I am walking down the street, when that bottle-blond girl from my University class passes me. She hurriedly acknowledges me with a smile before hurrying onwards to the seminar for which we’re both late. I scowl; her smile is crooked and her bright red lipstick only enhances that. It draws way too much attention to her teeth, and as she walks away from me her behind jiggles — badly. She really shouldn’t be wearing those leggings like they’re a pair of jeans — they’re not — and just like everyone else she can’t pull it off.
I entered the gym and, everywhere I went, not only did I feel the stares of people burning in my back; I actually saw them scrutinising me. Immediately I wondered: “Do I look weird? Are my legs chubby?” But with my hair in a bushy ponytail and brand new Nikes in my bag, I looked normal – like a human being. Since I already was recovering, I was beyond my I-want-to-feel-the-clothes-hanging-loosely-around-my-body phase. I wore a t-shirt that fitted my upper body perfectly and some shorts exposing my legs, which is not out of the ordinary when it’s so hot you don’t have to work out to get those beads of sweat on your forehead. Then it hit me, and that was when I discovered an Unwritten Rule at the gym. I mean, what did I — a thin twig — have to do there?
Guest contribution by Marisa Vega – The first time I realised that my mother might be sick, I was 22 years old. I was listening to public radio and the programme featured an expert who was talking about “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” and how it was a problem afflicting a growing number of girls and women in the United States. At the start of the discussion this expert began running through a checklist of some sort — you know, the kind of “Is this you?” quiz you’d see in a magazine such as Glamour or Seventeen. I could almost see the headline: “Do you have Body Dysmorphic Disorder?” The man must’ve been fifteen psychological symptoms into his rundown when I realised, “Oh my goodness, this list my mother! This list is my mother to a T!” It was a scary thing to come to terms with, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The scarier part was that over half of those symptoms appeared to describe me as well.
Oh, how I always wanted to look just like the Victoria’s Secret Angels, created out of clay (and personal trainers and dieticians). How I indeed tried to adhere to a ridiculous lifestyle of not eating and an absurd exercising schedule. How I, an anorexic, was built of guilt (and how I’m now built of openness).