Wednesday, September 17, 2008

paradigm shifts

One thing about eating disorders is that someone might flee its hellish clutches but continue finding ash caked into her shoes, even three-odd years after deciding perpetual suffering was bullshit when living could be an option.

The consistency of my reactions to upsetting affairs - physical desire, Sarah Palin - retain an unnerving comfort even though the upshot is uncomfortable. My perceptions of others grow fuzzy, trapped in that funhouse mirror that makes a person look rotund and warped, Botero smoking a Picasso pipe minus the uplifting colors. Others’ speech approximates the “Muppet Babies” nanny. The unpleasantness diverts my brain from some realer source of anxiety.

This extreme distortion is dormant on a “normal” day, though my self-perception still shows a gal a few dress sizes above the skinny chick that I am. I’ve been told that, in the battle against an eating disorder, body image is often the last symptom standing. I’ve learned how to reality-check by the consistent fit of my clothes and by holding close those rare, accidental glimpses when, from the corner of my eye, I see the reflection of a young woman who looks awfully thin and vulnerable, and awfully like me.

But like that autumn day in college when I walked onto Riverside Drive and everything was brighter, as though my senses decided I could handle life in bigger doses, my brain surprised me one day last week when I woke up, looked in the mirror and found that I was thin.

I was confused until I realized I was seeing my body with accuracy for more than a moment for the first time since I was 16. I dropped my eyes from the reflection down toward the female self-hatred zone. My stomach and thighs were thin. Really thin. Wow.

All the women I passed were bodies instead of the usual – heads perched atop hideous blobs emanating waves of anxiety across the sidewalk. Anyone not skeletal caused a repulsion so routine I did not notice it until it disappeared that day, replaced by an inkling as to why Western art seems like one long interpretation of female curves (aside from it giving male artists an excuse surround themselves with passive naked women).

The rest of the day felt like wandering Montmartre for the first time, which in New London is saying something.

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