BEETS

 

When you’re a child, yes or no is your North and South. It is clear and plain, and it is used as your compass. At dinnertime, there is no confusion whether you want the purple beets--salted and soaked in butter--that your mother arranges in front of you in a small, ceramic bowl. You do not want the beets for dinner. And because you do not want the beets for dinner, you do not eat them.  
Somewhere along the line, when you are a little older, you will say “no” and you will still be made to eat the beets soaked in butter anyway. Except what is at stake now, isn’t an arresting mouthful of beetroot that attacks your taste buds; what is at stake, is your power. Your face will become more angular and elegant, and you will lose your child's cheeks and the beets in the bowl in front of you will swell and become plump and fill with purple juice. Somewhere along the line, because you are no longer a child, someone will pry open your lips after you have said you don’t want any beets—none at all, not even a little bit, and they will stand with their face very close to yours and force you to chew and chew, and then swallow.  
After this particular bowl of beets, you will stop saying no, because saying yes seems easier, and at least grants you some sense of control. Each bowl of beets becomes sourer. The purpling skin will start to shrivel into a dark indigo. The vegetable will grow veins and morph into hard masses that block your throat as you try to swallow. The person in front of you will ask you if you want beets after they have already placed the next, soured bit of beetroot on your tongue. You will squeak a meek “yes” because at least in this way you will not have to say “no” and be made to eat the bowl of beets anyway.

 
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