I’ve been skinny all my life. I still am, really, except to myself and other ED-girls, to whom the way my thighs almost touch and my belly isn’t quite parallel to the front of my hipbones is a measure of my failure and their success. My waist is,now, an inch bigger than Kate Moss’s (assuming hers is still 23″. Mine isn’t. It’s 24″, 25″, unless i’ve eaten recently or the IBS is bad. To me this is huge. I appreciate to others it might not be.). It used to be a lot smaller. I know* how skinny feels, and how the kind of food-management you have to do o keep your body at just that pitch of near-hunger feels. I did it both consciously and unconsciously,for a long time. I Know what it feels like to be secure and confident in having a more socially-envied figure than the majority of the people on the street, to wear short skirts without for a second going ‘ohgoddoesitshowmythighs’, to have that ‘i may not be pretty but at least i’m thin’ voice in the back of my head. To know you can have a completely flat stomach simply by skipping a meal or two. I know what i’s like to take your clothes of in front of someone and feel that even if they reject you, it won’t be because you’re not thin enough anymore, not because you’re greedy or needy or godhelpmejust not as hot as you look with your clothes on, because they give the illusion of better curves and no thighs at all. I’m familiar with the reassuring (and always slightly incredible) chorus of ‘oh, you’re so tiny’. And Kate’s right,it *does* feel good. To feel the attention paid you is deserved because you work for it, you deny yourself for it, you concentrate on it, you embrace it as part of you and here you are, people appreciate the effort you make for them, like you, value you. Think you’re beautiful. Want you. Love you.
Cos you’re thin,obviously. They wouldn’t for anything else.
Thing is,I also know what hunger feels like. Both historically, and immediately. The last few days, I haven’t been eating properly, really. Nothing in the mornings, late late dinners.Long patches of feeling nothing but hungry, having the pounding certainty in my head and my heart that i hadn’t eaten enough,I was running on empty, and I was going to be ok. To go sraight through that and out the other side where hunger was irrelevant, an acknowledged but disconnected enity barely attached to your aching body. It was intially subconscious rather than conscious,partly a reaction to the knowledge that I’d been emotionally eating again and i couldn’ handle the physical impact of continuing to do so, parly just because of a refound determination to work and the impact of my social life. And it was a very strange experience. I felt safe, again,i’d missed that. But I also felt physically, and emotionally, pretty awful.Minimal sleep didn’ help.But I was nervy and febrile and labile and overemotional and snappy and intense – at least one layer of my recently-acquired and much-desired internal editors were gone. But more than that – i was genuinely reacting emotionally to things that i knew didn’t really impact on me at all. I remember crying because somebody shouted and it reminded me of my dad: i’ve noticed this before with the person in q, but it’s never normally a problem. I get stupid and overreacty at roughly the same rate I become inarticulate and weepy, and this is not a healthy thing. I had no energy – i spent a whole afternoon lying on the couch,because I hadn’ had breakfast and had spent a couple of hours at the gym but forgotten lunch.
It wasn’t much fun.
But I could do it. And, sometimes, I was flying. I’ve missed that. Food as anchor, life as flight. I’d *missed* the empty, and the flying, and feeling invincible. Hungry – or empty, when the hunger fades – can be *fun.*
(For the curious/worried: to put this in perspective, I’d then eat huge amounts in the evenings, so I pretty much always made 2000+ calories a day, which is hardly a starvation diet. I do a lot of exercise, and usually eat more, but ateotd i’m quite sensible. And greedy.)
Discussing Bodies on Monday, Susie Orbach mentioned that in New York she felt ‘illegal’, because she’s in her early sixties by now, and she hasn’t had any plastic surgery. And one of the friends I was with said she’d felt illegal there too,because she wasn’t the prescribed and expensively maintained shape and size either. Now me, I was Duck, water, go: i loved it, and it loved me,or so I felt. despite the problems with my then fiance, i felt right at home. I *was* skinny then, probly 10kg less than I am now, and i’ve always been quite a fast and frenetic and intense kind of person – i just felt comfortable, and like i fitted in. But I also knew that if I stayed, if i lived there, i couldn’t cope wih the pressure to play those games – to starve, and exercise,and do too much, all the time, and the competitiveness of it all would kill me. (I hate competitive. I can’t do it. I lost already, a long time ago, and i’m not interested in winning.) But the thing is, I *could*. If i wanted to, I could be that skinny, quite easily in physiological terms. I have a slightly different struggle frommy ex-ED friends who are naturally curvy, because it’s not that i need to accept a bodyshape different from the precribed mainstream thinness, but dramatically beautiful in itself. Mine is in some ways pretty close to the mainstream, but now with just a little bit too much padding on it to be considered attractive in those terms. A little too much thigh, a little too much belly, a little too much waist. A little toomuch of a failure. And I know that if i didn’t eat enough,for just a couple of weeks, I could get there. And so it feels like every time i put anything in my mouth, i’m choosing not to. Every mouthful I eat, I’m saying that my hunger – my wants, desires, needs, pleasures – is more important than yours, than the viewer’s. My needs mean more to me than yours do. I’m prioritising the fulfillment of my own desires above the fulfillment of others’. And that, for a woman, definitely feels illegal.
I hate being this size, as in not being dramatically skinny. I miss my bones and i miss my flat tummy and imiss the hollow under my ribs in the mornings and by God i miss the long skinny legs. But not enough,any more, to deny that I *do* have needs and desires and wants and pleasures. Not enoughto put myself through hours of misery and uselessness when i’m with my friends, first because i’m too empty and ill to engage properly and then because after I eat i’m on a complete sugar high and think before I speak even less than usual. Not enough to want to have to *think* about it the whole fucking time, and hunger is distracting. But oh God, do i feel guilty about it.