Love in the Time of Hunger

By Katherine Page
January 17, 2024

“We love someone, that is to say, we love to drink his blood.” -Simone Weil

        Sometimes I like to lay in my bed, letting the word roll around on my tongue. Hunger. It’s a concept that takes up a large space in my life. Hunger. Immanuel Kant believes that all humans can reach moral freedom; however, we are constrained by innate human hunger. It perpetually exists as that dark fissure, tainting all lives. It is a quantification of desire. I often find myself pondering the things I want to eat and the things I have eaten. The things I know I will eat. I mean this metaphorically of course.
        Sophomore year of high school was a changing point in my life: it was when I entered my first real relationship. However, looking back I realized that I never felt that giddy excitement that most other girls told me they felt upon entering their first relationship. I instead felt like I was in a state of repose. That kind of tired relief that you feel after finishing something you had spent so long working on. I realize that everything leading up to my first relationship had been a fight. We both liked each other. We went around like we were dating. We kissed. He refused to make it official for a long time. Like any lonely teenage girl, I was patient. Over time he conceded. Not the best start to a relationship, but I was optimistic. 
        Three years later, he dumped me. I was torn. The following weeks were empty and destitute. I was consumed by hollowness. Like all things, however, it became more bearable over time. I very quickly found myself in another fling – a situationship – that also quickly ended in heartbreak. After a couple of weeks of hollowness, the cycle repeated itself. Another situationship… another heartbreak.
        I feel uneasy about my relationship with love. With all of these failed relationships. There had to be something wrong with me. There is something intrinsically wrong with who I am– and whatever this thing was it was dooming me to walk a trail of failed connections, failed relationships, failed love. Deep down all people want is to love and be loved. I realized that clearly, my problem was that I am very capable of loving (maybe a bit too easily) but somehow incapable of being loved.
        This was when my obsession with hunger started to rear its ugly head. I had taken classes on philosophers like Simone Weil, a mystic who viewed the world in the binary of eating. Kant did as well. I read dozens of articles about famine and gluttony. There is a quote from The Iliad that I think of often. “And she thought of eating when she was tired of tears.” I started to become more acquainted with the concept, and more aware of my own relationship to it. I developed a philosophy around eating. Friedrich Nietzche said the spirit is a stomach. A notion that we share. We’re all obsessed with being hungry– feeling full– in some way shape or form. Our world is defined by hunger.
        Halfway through my tumultuous high school relationship, we broke up. He told me that we needed a break because he was too dependent on me. I know stupidity when I see it. In what world was he dependent on me? I didn’t cook his food or clean his clothes. I never carried his emotional weight on my shoulders. Instead, he left me abandoned, wondering what he could possibly be thinking. I knew his definition of dependency was the average definition of a relationship. He wanted to tell me his feelings. He sought comfort in me when he was sad. This was too much for him. Eventually, he gave in to his hunger for me and we got back together.
        My experience with relationships has highlighted an unsettling pattern about people. All of us are hungry but most of us are scared of our desire for it. Most religions practice fasting in some way shape or form, highlighting an intrinsic fear of desire… it separates humans from divinity. From goodness. There exist things like forks, chopsticks, and spoons, to distance people from the act of putting their own food in their own mouths. There is a grimace on the face when food dribbles down a chin. A hastening to wipe it away with a napkin.
        Like me, Weil believed that to exist was to be hungry. To her, everything was quantified in terms of how hungry people are for it. She was particularly interested in how hunger extended to relationships. She wondered in what way hunger for another person functions. She said “We love as cannibals. Beloved beings.. provide us with comfort, energy, a stimulant. They have the same effect on us as a good meal after an exhausting day of work. We love them, then, as food. It's an anthropophagic love.” One “eats” the face of their partner instead of simply making out with them. The act of eating someone out. When one finds someone as beautiful– sexy –they think they are “almost good enough to eat”. According to Weil, “We metabolize our partners”.
        She and I share this philosophy of “cannibalistic love”. Cannibalism is more inherent to humans than one might think and the idea of it goes beyond physicality. Thousands of myths depict cannibalism– even the story of Christ himself. Jesus was born in a manger (French: manger; to eat), a slap-in-face metaphor of Jesus as fodder for disciples to feast on. Communion is a holy act. Devotees sit on their knees and give in to their ravenous appetites. They devour the flesh of their Lord. They drain him of his blood, content with stuffing themselves. This is the most egregious example of humans feeling the need to eat those they love, and Weil’s personal favorite.
        Once I started to view the world through this binary, this quantification of craving and consuming, I diagnosed my condition with relationships. My problem is this: I am too inclined to eat. Too willing to be messy. And, ironically, I have a tendency to pick people who prefer to stay hungry. I see it so clearly in my first relationship. His unwillingness to officially date in the first place. The spontaneous breakup when he felt we were getting too close. His general attitude too. Throughout the entirety of the relationship, he kept me at arm's length. Dismissive and passive. He craved my time, my touch, and my attention, but he could never stomach holding my hand for too long.

        Weil believes that there are two states of humans. Looking and eating. “The great sorrow of human life is that looking and eating are two different operations. Children already feel this sorrow, when they look at a cake for a long time and take it almost regretfully to eat it.”
        Eating is necessary. Eating is innate. Eating is frantic. Eating is grotesque. Eating is scary.

        Looking, on the other hand, is comforting. The natural inclination is to stay looking. Food is displayed and kept behind glass. Protecting it. In the same way, people are inclined to stave off one another. To keep them behind glass. There is the ever-present fear of destroying something clean with our depraved and esurient nature. And so we don’t. We maintain the notion of looking. The less one gives into their hunger, the easier it is to stay in a relationship. One doesn’t have to peer at their partner’s flaws. Their own flaws. All they have to do is look, and it stays unmessy. It stays pristine. It stays manageable.
        Looking back on my relationship, I see myself. Hungry. Messy. Unashamed. I wanted to eat and I was never compelled by the beauty of the pristine to care. I wanted to metabolize him, as Weil would put it. And then I see him. Starving, but familiar with it. Too scared of his desire to eat. The reason he treated me the way he did was because he oscillated between wanting to consume and finding comfort in starving. He, like most people, chose to stay hungry.

        Our problem with love is that we are too afraid to take a bite. Too afraid to metabolize our lovers. We are raised in an ascetic world. A world too inclined to fast. Instead of being willing to eat our partners, we replace eating with more manageable things to fill our stomachs, knowing that it never truly will. What happens when metabolization no longer becomes an option? Will we sit, malnourished and discontent forever? Why run from our nature? Why run from our cravings?
        We all deserve someone who is just as hungry as us. We deserve to shed this shame and fear. Why starve? Why not just take a bite? 

Layout: Jazmin Hernandez Arceo
Photographer: Liv Martinez
Videographers: Reyna Dews & Annie Kim
Stylists: Elsa Zhang & Sonia Siddiqui
Set Stylist: Lauren Muñoz 
HMUA: Fiona Condron & Jaycee Jamison
Models: Alex Basillio, Arliz Muñoz & Natán Murillo

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