She was a serial dieter, the kind that used religious fasting as a means to lose weight. There were the diets that shamed carbs, the ones that eliminated all but nuts and greens, the ones where you get the little boxes of shitty food in the mail. You name it, she did it, never satiating that need to be thin. Standing in the kitchen, eating Special K, she would comment on my sister’s and my diets, claiming that we would one day be just as fat as she if we didn’t start eating more salads and less fish-stick sandwiches.
It wasn’t something I took much note of. This was just the way it was. I was born to be a thin young girl, and would eventually sprout into a portly old woman. I never saw a way to change this pattern, but would rather look in the mirror day by day and imagine I’d gained weight, furthering my journey to the inevitable.
When she learned of my anorexia, she told me with saddened pride that she would forfeit her yearly fast so as not to diet right in front of me. It was a fast the church partook in each year, one that encouraged the elimination of all things but greens. Those, and fruits in moderation. It was said to be a religious experience, though I’d often hear men and women in their pews discussing the weight they’d lost through their awakenings with Christ. I myself followed their example, agreeing to fast, to avoid all satiations, for twenty-four hours straight. It was here that I found myself exclaiming to a friend that I’d never be one to develop an eating disorder, that food was “just too damn good.”
It is this experience that allows me to relate to those around me upon their discovery of my illness. To my mother and most others, the revelation of my disorder was nothing but a symptom of self-conceit. I remember well those first few days of silence, the ones of angry huffs and eye rolls. She, as most, could not seem to wrap her brain around my starvation being not a position of bodily concern, but rather one of suicide. Each pound shed was a day closer to death, thus awakening my ignorance to that idea that these disorders were purely motivated by weight loss.
This ignorance was awakened in a matter of weeks after my fast, as my suicidal thoughts began to deepen moment by moment. A day would go by, a meal would be skipped, and I would tell myself that I was simply fasting to strengthen some existential relationship with God… that I was reckoning with my suicidal ideations in an admirable way, one that my mother would approve of. It was when my suicidal thoughts did not disappear, but rather strengthened, that I began to question God’s involvement in all of this. I stopped believing in fasting and began to believe in the power of dieting as a means to disappear.
The glass scale counted down the days of my demise, each pound dropped representing a day shed from my future. With the prospects of a last day on earth, restricting my intake became easier and easier. However, this change in size was not as evident as one may imagine. Standing at 5’8”, clothed in heavy sweaters, my body did not show alarming symptoms of degeneration. It was because of this that my mother stood astounded when the doctors told her that I’d weighed less than I had when I was just thirteen, when I was nearly three inches shorter.
Sure, she’d claimed not to be surprised of my behaviors, but that was simply because of my recent involvement in modeling. It was to her that if I just stopped caring so much about the thoughts of others, I would be instantly cured. It was to her that suicidal thoughts did not exist within young, thin, blonde girls like myself… It was my eating disorder that seemed to provoke in her a sense of jealousy, a strive for the self-control that I had seemingly obtained.
She sat me down one Saturday morning, watching my tears drip into a plate of beans and rice, exclaiming that she would begin to eat the exact same things as I. If I did not, could not, make myself eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, neither would she, resulting in her own weightless demise. She’d said that I’d have to call her each day while she was at work to tell her what I had and had not eaten, and that she would then consume the exact same. She assured me that this would continue until I’d resolved to shove food down my throat routinely, using her own life as a threat against mine. The insanity behind all of this was that she herself did not wish to die! Rather, she wished to live a long and prosperous life alongside my graying father.
This threat did not last long. Though, it did influence me to eat. Not out of compassion, but out of pure jealousy towards the thought of someone else eating just as little as I. I shoveled smoothies for breakfast, wraps for lunch, pastas for dinner, and began to develop a habit of binging on ice cream for dessert. Going back for a second or third bowl, I would cram the stuff down my throat as if it were necessary to my survival. And perhaps it was.
The doctors told my mother that it was a matter of life or death, that I needed treatment at the local eating disorder center, that the consequences of not going would be innumerable. And thus began my relationship with Anne.
I’d sold my sanity for $11.99 to the nearest pharmacy… traded it right in for a sheath of glass that’d tell me how much I’d weighed if I stepped on it just right. It was the first purchase I’d made since getting my license, the first unaccompanied shopping trip of my life. And what’d I buy? A cheap pile of glass and numbers, an entrance to my own quaint hell.
The thing stayed behind my bed, calling to me nearly every hour of the day. First, the mornings. I’d wake up, take as big a shit as I could, then see how much weight I’d lost in the process. Usually it was only half a pound. Sometimes it was five. Sometimes nothing… and on those days, I ate a big bowl of air for breakfast. Mmm, mmmm…
The scale only worked on hard surfaces, and so I couldn’t just weigh myself in my bedroom. That meant a five hour span each night when my parents were awake, pacing the room, wondering who I was, as there was no clear answer without that number. Sure, there were days where I’d risk it all. I’d peak my head out the door, carry the thing beneath my wings, and fly to the bathroom floor just to get a peace of mind. Those days didn’t happen often though, as my parents kept pretty regularly to staring right at that old TV outside my bedroom walls.
