Not gonna lie, I just sat down to write this with a bowl of popcorn, and I'm eye-fucking the shit out of some Dove chocolates. It should also be noted that my current position in life has me sitting on my ass nine out of the ten hours I'm awake each day. I thought this place would be kinder and more gentle on my soul, and by "this place" I mean behind the camera.
You see, I work in television, and on a daily basis am privy to the emotional deterioration of starving actresses whose hungry tummy's are eating them from the inside out. I used to want to be that actress, and chased that image down the rabbit hole when I was a teen - just right on down the hole into a pit of anorexic despair and endless abyss of low self-esteem and self-loathing. It was nice. I built a summer home and lived there for a few years. But I'm getting a head of myself.
I guess it all started when I was about nine. Not that my mother is fat, but she's no Karen Carpenter, either. I was sitting at our kitchen counter one morning, eating some breakfast before school, when - as I'm told - out of the blue I asked, "Hey mom? Because I came out of you, does that mean I'll have your parts?" She stopped scrambling eggs and just looked at me - clearly this question deserved her undivided attention.
Mom: "What do you mean my 'parts'?"
Me (contemplative): "Well… like your pungy arms."
(P.S. I am the reason I don't want to have kids.)
My poor mother. I think she went on a diet right after she dropped me off at school. But actually, it was a rather astute observation for a child to make. There is some truth to genetics, or as my father likes to say, "You're a Carey, Kris. Carey's like to eat."
Prior to this moment, I never paid any mind to weight or food. I never understood why women didn't like to talk about these topics, but then I probably weighed about 60-something pounds, and fancied a good cake walk at the school carnival. I liked to play outdoors, and there were no consequences to my eating. I had no perspective.
Then puberty happened.
Apparently, there's a ghetto-booty gene running loose in the Carey pool, because it found it's way to me. You've heard of J-Lo? Well, I may as well be K-Lo. No joke; as I was walking out of the gym Monday, I was met with some very vocal appreciation for my ass from an African American gentleman, who promptly pointed out that I "needed to be spanked." It's also been called "luscious", and Mmm Mmmmmmm'd over, as if it were the finest cut of Sirloin.
These are all the sorts of admirations that just make a white girl from the 'burbs feel fat. Now add social stereotypes and unrealistic standards and what we have is a cocktail for a tasty eating disorder, which brings me back to the teenage rabbit hole I went down and built a summer home in.
During my residency I suffered amenorrhea, lost part of my vision, experienced the joys of dry and brittle hair, developed Raynaud's disease, constant fatigue and a general paranoia for all things caloric. I was miserable, but I was skinny!!! Also, I was killing it in school - my grades SHOT up and I rode out my last two years of High School with honors.
Then I went to college.
Fun fact: if you throw your body into a mode of starvation, it starts to eat itself. Seriously. I had lost a significant amount of muscle while I was in the rabbit hole, which proved most inconvenient when my disorder flip-flopped and I couldn't metabolize the food I began consuming as efficiently as my old body could.
So there I was, eating again, but I turned into a skinny fat girl. I mean, the weight I gained was like fat on bone - no muscle for tone - so I was mushy. Totally freaked out by this, I began purging: my food, my negativity, my anxiety - everything. It was like I couldn't get far enough away from myself. This is an exhausting place to live. So after a year away at college, I went back home and took a year off while I recovered.
"Recovery" looked a lot like Weight Watchers, where my mother sent me, saying I wasn't necessarily fat (yes, I was), but "you just look like you really enjoyed your mashed potatoes." Thanks, mom. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best idea to treat an eating disorder with a diet, but fuck it; I was thin again, and tired of obsessing over food all the time. I just wanted to feel normal, feel lighthearted, have some fucking fun…
…and this is when I really started to ramp it up with the alcohol. I started exchanging food calories for liquid calories, which was convenient because not only did I manage to stay thin, it also made my feelings go away! Booze was my new best friend! And you know what else? Because I was thin, boys paid attention to me. Alcohol made me fun and skinny made me desirable. Guys wanted to fuck me, and that was the treatment I used to remedy my low self-worth.
Then a miracle happened.
On a morning shortly before my 31st birthday, I woke up - hungover - and something inside me had died. I lost the energy to fight. I had been running on empty so hard, and for so long, I was just tired. And from the ashes, a rebirth. I put the bottle down, gave the attention I paid to the number on the scale a rest, and focused on some real recovery.
I naturally thinned out, and thought: "Maybe I'll give acting another shot," but quickly realized that talent must be met or exceeded by looks, and there's a huge pressure, albeit implied, to be thin. There is nothing about this scenario that feels like love to me. So I shifted my focus to my parallel passion - writing - and I haven't looked back since.
This story is ridiculous in the sense that it's tragically sad. It's sad because this type of story, which should be the exception to the rule, is commonplace these days. Girls like me are the norm, and that is a Goddamn shame.
Today, I'm surrounded by conversations about food and diets and fitness ALL THE TIME. I live in a society and work in an industry that places an individual's value of worth heavily on appearances, and in order to stay sane I have to completely disengage. I can't participate in conversations about veganism, or the benefits of high-protein/ low-carb diets, or which workouts will shred unwanted pounds the fastest, or the insane argument a woman's body doesn't really need more than 1,000 calories a day. When that shit starts up around me, I completely shut down. I'm exhausted. It's all I can do to muster up the energy to get to the gym and workout without the residual feeling that it's some sort of punishment for not being "good enough." I'm tired of feeling that somehow, if I'm not perfect, I'll never truly be lovable.
This got a lot more serious than I planned on, but maybe there's a reason for that? Maybe one or two of you reading this can relate? If so, I hope you find comfort in our shared experience, because I don't have much to offer in the way of a solution except to find a way to love yourself, whatever that looks like, and then just keep moving. It's been my experience that if you just keep going, you'll find your way.