I heard you talking. I didn’t say anything because you know what? In the end, I’m not a real teacher and I don’t know how to fucking handle the fact that you’re still just a kid and you told your friend she could have your brownie because you didn’t want to get fat. I told the other teacher on the yard, and she shrugged it off. She said you guys were trying things on for size, you hear your moms talk, it happens all the time.
I don’t know.
My last semester at college, I dropped from a healthy 140 pounds to 108. I had gone from receiving praise at how great I looked, to as long as you’re doing it in a healthy way and you’re not planning on losing any more, are you? I lost my friends, most of them drifting away gradually, having spent too many uncomfortable moments having to watch me spiral down my own little rabbit hole, others abandoning me Intervention-style, threatening me with the loss of their friendship unless I admitted to having a problem. People became my enemy, their concern I interpreted as jealousy, they were angry that I had stopped being one of them, that I wanted something extraordinary and didn’t mind making sacrifices to get it. I became a slave to my routines; my first priority became the ability to eat what little I had metered out for myself, and have adequate time to work out, so I avoided social gatherings, dinners out, anything where I might be forced to eat something for which I hadn’t previously accounted. I became accustomed to being regarded with suspicion, the lies flowed out of my mouth with terrifying ease, I quit drinking, that’s when I lost all the weight, I’m trying to cut down on my sugar, Oh, I can’t… I had food poisoning from pizza a few weeks ago and still can’t even look at it. And then, eventually, even my body turned on me. My reproductive system shut down, like a bankrupt economy. I walked out of the first doctor’s office when she told me flatly that I was severely underweight and needed to address my eating disorder. The second doctor prescribed me drugs to trick my body into functioning again.
Years later, I have recovered. I’m no longer a size 2 and I am okay with it. I eat a cupcake when I want a fucking cupcake (and that’s a lot of times.) I have friends again, supportive, wonderful friends with whom I go to dinner, drink wine, and eat chocolate when the occasion calls for it. I see a therapist, and am finally successfully managing my anxiety and depression. I look back on those years the way that I should, with horror and sadness at what I did to myself.
But there is still a modeling portfolio at the bottom of my closet that I studiously avoid. I am afraid of the pictures, I am afraid of the bony shoulders, the protruding hipbones, how unrecognizable that lost, wan girl is, and I am afraid of the tiny voice inside me that still says, damn, we looked so good. I am afraid of the knowledge that, if I could somehow get there again, without losing all of my friends and perhaps rending permanent damage to my body, I probably would. This is no joke. This is a sickness, this is a societal blood curse we are passing from generation to generation of women. It has to stop, but I don’t know what it’s going to take, and I don’t know how I can help when that person that I was, that poor sick girl, is still a part of me, is always going to be a part of me– and she hears what you’re saying and she still gets it.
Later that day, at the pizza party, when all of the other teachers were urging you to eat a piece of pizza, and you asked me if I was going to have some, I shook my head sadly and told you that I’d had a nasty bout of food poisoning from pizza a few weeks ago, and still couldn’t even look at it.