Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I was anorexic for a couple of years. I had no idea. Seriously. I've certainly heard the expression "denial" but I always thought it was a bunch of nonsense. How could alcoholics, drug addicts, anorexics (and all the other "obvious" problem behaviors like these) be unknown to the person engaging in them?
I did not know. Sure, I had some people asking me if I was sick, but I chalked that up to living in Maine. No one in New York City asked me if I was sick! Now, the fisherman whom I worked with, well, they said things like "no man wants to ride an ironing board" and "the more the merrier". Being fat, in Downeast Maine, is not a liability in the least. Being skinny was. Somehow I was suspect, and I imagine that part of that was due to xenophobia. After all, everybody knows that they like 'em skinny in New York and other places that are "away".
I worked in a tattoo shop and because of this, I could wear what I wanted. Since I was already quite "other", I played it up. I wore too much makeup, shaved my head and tended towards wearing latex and other non-breathable materials (all in black, of course). What did everyone else wear? Sweats and the occasional hawaiian shirt.
I wore stiletto boots or Doc Martens. And not only was I blind to my anorexia but blind to the effect that wearing these types of clothes had on people. I was asked many a time if my services as a dominatrix were available. I was also mistaken for being a very strange type of lesbian. Looking back, I think many people projected their sexual fantasies upon me. It didn't help that I have a voice that is low and seems to lull people into relaxation (or submission, depending on how you look at it).
I hardly ate a thing. Generally, I'd drink diet Coke and smoke cigarettes all day. I'd eat one meal a day and it consisted of one of two things: cup o' noodles or an egg and cheese sandwich. My refrigerator held only seltzer water and ice cubes. A friend of mine once commented "Your refrigerator looks like a junkie bachelor lives here".
I wasn't insulted. I was positively delighted! I had finally conquered the need for food! This is what all anorexics think.
It hurt to sit for long periods because I had lost my butt. My hip bones stuck out so far that I had permanent bruises on them. Who cared? Everything I wore looked good on me (or so I thought). And when I went shopping, I could say out loud to a salesperson (with righteous indignation), "Don't you have a size 0?"
I had struggled with being chubby my entire life (and my father warned me that when I became middle aged, I'd develop a huge ass just like his sisters, so I better start dieting early).
Occasionally, I'd overeat to the point of craziness. But I was not bulimic. I couldn't fathom making myself throw up. The truth is, I love food. So, when confronted with good food, I would eat, and eat until there was not a speck left. Once, I went out with a large group of people (where, I can't remember). I do remember I was wearing a sleeveless latex top and a corset and a friend's teenage daughter said to me, "Are you really going into the restaurant dressed like that?!" Yes, I was and I did.
I ordered some kind of beef stew. The portion was enormous. I adore meat and I ate that like a starving women (which, I suppose I was). I probably even licked the plate. I realized that everyone was looking at me with shock in their eyes. "Where did you put that?", someone said, with the afterthought, "Aren't you full??!"
I probably couldn't tell whether I was full or not. When you're anorexic, you lose the ability to tell these things. You may be hungry or you may not be. "Officially" you still are hungry (and I just got that question wrong on a Pathology test in school). I don't remember being hungry at all.
My doctor said to me that she thought I should gain a few pounds. I was quite startled. How had it come to this? I had been to Weight Watchers twice in my life and never even reached my goal weight. I was at least thirty pounds less than that when my doctor said something.
Slowly, I started eating again. And now I am overweight and everything looks like crap on me. I think, "I should go on a diet", but the idea of it is horrendous. I don't want to make weight any kind of issue. I want to learn to love this body just the way it is. I have no idea if this is possible. But I'm trying.
Art note: Peter Paul Rubens "The Three Graces"
Addendum: Rubens would love me now, but I don't know what he'd make of the weird jester faces tattooed under my knee caps. They would clash with all that classical imagery, don't ya think?