By Deborah Kim
I just read about the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I find myself reaching for cookies, something sweet, something to soothe my disquieting feelings. I realize something is simultaneously happening here: the stories told by my father of encountering US soldiers that handed him and other kids candy during the Korean War, the oral developmental stage by Freud and having breast-fed my own child not just for hunger but for comfort. And here I am reaching for comfort through my mouth with sugar. In this instance, I’m both soothing myself in an infantile way and intersecting with the memories of my father as a child consuming the free candy from US soldiers. Sugar represents a vehicle for soothing that unites us, for better or worse.
I find this surprising, as I have been so estranged from him for several years; we’re not really united in many ways at all. But here I am in my home alone, in between work sessions, needing some comfort and I reach for sugar. Are we united after all in this reach for comfort, through something sweet, to abate the deep knowingness of loneliness and abandonment although we have hardly ever talked to each other?
I wish I didn’t feel this connection to my father in this way. I feel ashamed. I feel sad. I feel the continuation of a trauma of neglect that wasn’t just by mothers or caregivers but also by imperialism, colonialism and economic insecurity. And in this moment, the loss of hope and an inability to imagine how there could be hope. Were it not for the dopamine rush of sugar that buys some time to allow one to relax in the temporality of the here and now, which feels otherwise impossible and unwelcome for me or him because of an environment that doesn’t allow us to feel secure, safe and at ease.