A Waffle Combo is Hard to Find in This Bitch of a World

TW: Eating Disorder Mention, Very Brief Sexual Assault Mention

When I went to the Golden House last weekend, I wasn’t planning on doing a series on its menu. I just had a hankering. I wanted breakfast, but I also wanted to feel good.

I’d only been to Golden House a couple of times before this, with my sister. We ate there two or three times when she came to town to visit in the summer. A lifelong picky eater, she’s recently added eggs to the slowly lengthening list of brown, beige, and yellow things she will tolerate, so a breakfast place was the natural option. Also on this list: Grilled Cheese, Mac n Cheese, Cap n Crunch, Turkey Slices, Chicken Tenders, Cookie Crisp, The Yogurt with the Sprinkles, Pancakes.

Staci used to be pretty sensitive about her food preferences. That’s because people used to make fun of it a lot. If a person is touchy about a subject it’s rarely because they just decided, out of nowhere, to be easily offended. Somebody made them touchy. Probably a lot of somebodies did, over the course of years. Staci endured a whole childhood of concerned comments and probing questions from friend’s parents, doctors, teachers, lunch staff, and peers. Everybody was so concerned, but not in the way that does any good.

The comments were so frequent and intrusive that she is halfway convinced that being super thin is a type of marginalization on par with being fat (which is incorrect). When people tell her to eat a sandwich, or when a random Hobby Lobby employee saunters up to her and corners her by the plastic beads to whisper-hiss you’re so skinny, I’m jealous (which happened to her last month), she bristles. Which, why wouldn’t she. It’s pretty fucked up. We hate comments on our perfect beautiful bodies, us Bohannon-Price kids.

Rather than talk about and objectify my sister’s body and add to that mountain of lifelong harassment, I’ll mention the real impact her cheese-and-bread-exclusive eating behaviors and small stature had on her life. Staci was a sickly kid. She used to be so thin it would end her up in the hospital about once a year with pneumonia.

I remember what the hospital looked like and how frail she seemed. She remembers that I did not visit enough. As if I were a shitty parent. When we talk about her childhood, I feature as a parental figure; I taught her to speak, I was her first word, I abandoned her in her time of need. I was maybe 8 or 9.

She missed Halloween one year because she was in the hospital. She was supposed to be the flower girl in a wedding that weekend, too. She did show up, pale and bug-eyed in her red dress, with her white floral crown falling down her peanut-sized skull, but she was escorted home as soon as the ceremony was over. I spent the reception wandering around the building; I caught the bridal bouquet by accident after it bounced off the ceiling during the throw.

In the hospital, we brought Staci candy in a pillow case, the spoils from my trick-or-treating with our dad by my side. She and I always had to trade a lot of our haul anyway; she was picky with candy too. She liked Reese’s Cups and M&M’s (minis were preferable to full size). Maybe a Starburst here and there. I would get the rest of her candy anyway, so I didn’t need to barter, but I did. Then I ate everything she had left. Her appetite was small.

We ate the candy and played video games on an SNES that had been rolled into the hospital room. She slept in a plastic tent filled with medicine vapor. She dragged an IV with her down the hall as she ran for the play room. She was always running. When they inserted the IV, she thrashed and screamed. Even when the hospital visits became habitual, she didn’t get used to it.

I’m sounding kind of morose, but I’ve already established she didn’t die. A kid did die, in my elementary school, of walking pneumonia, so I did worry about her. But not overmuch. She was only ever in the hospital a few days at the most. She eventually got a breathing machine that would make the smelly medicine cloud for her at home. She stopped getting sick like that once she got past middle school age; she didn’t start eating any better.

— — — —

I came out to my sister at another Chicago breakfast restaurant on Lawrence with a “golden” in its name; the Golden Nugget, about a half mile west from The Golden House. We were making the rounds through all the area breakfast restaurants since there isn’t much else she eats (I relished the excuse, really).

We’d just bought pronoun pins from Target’s Pride Month section. She already knew what was going on with me, because she reads the internet. But I was never gonna explain it to her, it probably seemed like. Even I was frustrated by my slowness and shyness on the subject. I still haven’t explained it very well.

I’m so bombastic online and so shifty in person. It takes months, sometimes years of vagueblogging before I tell a person something they need to know. I was the same way with telling my partner Nick about being a sexual assault and domestic violence victim. And with telling my mom and sister that. And with telling anybody my eating was kind of disordered. Or coming out to anyone. Or really telling anybody anything hard at all.

I wonder if I would be even more emotionally evasive, if the internet didn’t exist. I wonder also if the internet is a crutch that has allowed me to get to 29 without developing emotional disclosure skills. Would desperation have pushed me to befriend strangers, go out on the town, go to therapy, share what I was feeling? Probably not. I don’t know what crutch I would have found instead. I can’t stomach alcohol barely at all. There are few risky behaviors I can endure. I hate spending money, too.

So I don’t know what my dysfunction would have looked like, other than long walks to smoke in the park. Without the internet, I would have probably read a lot of books from the library and doodled in a journal, and felt even more alone. Maybe I would have languished in diners and coffee shops even more than I do now. Those are the places where I can allow myself to feel calm pleasure and unbothered belonging. When I permit myself to spend the money, that is.