It was the thing that stole my sanity, the thing that really made me crumble. It was the source of all my pleasure, all my misery, all my drive. If it smiled at me, I’d smile right back, eating halves of apples as I planned away my days, making friends with the piece of shit while I swallowed down my hunger. It was the thing I’d later bury, the thing I’d shatter in the dirt. It was the embodiment of fifteen years of insecurity, the catalyst to change everything I’d known.
I was fifteen when I left high school, fifteen when it all exploded. It was the year I’d spent forgetting to take my lunch to school, the year I’d prayed no one would offer me their leftover sandwiches, the year I’d signed a modeling contract… (though I’d always refute that be a frontal cause)… I’d found a way out through a program with a nearby college. They’d let me take classes there and I’d still get a high school diploma. It was the recluse’s dream.
I was greeted on my last day of school with an “I can’t believe you made it” card from my mother, as we all thought I’d have offed myself by then. I rode home, beaming, knowing that in just a few short months, I’d be a college freshman. A college freshman… with this I began to panic. At fifteen, I was not one man’s fantasy, but rather a mesh of acne and grease. It would be a difficult summer, I’d decided. A summer of necessary starvation.
It was this summer that I adopted the one-half/one-half/one-whole policy, in which I would eat half a granola bar for breakfast, half an apple for lunch, and an entire dinner to hide suspicions from my parents. It was the summer my sister drove me to buy diet pills… the summer I first walked the runway… the summer I masturbated to other women… the summer I practiced for the driving test… the summer I first got drunk… the summer I began to pace my bedroom carpet for five hours at a time… the summer I bought the glass scale.
I dressed in winter clothing, concealing all my shame. Classes had begun, I weighed less than I had at thirteen, and my patterns were only evolving. I was sixteen, surrounded by students in their twenties, wondering only if I’d stood out as anything more than the one in dark sweaters. It was by this point that I felt I was sick, and by this point that I’d searched for a diagnosis… not to be bettered, no, but rather to be validated. I demanded a request from the professionals that I was fucked up… that I was dying, and that my mother was the root of it all.
I made an appointment with the school counselor. My memory of the woman… so insignificant, I can’t even remember her name. Her office was cramped, a small space of couches, bookshelves, desks, and chairs. Beside the chair which I resided lay childish toys, “gadgets of distractions,” she’d told me. And thus I lifted the gadgets, telling her the story of the glass scale, the story of its dominance over me. I told her, tears streaming down my eyes, waiting restlessly for new words from her mouth. But she couldn’t deliver diagnoses, and thus she proved useless to me.
“Go to the Eating Disorder Recovery Center,” She’d said, “It’s right here in town.”
And I scoffed… Recovery was not what I sought.
While I disapproved of her stature as a psychologist, I abided by the one challenge she’d presented me: to go one week, just one week, of eating eight hundred calories per day. And that week… Oh, it initiated nothing but disdain.
I’d held one good friend since the age of ten years old, and she proved the worthiest confidant. Little did I know she’d be my betrayer, the one to out my behaviors to my mother, the one to curse at me for scratching my arms when I felt shame for eating up to those eight hundred calories.
She’d stomped into my house unannounced, holding her head high as she so often did. Pacing my bedroom, I heard the familiar voice, fearfully aware of exactly that which was to come. She stood in my doorway until my mother might remove her eyes from that old TV, informing my enemy that I’d been in a state of starvation.
Sitting on my bed, curled as a fetus, I heard the simple response from my mother, one not out of true concern, but out of simple observation:
She said, “That’s really no surprise.”
when someone tells you they used to suffer from an eating disorder and you immediately compliment them on their body, you’re reinforcing that their physical appearance is priority #1 and that’s incredibly destructive behavior. and, it’s gross.
MY THERAPIST DID THIS I knew I hated it but couldn’t put my finger on why. This is it, thank you.
SILKYGIRL IS ALIVE????????????
Women, too, have been socialized to believe that the ultimate arbiters of their appearance are men, that anything they do with their appearance is or should be “for men.” That’s why women’s magazines trip over themselves to offer up advice on “what he wants to see you wearing” and “what men think of these current fashion trends” and “wow him with these new hairstyles.” While women can and do judge each other’s appearance harshly, many of us grew up being told by mothers, sisters, and female strangers that we’ll never “get a man” or “keep a man” unless we do X or lose some fat from Y, unless we moisturize//trim/shave/push up/hide/show/”flatter”/paint/dye/exfoliate/pierce/surgically alter this or that.
That’s also why when a woman wears revealing clothes, it’s okay, in our society, to assume that she’s “looking for attention” or that she’s a slut and wants to sleep with a bunch of guys. Because why else would a woman wear revealing clothes if not for the benefit of men and to communicate her sexual availability to them, right? It can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s hot out or it’s more comfortable or she likes how she looks in it or everything else is in the laundry or she wants to get a tan or maybe she likes women and wants attention from them, not from men?
