Season Four, Episode One: Learning to Love That Bass

I am in love with the Meghan Trainor song, “All About That Bass”.  It’s so catchy.

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I’m 5’1″, 137-140 pounds, and I am definitely all about the bass.  I have an hourglass shape, with curves for days–I wish that being a 34DD with a big butt had been on trend when I was a teenager.  I don’t think I actually accepted myself for the awesome and sexy person I am until the past few months or so.  And I find that incredibly sad.  I’ve averaged a size 8 in pants since I was twelve, surrounded by girls who were stick thin and were proud of their size 0/00 status…I felt fat for years and unattractive and just disgusting.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I developed an eating disorder when I was in seventh grade.

I remember feeling like I went to bed a 14/16 in the girls’ section of the clothing department, flat chested and shapeless, and waking up this curvaceous woman with boobs and hips and thighs and a butt.  Ohmigod, a butt.  I am multiracial, a beautiful combination of Cherokee-American, Creole, German, Irish, and Italian–but it seemed that I was the curviest white girl I had ever seen.  I’m sure I was exaggerating in the dramatic way that teenagers often do, but I was ashamed of my body and all the unwanted attention that came with it.  I retreated in baggy boys’ jeans and way-too-big tee shirts and loose sweatpants.  I walked with my shoulders hunched over so that no one would focus on my chest.  I hated walking down the street and being honked at by men my mother’s age.  I felt like a piece of meat, and all I wanted was to make all that attention and ugly feelings I had inside go away.

So I stopped eating, here and there.  I’d skip breakfast, maybe lunch.  I ate dinner and would break down after a few days of self-imposed semi-starvation and endless, stupid bouts of exercise–I’d eat until my stomach hurt.  I would feel disgusted with myself immediately after, but I could never make myself vomit.  I tried many times, sticking my finger down my throat, trying a toothbrush because I’d heard the bristles would make you gag…I was vain, I suppose, and didn’t want the acid from my stomach to erode my teeth and I didn’t want broken blood vessels in my eyes from the pressure of throwing up.  I liked the power that came with telling myself I wasn’t hungry, even though my stomach was rumbling and my blood sugar was so low that I would shake until I downed sugary sodas or wolfed down a candy bar.  It was a vicious cycle.

I was careful, though.  My mom would get suspicious of my eating habits, so I remained around 128-130 for most of my teenage years.  When I got pregnant with my son when I was 18, I was terrified of getting fat.  I barely ate, I was constantly sick (to this day I wonder if my nine month bout with severe morning sickness was mostly in my head)…I only gained 16 pounds, and weighed five pounds less than what I weighed pre-pregnancy the day after I had my son.  I hovered at my size 8 status, but things were good, with the exception of a brief stint of not eating for two weeks when I broke up with his father.  I was eating, I was happy, and life was pretty good.  I abused diet pills here and there, but nothing that would really call for concerned attention.

At my last job, I gained a lot of weight.  I was a receptionist, and I sat for hours upon hours a day, six days a week.  I hated my job, and drowned my sorrows and frustrations in milkshakes and junk food.  I wound up gaining roughly forty pounds over four years.  I had ballooned to 165 pounds by February 2012.  I remember hearing that number and all of the old thoughts and feeling came rushing back like a runaway freight train.  I was living with my parents still at that time, and we had no scale at our house because my mom knew I had eating issues, and she said a scale would encourage unhealthy behavior.  My boyfriend at the time was overweight, and he suggested that we try losing weight together–I bought a scale, and kept it in my room.  Naturally the act of weighing myself became an obsessive act that I went through several times a day, and pretty soon it was a rush to see the numbers go down.  I was disgusted with myself, especially when my size 12/13 pants wouldn’t go up over my thighs.  I remember bursting into tears in my boyfriend’s hotel room.

I stopped eating, slowly at first–eating disorders creep up on you like falling asleep, slowly at first and then all at once.  It’s crazy how much food and hunger occupied my thoughts.  Once the casino opened, it was easy to drop the weight.  I worked the graveyard shift, so I slept all day and barely ate when I was awake.  Fifteen pounds melted away in the span of mid-May to the end of June.  People began commenting on how great I looked, which was like crack.  I loved hearing how skinny I was getting, so I cut back on food even more.  I lived on a steady diet of Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and carefully rationed out junk food.  I got back into the habit of lying to everyone around me, and the scale showed that I was losing an average of a pound to three pounds a week.  For the first time in my life, I was an actual anorexic.  I had finally fallen over the thin line I’d walked since 1997.  The scariest thing wasn’t the actual act of starving myself, rather it was how incredibly easy it had been to starve myself.

