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Lately I’ve noticed weird lurching, pitching, pausing and just general freaking out in my chest. My heart. I know what it means when it does this. Last week I stepped on the bathroom scale and confirmed: 118 lbs. Any time my weight drops below 120, my heart throws a tantrum.

I am prone to anorexia-type behavior during periods of great stress. As I stood there on the bathroom scale, I honestly couldn’t remember when I’d eaten last. It was days ago.

I guess most anorexics diet consciously. I’ve read that they think about food all the time, they just derive a psychological “high” from denying themselves the satisfaction of eating. Me, when I get stressed out, I just forget to eat. I don’t feel hungry. Even when I want to eat, nothing sounds good enough to actually put in my mouth (well, almost nothing—okay, I’ll stop that).

I don’t diet. I just stress myself skinny. The irony is, when I feel good, I eat like a stevedore.

118. I wandered to the kitchen to find something to eat. I just came from the grocery store, the pantry, refrigerator and freezer were all packed with food. But nothing sounded good. Cereal? Nah. An orange? No…Sandwich? Soup? Chips? Ice Cream? Twinkie? No thanks, I just don’t want it. I wandered out of the kitchen, planning to keep thinking about it until I thought of something I wanted to eat. But of course, my mind moved on to other things and I forgot to eat.

At 5’9” my “ideal” healthy weight is 145, according to the standard weight charts. Of course I have only seen that weight when I was actually carrying another person around inside me. As a non-pregnant person, I tend to hover around 125-130 pounds and feel pretty okay about it. When I drop below 125, people start to say things like “Hey, you’re getting too skinny, don’t lose any more weight.” And I believe them. I don’t like to see the skeletal structure barely hidden beneath my skin.

118. I remember the last time I saw a number that low on my bathroom scale. It was a few months after my first divorce, when I was dating what would be my second divorce. J Between the divorce, a full-time college load, and the intensity of that new relationship, I forgot to eat until my heart started to flutter and twitch and all my clothes hung on me like…well, like something that really hangs on something in a very ugly, baggy, loose way.

I went to Oklahoma to visit my mother during that time, and I remember the look of horror that crossed her face when she saw me. She kept trying to get me to eat. She kept cooking and bringing me food.

“No thanks, Mom. I’m not hungry.”

I picked up my brother’s beer can and took a sip. My mom burst into tears and went to the kitchen. She came back with a beer and handed it to me, crying. Her crumpled face broke my heart. “Drink this,” she said. “Just, please. Get some calories in you. Please.”

Geez, did I really look that bad?

So then last week, after visiting the bathroom scale, I went out with some friends to a club, and some guy was standing there chatting me up. Somehow the subject of kids came up and I mentioned that I’ve had three. “Aha!” he said, running his eyes up and down my slender frame, taking in the tight red satin corset cupping my breasts and wrapping around my ribs and waist, tucked neatly into a tight black skirt that stopped just above the knees. His eyes traveled briefly down my legs to the strappy red heels there, then back up and over my body again to my face. “See,” he said to his friend, “just proves that it can be done.”

Ugh! I was so turned off. He implied that being this skinny after having three children is something that “should” be done, even if it’s not healthy or normal. He implied that, since I can do it, any woman can do it and should! For all he knows I got this skinny by excusing myself to the ladies room to vomit after every meal. “Hey, whatever it takes, right?"

Being 118 pounds may impress the Neanderthals in the clubs, but if it makes me fall down dead on the tennis court because my body has started to consume my heart muscle for nutrients or something, well uh, I think I couldn’t care less what impresses the rednecks. I think I need to put on a few pounds.

I stepped out of the club that night in the cool night air. As I stood in the circle of light with my valet ticket, waiting for them to bring my car, I noticed a motorcycle parked nearby, idling. Sitting astride was a pirate, and I hesitated only a moment before approaching him.

“I need a ride,” I said, indicating the bike. He hesitated only a moment before helping me on behind him—awkwardly in my skirt and heels. He took me for a ride in the midnight dark, the wind clearing my troubled mind and tangling my hair beyond belief. He was a gentleman—meaning, he didn’t hard-shift the gears so that my front would repeatedly smash into his back. Still, when he asked for my phone number back at the club, I declined to give it to him. I think I may be allergic to pirates, to tell you the truth.

I thanked him for the ride and drove home. I quit smoking the next day and tried to think of ways to make myself hungry. For food. I'm gunna eat out more often. I find I'm always in the mood to eat sushi.

I’m sure I will suffer anxiety when I see the number on the scale begin to climb. This is natural for a woman. It’s a deeply-rooted psychological belief that seeing the number on the scale get bigger is a bad thing. Already I think I've gained a few, but I've avoided the scale for this very reason. But all I have to do is think of my mother’s face and it’s okay.

You know what though? If I’m having a cigarette craving and some poor idiot says something silly to me, like “Hey, you’re getting fat!” I think I will commit a heinous crime. Y’all watch the news and see if I don’t.

 

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Tess's Room

A lovely tempest, not easily understood, but worth the effort. Sort of like dark bitter chocolate surrounding the sweetest cherry...


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