Friday, May 30, 2008

Age 29

Sometimes the words to describe how you feel have already been written...often better then you could have done it yourself.

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a model's fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It's in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Age 29

When I was 5-6 years old I was of average weight. During that time period, my father tried to engage me in a sexual act, but fortunately someone intervened in time. I have been overweight since then.

In high school, I was a size 14 and thought I was huge - I don't recall what my weight was then. I was horribly shy, and I was super-self conscious about my hairy forearms and being short (5'2"). Even though I was shy, I discovered I had a deep love of acting, and I was involved with the drama club - tiny bit parts and backstage work.

In 2001, I was just under the 200 lb. mark. I was at the end of a 2-year long, lackluster unhealthy relationship and when I was broken-up with, I did whatever it took to treat myself badly - intentional starvation/binging, alcohol and drug abuse and cutting.

Between 2001-2007, I slowly grew to 230 lbs. I was involved in another bad relationship, and 2 unhealthy attachments to "Mr. Unavailables." I decided to go to college in 2003 - to get a degree in my second favorite passion - writing, because I felt too ugly and fat to pursue my dream as an actor. During my four years at school, I partied excessively – abusing drugs and alcohol and barely passing my classes. When I graduated (a year later than I had planned) I was in a deep co-dependent relationship with an alcoholic/addict friend – for a time, I thought I was in love with him, and one drunken night I seduced him (by carefully studying the troubled, size 0 women he was always attracted to) to sleep with me- my rationalization being that "sleeping with me would be so disgusting that he would realize the extent of how messed up he was, and seek treatment for his problems." I still haven't forgiven myself for disrespecting myself that much.

The drama kept piling up, and a month later I staged an intervention and he went into rehab.
I was completely unhinged at the time, and didn't realize the extent to which I was messed up. After he got out of rehab, he thanked me for saving his life and simultaneously kicked me out of his...that was the point where I really lost it. I was a depressed zombie for months - starving myself and binging again, getting up to 250lbs. I wasn't working, living at home with my mom and new step-dad, taking Wellbutrin without doctor supervision, "just to see" if it would help didn't.

This past winter, a friend of mine really helped me - gave me a place to stay, and some perspective and advice...after that, I moved back to the city I got my degree in because I need to live in a place where I have good friends, that feels safe and familiar. Right now I am living on a friend's couch, looking for a job and therapy. I keep thinking about my great passion – acting - I know that I'm good at it, and that if I weren't trapped in the body I have, it would be without a doubt, what I would be pursuing. But the fact that I am a 240 lb woman with hairy arms, acne and scars on my arms really brings me down...sometimes I forget about it briefly, when I'm entertaining my friends with my wild, actor-y antics or when I allow myself to think about my goals - about working with people in the industry, like Joss Whedon, Tom Hanks, etc...sometimes I wish Oprah would find me and take me under her wing (then again, who doesn't wish for that?!).

I have started making a few changes. I've been eating regularly and much healthier than
I have in the past, and I walk every day. I'd like to get started on a program at a gym, once I have a job and a stable place to live. I haven't given up on my goals, but it sure is easy to get distracted and discouraged - however, every day is a new chance to remember what it is I want out of life, and work towards manifesting it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Age 29

When I was 8 I asked my Dad what size a grown-up woman should be. He told me that a woman should be no heavier than 9 stone, and no bigger than a (UK) size 12. I had great legs, he said, but would obviously need to watch my weight.

When I was 12 Dad told me he was sorry he'd given me such meat-slabs for hands.

When I was 15 he said that I wasn't feminine enough, and wanted to know if I was a lesbian (and did I know that all gay people had pedophile tendencies?).

I grew up to weigh 12 stone and wear a size 14/16, and I thought I was a monster. I refused to be in photos. I got cramps in my hands from trying to bend my thumbs under to make them look narrower. I threw myself into relationships with men I didn't fancy, and often didn't even like, in an effort not to be a lesbian. I got pregnant, and afterwards I hated my body even more. I comfort ate, drank too much and self-harmed.

Then I discovered this band and took a liking to the singer. She's been my inspiration.

I've lost weight and got fit. I'm still big but I find it sexy. I've stopped drinking. I've stopped over-eating. I've stopped hurting myself. I'm out. I'm androgynous and no longer see that as a bad thing. My hands were filmed as part of a documentary. I have such beautiful hands.

I watched my Dad with my half-sister a while back. I can count the number of times I've met her on one hand. She's this tiny, skinny wee soul, and he was calling her fat.

