds — and with ice cream this was especially apparent (though seconds were only a possibility with my grandparents).
“One. Ha ha.”
“Three. Ha ha.”
“Six. Ha ha.”
Different voices called out, boasting the number of mini peanut butter cups they’d gotten in their two small scoops of Peanut Butter Moose Tracks.
Some kids collected their candies, licked clean of ice cream, on the table, not squeamish at all about the bacteria that could potentially latch on from the tablecloth. Others ate as they counted, leaving no proof to their claims of “Nine. Ha ha.” Sometimes, it got competitive and ended with tears and insults and Mom yelling at us to “go to bed!” More often, it fell into hilarity, my older brother and I poking fun at the younger ones and laughingly calling out our own tallies: “Four. Ha ha.” “Two. Ha ha.” An enjoyable, laughter-filled way to cap off our day together as a family.
Nothing like sitting in near darkness with a bowl of ice cream and no one beside myself, not even a picture of someone to look at or an animal to talk to.
Last night, I became acutely aware of how often I am alone. Not in the “woe is me,” Mr. Lonely sort of way, not in a God-forsaken way because I know and believe He will not forsake me, but just a human alone-ness. I’m fine with independence; I’m fine with doing my own thing, but some things are better with others. Especially food, especially bus rides, especially movies and reruns of Friends, and especially ice cream.