Becoming Less in Order to be More

I can’t remember how old I was when I brought home my first Stephen King novel, but I do remember my brother’s reaction to it. My brother, stumped with a severe learning challenge rarely read anything other than what was forced upon him in school, probably gathered all of his knowledge of the great author based on movies, or what he amassed from his friends in high school hallways, grabbed the book from my hand and told my mother that I should NEVER be allowed to read anything written by Stephen King because it was far too scary for me. I was angry, but being the “good girl” that I was, I returned the book to the library, and honestly never felt the desire to read a Stephen King novel again. I did see a few movies based on his books. I’m sure the books would have been a million times more engaging.

Which book brought fourth my brother’s wrath, and cloak of protection? “Thinner.” Why was I drawn to it? What made me want to read a book based on a man who is cursed to become thinner, and thinner to the brink of death, but not dying? Suffering with every breath? Struggling to survive? Well, it’s simple. Simple, and sad. Maybe even scary. I was jealous of the main character. I wanted nothing more than to be cursed with the “blessing” of being thin, and constantly thinner. Of course, my brother didn’t rip the paperback from my hands because he feared I’d become anorexic; he pried it from my fingers because he legitimately thought it was too scary for me. If only he knew that it wasn’t the horror that I craved, but the thinness.

I’ve always had a complex relationship with food. I discovered that I was fat when I was on vacation in the summer of 1980. There I was happy in my little black, red, and grey bikini standing on the side of the pool at the Motor Lodge in Vermont when a thin blond girl came and stood next to me. I instantly noticed how differently our shadows sprawled on the hot cement. Mine was thick with a bulging tummy while hers was long, and lean. I stared, and stared at the shadows and mentally noted how ugly mine was. I was six years old and freshly on the path to a lifelong hatred of my body. The one thing I can’t escape no matter what. The home of my thoughts and frustrations, the mask I wear daily as I force myself out into the universe.

My parents were never tiny people. Our house was filled with food and purpose was given in living to eat, rather than eating to live. Everything revolved around food. Everything revolved around cooking. I was indulged not in material objects, but in pretty much any morsel I requested. My parents didn’t know about nutrition, they knew about the cost of food, and the pride of being able to provide for their children. I was an enigma to them. I rejected most of what they put in front of me. A picky eater from birth, but I often wonder if my selectiveness had ulterior motives.

As a child I ate what I liked, and refused anything that I deemed unpleasant. I hated eating meat because of the texture, the smell, and the fact that I felt sick whenever I ate it. I never ate vegetables unless iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers counted, and even those were rarities on my plate. Fruit was tolerable. I ate apples, peaches, oranges, and grapes, but nothing beyond that menu. I liked my sweets though. I lived for Monday nights when my grandmother would come over with bakery boxes filled with individual pastries and cakes. They were mostly for me. She knew my weakness and fed it accordingly. Moderation wasn’t in my vocabulary. Portion size was whatever was placed in front of me, and whatever I requested in terms of seconds.

I grew. Never to an appalling size, nothing that raised eyebrows, or pointed fingers towards neglect, or abuse, but I always felt larger than my peers. I’m short. I was stalky, solid, I guess you could say. In sixth grade, when stretchy pencil skirts were all the rage, I begged my grandmother for a bright fuchsia fashion statement. My mother and father dragged us all out to the not-so-local Kmart and my grandmother made me try the skirt on over my pants in the middle of the shop. I was then admonished for being “too fat” to wear the $8 object of my dreams. I cried. I wanted it but I didn’t want to look ridiculous. I wanted to look like my thin friends in their fast fashion and their flamboyant designs. It wasn’t meant to be. I eventually got a stretchy pencil skirt. I’m not sure who caved to my begging, but I remember my mother telling me that I could only wear it with a long sweater that covered my stomach, hips, bum, and thighs. That’s what I did, walking around looking like a plump little watermelon, but I didn’t care because although by that point I was at least three months out of fashion, I finally had what I coveted the most: the hot pink skirt of my (now nightmares) dreams.

Thinner. I always wanted to be thinner, but never really achieved my goals. In high school, I started working out. I tried not eating. I tried eating only select foods. I tried walking everywhere, but I was always fat. To be honest, I’m not really sure how other people saw me back then. Not that it would have mattered because I was (and admiringly still am) a slave to my own mirror, my own demons, and my own blindness when I see myself.

