A bit of prose, inspired by something found. Warning: this is a pretty angry piece.

Digging through our spare bedroom, through the boxes of assorted crap that has built up over the years, I come across my agenda from my first year at Smith. It is beat-up, folded on its edges, and still it is familiar.

It is this thick book of dates and times that carried me through my first semester, from the first day of classes (“10:30-11:50: First-year seminar; 1-2:20: Introductory Macroeconomics”) to mid-October, when an appointment at Health Services results in involuntary medical leave, a factor, apparently, of an eating disorder they classify as anorexia nervosa.

I know the name, of course, have read endless tomes of personal struggle with the disorder, but never did I think the term would apply to me, at least in a clinical sense. No matter, the pink “reminder: you have an appointment” slip stares back at me from the day marked Friday, October 6th. It is held to the page with a single strip of Scotch tape, and I remember, suddenly, placing it there, asking the receptionist sweetly if I could snag a piece of tape to hold the note in place.

From Friday, October 6th we have Fall Break, a four-day reprieve from school and girls and dining hall-induced loneliness that I have looked forward to for quite some time. I spend the four days meeting questions about my weight and body with anger and discomfort; what am I to say? To acknowledge my receding flesh as a function of a concerted effort to lose weight would be humiliating, so I squirm and nod and shake my head, offering as little as possible in the way of a response. “Mom,” I say, with some urgency in my voice, “I’m going home, I’m tired.” This in reaction to a family friend, who questions point-blank whether I’ve a) lost weight (well, duh), and b) if such weight loss was healthy (well, fuck you).

Then I am back to Smith, to classes and to appointments with the school physician, a stooped, awful man who questions my capacity to stay in school with my so-called “eating disorder.” My days are parsed out, in my memory and in this neglected assignment book, into “presentation for psychology,” “study for French,” and activities for the various extracurricular activities I’ve taken on.

On October 15th, my grandmother, une Smithie ancienne of the Class of ’49, comes to visit, and we eat dinner at the local natural foods restaurant. The minimalist menu meets my orthorexic values, and those of my grandmother as well. We order twin portions of salmon and brown rice, a simple meal we could easily have crafted for ourselves at home, and for far less money. The early-evening light and hippier-than-thou staff does not make up the difference.

The salmon comes with a side salad, and I order, knuckles gripping the chair for support, the ginger-lime dressing. It is at the behest of the campus nutritionist that I eat my greens not bare but with this viscous dressing, a dribble of calories I would sooner do without. My grandmother, herself a master of restaurant substitutions and requests to “hold the fat,” asks instead for oil and vinegar, and on the side, s’il vous plait.

This query makes me furious. My grandmother is fully aware of the implications of my form and function, a fraction of the body I once inhabited, and yet she cannot still the disfunction of the rules and regulations that govern her eating. I watch her parse the round of rice into two, and remove, carefully, the basement layer of fat that rings the fish.

I explode. “How am I supposed to feed myself and commit to gaining weight when you can’t fucking be normal about food?”

I hate myself for the dressing, for not choosing vinegar and oil (on the side) as she did.

She is sheepish, contorts her shoulders into a shrug, and shares that she doesn’t want to “burst out” of her pants.

I hate, and let, for better or for worse, this hatred permeate the visit, offering reticent-at-best hugs and terse responses to her questions and comments. I stew this fury with barks and other outbursts, and decide, after careful contemplation, that I have gone about this gaining all wrong. It is too uneven, too haphazard, and I am profoundly uncomfortable with the pounds acquired.

I must re-commit, re-begin, by losing first the few I have collected and then, in perpetual re-mode, re-eat my self into an acceptable weight category.

Re-do, re-try, re-assemble: this is my life.

To be continued.

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