Animal Cookies: A Child's Substitute for Friends
Kristi Folsom

As the movie Eating (1990) portrays, many women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes have problems concerning food. For many women in the film their problems spring from feeling uncomfortable around other women, especially those who felt their mothers constantly criticized them. For others their problems arise from not feeling accepted or loved by the men in their lives, both fathers and husbands. However, the stories that affected me greatest are confessed during the filming of the documentary when one woman admits that as a child she spent hours sitting in front of the TV with a giant bowl of oatmeal, just eating away, in an attempt to fill the black hole inside herself. Another confesses that food and a book were her two best friends. She feels that food was the only constant and control in her life. These stories affected me the greatest because I myself can connect with them.

I spent many hours as a child alone, I can remember walking out to recess alone, the little girl in "coke bottle" glasses who no one wanted to play with. I retreated to the swing at the far end of the playground and watched the other children play while I slipped off into a daydream, in which I was the most popular girl in school, glasses and all. Walking home from school was more of the same: groups of happy children walked in front and behind me laughing and giggling, but never inviting me to join in or even walk with them.

When I got home I always went straight to the kitchen grabbed a snack and sat in front of the tv and ate. Food was the only thing I had control over; it helped to fill the emptiness I felt inside, and provided me with a sense of comfort and allowed me to use my imagination. Animal cookies were always my favorite, because I could pretend they were my friends. I substituted my cookies for human friends, which I could not find in the real word. I used to sit with the cookies for hours talking to them and pretending they were alive. We used to play and go on safaris scouting out all the bad animals of the jungle. My cookie friends would never tease me because I wore glasses, and didn't have fancy clothes, and even if imagined that a circus elephant had dared to tease me I could simply bite its head off, which seemed to be a justifiable punishment for the offense of teasing me. Fortunately for me a new girl came into our class, and we quickly became friends and for the most part my dependence on food for comfort ended.

Many young children today have this same problem. They grow up feeling alone and abandoned, whether it is because of the loss of one or both of their parents, parental neglect, or trouble at school. Many are not as lucky as I was. They never grow out of their dependence on food. I am sure many are still sitting at home playing with their animal cookies as a substitute for real friends. However, in reality it is not only children which have this problem. For many adults, friends are rare and relationships are often even rarer. Many adults look to food as a substitute for companionship. I even find myself turning to food for comfort to help fill the black hole of loneliness I often feel growing inside me.

Essay Index
Food Frontpage