I wish for her her very own Amanda Palmer one day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Age 21

I had never considered myself thin, or even average. I couldn't stand what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Looking back, I was average... not too thin, not too fat. Nevertheless, I've been dieting since I was in girl scouts, at around the age of 8. I hid my body with long, baggy clothes. In high school, I was so ashamed of my weight (although there was nothing wrong with it) that I began wearing jackets, even in the intense heat and humidity of Miami summers. I wore the jacket for 7 years.

At one point in my life, I dated a guy who asked me out by writing me an email saying that he liked me, and he thought we had a lot of potential, but in order for him to be able to date me, I had to lose weight. At the time, I was 5'3" and 140 lbs. At my highest a couple years earlier, I was 180 lbs. Nevertheless, I agreed because I was still in the process of losing weight. A month later, we broke up because he didn't think I was attractive enough according to other people. For the next year, we became close friends and got together and broke up about 5 times. We got together because we have something that, in normal circumstances, works amazingly and has great potential. We broke up because I wasn't thin enough. Every time, I allowed him to degrade me and then get me back without even apologizing or assuring me that things would be different. It was because I agreed with him. It was because I lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Now I know I deserve so much better than that.

I don't consider myself to be beautiful, but it doesn't matter. I am happy with what I see in the mirror and I know that guys are attracted to me. It's taken a lot to change the way I see myself, and sometimes I slip and see fat, but it's ok because I don't let it define me. So what if I'm ugly or fat? (which I don't believe I am). It doesn't change who I am, and I really like who I am...fat or no fat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Age 18

I was 13 years old. I'd been a naturally skinny kid. During my pre-teen years I gained weight. Suddenly it hit me – I wasn't thin anymore. So I went on a diet. By several months later, I had lost 20 lbs on my small-framed, 5' frame. I was throwing up after eating 100-200 calories. I hated myself even more.

I was 120 lbs when this all began. I'd written how I'd "stop" once I hit 102 lbs. Stop the restricting, the purging. I just wanted to be "beautiful."

When I was 14 years old, 5'1, and 85 lbs it still wasn't enough. I wasn't thin yet, wasn't beautiful.

I'll be 19 in a couple weeks. It's been over 5 years. I'm 5'2.5 and fluctuate throughout the 90s. The rational part of my mind knows I'm technically thin. The other part sees only flab and disgust. My body looks horrific. I have scars all over from years of self-injury that started even before the "diet" ever did.

I have restricted to almost nothing. I have thrown up until I see blood and bile. I have taken bottles of cough medicine so that I wouldn't eat and to just feel nothing. I have drunk alcohol and eaten until it was easy to throw up. I have spent days on end drinking energy drinks, having a couple hundred calories and purging everything else. I have eaten several thousand calories in a day. I have spent all of my time thinking of food, weight and how repulsive I am. I have had to repeat my freshman year of high school because I stopped going to school. I have completely dropped out of high school, with only months left in my senior year, because I couldn't deal with it and had missed over half the year. I have cut, burned, given myself a black eye. I have hidden my food issues from everyone for all this time. I have hated how my gag reflex won't work if I purge too much. I have seriously considered suicide.

Yet I still don't feel beautiful. I still don't feel "sick" either. I realize that I technically have an eating disorder. But I still don't feel "good enough" to deserve that label. If I had an eating disorder then I would certainly have lost more weight by now. I would have been forced into treatment. I would be skinny.

People tell me how lucky I am to be thin. Really? Is this lucky? I would give anything to go back and never have started this. But now this is who I am. I won't go into treatment or try to recover. Not until I'm thin. Not until people won't believe me when I say "I'm not hungry" or "this is my natural weight."

I wonder if I saw my current self back when I was 13…What would I think? Would I think I was thin? Would I think it was enough? Would I think it was worth all of this? Would I have stopped? The answer that scares me is a resounding "No" to all of those questions.

When will it be enough? When will I be thin enough? Will I ever get there? I don't know. For now I'll continue to hate myself with every fiber of my being. Continue to restrict, to binge, to purge when I can. Because I can't deal with the answers to any of these questions. I lost myself those years ago and I'm not quite sure how to get myself back.

