Submitted by megan on Sun, 05/07/2006 - 22:51
Outside of my family, no one knew what was going on. People would comment on how lucky I was to be so thin. Acquaintances, strangers. I would smile politely and say thanks, and then look at the ceiling and do some deep breathing to avoid crying. The funny thing? Clothes did look better on me.
Most clothes are designed for mannequins. I was built like a mannequin. No hips, no tits, just bony shoulders, ribcage, hipbones, nipples, long legs. I hated not eating, but I reveled in it too. Enjoyed punishing myself for being alive.
I could see the everyday damage. I couldn’t open heavy doors without effort. Having a shower required napping afterwards. Emotionally, it was a moment-to-moment reminder that I was allowing myself to be treated so badly my body would rather starve than survive.
And still, how do you say, “Actually I’m hoping my mitochondria will eat me alive so I don’t have to see tomorrow,” to the co-worker who comments jealously when you slip through the small space between her chair and the wall. You don’t. You suck the real feeling up, and blushingly say “Oh, you know, just lucky, I guess.” Feeding the inner anorexic who is holding the inner depressive’s hand right tight. And feeds the feeling bred in our culture that you are virtuous, blessed to be so thin, that you must be doing something right, no matter that you look more scarecrow than starlet.
I got better, slowly, though re-reading this I’m not sure I ever completely recovered from the Bob episode. I got my own place and loved it fiercely. It was mine and it was safe. I put on a bit of weight, Bob and I broke up and got together and broke up and got together and broke up but stayed friends and sort of dated.
I started gaining weight. At 110 pounds I could still count all my ribs and couldn’t sit down for very long without my sitz bones cutting off nerve pathways, making my feet tingle. I felt fat. Being that skinny totally fucks with your perception of what constitutes normal. I felt I was losing what had made me special. How would other people know how virtuous I was if wasn’t skinny? Even though I was skinny because I couldn’t force myself to eat, being skinny is indelibly, irreversibly and directly connected to the idea that being able to deny oneself pleasure makes one good. My skinniness was also tied in to feeling like I didn’t deserve any kind of pleasure. Two birds with one stone. Noble, I am stripped clean of any evil good feeling.
And on a less religious level, how would people know I existed if I didn’t stand out? No one would comment on how lucky I was to have my body if I were fat. Er, normal. Ergo, would that body be worth having?
This all rumbled under the surface of knowing I was unhealthy, knowing I needed to gain weight. Wanting to be heavier.
Along came spring 1998. I kicked Bob the fuck out of my life. He tried to kick my door down. I closed the curtains, lay on the floor and dissociated, floating very far away from Spadina Rd. Then he was gone, a ghost darting through the hall of our building every once in a while, a shadow in the foyer I’d jump back to avoid. The enduring stain on my psyche.
I stayed single for a long time. (Officially, at any rate. Nile, that mean you.) My weight stabilized for a while, then shot up in two leaps. I quit smoking in spring 1999. Just decided one day that it was no fun and too expensive. My morning smoke break was replaced with a morning Tim’s-muesli-bagel-slathered-in-butter break. Add snacks like that to cells no longer basted in fear and stress and you get an 8 pound weight gain. I stole pants from my brother 'cause none of mine fit any more.
And then library school. I was living by myself, in a stable environment, and working hard. At school, at a whack of part time jobs. But my time was my own, my apartment my exoskeleton. I was hungry, after years of not having much to do with food. Even when I was full, stomach painfully distended, my brain still told me to eat just a little more. I was certainly getting more pleasure out of everything, and out of food too, but it was hard to get through a meal with it being just food, just a good taste or feel in my mouth. Not with my lizard brain stocking up for the next famine.