Videos and photos from my high school years show me that I looked pretty much like everyone else my age. It’s strange how we all look around the same size, but I only see the few girls who stood out as tiny, the smaller, the better. They were cute, pretty, and everything that I wanted to be. They had it all: popularity, friends, good grades, good families, everything. Then there was me: social outcast, at least how I felt, fat, awkwardly ugly, and strange.

That book, gripped in my hand felt like hope. All I needed was a curse and then I’d be cured of my own curse, but the book wasn’t my solution.

I didn’t have the willpower, or the desire to be anorexic or bulimic. I had witnessed my mother cave to too many fad diets, even dipping into eating disorders right before my eyes. Besides, the “ABC After School Special” about eating disorders freaked me the fuck out! Who wanted to be found in a puddle of their own vomit and blood? I had friends with severe eating disorders. They were hospitalized when they turned grey and the hair on their heads was replaced by a soft fuzz that grew over their bodies. One friend nearly died after suffering a full cardiac arrest. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to be thinner, prettier, cuter.

Nothing that I ever tried really worked, at least not sustainably. I’d shed a few pounds, but they’d bounce right back after I lost interest in mistreating my body, or gave into the temptation of pretty cakes and cookies.

As I got older, I restricted my diet to the point of shelving some foods as “not food items” so that I’d never eat them again. True, I became a partial vegetarian at age 14 because I hated meat. True, I eventually stopped eating all animal products, and byproducts as I made my way through life. None of that was for thinness though. Trust me, I stayed fat as a vegan!

I became vegan because I despise meat, and I don’t agree with the animal agriculture industry. I have very strong, and messy feelings about animals being used for food, furniture, clothing, or anything other than existing as the animals they are intended to be. I am not going to get into that discussion here.

I will however step on the toes of “junk food” and the guilt that surrounds me when I indulge. The other day, as I lifted a nacho to my lips at lunch, my officemate said “Are you really going to eat chips for lunch?!”

Well, to be honest, yes, I was fully intending on eating said nachos for lunch, but as soon as the words left her mouth, they slapped the nacho from my hand, and there I was, back to being hungry because there was no way that I was going to be guilty of eating junk food for lunch, especially not in “public.”

Today, I picked up a small bag of popcorn and the same person commented on the brand telling me that it’s a misnomer and that it’s actually not a healthy choice food. I know that, bitch! I’m fucking treating myself to a little afternoon snack after not being able to eat for a few days because my jaw was misaligned. It’s okay though. I didn’t eat the full bag. I’ll either let it go stale, or eat the rest another day when I feel like torturing myself with more guilt for eating crap.

It’s not that I care too much about what other people say, or think about my food. It’s more that I care too much about what I think about my food. I try to eat healthy, but there are times when nothing is more satisfying than a heaping plate of salty fries! I try to balance my diet, but there is only so much broccoli and lettuce a person can actually eat!

So here I sit, 20 pounds lighter than I was in the summer of 2021. I’m literally THINNER, but it’s still not good enough. Some people have noticed my shrinkage and complimented me on getting smaller. What does that say to me? Well, it proves that I was too big in the first place! One of my closest friends keeps telling me that I’m “thin, so everything looks good” on me when I get dressed. If only she knew how wrong that statement is.

I work hard to find inexpensive clothes that fit my body shape. I’m so disproportionately mismatched that it’s quite challenging to find clothes that fit well. I have a voluptuous bum, with hips, and thighs that have been described as “good for birthing,” and other wonderful complementary expressions insinuating how large I am. My upper body rivals a well sanded wall, and The Great Canadian Plains. If you wanted to, you could use my ribs as xylophones. I’m so freakishly small in my upper body that I give “pear-shaped” a new meaning: pear bottom with a stem.

Am I hard on myself, yes. Why? Well, if you’ve been reading my blog then you know that I don’t have a true concept of what I look like. Am I begging my readers to compliment me and tell me that I’m beautiful, gorgeous, and sexy? Fuck no! I’d have a very hard time believing you anyway since most people who’ve shared those words with me were either unknowingly manipulative, or lying. No. I don’t want external validation. I want to know how to gain intrinsic validation and love for myself. I want to know how to tell my demon to fuck off and let me enjoy my body. I want to never feel as though I need to be thinner, or smaller in order to be more valued.

Sadly, I know I will never achieve that level of respect, or appreciation for myself. Until then, it’s scales, and submitting myself to my very own scrutiny.

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