When I look in the mirror, what do I see? I see a failure. A fat person. Somebody who will never be good enough. Somebody who deserves to die.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Age 22

I've always had the puppy fat, and it didn't bother me until, when I was about 9, my body became a target of bullying. So I started hating myself. My mum kept telling me it was puppy fat and it would go, but it didn't. I was teased. I was called ugly. Kids jeered at me from across the playground. I hated myself. I still recall, with perfect clarity, reading a book when I was 10. It was one of those 'feel good, be happy with yourself' books, about a girl who had an eating disorder, lost a lot of weight, realized that she was still teased and came to appreciate her friends she had more, but the message that gave me at 10 is, not matter how you slim or diet, you'll always be the fat girl on the inside. I gave up, then. I remember thinking to myself, well, if I'll always be the fat girl and even if I lose the weight they'll all hate me, I might as well just accept that I'm ugly.

My mum also used to say to me "You can't be clever and beautiful." I wonder what she meant by it by now, maybe she didn't even think about it, but I got into my head that it was true. The pretty people were dumb, I was clever, but I couldn't be pretty too. If I was going to be clever then that was all I could be. For years I used my intelligence like a shield to hide my body. I hated my body as a teenager. The teasing never really let up. I truly believed I was disgusting and repulsive because of my fat, and that made me over-eat. Comfort eat. I was going to be the fat ugly girl anyway, might as well.

I made a few attempts to lose weight in my teens. My mum would encourage me, tell me how easy it was, drag me to see the doctor about my weight, pack me of to the gym to work out with the express purpose of becoming thin, and nothing happened. I was still picked on, still teased, still an undesirable, still craved food, but now was miserable in my free time too and had guilt whenever I skipped on going to the gym.

The first time I got a glimpse of what it was to love my body was when I was 18, and someone else did it for me. My first relationship. How could I be disgusting when someone wanted to touch me? How could I be repulsive when they kissed me? The relationship didn't last but it did teach me that there were other ways to think about my body. It was still another year before it really kicked in. My mum had always taught me that as a fat girl, I had to dress like a fat girl. Had to hide my body with big, covering clothes because my body was shameful. She still does tell me habitually I’m wearing clothing which she thinks is too tight. Anyway, a year after the end of my first relationship, I walked into a shop and looked for something sexy. Something that showed off the good bits of my body, as I'd just about managed to convince myself I had some. And I found a top, and I felt good in it.

I made a conscious decision not to hate my body anymore. That was three years ago, when I got that top, when I looked in the mirror and told myself I was beautiful for the first time, that I could have both brains and beauty. I've been telling myself that for three years now and I almost believe it. I believe it in myself, but I don't think it's true of others. I know I'm beautiful, but I instantly presume nobody else finds me to be beautiful. And there are still days sometimes when I feel ugly, disgusting, when I drag myself to bed and cry. But I do my best. I hate how, even when I try to teach me to love myself, I still can't convince myself that other people do. Maybe, in time, they will. I have an amazing group of friends who tell me regularly how beautiful they find me and how much they love me, and I do the same back to them. I'm learning not to take every rejection of love as a rejection of my body, there are other reasons people might not want to date me and it doesn't make me undesirable. I'm learning to see the beauty of my figure, I'm learning to crawl out from the oversized tops my mum says suit me so well, I'm learning to not be ashamed of myself.

I can only hope I can keep it up, because it feels like a battle to love me, and I don't want to lose the fight.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Age 17

When I was a little girl, everyone could tell you I looked more like my dad than my mother. My mom’s side of the family was very thin and in shape and on my father's side everyone is obese. I remember going to my mom’s room crying "I’m gonna be fat, I’m gonna be fat like dad’s family." I was scared to death of gaining weight or getting "fat." I was never popular, or really pretty. I wanted people to notice me. I hated my body my whole life. I wanted to change so I started dieting in the 7th grade, and by 8th grade I was making myself vomit after meals. I didn't think I had a problem. I thought I was better than everyone else. I was disciplined enough to purge. I struggled with bulimia for about 2 years and then my sophomore year of high school I became anorexic/bulimic. I became obsessed with my body; I knew every inch, every pound. I was at my worst. I hated my body. Everyday I woke up early, looked at myself and I tried so hard not to cry. I hated everything about my body. I was a 5' 6’’, 17 year old girl who weighed 110 pounds and I saw nothing but fat on my body. I never felt thin. I would purge up to 15 times a day if I did eat and I restricted my calories to 300 a day. If I broke it, I would purge and take 4 laxatives. I would be so disgusted with myself that I couldn't even stick to a diet that I would punish myself. I would take a razor and cut my thigh. I was so angry and sad all the time and I had no one to talk to, I felt it was the only way to let my anger out. I've fainted on 2 occasions. I have vomited blood more than once. I have heart palpitations, memory loss, poor concentration, torn esophagus, acid reflux. I was caught while purging by my mother and was sent to an eating disorder clinic. Since, I have relapsed more than once, been to 2 other treatment centers and I am still recovering. What I have found to help is to take out the mirrors in your bedroom. Then you can’t stay up ‘til 3 in the morning obsessing like I used to.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Age 48

