I used to think cheese puffs were endlessly “cool.” And not for no reason. It all started because of two iconic scenes of Madonna as “Susan” (but really just playing herself) in Desperately Seeking Susan. In one of them, she’s walking down the street in a black lace (as was her signature of the day) top styled with The Pyramid Jacket as she devours them casually and calmly amid the NYC hustle. To add to the iconography, she’s eating them while wearing white lace gloves—so, in short: no fucks given. In another scene toward the film’s denouement, she’s lounging poolside in drawstring shorts and a sheer black lace (of course) bra after just taking a dip in Gary Glass’ (Mark Blum) Fort Lee, New Jersey backyard. After slithering over to the chaise lounge and languidly putting her aviator sunglasses on, she proceeds to reach into a bowl of cheese puffs next to her on the table, popping one into her mouth in a manner that, miraculously, doesn’t look piggish when she does it. And yes, at this period in her career, she was favoring what she herself referred to as a more “zaftig” figure. Marilyn Monroe-esque, if you will. Which was odd, as it was also a period in her life when she was still in peak starving artist mode (a term not to be placed in quotes, in her instance). Yet, as any broke person can attest, having no money entails only being able to afford cheap, processed shit. Including, but not limited to, cheese puffs. Or, as they’re called in Desperately Seeking Susan, “Puffed Cheez Doodles.” A name that doesn’t seem to exist anymore quite possibly because it sounds so disgusting. And yet, aesthetically, the cheese “doodles” appear more appetizing in shape than the ball form of the cheese puff. Something I was to be reminded of all too well soon enough.
But anyway, back to Madonna’s real-life cheese puff diet. It was a long-standing favorite of hers in her pre-fame days whenever she would go into the bodega and buy various “sundries” (e.g., popcorn) on credit. Not just because of its affordability, but the large size of the bag it tended to come in. Meaning that “filling up” on it was easier to do than opting for something more nutritious yet also more costly, like, say, nuts. This “dietary quirk” of hers clearly still existed in 1984, during the filming of Desperately Seeking Susan, for she transferred her own cheese puff enthusiasm onto her character. To very memorable effect—otherwise, I myself would not have become so entranced with and fixated on the idea of eating cheese puffs—even for as “anti-glamorous” as they should have seemed. Yet in M’s deft, white-gloved hand, not so. Therefore, I had to get my own bare hands on a bag (or four) tout de suite after I saw the movie.
So it was that my long-standing love affair with cheese puffs began. That is, until I met him. He who was, as it didn’t take me much time to figure out, the King of Farts (not nearly as impressive as being the Queen of Pop). Perhaps you can already guess where I might be going with this… And if you can’t, well, then maybe your mind is as pure as mine once was. Again, until he came along to defile it. In contrast to most men, Franz didn’t bother much with “pretending” when we first started dating. You know, the pressure most men feel to at least vaguely put on a front. Trying to feign being something he wasn’t. And something he wasn’t included being kempt and couth. That much was obvious when he showed up to our inaugural rendezvous with a huge stain (colored in mysterious yellow) on the center-front of his shirt. It probably should have been the initial clue that he wasn’t the most concerned with “good grooming.” And yet, somehow, I naively never imagined that could also translate to him freely farting in front of me the first time I invited him over, roughly two weeks after the first date (because I’m chaste and modest that way).
It might have been one thing if we were at his place when he commenced “blasting off,” but we weren’t. There were unspoken rules. He should have held it all in and “released” in the bathroom rather than letting them all rip at full volume in front of me. It was common decency. Even so, when I stared at him agog, he patently couldn’t grasp what I was so appalled about, which somehow left me looking like the weirdo. Nonetheless, I continued seeing him. Because, apart from his hygiene, I liked him. That may sound strange considering how key of an aspect hygiene is when it comes to being compatible with someone, but what can I say? I ignored all logic and reason (what some would call “red flags”).
Before I knew it, he was moving in. On the few occasions that I’d been to his sty of an apartment, it was evident I could never live there, least of all bring myself to go more than a handful of times. Plus, it was almost as though he wanted to be offered a fresh start—to soil someplace new. And I gave it to him, like a goddamn fool. Susan never would have been such a fool, and even she, for as broke a.k.a. “bohemian” as she was, appeared to be more hygienic. It was fast-apparent that I had made a grave error in allowing Franz into my home, presently sullied and infected by his general stink. In fact, it was almost as though the farting had ramped up now that he felt he could “fully” be himself because we lived together. Who knew that he was actually holding back before?
Maybe it all would have been fine—maybe I could have endured the horrific smells and sounds of life with Franz—had he not made one fatal error. That’s right, ruining cheese puffs for me. It happened a mere one month into our tenure as a live-in couple. Franz had already remarked upon my rather frequent consumption of the non-food product, but had said nothing as of yet to put me off the “cuisine” altogether. Then, one evening, before we were slated to watch a movie together and I was gathering the necessary bag of cheese puffs to do so, he gassed. Loudly. Like, as loud as any horn warning of a WWII air raid. As a natural response, I glared at him in revulsion, my bag of cheese puffs in tow.
And then, he said it. The thing that would change my diet forever. “What’s the big deal? I make cheese puffs and you eat them,” he assessed nonchalantly just as I took a bite of one, instantly feeling like his fart was in my mouth. From that night forward, I could never look at (or taste) the snack the same way, not even the “doodle” style that wasn’t shaped like a fart would be if it were personified (or rather, “snackified”). Which is to say: round and stout. Maybe Franz did me a favor. Maybe he spared me some kind of health issue that might have arisen down the line from too much cheese puff ingestion. Be that as it may, it still felt like I had lost something significant from my life that evening. But, I suppose if Madonna can outgrow her own cheese puff fetish, then surely I could do the same. Or so I told myself as, in an impromptu fit of rage at the sound of his fart, I sealed Franz’s asshole shut with duct tape on my second week of going without my once-preferred source of “nourishment.”