Jennifer’s body.

2 Sep

Things would be far simpler if this post was actually about “Jennifer’s Body”. Source

I’m going to need to ask David Sedaris and Sloane Crosley if they still have friends.

I’ve been getting a bit of backlash about le blog; specifically, certain people weren’t thrilled with their portrayal in past posts. I will make it up to them by baring my soul in today’s entry*. Like, really putting it out there. Talking about things I hope I rarely do, laying private things out on the line, inspiring Jennifer Lawrence’s people to file a restraining order against me.

Yes, I love Jennifer Lawrence. Much like Annie Cresta did to Finnick Odair, Jen crept up on me. I first saw her in the film “Winter’s Bone” for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Even though I fell asleep in the middle, I was pretty impressed by her portrayal of Ree Dolly, the main character. However, the book was way better, of course; she didn’t win the Oscar, and I quickly forgot all about her. Then came The Hunger Games.

For the last six years, I have been employed by either a bookstore, a library, or both. There isn’t a book trend that escapes my notice. So I was familiar with Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, but didn’t pay it much attention. It takes me a while to embrace certain pop culture trends, books being one area that I am particularly stubborn about.  I scoffed at the Harry Potter series for years before I finally gave in. I won’t touch anything Twilight related with a ten-foot pole, unless that pole is also on fire. The only thing Fifty Shades of Gray can do for me is provide me with more than fifty ways to wipe my ass with its pages. So when The Hunger Games became a thing, I responded by rolling my eyes and picking anything else to read.

Because I pride myself on being a pretentious blowhard, my assumption is that things that most people – especially your average, everyday people – like are probably terrible. People in general are stupid. Why would I want to read something that everybody thinks is great? I choose things to read based on recommendations from trusted friends; judging books by their covers; and searching out the books and authors that writers I respect enjoy. Oh, and whatever NPR tells me to read. That way, I can brag by saying “I first became aware of ____________ when I heard it mentioned on All Things Considered. Michele Norris says it’s a must read.” Man, am I one high sadity bitch or what?

Anyway, one of those trusted friends asked if I had read The Hunger Games. In response, my eyes glazed over and I said “What? Is that the book about anorexia or something? We can’t keep it on the shelves, but no, haven’t read it. Don’t know if it’s my thing.” She grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “You have to read this book” she spit as she slapped me across the face. Okay, that didn’t actually happen, but wouldn’t it have been awesome if she had? “Read it and we’ll go to see the movie at the end of the week.” It was an order I had no reason to refuse.

Amazingly, the book was available at the library where I’m currently employed. I checked it out and started to read it on my dinner break. I read it at my desk while pretending to work. I read it while the students I supervise quietly went about their closing duties. I read it as they stood over me, holding their time cards, waiting for me to wake from my HG-induced haze so they could leave. Basically, I was hooked and finished it that night. And yes, I cried. Hysterically and often.

That weekend my trustworthy friend and I went to the movie. “I know her!” I gasped the first time Jennifer Lawrence came on screen. “She’s the girl who got nominated for an Oscar for this movie about hillbillies! And now she’s doing another movie about hillbillies, sorta! I like her!” I said between bites of popcorn. “Shut up!” hissed my friend. I was practically swooning as I soaked in every moment of Jen’s portrayal of Katniss. She brought that girl to life. She became grumpy, depressed, determined, confused, kick-ass Katniss Everdeen. I cried for and with her. I shrieked and laughed and cheered and just made a fool of myself in the dark, crowded theater. I walked in a normal woman over thirty hooked on a YA series and left a woman obsessed.

Jennifer Lawrence is the girl I want to be and if I can’t be her, I want to be her best friend. I will settle for living vicariously through Zoe Kravitz. . . for now. She’s funny and down to Earth. She makes self-depreciating jokes that are adorkable and quirky and don’t come across as secret cries for help. She likes to look good but isn’t a total jerk about it. She still hangs out with her parents and brothers and boyfriend and does it all while wearing mismatched pajamas and exhibiting appropriate emotions upon receiving major news. She helps black ladies wearing booty shorts who suddenly faint on the sidewalk. She plays basketball and forgets to shave her armpits. I have a major fangirl crush on her. I’d donate an organ to this chick. Speaking of bodies, I want her body. I’d also settle for having her adorable face.

Let’s ignore the many psychological and sociological issues involved in my apparent desire to look like a white, blond-haired, blue-grayish-greenish-eyed woman 11 years my junior. This isn’t that kind of blog, i.e., I’ll objectify and idolize who I want, dammit! The real issue, the secret that I referenced above, is that there was a time that I did have Jennifer’s body (See! Don’t underestimate me, kid.).

