July 20, 2009
God and the Gastrosexual
I learned a new word this week: gastrosexual. That’s a straight man whose knowledge of food and proficiency in the kitchen makes him attractive to women. A gastrosexual is a metrosexual who doesn’t decorate. A man might know many things—how to please a woman in bed, how to replace a timing belt, how to play the stock market—but a gastrosexual knows one thing, and knows it well: she doesn’t have to have sex, fix her car, or work every day, but she has to eat, three times a day, for the rest of her life. Long before the word came to be, I was a gastrosexual.
My shtick was this: I was a freelance writer, consistently underemployed. I drove old cars whose dents I couldn’t afford to fix. And I was poet skinny, six feet two and a hundred and fifty pounds—you could serve soup out of my hip sockets. But if I could just get a woman to my kitchen, I could usually get her to my bedroom. I don’t think it was because my food was always so sensational that it made them swoon and lose control. I think the act of being served, of being taken care of, of knowing they would be taken care of, was seductive to the women who I found attractive. Gastrosexuality worked for me.
Until I met the rabbi.
The moment I saw her I knew I wanted to marry Naomi. My friend Justin Rudelson and I had been taking a course in Jewish mysticism from a
The young Chaadnik, beard down to his collarbome, finally said something I understood. We rushed out of our chairs and out the hallway, toward the sanctuary. And there, in that narrow space, I saw her coming toward me. “This is Rabbi Levy,” our rabbi said.
She was wearing a green Ann Klein businesswoman’s suit. I could overlook that. She was slender, with thick brown hair and sensitive, wise eyes. She
“Hello,” I managed.
She winced a smile and walked past.
To this day she swears she doesn’t remember seeing me in that group. But from that day on I was smitten.
There was a long, agonizing period of months that followed, during which I tried every legal way of getting her to notice me. I came to
Naomi announced to the congregation she’d be teaching a class called, “Love and Torah.” It was a look at the Biblical idea of love through
I showed up to the first class and saw the brilliance of my plan: inside the rabbi’s study sat the rabbi herself, and six stay at home moms.
And then, my next big chance came. I had one arrow left.
One afternoon, at the conclusion of services, Naomi asked if I wanted to walk her home. Sure, I said. And my heart leapt: there are kitchens in homes.
We walked the mile to her apartment, she invited me in. I was hungry, and I bet she was too. Services went from 9 am to 1 pm, with only a
She let me in her apartment—aground level one bedroom with a living room window facing the distant but shimmering Pacific. We began to
When I heard the door close, I jumped up from the couch and made for the kitchen. I was hungry. Services had gone from morning until 1
Now I’d been sitting on her futon couch for over an hour, and all she offered me was chamomile tea. Which she never brought out. I opened the first cabinet, above the counter. It was empty save for a few ceramic plates. I picked one closer to the stove. Empty. A tall cupboard by the refrigerator, the pantry cupboard in most normal homes. Barren. I heard the toilet flush. Last cupboard, just across from the sink. Three cans of tuna fish and a small white bag of Passover potato chips. And a box of chamomile tea. During Passover observant Jews will only eat special potato chips fried in certain oils—cottonseed is one of them. The bag was open but only half eaten.
Who was this girl? What kind of person has only a couple cans of tuna fish and some chips fried in cottonseed oil? What kind of person opens a bag of chips and only eats a little bit at a time? And who really likes chamomile, the urine sample of the tea world?
Naomi appeared behind me. I grabbed the tea box.
“I can make it,” I said. “Want some?”
She nodded. She didn’t seem to care that I was in her cupboards—she didn’t seem to use them much herself.
“Can I ask you something?” I said after we started sipping our teas.
“What do you eat?”
“I mean, what do you eat? You have no food.”
“I have tuna.”
“What do you do with it?”
“I eat it.”
“You mean like a sandwich?” I asked, though I hadn’t sen any bread, mayo, celery. I suppose if she had said yes I would have pegged her
“Like in salad?” I didn’t see any no olive oil, no lettuce, tomato, bread. The kitchen didn’t have a crumb. Or a pot or a pan, for that matter.
“No,” she said, “I just eat it.”
I tried to hide my disbelief. “Out of the can?” I said. “Like a cat?”
She was starting to get annoyed. I knew that, but I couldn’t help myself. The women I dated until then had either been in the food
And Naomi saw my questions as a judgment. And she bristled at the nerve of me even presuming to think she cared for my opinion on what
“Then you have to cut it,” she said. “I have salt.”
I just stared. I was smitten all right. I had passed the point of caring what I found in her cabinets that afternnoon. I WAS IN HER APARTMENT. If I
“Hey,” I said. “I have an idea. One day I can bring a bunch of stuff over and we can cook together, a great lunch. Or dinner. “
I waited, the hook was floating in the eddy and I just needed her to bite. Who wouldn’t? Who hadn’t before? The guy who cooks. The straight guy who offers to shop and make dinner. I didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times this worked. I waited. And waited.
Finally, Naomi shrugged.
“That’s okay. I like tuna. “
She sat on the couch. I sat on the chair across from her. This was not going to be work. Something else was called for here. At the time I
“Naomi, ” I interrupted her.
“Can I have some of your potato chips?”
She looked at me. “I have potato chips?”
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