Being a Zero
"Wow, how much do you weigh?"
"Where do you buy clothes that fit?"
"What size do you wear?"
Somewhere along the way these personal questions started seeming acceptable to strangers. Not only is it not their business, but a body shape that I'd never had to consider before I am now being forced scrutinize. Suddenly where there was once no afterthought there are questions of anxiety, shame and health. Every where you look there's media and models pushing the perfect body onto our society and like mice, womyn everywhere are snapping for the bait. Struggling, dangerously and fatally, to emulate airbrushed bodies that don't exist. But me? I never thought twice about it, but as I get older, as these questions begin to bombard me everywhere from the grocery store to the workplace, I start to feel more critical of my body. I'm 30 pounds underweight, and everyone thinks I'm lucky.
"You're so skinny, I hate you."
Thank you. Your harsh words that are used so lightly make me want to shrivel up into a tiny ball of self-loathing. To me, the word "skinny" had become synonymous with "ugly." Even the sound of the word; the curl of the lip that induces the sound, the hiss off the "s", the accusatory tone it's said with, turns me into a growling, offended, defensive animal. I know it's meant to be a compliment, people saying in a twisted way that they envy me. But first, you're desiring something that brings with it many more repercussions and issues than it does beauty and pleasure. You've lead yourself to believe that you're not good enough due to the size of your jeans and assume that I have a magic advantage because of the size of mine. First of all, you're wrong. And second, who asked you?
It's beyond our control, honey. I have a fast metabolism, it's in the family. I eat junk food, fat, greasy fast food, carbohydrates and dairy. I never check for calories or grams of fat when I shop. I don't starve myself and I don't splurge and purge. I'm, I guess, lucky that I've never had to worry about losing weight and dieting. It's beyond control, but don't you fret, god didn't leave me worry free, just because I don't worry about my weight. I have other worries on my plate. Like a hefty helping of chronic depression and a side order of panic disorder. People seem to have the impression that if you're thin you have the world by the balls. I'm glad Ididn't have to spend my high school years worrying about attaining a socially acceptable body. I watched too many friends suffer through their media induced and dictated misery, but I'm here to tell you, there is another side.
"How do you stay so thin?"
When I was 17 I weighed 65 pounds. My body quit menstruating. Was I pregnant? No, the doctor said, I wasn't. Was I anorexic, bulimic? Nope. "What do you eat," she asked.
Because I'm not hungry. I haven't been real hungry for as long as I can remember. One meal a day, some peanut butter in between, that's been my routine for years. In the morning my stomach churns and quivers at the thought of food. As if I've had morning sickness my whole life. I soothe it with a little glass of milk. It deceives me into thinking I have filled myself up. I thought nothing of it in the past. I eventually went back up to my stable 85 pounds, after moving in with a guy who was a hell of a cook. People still looked and asked but it wasn't in abundance until the last few years. Maybe it's because I moved to a dull town, maybe it's because I work with people with no conscience but the last three years the questions have been flying fast and fierce. My pants, a size 24 waist, started slipping and I wanted to "put some meat on my bones". (one of the more tactless suggestions I've heard in my time.) So I tried it all. Weight gainer, boost, exercise, a diet of fat inducing foods, meditation, positive thought, therapy. With no results; not a single pound gained and a year of time passing. I gave up, frustrated.
People told me, "wait until you have kids, you'll put the pounds on, no problem." Well I had a kid. Ii gained forty pounds, looked great and lost it without effort in three months. I wanted to keep at least half of it on. Now that I've seen my narrow body full of curves and breasts that actually yearned for a bra and my chiseled face fuller and clear, I wanted to gain weight again. I shopped around some more. So many magazines and support groups, "health", "fitness", "overeaters anonymous", for those who are large and in charge. But I couldn't find a single offer of help for me. Unless I wanted to check myself into a hospital for an eating disorder. But I didn't have that kind of problem... show me a steak and I'll chow down. And, show me a mirror, I think I'm a little undersized. Maybe a hospital could feed me intravenously, bulk me up. But two things kept me down. The fact that no one could guarantee I wouldn't lose it as soon as I got out and my lack of medical insurance. I've learned now that most insurance companies won't even pay for the hospitalization of an anorexic. They call it unnecessary. But that's another topic.
So where's the support for the underweight? I've been told the things I don't like about myself are a fault of my weight. The acne that persists, the depression, the anxiety, the fatigue. But I have an armful of excuses. I eat junk, of course I have acne. I'm a single mother of a one year old with a full time job, of course I'm tired. I don't get along with my mother and my young life is full of responsibilities and pressures, of course I'm depressed. People put it on the line: just eat for christsakes! But it's never so simple.
"How much do you weigh?"
How much do you weigh? I can't picture someone finding this question appropriate for someone who is overweight. Yet I'm asked at least, once a week. And not by friends - they know better. Do I even need help? Should I even be questioning my shape and size? Should Ii be wearing children's clothes, still, at my age? The double standard of discrimination makes me see red every time someone sees fit to intrude on the privacy of my body. Would you dare ask a African-American if they live in the ghetto, just because they are a person of color? Or as a person of Jewish descent if they are frugal or cheap? An overweight person if they are lazy and smelly? Then why butt in and feed on the stereotypes of a thin body image?
Here I am, 23 years old, five foot two and 77 pounds.
The thin are not always beautiful, the thin aren't always happy, satisfied, perfected. The issue of my weight is not open for a public debate. Until the world is rid of it's obsession with an "ideal" body image there's gonna be womyn killing themselves to met an unreachable standard. Iin my case, I've been "tiny", "cute", "petite", whatever you call it, my whole life. I come from a line of small bodies. Yet after years of questioning, questioning brought about by this "ideal" body image, I'm having doubts about if I'm normal. How should I look? Why can't I gain a few pounds? Why don't the media and the public opinion and the ignorant folk stay the fuck out of my body image? Because I imagine my body image would be just fine if I didn't see it reflected in all these twisted mirrors.