I was 16 or 17 years old and dating yet another mean boy. I can’t wait for the day that I can write about a guy I dated who wasn’t awful to me. Yeesh. Anyway, this guy was short and skinny. I was all of 140-lbs. and a size 8 at 5’5. I felt like a beast. My weight had been an issue my whole life, but it took years for me to realize that my weight wasn’t actually an issue at all. My parents (maybe just my mom) had certain ideas about what kids were supposed to look like and I guess I didn’t fit the image in their mind’s eye. To make matters even more sucktastic, I started developing very early. Boobs and Aunt Flo appeared while I was still in elementary school. By high school, I was spindly arms and legs, crazy cheek bones that could have cut glass, huge boobs, huge butt, and a soft tummy. To my distorted, adolescent mind I might as well have been morbidly obese.

It didn’t help that my “boyfriend” at the time was a shrimp and a jerk. I towered over him and probably outweighed him. He commented on my body whenever he could, never calling me fat outright, but would suggest that I looked fat in certain clothes or ate too much or too often. It never dawned on me that he was insecure about his height and chicken chest and was doing whatever he could to make me feel as bad as he did because I was an idiot. I cried a lot, eventually dumped him when I found out he was regularly sexing the girl who’d fixed us up that I thought was my friend, and went on a mission to recreate my gigantic body into one that would leave him begging me to take him back.

It started innocently at first. I’d go on walks with friends or do a “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” tape and a bunch of crunches, followed by a trip to Taco Bell. It quickly turned into something rather ugly, I guess. I say “I guess” because even knowing what I know now about what I did, I miss the control and willpower I was able to exude back then. I also say “I guess” because it’s embarrassing and awkward as a person who’s been different variations of fat for the last 13 years to reminisce about how I was once very thin. People always want photographic evidence; you show them the pictures and they either say “Oh, you weren’t that thin!” or “You looked so good back then!” or “You looked awful!” or “I prefer you with weight on you” and it all sounds like horrible lies and the awful truth. It may only be embarrassing to me, but I have heard “What happened to you?” more times than I’d like to admit. I haven’t heard that lately, but those four words replay in my ears whenever I’m faced with seeing someone I haven’t seen in ages who knew me when. And I don’t have a kid I can shove in their faces and blame for my additional girth, so I know that they know that I just got “lazy” or “depressed”. Parents, hug your children! You may be fat, but you have a runny-nosed, loud-mouthed, obnoxious, toothless, short person who demands things to blame for your flabby body! I just have me.

I can’t really recall the moment that things got ugly. My exercise routine must not have given me the results I hoped for and I wanted a boost. Not sure if the diet pills or the laxatives came first, but I can remember the fear and excitement I felt as I bought them and sneaked them into my bedroom. Then I decided that as it was fat I was trying to lose from my body, fat was the thing that I needed to lose from my diet. I allowed myself 0-10 grams of fat per day, with “cheating” allowed on Saturdays. Meat was all fat, so that had to go without question. My diet mainly consisted of rice cakes and baby carrots. Those were my favorite things to eat, as they came in bags, making them convenient to carry with me, and both things were fat-free. I’d bring full bags of each to school with me and subsist on those alone – oh and candy, as long as it was fat-free – and a bottle of water for the entire day. The diet pills killed my appetite and gave me energy so I could accomplish my two to four hours of exercise a day. The laxatives let me shit away what I did eat since I allowed myself unlimited quantities of food as long as it was fat-free. Though I tried several times, I never could get the hang of self-induced vomiting, so the laxatives were a godsend.

My cheat meals on Saturdays weren’t very much fun at all. I’m sure the combination of my restrictive diet and laxative use was destroying my stomach. I couldn’t enjoy the one food I looked forward to indulging in each weekend – french fries – without excruciating stomach pain afterwards. Instead of curbing my weight-loss efforts, this unwelcome side-affect only encouraged me to report that I was “allergic to/unable to digest fat”, self-diagnosed, of course! I became more focused than ever.

