I drank a lot of wine that night and I finally started to cry and told them: I am having a problem and I don't know what to do about it; I think I'm anorexic. All I remember is their eyes: concerned, a little scared, but mostly helpless. They couldn't identify with it, and I couldn't explain it.
People don't understand what this is about, even — or maybe especially — when it happens to someone close. About a week later, I got a note from my mother in the mail. It said, "EAT."
* * *
Once, a Sunday in May, my roommates were away and I had the house to myself. It was the first warm day of the season and all the trees outside were budding. I stayed inside all day, the shades drawn because I didn't want to see the spring, all that growth. Late in the afternoon, I went for a walk around the Brown University campus. Students were all over the place, sunburned, lounging on the grass, playing Frisbee. I watched a couple in khaki shorts and white T-shirts walk past, holding hands. I felt so alien and so alone I couldn't stand it. I went home and sat in the living room and looked out the window at an apple tree that was blossoming. The disparity between my life and other people's lives seemed so great I wanted to lie down and die.
But most of the time, I denied it all. I was cold all the time, even on warm days, and I denied that. I had dizzy spells, I'd stand up and lose my vision, and I denied that. I didn't menstruate for two and a half years, and I denied that. I was 23, 24, then 25 years old and I had virtually no close friends, only the most superficial social life, certainly no sex life — and I denied that, too. I could live with the isolation. I could live with the profound boredom of thinking about nothing but my weight. But I could not live with losing control. I got used to being depressed.
* * *
I thought of the good days as "concave days." My hip bones would jut out a full inch on either side and I could run my hand across my stomach and follow the curve inward. When I took a deep breath and sucked in my stomach, I could see my whole rib cage. I found that extremely relieving.
At night, I often took a bath before my dinner. As I settled down in the water, I would examine my legs and arms and shoulders. I would ring the top of each thing in my hands to make sure my thumb and index finger could meet around them. I'd run a finger against the bones that stuck out on my chest, press my forefinger along my collar bone on either side, examine the points of bone that ran up under the skin on my shoulders.
I never actually thought of myself as "thin" or "fat." On good days I just felt angular. And even though my stomach throbbed, pulling inward in little aches, the sharp, angular feeling was a comfort. It meant I'd made it. I'd won.
* * *