The result of all this is that many men, even kind and well-meaning men, believe, however subconsciously, that women’s bodies are for them. They are for them to look at, for them to pass judgment on, for them to bless with a compliment if they deign to do so. They are not for women to enjoy, take pride in, love, accept, explore, show off, or hide as they please. They are for men and their pleasure."
Often throughout the years, doctors would ask me how I’d managed to rationalize staying with a man who’d allowed the worst of my mind to permeate the earth, and for years I’d have no way to explain to them this indissoluble tug between he and I. I’d deliver tales of soul mates, of unrequited love, only to be returned with disapproving nods, suggestions that I’d invested too much time in the concept of reasoning on my own behalf. They’d shew me with words of the wise, those who’d escaped such “miserable becomings” in their own existences… But oh, eventually I’d known just the way to make them understand, to trigger the opening of their mouths in shapes of “O’s” and the lifting of their palms as if to say “Yes, yes, we finally see.”
It would begin like this:
Imagine you’re stranded on an island and you’ve lost all your teeth…
Ah yes, among the island stems a plentiful food source, but only the fallen bananas can you eat without choking. The problem is, my doctor, you’ve been allergic to bananas all your life, of which you’ve learned through a series of horrible rashes along the inner belly. Oh, the allergy is not a fatal one, but rather an irritation that’d make you grit your teeth as a child (If only you had such luxuries now!). And so your choices are as follows:
- To swallow the boars meat and apple halves without the pleasure of teeth to chew, only to find yourself choked to the grave
- Not to eat at all, but to die by starvation, or…
- To eat the bananas, those which allow you such horrible pain, and survive to see the next day…
And this is where they all would smile, would form those “O’s,” would clap at my ability to explain the unexplainable. For given this ultimatum, nearly all had chosen to eat the rashing bananas, just the same as I— but of those who chose the alternatives offered a preference towards death, a preference to which I refuse to offer shameful countenance… For even now, I remain unaware of that which provides more satisfaction.
babies waitn for the boy
I couldn’t tell whether the blood in my urine was from the bacteria eating away at my kidneys or the shedding of my uterine walls. I wiped the red drips from the toilet seat, lifting my fingers to my nose.
I hadn’t used any sort of vaginal contraption in months. No female diapers to catch the blood, no cylinder sponges shoved in like tiny corpsed fingers. Sure, I was on the pill. Everyone was on the pill. But the doctor’d assured me that I was still a woman.
The blood smelt like copper.
I paused to squeeze at my nipple as if it were a pimple ready to burst. It began to bleed, which I hadn’t thought possible, and I lifted my breast to lick it off.
The blood tasted like iron.
Blood oozing from all those forbidden places.
Blood and rashes lined my body. Blood and rashes and dark brown pubes…
I’d gotten my first tattoo a week earlier. The words were in my father’s handwriting:
Hang in there.
I sighed and tried to recall how to tie a noose, looking to the ceiling for a nice place to swing from.
Joe was gone for a weekend trip and I dived onto the couch, placing my nose on that place which had absorbed the scent of his sweaty ballsack over time. I closed my eyes and thought of the words I’d spoken just days before meeting him.
I’d cornered my sister’s lesbian roommate, demanding the details of her experience with the lesser sex. That is, the male species she’d been forced to copulate with before coming out.
I was never satisfied. The things are gross. Don’t you hate the feel of one in your mouth? I’d rather blow a raw fish.
I laughed, remembering the thought I’d had when I first licked my own sticky fingers after a quick masturbation session. I must’ve been fourteen, and I’d thought:
She hadn’t been with a girl by then, and I repeatedly volunteered to be her first.
I took another big whiff of the couch,
He had been my first for everything. He’d taught me to give a hand job, sighed when I’d wrapped my lips around him, made me forget about the dreams of blowing raw fish…
I began to rub myself against the couch.
It was only seven months earlier that I’d wanted to drop my gender entirely: to chop my hair, throw away my razors, wear turtlenecks on weekdays in July.
I kissed a girl in a bar and spent the following weeks trying to convince her to fall in love with me.
I stopped shaving and began listening solely to Swedish love songs.
I allowed a man straight out of jail to buy me drinks at the bars.
The convict would touch me and I’d cringe.
I still wanted her.
And now, oh now… the couch… the sweat… I wanted nothing but Him.
I wanted him inside my mouth, my bleeding uterus.
The rubbing quickened.
I was wrong to love a man, wrong to desire his fingers between my legs.
And yet I couldn’t stop rubbing myself against that red couch, his eyes burning through mine,
My breasts had grown three sizes since I’d met him. My hips had widened. My disdain towards children had vanished entirely. I spent my nights slipping my hands closer to the source of my pleasure, always praying he’d oblige.
I needed him. I needed him. I needed him…
Oh, it wasn’t so much that he need touch me, that he make my eyes roll…
It was a need that I touch him. That I kick him back, sit between his legs, and dream aloud.
It was the twinge that would hit my every organ, reminding me that I was a woman, that I had no choice in the matters of genitalia.
It was a physical empowerment. My own body against my mind.
To desire men was wrong. To touch myself and lick my lips, to smell a man’s shorts and salivate…
But oh, it felt so good…
I eased myself down, sweating.