One of my favorite examples of how insane I became is the following story: I was out for a run with a friend. My workout clothes were hanging off me. My friend was struggling to keep up as I had the artificially produced energy of a meth head. We jogged in place, at my insistence of course, as we waited for it to be safe to cross the street. I don’t know where the car came from; we had both looked and waited until we thought it was clear. My friend made it safely across while I made it up onto the hood of  an old Saab driven by a terrified man. In case I described that too poetically for you, I was hit by a freaking car. He hit me with enough force that I was thrown up on to his hood, hit his windshield, and rolled off into the street. I jumped up, elbows and knees skinned, forehead bruised, and stared at the driver, stunned. He took one look at me and since I was upright and had my eyes open, decided to speed off. My friend was screaming in terror and pulled me out of the road. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, are you alright??” he screamed. “You just got hit by a car!!” I quickly snapped out of my daze – thanks, amphetamines! – and started to jog in place again. “Yeah, I’m fine! We need to get back on our run! Burn that fat! Let’s go! Please don’t tell my parents what happened!”

I was so thin. I didn’t feel very thin because the scale wouldn’t budge below 124.5-lbs., which to me was still a too large number, but I was thin. My graduation dress was a size 3 in Juniors; I’m sure I cried with delight when it fit. My mom and I had never been closer. We finally looked just alike! A beautiful, majestic doe and her fawn. We shopped like an upcoming ban on women’s wear had just been announced. People stopped me on the street to ask if I was a model and when they learned that I wasn’t, to demand that I start a career right. That. Minute! Men and boys professed their love with a frequency that made my head spin. Girls hated my guts. One especially jealous bitch angrily told my friend that no matter how thin the rest of me got, I’d always have a fat ass. I wanted to thank her, as what she thought was a dig actually meant that I’d achieved Black America’s Dream, but he wasn’t supposed to tell, so I never got to rub her face in my skinny body and bodacious buttocks.

All good things must come to an end. College ushered in my eventual defeat. At first, things were awesome. I continued my ridiculous eating habits, the boys on campus declared me the hottest thing since. . . I don’t know, the sun? The sun’s super hot. Since I was a total prude and didn’t drink, I didn’t gain the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. But I wasn’t happy. I was incredibly lonely. Loneliness turned out to be the only thing I got to keep from my visit to The Land of Incredibly Thin Pretty Girls. I hated my roommate. I was convinced I was going to catch a disease from her and her nasty boyfriend. Sex particles travel through the air and that’s how you get STDs, right? I knew better; I’d gotten at least a B in science, but I had this incredible anxiety that I was going to become diseased from living with her that I couldn’t shake. My runs weren’t fun anymore. Creepy men thought it was funny to chase me. Working out in the gym on campus was out of the question as guys would show up with chips and soda, pull up a seat and watch me on the Stairmaster. Lucky for me the bouncers at the local nightclub took pity on me and let me in even though I wasn’t yet 18. Clubbing Thursday through Saturday became crucial as dancing was how I got my exercise. If guys wanted to stare or even grope, fine, just as long as I could burn fat on the dance floor.

Fall came in with a rush of freezing, bitter cold wind. Between my gross roommate and the rapidly dropping temperature, I was certain that I was dying. I dressed in layers and became more vigilant about food. I didn’t eat more nutritiously, well, not on purpose anyway. I decided that I would allow myself to eat anything that I wanted, absolutely ANYTHING once a day- as long as I could make it fit on a coffee saucer. It couldn’t hang off. Dry English muffins and hard boiled eggs became a favorite. Dark beverages were out; I could only consume liquids that I could see through. Most of the time, my day’s calories came from 2-liter bottles of Sprite or 7-Up and fruit or plain baked potatoes from the campus cafe. I went to my pediatrician and told him that I was afraid I had contracted Mono from my roommate. I was Mono free, but the good doctor was worried about my weight: 118-lbs. in two shirts, a sweater, jeans, a belt, platform high-heeled loafers (Shut it, it was the 90s) and undergarments. I don’t know why he didn’t have me undress. He wanted to know if I was eating. Of course I was! I just didn’t digest fat very well, so my eating options were limited. He took my answer as gospel, I suppose, as I don’t recall anything more happening from his initial concern.

Eventually I paid a visit to the school psychologist. I don’t know what caused me to finally become concerned for myself. My friends’ worries fell on deaf ears. I’d signed up for a campus fashion show and in the space where we were to write down our sizes, I put ‘Women’s 5/6′. The coordinator of the show, a fabulous and outspoken gay man, took one look at my form and shouted “Pppfffssshht! Put her in the 2s!” They did, and they fit. I reminded my friends who were shocked to see what size I’d become as I came down the runway that the 2s didn’t really fit; they were a bit tight on my stomach. A true size 2 wouldn’t have red marks on her belly after wearing pants. They shook their heads in defeat and I invited them back to my dorm room for Sprite and oranges.

