My daughter’s main imaginary friend, Zoe, has been on a strange journey. She came into our house around the time my uncle was killed, and had a fairly therapeutic role: dying often in motorcycle crashes, but coming back alive after naptime to play as if nothing had happened.
When all of that calmed down, Zoe took a traditional fall-guy role. She was the one who hit Nico when no one was looking (she really disliked babies).
Over the past few months, we’ve been learning a little more about Zoe. She’s not, apparently, a little girl. She was ten years old for a while, but is older than that now. And she’s not a girl at all, at least not in last month”s retelling. Instead, my four-year-old daughter Dalia says that Zoe is a horse. A horse with no bones. Who is very old. So old, in fact, that she died last week. And Dalia… ate her. Boiled her right up and ate her for dinner.
That’s weird, right?
My best guess, although I’m no Freudian, is that she is again using poor Zoe to work through a complicated issue, this time about, well, eating meat. She seems to share her mother’s unsentimental science-brain when it comes to prodding dead things in the park or keeping dead butterflies or figuring out where dinner came from. In Oakland a few days ago, we got burritos from the garish and delicious Mi Pueblo deli and I got the kids and me some lengua, mostly because tongue is actually a great meat for kids–it’s soft, tender, and fricking delicious. Dalia wanted to know what it was, and we told her, half out of an honesty policy and half out of curiosity of how she’d take it. After a few questions about how you get the tongue (same as you get hamburger, we told her, and thankfully she didn’t ask for more detail), and she ate the whole thing.
I’m psyched that for the moment at least–these things change, I know–she’s not a picky eater, nor freaked out by the existential mindfuck that is eating other (usually sweet-natured or furry) animals. But now that she has taken to cooking and eating her imaginary friend, I’m not so sure that she doesn’t have some, umm, processing to do.
That said, I’m not a meat-sadist. Part of our full disclosure policy is, I think, with the idea that down the road she might actually choose not to eat meat. And we would be fine with that. Because even though I’ve never been a vegetarian, I’m increasingly wary of meat and am even a little admiring of those who decide that it’s not for them. Especially if the meat being served comes from a boneless horse who was very recently your best friend.