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Today’s Special: Virtue with a Heaping Spoonful of Self-loathing March 29, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Fat, Jobz.
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So our healthy lunch program has begun, and it is…awkward. I decided that since I couldn’t stop the program, I would just personally avoid it, but that’s pretty much impossible to do because there are always questions from coworkers about who tried the food and who didn’t, who liked it and who didn’t, and the slightly judgmental why that comes along with taking no part in it.

Truthfully, I’m not finding it that hard to deal with, but a year or two ago I would have found it excruciating. I have never been good with eating in public; in fact there was a time when I could barely manage it. I feared, as I suspect many eating-disordered people do, that I was being judged for what I ate, that people were looking at my plate and tallying calories to decide if I was virtuous or a total pig. And in some way this is true; I don’t know a single soul who hasn’t had someone, sometimes a friend, sometimes a relative, other times a total stranger, comment on what they were eating.

For me, these comments definitely left their mark. When I was in high school I went on a field trip with my English class; a couple of my traveling companions were guys I had known for a couple of years. As we sat in the grass in the park enjoying our lunch, one boy, who I was starting to fall for, remarked that my turkey sandwich was the first thing he had ever seen me eat. I (sadly) how proud I felt in that moment (even though they in no way expressed admiration for my food-avoiding skills). They noticed how little I seemed to need food! I was a worthy girl-type human being! I can also remember comment that came from my grandfather, the sweetest man to ever live. He remarked that I seemed to be eating more at dinner one night and I stopped fork in midair and didn’t eat another bite. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad I made him feel. My grandfather believed in food; happiness for him was taking people out to dinner. Here he was, happy to see me eating, and there I was paralyzed by the voice in my head screaming “PIG!!!!”

Even though I’m a hundred miles away from those moments, I doubt I’ll ever forget them or the feelings they inspired. So having the girl who sits across the room want to know why I didn’t eat a pasty plate of pasta with cardboardy meatballs can be extra unpleasant for me; I still feel a little like I’m being accused of something.

But the more I hear the questions, the more I realize that they aren’t really questioning me; they are questioning themselves. Just the other day we were sitting down to lunch when one of my coworkers passed by on her way to the gym, lamenting the fact that she had to go to the gym instead of eating lunch. It wasn’t that she wanted us all to drop what we were doing and join her on the treadmill, but that she wanted to drop what she was doing and have some diet chicken salad, but she wasn’t allowed. She had no choice (in her mind) but to spend her thirty-minute lunch running at the gym. Now, if she had been psyched about working out during lunch, there wouldn’t even be a need for discussion; she would have been doing what she wanted to. However, the longing look she gave us as she ran out the door told anyone watching exactly how much she wanted to go to the gym.

And it’s this same kind if thinking that fuels questions and comments about food choices. My coworker doesn’t really want to know why I think I’m too good for a diet lunch –she wants to know why she isn’t good enough for a real one. I only wish I knew how to tell her that she is, but somehow I doubt she would believe me.


Conversations with my fourteen-year-old self. February 12, 2008

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I.
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There’s been lots of talk around the fatosphere in the past couple of days about what you would tell your fourteen-year-old self if you had the chance.  Though I left a brief comment at Shapely Prose about it, I couldn’t resist expanding it into a post of it’s own.

Dear Fourteen-year-old Jae,

–Right now you’re pretty miserable, and I’m sorry to say you’re going to be miserable for another few years.  It has nothing to do with you; you just weren’t cut out for high school nonsense.  The important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t going to last forever.  In college the clouds will start to break and by the time you’re in your twenties you will be a much more together woman.  Just know that you’re not crazy; you’re just different in an awesome sort of way.

–You won’t speak to D again after this year, thank God, but it’s only then that you will start to deal with what she did to you.  You know that it isn’t your fault.  She’s a sick person and though she will get away with torturing you for a big chunk of your life, she does not win.

–There’s going to be a day in a few years when your sister will disappear for a few hours and no one will be able to find her.  She’s okay, but she is up to no good.  Don’t let the subject drop.

–Speaking of letting things drop, don’t let your best friend  talk you out of telling her mother about her anorexia.  She’s never going to have a healthy relationship with food or her body, and she’s going to develop bulimia later on.  You can’t save her, you really can’t, but this is the best chance she has.

–Stop dabbling in your own eating disorders.  It won’t make you thin; it will just make you sick and depressed.  Instead go and buy a book on intuitive eating, and don’t be afraid to exercise; you’ll like it and I promise, you won’t hurt yourself.

–Guys are not the yardstick by which you should measure your self worth; it really doesn’t matter how many boys you kiss or how old you are when you first have sex.  A boyfriend is not the magical pill which cures all insecurities, so you’re really not going to be “broken” until you find one because you aren’t broken to begin with.

–Let’s repeat that: You are not broken.

–While we’re talking about boys…you’ll meet a special one at twenty, but he isn’t ready for you yet and he may never be, but you will be awesome friends.  Don’t believe the lies in your head that tell you he doesn’t love you because you aren’t good enough.  You’ll meet another one later that year…don’t run away because you’re scared.  You’ll always regret it if you do and you’ll always wish you had another chance.

–Do an internship in college.  I know it’s going to mean you’ll have to quit your job and/or work your ass off, but it will be worth it.

–Dad has bigger problems than you know.  I won’t tell you what they are, you’ll only be tempted to try and fix them and you can’t, but know that he doesn’t hate you; he just doesn’t really know how to love you.  Show him you love him and try and get mom to talk him into getting help.

–Grandma is going to die in just three years.  You’ll know it’s coming, but it won’t make you miss her any less.  Take pictures with her.  Spend all the time you can with her.  Do the same for grandpa.  You’ll have him for another six years, but it will go by in a flash.

–You and L will stop being friends in about a year and a half, but you’ll find your way back together.  It’s probably necessarry for you to do this, but she isn’t healthy for you.  You’ll love her inspite of the fucked up things she does, but until she works out her issues the friendship isn’t going to work well, and it will fall apart again. 

–The most important thing to remember: you are a worthwhile human being.  When others try to treat you as less than, don’t let them get away with it, but even more importantly don’t let yourself get away with it either.