— — —

My family is not good with emotions. My dad used to cry, deeply, about that fact. I wish we could finally feel. He was too emotionally explosive, which I think caused my mom and sister to become even more wary of big feelings. When I cry they do not know what to do. They are always perplexed by it. When I’m angry about something they think I’m being an asshole, which I am. Every bad thing that happens seems to run down their backs like water on the rear end of a duck. They don’t need to process like I do. It makes me feel like I shouldn’t process or share or ask for emotional support at all.

— — — —

My sister didn’t ask many questions after I told her. She kept getting the pronouns wrong. But then she explained me to her new boyfriend, and was peeved that he didn’t get it. Online, she gets the pronouns right. She respects it. She shares Buzzfeed videos about trans stuff. When Trump banned trans people from serving in the military, she asked me if that was unconstitutional. She sent me a text with a photo of the twins Phil and Lil from Rugrats. They’re nonbinary, right? She asked. Because they like to trade off on who wears the bow.

I smiled into my phone like a hysterical ax murderer, I was so happy.

— — — -

Nick and I went to Golden House on Saturday morning-afternoon about a week ago. It was one of those rare times he had a morning free. We’d slept in. Hence, morning-afternoon. I am a freelancer and teaching a lot of online classes right now, so I’m living a slothful, indigent life of late nights and early mornings and roaming around my apartment in a half-crazed feral state. I needed to get out of the house. I needed to do something nice.

Nick always wants to eat real food, sushi or Thai or Pho, but no matter when I wake up, it is Breakfast. I’m temporarily a picky eater. So we went. I was freaking delighted, actually.

— — — —

Remember when people said “freaking” like that, without irony? Maybe I’ll bring it back; my family is really into faking a cartoonish New York/Long Island/My Cousin Vinny accent for nearly all mundane interactions, so I could let the word get all smushed together and dribble lazily out of my mouth, friggin.

— — — —

I got the Waffle Breakfast. A waffle, two eggs any style, and your choice of meats. Nick did too:

A waffle combo is hard to come by in this bitch of a world, let me just tell you that. I eat a lot of breakfasts, and I’m always looking for that perfectly balanced meal, where savory and sweet dance in eternal, harmonious love. Unlike my sister, I cannot subsist entirely on carbs. Or rather, like her, I tried to subsist on carbs, but it also landed me in the hospital. For me it was a heart murmur.

So, I need protein and iron. But I also want to have a little fun, you know? Combo’s are where it’s at.

Most breakfast places have some version of the IHop 2x2x2 — pancakes, eggs, meats, maybe a hash brown and a toast for good measure. But a combo with a waffle is way, way more rare. Not every breakfast place has sprung for a waffle iron. And if they do make waffles, they may only have specialty, big waffles covered in syrup and crap, which are a menu item unto themselves. I love a waffle piled high with strawberries and whipped cream as much as the next guy with insufficient dopamine in his brain, but fuck, I want some eggies too, to round it out. And usually waffles are more expensive than pancakes. And I’m a spendthrift filled with perpetual guilt who denies themselves pleasure. So I rarely get to really enjoy a waffle, let alone one that’s part of a full meal.

God. Bless. The Goldenest. House. $6.50 for a waffle, eggies, and meats. Try finding that shit anywhere else east of like, Pulaski. You can’t. You know how far you have to drive to find a Waffle House in this shit of a world? It was a beautiful thing to behold. The waffle was pillowy, but firm on the outside, with a generous pat of butter. The sausage was deliciously greasy, coated with live-giving, vitamin-absorbing lipids, and browned just the right amount. The eggs were milky and buttery. My top lip was wet and slick with delicious grease for the entire visit.

Another notable feature of this menu item, which is also somewhat rare: you can get Canadian bacon/ham. Which Nick did. Here it is:

Okay, this meat looks beautifully browned and it’s a generous portion, but I’m gonna mark it down as a Notably Not For Me. It looks like a big old juicy vagoogoo and that’s wonderful and beautiful and I want to celebrate that. But I’m going to pass.

The meal was great! The coffee was terrible. I will have a whole post on the weak, yet bitter quality of the coffee. A true low point of the dining experience here at the Most Golden House. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop ordering it though.

— — — —

Before we ordered, I looked the menu up and down and brimmed with delight. I’ve been in a doldrums lately; I worked way too hard this year, between teaching, freelancing, and activism. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty about not writing. Which was fine. But that left me without much emotional or creative satisfaction.

I was also slowly, unwittingly, making my own world smaller, withdrawing into my home office, spending hours calling Senators and Representatives each week and doing all I could to make money because the world was going to end. I felt like there was no time, and no purpose, to being frivolous or self-absorbed.

And that was kinda correct. The world: still very bad. Selfish white people: still not very interesting. But at some point, you do have to live with yourself. I can’t stay in crisis mode all the time.

I can choose to take care of myself. I can ask for, and seek out, the ordinary, nice things that actually reinvigorate me. Like a waffle paired with eggs or a moment of honesty with my sister, these things aren’t plentiful, and they aren’t freely given. But they can be easy if you let them be.

Nobody taught me how to be openly vulnerable; nobody (until Nick) asked me to explain my needs. Nobody encouraged me to explore my identity or eat without guilt or spend money once in a while on pleasure and connection. Nobody showed me how to cry. I had to teach myself how to do those things, had to search for them myself. Thankfully, like the waffle combo, they’re not actually hard to get once you know where to look. There’s no reason, really, for them to be rare. Anybody can have them. Anybody can get them. Their scarcity is constructed.



I’m gonna eat every breakfast item at The Golden House in Chicago and (kind of) write about it.

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