I never go to Kohl's. I don't know what struck me to go to a department store on Black Friday - I think it was an ad for a half price Barbie Volkswagen or maybe the allure of being near Target without having to stop in, like when my newborn insists to sleep with my nipple close by, just in case. It's always good to have options waiting in your back pocket. It's why invitations to parties you don't plan to attend make you feel warm anyway.
The only section of Kohl's I'm ever drawn to, when I do go, is the J. Lo Misses department. I found myself standing in front of the same sweater dress I stood in front of last Christmas, before the baby, before the excrutiating loss of her twin, before 53 pounds of pregnancy and cheese nachos and self-pity and laziness and boredom packed into my body. This time last year, I was younger, fresh from daily walks in the city. I was fitter. Smaller. Compared to how I look now, I was downright foxy - and yet I stood in front of this same J.Lo Misses sweater dress on Friday feeling identical to how I felt those 12 long months ago. Hating myself. And it hit me. No matter what weight I am, not being thin enough will always feel the same.
The funny thing about writing on the Internet is it's a changing business day-to-day. One post will bring a cacophony of Charlie Brown teacher voices, ripping apart your choices like hyenas with a raw steak or roaring with accolades (depending). Other posts hit with the thud of silence that makes me feel like I'm in an empty room again, just sorting out my private thoughts. That's where I am today. I like it. I'm feeling safe. So I'm going to tell you something I don't think a single person knows about me. Not to weight it with unnecessary tragedy, it was just a phase like when I was into clove cigarettes. I don't expect anyone to gasp or faint or brush my hair (people have this idea that every problem a little white girl has calls for a Dateline special and a parade). Anyway, for a little while in college I was bulimic. DRAMATIC PAUSE.
At the time, I didn't think of the weight of the word bulimia so don't you think about it either. Just picture yourself arriving at the logical conclusion in a 19-year-old mind: if I want to eat and to be thin, all I have to do is get rid of the food afterwards. Smart, right? After all, what was the big deal about barfing? My phase didn't last long. I wasn't one of these people you hear about with skeletal bodies and interventions. Nobody really cared or noticed anyway. The bathroom stalls at the dorm were usually empty during the day.
My only previous experience with wonky eating had been when I tried to give anorexia a go in high school and my mother said, "Don't act like an idiot." And so I ate. By the time I was 19 though, there was no such down home wisdom coming in my ear.
If there's one thing my German blood has etched into me, it's that I'm not a special snowflake. The smaller I got, the smaller I felt and at one point, when I dipped to just over 100 pounds, I started feeling isolated and then self-pitying and there's nothing a German hates worse than pity. This weirdness had to end and it did. It ended as nonchalantly as it came - with a slice of pizza while watching TV on some guy's couch. I'm lucky.
What struck me on Black Friday in front of the chunky sweater dress that I'll never, ever be thin enough to pull off was that the feeling of being too large is the same feeling at 100 pounds as it is at 150 as I'd imagine it to be at 300. There are moments in the day at each weight where you forget yourself. Mostly, though, there are shameful moments when you can't stand your body another minute.
I heard once that new babies think they are one and the same with their mother. They don't know two separate people exist. They think the arms cradling them are part of their own body and they're mystified by the half-dollar-sized fists flailing in front of them. I have three girls now - three perfect girls with perfect bodies. I can't allow this thorn of body hate to transfer to them. So I did something that would never fly in a conversation with another adult.
I told my kids my body is gorgeous. Hey, it could be true. It's nice to have options.
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