The school psychologist told me that I was beautiful, and certainly thin, but girls with eating disorders were emaciated and I was not, and that meant that I was okay! In a rare moment of clarity, I shook my head and stammered “But I have. . . trouble eating. And I’m always cold. I think there might be something wrong with me.” Was I puking? Nope. Had I eaten that day? Yup. “You have a beautiful body! You’re fine. You’re just experiencing first-year stress.” That was two doctors that didn’t think anything was a big deal and one of them had basically said that I was fat, so I went on my way and changed nothing.

As suddenly as my transformation had begun, it was over. I met a girl who recognized the disordered eating behaviors I exhibited and reached out to me in friendship and concern. She tried to teach me how to eat again. Her efforts were short lived as I noticed that I was starting to gain weight using her methods. I met my first white boyfriend who had no time for my food nonsense and wanted a girl who would eat, so I made my best efforts during our relationship. The whole mess was started by a boy’s opinion of me and ended for the same reason. I was back up to 124.5-lbs., then 130-lbs., then 135-lbs., and before I knew it, I was 140-145-lbs. again. But the damage had already been done.

I had tasted thinness and it was delicious. No matter how I tried, though, I couldn’t make my body do what it had done for those glorious 2 years. Diet pills and laxatives didn’t seem to have any affect on me anymore. Eventually, the good ones were taken off the market. My weight would eventually soar and drop, climb and fall for the rest of my adult life. 140-lbs. is a long ago dream. And I never did learn how to eat. Food is like a stranger that I see everywhere but have no idea how to interact with. I’m either ignoring it or food’s taking out an order of protection against me. “Officer, she ate my entire family. She even ate the children! Keep her away from me! Her appetite is insatiable!”

So, that’s my secret. I may or may not have had and continue to struggle with disordered eating. You’ll notice I’ve never used the term “eating disorder”. Can’t do it. Doesn’t feel real. Mostly because two doctors and two parents and lots of other adults didn’t see a problem. They told me I was beautiful and that only white emaciated girls struggle with anorexia and bulimia. They were the experts; I’m sure they knew what was best.

Jennifer Lawrence gets flack about her beautiful body. Dumb idiots think she looks “fat” on screen. She gives those douche hounds the bird and keeps it moving. I’m fascinated and amazed by her ability to eat regular food, – no “clean eating” or vegetarianism or binging or starving has been reported about her. . . yet –  whenever and whatever she wants, and still be slender and beautiful. I don’t know. I guess that’s not my particular lot in life. But my eyes have seen the glory, even if it was for just a brief moment in time! I wish I’d bothered to wear a bikini back then. Dammit.

Well, those I’ve written about and upset, I hope this makes us even. I shined a bright light on a part of my life I’d have rather kept hidden away. I hope you’ll forgive me for inadvertently hurting your feelings in previous posts. But whatever you do, don’t ask me to see those pictures. If you thought what I wrote before was bad. . .

*I want to apologize in advance if anything I wrote was triggering or offensive to anyone who has had or currently struggles with an ED. Though I am uncomfortable labeling myself as someone who has an ED or is in recovery from one, especially because I was never diagnosed and continue to have major struggles with food, weight, and body image, I empathize with and understand your struggle. It is not my intention to purposely cause hurt or make light of a debilitating disease that has robbed so many of so much; I’m more comfortable making light of my own struggles than speaking about them seriously, yet realize the seriousness of the struggle of others.

2 Responses to “Jennifer’s body.”

  1. Barika Poole September 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Ambrosia, I applaud your bravery in sharing this with us. I had a feeling that something was amiss. I remember thinking how are you unaffected by the freshman 15, while I was gaining the freshman 20! As you know I’ve been struggling with weight all my life too, and it is a constant, daily struggle with each meal, for the past 10 years that I’ve been actively trying to lose or not gain weight. I too have tasted the sweetness of being a size 4 ( I would have looked like a crackhead at a 2), and have been struggling (because I’m not committed) to getting back there.IT was hard work and I’m not up for doing that again! I actually have a really good weight watcher’s leader who is helping me get committed by showing me how to indulge (but not over indulge) and balance that with exercise. But it’s still a frustrating road…

  2. watercolorsilk December 26, 2012 at 5:03 am #

    Been there. Pretty much everything you wrote (sans dieting pills, but I did try vomiting). About developing early, not fitting parents expectations, weird self-created diets, I had it all.

    The two books I read early last year finally put things in order in my head. I’m 32, I didn’t think I’d ever learn not to be afraid of food or obsess about it.

    The Zen of Eating by R. Kabatznick

    When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: 50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When You Feel Anything But) by Geneen Roth

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