A young woman struggling with an eating disorder tries to shift from self-loathing to self-loving.
By Lauren Covalucci
I always liked myself better for what I could be than for what I was — especially when it came to my body.
This started at age 3 in dance class, where the other girls, unlike me, had thin arms and legs. The other girls’ tights, unlike mine, didn’t dig into their waists like a pink belt around teddy bear fluff. Their cheeks didn’t glow red after class. They could do splits.
By the time I was 13, my body had stretched and thinned, leading my teacher to say, “You finally look like a dancer.” Ten years of childhood passion couldn’t get me there, but puberty did.
Nine years later, once puberty had run its course, I learned that I could accomplish a similarly magical transformation by simply not eating.
Thinking back on that time now feels like waking from a nightmare: bolting upright at 4 a.m., blinking and breathing as you try to reorient yourself to reality and reconcile the things you did in dreams with the person you are awake. This is how I give context to memories like the time, nearly five years ago, when I started a loud public fight with my college boyfriend because he had bought me a slice of pizza on a Saturday night.
My argument went like this: “I said I didn’t want a slice of pizza. I can’t just not eat pizza if I don’t want it. It’s not that easy. You never listen to me. You don’t even respect me enough not to buy me a slice of pizza. When I say no, I mean no.”
Yes, that’s really what I said.
I can’t explain to him what happened because we don’t speak anymore. The breakup was unsurprisingly messy, borne of our emotional mismatch — his optimism (“Can’t you just be happy?”) versus my depression (“That’s not how it works.”). One night, as our hurtful exchanges snowballed, he went for the jugular: “You’ve gained weight.”
Love may feel intolerably complex at 22, but one emotional equation, for me, was starkly simple: skinny + pretty = good.
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