In one of my favorite memories of being seventeen, I am standing in the elbow crook of my kitchen, scooping Citrus Blast water ice into a faded green mug with dancing tuxedo penguins on it.
My best friend, a girl for whom the boys will always want to buy a beer, says something about my defrosting the ice in the microwave and I start to laugh.
The freezer door is still ajar, my bare legs hit with cool air when I lean over and hold my gut. It’s the kind of laugh that your whole body remembers for years.
Just last night, I knelt down inside Barnes & Noble and scanned the titles for some sort of reminder.
How To Eat Citrus Blast Water Ice With Your Best Friend Without Feeling Sick To Your Stomach
It is my fault. Let this be several hundred words strung together into a warning, a “begging on my knees, come find me please if you need assistance” warning, to the girls who would like to be skinnier tomorrow. The girls who would like to punish themselves with 30-day slim downs and smoothies that taste more like facemasks.
Please, please, please come see me. I will be the one with tired eyes and a knotted stomach and a fridge for condiments I’ll never use and eggs that already expired.
When everything began, the everything that never began so much as unraveled after years or days or comments or feelings, it was just about treating my body better.
At fifteen, though, I was already staring at my stomach in a leotard and wishing I wasn’t older than the other girls, that I hadn’t grown up so fast, that those brownies weren’t catching up with me. I was a size 2. Should I repeat that for you?
No one who is a size 2 deserves to feel like they have love handles. Or a stomach that juts out too far, OK? Everyone’s stomach juts out in skin-tight neon and metallic plush leotards. Got it?
The fact is, we are all broken. There is inherently something inside us that breaks or cleaves or shatters or chisels away as we start seeing ourselves not as our own best tools to build up this world but as defeatists who lost some battle with the woman next to us at the dry cleaner whose suit is two sizes smaller and decided not to wear sweatpants on a Saturday morning to go pick it up.
Now, in that Barnes & Noble, there is no book for rewinding the clock. No book to tell you not to starve yourself because it is a battle you will never win. Not until you are dead dead dead and the only thing left is a crying mother and a confused sister and an army of friends who wish you would have known just how beautiful you were, all along, standing in front of your kitchen toaster scooping green water ice into mugs.
And maybe that is dramatic, but it’s the thing no one talks about: that you will never be able to just eat what you want, that your stomach will reject and reject until you feel sick and can’t sleep and whittle your options until your selection is so bare that you find yourself calling your mother and crying because you’ll never again be able to eat a cheese quesadilla or pizza or ice cream. You will never again because you wrecked yourself good.
Maybe that’s dramatic, but people die. People die and they suffer and they think that happiness is losing pieces of yourself but it’s not.
I want to shake the world by its shoulders and stop it from learning that phrase.
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