Today, I feel like a freak.
I have the worst self esteem when it comes to body image. I suppose that overall, my self esteem is not fantastic at least fifty percent of the time. But I’m especially lacking in this particular area.
Tonight at rehearsal we were fitted for our costumes. I’ve been better lately; I don’t mind trying on clothes and shopping like I used to. But this was different. Whether it was the calorie counting app I recently started using, the stressful week I’ve had teaching, the chaos that was our previously unscheduled rehearsal, the fact that I just have too many balls in the air, or some combination there of…The first costume I tried on didn’t fit at all. It was for my measurements. But it didn’t close around my chest. A lot of women would be pleased with that—but not me. It freaked me out a little and made me feel sad inside. And I didn’t say anything, I just handed the costume back and told her it didn’t fit. Then I went on to try the second costume.
My second costume fit pretty well, if I fastened the skirt right under my belly button. I suppose that this truly was the style of the 1920’s, but it didn’t make me feel wonderful about myself. I went with it, however. I went back to the costumer, and this fitting (with the costume on) was hard for me for a myriad of reasons. The blouse I’m wearing for a formal scene has bell sleeves and is quite baggy in a variety of places. This meant that the costumer had to pin it in all of those places. On my better days, I’m not a fan of being touched by most people. Today wasn’t one of my better days. She had my shirt up, the door open and guys in the hall, with a load of safety pins in her mouth, and then told me I needed to smile more as she had her hands on me. Way too much. I wanted to scream. I missed my personal space bubble; few people are allowed to invade that. It’s been shattered too many times. In reality, she meant no harm. And I will have at least one costume that fits me. But I still melted. I can’t just be normal.
In previous years, I struggled with an eating disorder. Things like this, little reminders, make me think about those days when I lived for peanut butter and Tobasco. While I can go into a fitting room now and try clothes on and generally be happy with them, there are many things I can not do. I blame a combination of the events of this past year and that damn calorie app for today’s meltdown. I can’t see all of the calories. I am perfectly capable of being responsible about what I’m eating all by myself, but seeing the numbers puts that little voice right back in my head.
“How ‘bout 100 less?”
“Or even less?”
I can’t have that voice there. I can’t do anything that give it even a little edge. I am stronger than that. Fittings of costumes that are just too tight set off my rape flags and my eating disorder flags within my brain. One of these I can recover from. The other, not so much.
Gah. It’s annoying. It’s annoying that they call it recovery, and yet, you never really recover. You always have to make conscious decisions. I have recovered from so many things, but this will not simply disappear. It is a deep piece of me. The term just doesn’t work here. Marya Hornbacher sums it up well in the final pages of her memoir, Wasted, when she writes “This is the weird aftermath, when it is not exactly over, and yet you have given it up. You go back and forth in your head, often, about giving it up. It’s hard to understand, when you are sitting there in your chair, having breakfast or whatever, that giving it up is stronger than holding on, that “letting yourself go” could mean you have succeeded rather than failed. You eat your goddamn Cheerios and bicker with the bitch in your head that keeps telling you you’re fat and weak: Shut up, you say, I’m busy, leave me alone. When she leaves you alone, there’s a silence and a solitude that will take some getting used to. You will miss her sometimes…There is, in the end, the letting go.” The weird aftermath, as she puts it, is forever after. I’ve given it up. I eat, and I love food. But yet, there are those times where I think about how easy it would be to just step back into that looking glass. But I have friends now, and people who look up to me. I have a lot of female students who are watching what I say. And if I say I’m fat, if I say I’m ugly, they hear that. What stops them from going home and saying the same thing to themselves? So I have to let it go, no matter how comfortable of a fallback it is to hate my body.
I have not let myself go, let’s make that perfectly clear. I’m at a great weight. I eat “normally.” But sometimes, like today, I really have to think about it. I have to think about her, about that voice. And sometimes, I cry.
And then what do I do about it? Go home and eat chocolate and wish I had wine to drink. And I tell myself I love me, no matter how badly I have been hurt by others or how crappily my costume fits. Because pretty much every costume needs to be altered.
Oh. And and I deleted the app. I need to give myself every opportunity to see myself as fine just the way I am.