my bulimia / my beautiful body
A row of skinny clothes hung in my mom’s closet through my childhood.
“I’ll wear this when I’m skinny again,” my mom would tell me as she perused potential skinny outfits at the store. “I’m sick of being fat.” She’d that last word as if she was reciting the name of a mortal nemesis from the comics she loved.
I didn’t understand.
Somehow, bewilderingly, she didn’t know it. As if her words weren’t enough, she had a closet full of unwearable clothing that told me so.
I didn’t hate my body when I moved to South Korea after graduating college.
There wasn’t much I liked there, though. I was broke and desperately lonely far away from my family.
I ate to drown my blues. I ate and and I ate and I ate, whatever I could buy with the pennies I didn’t send home to pay my bills.
One evening I ate even more than usual. I sat on one of my apartment sofas feeling disgusting and weak when it hit me: There was something I could do about it!
I began purging not because I hated my body, but because it was my illusion of control in a situation where I felt very little of it.
Take that, food! You can’t beat me!
As if the food was keeping track.
I didn’t hate my body when I moved to Los Angeles for law school a few months later.
But I couldn’t help noticing how much skinnier than me everyone was. In my hometown, it was always size 0 and size 2 clothing that was on sale. Who could fit those? In Los Angeles, it was always clothes for the morbidly obese–size 8 and up–that were on sale.
I looked at myself and liked what I saw. But I remembered my mom, and how much she hated what she saw … no matter how much I loved it. Perhaps the fault was in my perception. Perhaps I was too quick to see beauty in the things I held dear.
I wondered what other people saw when they looked at me.
I kept purging.
I didn’t hate my body when I moved to Japan after law school.
In fact, I thought it was pretty darn cool my body had carried me to such a fascinating place with such a rich history.
I taught small kids English. I tried to engage sullen preteens. I conversed with adults who paid for an opportunity to speak English with me.
One of my students was a Nagasaki bombing survivor. She invited me to her house and told me all about her experiences in the days after the bombing. Through her words, I experienced history, the world and life in a way no textbook could match.
I traveled. I made friends. I wrote my own friends back home with my reliable internet connection. I was surrounded physically and virtually by people who loved me, and seldom felt driven to binge.
I don’t remember purging once in Japan, nor afterward. There was too much else to do and be.
I didn’t hate my body when I moved back to Los Angeles a couple years later, or re-registered as a film extra.
I’d loved working as an extra during my law school days, although I always felt pangs when they said they needed only women far skinnier than me.
The man I was dating was working on The Big Bang Theory. I thought it would be fun to see him on the job, so I was excited to hear they needed extras one evening … until I heard who the casting agency needed.
Hot hot super hot women needed!
I translated that to “size 4 and under, please.” I texted the man who’d later become my husband to say I didn’t fit the “super hot” bill for the next day’s work. He couldn’t believe what I was texting, because (a) I was super hot, he told me, and (b) he wasn’t sure why the casting agency was requesting super, flaming hot ladies for a school cafeteria scene.
I went. I worked. I saw my future husband working.
I was happy, size 10 and all.
Today I found myself exulting in the fact my new size 8 jean skirt is loose on me.
That’s amazing! I told myself, before feeling a cold rush of say what?
Is it? I wondered. Why is it amazing? Why is 2 or 4 or 6 better than 8 or 10 or 20?
I took a few minutes to reflect on my body. I still don’t hate it now. I’ve never hated it, even when I worried that other people might. I wasted so much time and energy worrying that my body might disgust other people that I never, ever want to fall into believing any body’s beauty is in how it looks. I want to strive actively against this madness.
Why do I write this here, now? Because I want you to know that every time I’ve written about body love, I haven’t been writing to you.
I’ve been writing to me. I’ve been writing to myself, reminding myself to see my body not for what it looks like, but what for it enables me to experience.
I love my body. At size 6, at size 8, at size 10, at size 16.
I love how it connects me to my mom, and to my sons.
To my friends. To the soil. To the grass. To the sea.
I love my body.
Tonight I write to you.
One of the very first stick figures I drew here was about self doubt expressing itself in thoughts beginning: You’ll never, you can’t and you’re not good enough!
The voice was seldom right. In fact, it was terribly wrong 99.9% of the time.
I broke up with it.
I’d like you to break up with yours.
‘Cause, see …
My mom would have fit in all those skinny clothes at the end.
Cancer stole her weight, her vigor and, eventually, her life from her.
I can still see her closet jammed full of skinny clothing she would never wear.
What a waste. What a tragic, senseless waste of time and the one precious body she had.
I wish I could tell her now how beautiful she always was, fat or skinny, bald, blonde or brunette. I wish I could have trusted my own vision earlier instead of believing her truth must be the truth I was simply missing.
I can’t tell her any of this. She’s been gone five years. I can’t tell her how she was a million times more beautiful than all the most extravagant clothing in the entire world put together.
But I can tell you something.
I can tell you that your body is breathtaking.
It is the source of your hugs and your tears and your belly laughs and sandy feet and forehead kisses and goosebumps and running for a second just because you can and stepping on the elevator and feeling the raindrops on your face and holding a crying friend and kissing your lover and stroking your dog’s fur and smelling the ozone before the storm and holding up an umbrella and driving a car and paying for Girl Scout cookies and and and and and.
It is your vessel of a billion ands.
I hope you will learn to see it through the eyes of a four-year-old, who has no reason–yet–to believe that one body is or should be any better than another.
And more than that, I hope, wish and pray that when you finish reading this, you will move away from the computer and wiggle your limbs while looking up at the stars. That you will take a moment to feel your body for the myriad miracles it grants you, and to feel deep down into your bones
my body is beautiful