Sunday 14th January 2018
Office politics are one of the more soul-destroying aspects of adulthood, aren’t they? One particularly irritating branch of this is food politics. The chat about food at work is truly dire. There’s always someone miserable on a diet, and always at least 3 varieties of biscuit that everyone has to make an apologetic joke about not being able to resist each time they go in for one more (just eat the darn biscuit!).
Usually at lunch I’ll go and walk to the park, or wedge myself in a corner of the coffee shop down the road; but on Friday it was so cold and awful that I thought I’d use the staff room for what it was intended.
Having finished a Tupperware of last night’s dinner, and scrolled contentedly through Instagram for 5 minutes, I put the kettle on and whipped out a Penguin bar. I have this trick, with a Penguin, that generally I will reserve for the privacy of my own home but… I don’t know, maybe I was feeling adventurous after all that Instagram scrolling. All those body positivity accounts I follow can have unpredictable effects on my ego...
So, tea made, with relatively minimal burning of the fingertips considering the lack of hygienic teaspoons in the cutlery draw, I unwrapped the Penguin. The trick is to bite off two opposing corners, e.g. top left and bottom right, and stick one end in the tea. The other end is positioned in the mouth. You must then proceed to suck the tea up through the Penguin until it is dangerously close to dissolving all over you. At this stage in the game you must deftly whip all that melting, chocolatey goodness into your mouth. Even the most experienced Penguin-scoffer can occasionally get a load of melted chocolate and soggy biscuit on their chin... which I did.
At this point, if you are in company you really just have to roll with it, because the stuff will have gone all over your hands as well so there’s no choice but to lick and spit as frantically as you can.
There I am, with chocolate all over my chin and hands (but probably still looking cute, because that’s my vibe), and I look up to discover that Holly, my line-manager, is stood in the doorway. She doesn’t say anything, but she has a fruit-infuser water bottle clasped in one hand and judgement in her eyes. I’m rapidly removing chocolate from various body parts as I make a very generous joke about how she’s “caught” me. I say it’s generous because, really, there’s no reason why I should have been doing all the work to salvage the mood in the room. I, after all, was not the one bringing the frosty atmos.
At least, not until she sat down opposite me and opened her mouth:
“You know, Sardony, Slimming World did wonders for me when I was losing weight for the wedding.”
“Oh?” I said, blandly. All my wit is reserved for retrospective blog posts, so I had nothing more to say than this.
“If you like, I could lend you my Treat Swap manual. It tells you what you should eat instead of unhealthy snacks like that.”
She was looking at the Penguin wrapper. I was looking at the bits of cucumber fibre floating about in her water bottle.
“I can’t see why anyone would want to stop themselves having a Penguin on a Friday afternoon.” I laughed.
I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, and the cropped sleeves on my dress felt far too short all of a sudden, like my arms were bursting out of them as I gripped the table to thrust my weight out of my chair.
Holly smiled at me with something sad and sugary in her expression – was it pity? I can still see her sad, pitying smile, and the way her eyes inadvertently lingered on my midriff, which I instinctively sucked in.
I gathered up my coat and bag and went in the direction of the stairs. I was all the way out of the building and down the road before I realised that I was still tensing my stomach. I let it go and glanced at my reflection in a shop window. I bought a new coat this winter, and I still get a flicker of pleasure when I catch sight of how it falls. It looks elegant, like I am an Edwardian lady, rather than a confused millennial with an admin job. I walked right up to my reflection in the shop window and turned left and right, admiring the shape of my body inside it. Then I smiled at myself; a wide, gleeful smile.
When I got back to the office I threw two eight packs of Penguins onto the sideboard.
“There are some delicious unhealthy snacks there, if anyone wants one.”
The office came alive with the enthused murmurs of my snack-crazed sisters in admin.
Until next time...