I think I’m beautiful. My hair is thin and dry. My skin sags all over: on my face, where it also causes huge creases and wrinkles, my upper arms, where my empty skin falls down over my elbows, my stomach, my thighs. My ribs and my hipbones jut proudly out from my skin; my cheekbones bring a cadaverous aspect to my face. At night I cannot sleep on my side with my legs together as my knees and my ankles grind into each other. I can’t see my butt, except with a mirror, and then I see that the loss of flesh in my buttocks completely reveals my anus to sight.

I think I’m beautiful. My heart palpitates and I get chest pains, my skin is turning orange, and my brain can no longer concentrate or remember. My electrolytes are unbalanced and my bones are thinning. I no longer shiver in response to cold, leaving me with grindingly cold hands and feet that only warm up with a hot water bottle.

I think I’m beautiful. I am the poster child for weight loss and fitness at my gym, where I define “frenetic”: jumping and running and lifting again and again and again. I stand in front of the mirrors to make sure I still have a gap between my legs that starts at my crotch and ends at my feet; sometimes at night I run my hands down between my legs just to make sure I didn’t gain a bunch of weight that day. Sometimes I look over at another woman and wish that “I was skinny like she is.”

I think I’m beautiful. Some people tell me how great it is that I lost weight or that I look great now that I lost weight. Are they nuts? Some people I know walk right by without recognizing me; if I bother to call them I tell them it is because I let my hair go curly. One person asked if I had HIV/AIDS, another told me I look “delicious.”

I think I’m beautiful. I live my days trapped in my house by fear of food, fear of letting my guard down and eating. I am trapped by the weather as my poor skinny body cannot respond to cold. I am trapped by my isolation from the world. I am afraid of dying and afraid of healing.

I think I’m beautiful. What do you think?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Age 22

Bodies are inconvenient as the truth. The inconvenient truth is this woman's body with fair, pale skin that reflects neither radiant energy nor the darkness, but only coats a body that is no more representative than the color of skin, a body with humble breasts that will never be confused with mountains, feminine curves at the hip for childrearing that will never happen and no amount of exercise will change. A booty meant for shaking, though it will never be shook by the owner of this body. Scarred legs testify an eventful childhood, blistered feet from trying to reduce the size of a stomach directly proportionate to the amount of beer drank despite the fact that after 2 years I have yet to acquire the taste with my tongue that is rarely used for anything but tasting these days. The lack of the use of my tongue might be because this inconvenient truth often appears more or less sexual than its owner and in all its femininity it is far from the truth that lies within. Still I will gladly lie through my teeth with this body and accept an inconvenient truth that allows me to connect with other liars.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Age 64

I am 64 years old and from a very early age decided that I was not going to focus on my physical image, but rather my mind! This decision has "saved" me! I was never "thin and beautiful" in high school, but as I perceive other women around me, I have ended up much younger than my peers, and much "better looking" than other women my age (and a lot younger). This "subject" will not disappear!!!! And has not been addressed adequately!!!!

I thank my genes for this...and most especially yoga and meditation! But more than this, I gave myself a gift of not focusing on my physical self...I had nothing to "lose" so to speak (in my mind)! I notice that many other women view themselves "nostalgically" as to the way they "used to look." And of course THE MEDIA!!!

This didn't affect the way I have viewed our culture...because I am a visual artist...a poet...and a writer. I have, as a woman, given a lot of ("obsessed") thought to this subject! I wrote in 1993 a play called: "When the Women Didn't Feel Pretty Anymore"

Which is STILL relevant!!!

From the "prologue"...

(A disembodied voice says from above...):

"And when will I love my body
it is still no temple to me
filled with my love
and at peace with my soul"

"And when WILL I love my body? This question and these thoughts have been with me for quite some time, almost long enough to make me feel haunted by them...knowing that my own body has never been completely loved by me. There has never been a moment in my life when I loved all of me, and every cell of my being knew it."

"I'm wondering now if I ever will feel totally at ease in my own skin, and if I shall ever luxuriate in my flesh as any natural animal would and does every day of its' life. I'm feeling that if I can't at last love my own body, then how can I fully love myself? And if I don't fully love myself, then how can I love others?"