I have always said that it takes a strong mind to have an eating disorder.  It takes a lot of self-control to deny yourself the basic need of food.  I remember being able to tell myself to shut the fuck up because I wasn’t hungry, and if I ate, I might lose my boyfriend–he had made a comment, probably innocuous, about how he had only dated like one or two other curvy girls in his life, and that he usually dated slender, athletic women.  I was secretly and quietly threatened by his ex-wife–he had shown me pictures of her from their wedding and honeymoon, and she was this thin, fit, pretty monster that terrified me.  I knew deep down that he wasn’t over her, and I didn’t want him to leave me for her (even though he did eventually).  I think that was a huge factor that kept me from breaking down and eating everything in sight–and the thought of him not being attracted to me because I was fat made it that much easier to starve myself.  The smell of food made me nauseous, the thought of eating made me panic.  It felt so good to be hungry, to be lightheaded.  It was sick, twisted, and disgusting, but God did it feel good.

I remember one night at work the air conditioning went out.  It was mid-July, and in Cleveland, summers are humid and unforgiving.  The casino was packed with bodies, and I hadn’t eaten in three days.  I’d felt weird, almost tingly, when I had clocked out my previous shift and I had ignored it, even when my legs felt like jelly when I woke up that night.  I had been on the roulette table when I got extremely light headed and my legs went to spaghetti and I almost collapsed twice on the live game.  I had to be tapped out and went down to the break room, where I drank Gatorade and blamed the entire thing on the heat.  I was really good at being in denial.

By the end of September, I was nearly down thirty pounds and lied my ass off to everyone around me.  2013 proved a bad year for me, and I fell even deeper into my vicious cycle.  I lived on my own and no longer had my mother’s watchful eye over me, making sure I didn’t get too skinny.  The combination of losing my boyfriend and the anxiety of work and living alone was a terrible one, causing me to drop to 120 pounds.  All I did was lie about my weight loss and brag about how thin I was.  I was in denial about my terrible migraines and the fact that I was constantly freezing cold and how my brain seemed to be wrapped in a thick fog.  My thoughts were slower and my heart pounded like a tribal drum instead of a normal heartbeat.  You could see my ribs and faintly my sternum.  My collarbone protruded, and I thought I looked great.  I was skinny, and I was miserable, but I was skinny, goddamn it.  If I couldn’t have control over anything else in my life, I sure as hell would have control over my weight.

I’m not really sure what made me take a step back and look at how fucked up I was.  I would like to say my son, but I would be lying.  I’m not really sure what was the deciding factor was–I remember looking at a picture of myself from my 28th birthday and thinking I looked like a bobblehead doll.  My best friend ran her first marathon.  My dad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer.  I think perhaps it was all of those things.  I wanted to be happy, I wanted to stop being so miserable, to stop thinking about food and about all the pain I carried around inside of me.

I started eating again.  I started going to the gym, and I started running and doing strength training.  I remember looking in the mirror one day and thinking Oh my god, I have muscles.  I’ve never had muscles before, and I look great.  I embraced my butt, my hips, my thighs.  Without them, I wouldn’t be able to run, or fill out a pair of jeans or leggings.  I like what I see in the mirror.  I still panic at the 137-140 that I see on the scale at the gym.  I probably always will.  I still have the tendency to skip meals and lie about if I’ve eaten or not, but I’m improving.  I’ll never be a size 2, and I think I’m okay with that.  For the first time in my life, I’m okay with how I look for the most part.

And that’s why I love that song.  It’s the song that I should have heard as a teenage girl.  Maybe if I had known that I was beautiful no matter what dress size I was, maybe I wouldn’t have fallen so far down the rabbit hole.  I’m thankful that with the rise of multiracial children in our country, the notion of beauty has changed.  Curves are celebrated and even envied.  A big butt is coveted.  It’s perfectly fine to be bigger than a size 4.  It’s fine to be all about the bass, even the treble.  You can be thin or curvy, just as long as you are happy and healthy.  Girls, you are beautiful.  Stop fat shaming each other.  Stop skinny shaming.  Embrace the fact that we are all different, and that we shouldn’t want to look like Barbie or a stick thin skeleton.  Healthiness is all that should matter–fuck what society says is acceptable.

I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

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Season Three, Episode Four: Queen Bees, Mean Girls, and AM Minds in an FM World

Before you read any further, I suggest you click the video below.  It will set the tone of this post…plus I really like this song right now and I wanted to share it.

Okay.

As some of you may know, I am 28.  I graduated from high school in 2004.  For those of you who aren’t mathematical geniuses, that was roughly ten years ago.  Recently it seems like I just woke up one day and stepped out of bed and into the plot of my very own teenage drama on The WB (Does anyone remember The WB?  It was the big sister of The CW…pretty much the same audience, but it was in the late ’90s and had less supernatural elements and more teenage angst.), complete with heartache and confusion and angst.  Stupid angst.

So much teenage angst.

So much teenage angst.  Michigan J. was a frog full of drama.

