Known for her Twitter presence (she actually co-authored a book with Tao Lin comprised of selected tweets from both writers), 24-year-old poet Mira Gonzalez is a major figure in an indistinct sub-genre of literature, which some may label as the arguably defunct "alt lit," "sad girl twitter," or some other classifier whose signification is hotly debated despite the trivial nature of such terms.
While her poetry distinguishes itself from her 140-character quips in its length, meter, and tone, Mira demonstrates, through both creative vehicles, a willingness to address and examine the mundane. By means of her enlightened observations of human behavior, her wit, and her deadpan humor, she imbues the commonplace and seemingly uninspiring facets of existence with meaning and startling relatable insights into what it means to be alive in the world today.
In conversation, Mira is very warm and, at least ostensibly, comfortable with sharing not just the positive aspects, but also the unpleasant details of her personal life. She has struggled for years with depression and anxiety, and while one could argue that the brand of humor that draws so many to her Twitter account is based in shedding light on these illnesses, this does not diminish the fact that depression and anxiety still inform the way she lives her everyday life and thus continuously influences her relationship with food.
On the story behind her hummus tattoo:
“The hummus tattoo was actually my first tattoo ever. I was on vacation in Miami with my publisher and my friends Chelsea and Chloe, and the whole trip we kept saying that we should all get matching tattoos.
We went to the tattoo parlor kind of having no idea what we even wanted and then eventually we came to the decision that we were all gonna get a word, just whatever word came to mind and so the first word I thought of was 'hummus.’ My mom was horrified. She was like ‘oh my god, what the fuck Mira, what happened, how drunk were you? and I was like, 'I was sober.’ Somehow I don't regret it."
On how her mental health affects her eating habits:
“I think that were I not a naturally depressed and anxious person I probably wouldn’t feel so insecure around food and around my own body. I definitely think that during times when I'm particularly anxious or depressed, my eating tends to get more disordered as opposed to times when I’m mentally okay and I’ll just be able to eat like a normal person.And by more disordered eating I mean I'm either eating too much or I’m really focused on eating only a tiny bit, but either way, those disordered eating habits are definitely a byproduct of anxiety and depression.”
On what "healthy eating" means to her:
"For me, there are two kinds of "healthy." I can be eating primarily vegetables and nutritious food, but the psychological aspect is an entirely different thing. When I'm not obsessing over food or counting calories, even if my diet isn't perfect, then I consider that to be healthy. My relationship with food has been at its best when I've been distracted by other things in my life and what I've eaten or am going to eat isn't at the forefront of my mind every single day. Those two different definitions of "healthy" don't go hand-in-hand for me."
On the origins of her body-image issues and disordered eating:
"I was a pretty depressed kid. I mean, from as young as I can remember, I remember feeling insecure about the way my body looked. I wanted to be thinner from way too young of an age, from when I was seven or something like that, and I can’t remember exactly when that translated to food specifically but probably somewhere in my early teens, maybe even earlier, I was probably like ten or eleven when I started making the connection that food is what would make me like or dislike my body. And then it just got worse and worse as time went on.”
On the paradox of the expectations society has set for women:“We’re told constantly by the media that the only way that we can look beautiful is if we are unnaturally thin, to the point of practically being underweight. Even though I know, logically, that that’s wrong, it’s definitely a really hard thing to un-brainwash yourself from.
Not only do you have to be unnaturally thin and have an unnaturally strong jaw bone and all this crazy shit, but in addition to that, if any man finds out that you're trying to get that way, then suddenly it's wrong. You have to be thin and perfect and have perfect skin, but also eat four cheeseburgers a day.
That's the only way you’re allowed to be attractive, because God forbid anybody finds out that you’re working actively towards being perceived as attractive in a specific way. It is really unreasonable. The only people in the world who can eat whatever they want and maintain a model figure are people who are literally twelve years old and going through puberty, but as an adult woman that doesn’t work."
On keeping a food journal:
“I started keeping a food journal in my teens out of an insecurity-fueled desire to lose weight. I find it calming to catalog my intake so meticulously. It feels organized, like everything is accounted for. But forcing myself to have that much accountability over my diet definitely also caused me to eat in unhealthy ways (i.e. starve myself) and I would often become stressed by it.
It's never helped me eat less or eat healthier. It just gives me some sense of physiological control over my life. That's why it's something I do when everything is out of my hands, when I'm feeling stressed, when I can't make a deadline, when I'm going through a breakup. It has very little to do with the actual food."
On trying (and quitting)
“I was vegan for almost three years. I did it primarily for health reasons and it's probably during that time that I physically felt the most healthy. I think the not-torturing-animals thing is also good, but it was primarily for health reasons. I know that if I don’t eat dairy and I don’t eat meat, I tend to feel better in my body, but avoiding dairy especially was difficult to maintain.
I was sitting in a studio apartment in New York—I lived there for about a year—and the other person who was there was cooking bacon and I was like ‘oh my god.’ I was really hungover. I was like ‘oh my god, I need that bacon,’ he was like ‘no you’re vegan, I'm making you something else,’ I was like ‘no, no, no, I’m getting that bacon’ and I stopped being vegan."
On social vs. private eating:
“When I’m eating with other people, the focus is almost never on the food. It’s primarily on the other person, unless I'm with somebody I’m really close with. I do have a hard time eating until I’m full around people who I'm not super comfortable with.I always get insecure and order something I don’t really wanna order but seems dainty to eat, and I'll never eat quite enough when I'm around friends just because my focus always goes to the social aspects of being around friends, not the food aspect.
I guess my preferred way to eat, if I'm actually hungry and want to eat a whole meal, is home alone or with my boyfriend or family, but generally speaking, I like to eat alone because I can focus on the food.Because my eating is so disordered and I tend to feel so guilty and weird about food, when I have the chance to eat a meal that I really like, I wanna put extra attention into it and really experience it.”
On being an adventurous eater:
“I’m not a very picky at all. My grandpa was a spear fisher, so I ate a lot of crazy seafood when I was young for that reason. I ate monkfish liver the other day and it was so good, I definitely recommend it. Not many foods really turn me off. I guess I have a hard time with organs of mammals, like cow liver and stuff like that, but not much else.
On physical activity:"I don't exercise regularly. It does help with anxiety and depression a lot so I try to do it, but I’m not very good at keeping up with it. Something I find really sad is that the idea that you would exercise for any reason other than to lose weight is so foreign to most women at this point. It’s like, why would you do that if you aren’t going to lose weight?
Because that’s what we’ve been taught is the goal of being a woman. And that sucks for, say, someone who is depressed and exercise could be their cure for depression. There are so many benefits of exercise that go beyond burning calories, but we have been taught to focus solely on that one aspect of it."
On her love of baking:
"I love to cook and I really love to bake. I find it cathartic, in that it's very specific and calculated. I always liked math growing up, and I like that I can follow instructions that will lead to a tangible result. I find the whole process calming, and not stressful in the way that eating can sometimes be. "
On her favorite sugary cereals:
“Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And Cap'n Crunch. When I was little, we were only allowed hippie cereals so those are like a recent discovery for me."For more of Mira's unapologetic honesty and subversive humor, follow her Twitter account and be sure to get a copy of her wonderful poetry collection, I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together.