I suddenly care about what people think about me and if I am invited out places and if people like me.  I haven’t done that in ages.  It’s like I went back in time to 2000 and suddenly I’m 14/15 again and doubting every single thing that I do or say.  I feel awkward and like I don’t fit in.  I’m starting to question who I’m friends with and if they are really my friends or if we are just friends based on convenience.  I worry if people genuinely like me or if I’m just that girl who they invite to certain things because they feel like they have to.  I am constantly hyper aware of everything I do and say and think.  It’s honestly like I am back at St. Joe’s and it’s my freshman year and I want everyone to like me.  I feel like I should be wearing a bunch of black eyeliner, straighten my hair, and pout a lot, a la Avril Lavigne circa “Complicated”/2002.

She looks so misunderstood...but that eyeliner is flawlessly 2002.

She looks so misunderstood…but that eyeliner is flawless.

I want no part of it.

High school wasn’t particularly terrible, but I struggled a lot with myself on the inside, as all of us did.  I felt like I didn’t fit in, but I think I did a pretty good job of pretending like I did.  I was skilled at smiling when acceptable, laughing when necessary, and saying the right thing so that people liked me.  I had plenty of friends and was well-adjusted and liked.  You would have never guessed that I felt alone a lot of the time and that my thoughts weren’t on the same frequency as everyone else–that I had an AM mind in a FM world.  I felt like I thought about stuff that the average teenager didn’t think about and struggled with things that a lot of the girls at my exclusive, all-girl Catholic high school didn’t deal with–I had a lot of anxiety and stress.  My dad was still drinking very heavily and gambling heavily and was rapidly becoming more and more physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive by the day.  We were also getting poorer by the day–my entire freshman year we didn’t have a home phone and we used the pay phone on the corner to make phone calls (I did a really good job of making light of the situation and cracking jokes about it to try to hide my embarrassment).  We didn’t drive.  I struggled with an eating disorder all four years of high school.  I had to keep everything that was going on at home inside.  All of that made me feel like I was older than my peers in a way, that I was more mature than most of them were at our age.  I felt like an old woman at times…but I was good at pretending.  I cracked jokes and was loud and funny to try to hide the fact that I had incredibly thin skin and was constantly afraid that no one liked me or wanted to be my friend.  I worried all the time that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t preoccupied with makeup or boys or clothes or the latest trends as much as my friends were.

I had my son at 19 and that made me grow up even more.  I didn’t go away to college, so I didn’t have the four years of drunken debauchery that most of my peers did.  Because of my dad (who has been sober for nearly 8 years), drinking never really appealed to me anyway, and even though I am outgoing, large parties fill me with a kind of social anxiety that I have never understood.  The older I got, the more I figured that none of that mattered once you were an adult because you were an adult and left all that childishness behind.

But I have realized that it is actually the opposite.  You never leave high school behind because that is where we found ourselves and started to carve out our identities.  I read something where it was speculated that we physically grow up, but mentally we are forever intrinsically who we were back in high school.  Adults still have cliques and gossip and show off around certain people.  The mean girls never leave the cattiness and bitchiness behind.  They still have to be the center of attention and brag about how “bad” they are.  The claws still come out, they still try to intimidate others and make them doubt themselves.  The nerds are still as awkward as they were as teenagers.  People like me still feel like they don’t fit in with the world and that perhaps they aren’t supposed to fit in.  I have always found it strange that I can be surrounded by groups of people and still feel alone.  I’m extroverted but painfully introverted at the same time.  My skin is still ridiculously thin.  I still struggle with an eating disorder.  We all suffer from self-doubt and self-esteem issues and a lack of self-confidence and crushing self-consciousness.  We all have a desperate desire to fit in and be accepted by our peers.  We like to pretend that it went away after we graduated from high school and became adults because we don’t want to admit that most of us are just physically older versions of our teenage selves, because if we did, does that mean that we never really grew up?  That opens a whole can of existential worms.  If we never really grew up, does that mean that our parents never really grew up?  That they feel the same way we do about life?  That they are just physically older versions of their teenage selves who have just gotten really good at hiding their insecurities and fuck ups?  Do they worry about the same things we do on a daily basis?

We all miss high school on some level because even though there were cliques and drama and endless teenage bullshit, deep down…we were all equals.  We were all kids trying to find ourselves and find our places in the world.  And in all honesty…we are still all just kids trying to find ourselves and find our places in the world.  And even though going to the bar on my off days and getting drunk doesn’t appeal to me, I just want to know that my friends thought about me enough to want to include me in their plans.  I don’t want to feel like I’m an afterthought and that I’m the odd one out.  I don’t like feeling like I’m not included because no one wants me to be.  I don’t like this do they/don’t they internal struggle.  I’m tired of feeling 16 when I just turned 28.

That’s quite enough, Dawson.  Can we change the channel?

“Your clothes are soaked and you don’t know where to go / So drop your chin and take yourself back home / And roll out your maps and papers / Find out your hiding places again…”–Lorde, “The Love Club”