Dear Cookie Monsters (both/all of you),
This is really hard to write without giving a play-by-play of the day.
You’re right 20 (can I just refer to you by your age for now until we figure something out?), this isn’t a diary and we all were there for the so many excruciating parts of today. No need for a recap. Besides, having things happen in the day besides the usual hiding from the world is a good thing no matter how cringe-worthy they are.
Something I will note, however, is the 360° dressing room.
Yes, more shopping, and also in the middle of a binge spree. What has gotten into me? Maybe buying something that was too small yesterday because I figured it would fit when my stomach wasn’t so full. Oops.
Seeing my body from all angles for the first time in forever was a bit shocking.
It was just so different. There was stuff here that wasn’t there before and my skin was doing funky things because of it. This store had US sizes, so I could see I was basically the same size as when I was 15’s age (sorry for calling you a number, we’ll figure something out).
I was also afraid, but that fear was for a much different reason than before.
Before, I would be terrified that if I was larger, I wouldn’t have any friends, that people would think I was disgusting, and that my parents would have another reason to be disappointed in me (I know whining about parents is lame, but bear with me – this is more about my reaction than about my parents themselves).
Today, I was terrified that those old fears would descend upon me. I was afraid of fear itself.
Before, the result of those fears was the commencement of a dictatorship over my body where I deprived it, whipped it into shape, abused it, and disrespected it. I was so afraid all those thoughts and behaviors would come rushing back.
But they didn’t. It was the weirdest thing ever.
There was more of a sense of intrigue as I stared and poked and scrutinized. Basically no disgust at all. It seriously was so bizarre. I have never looked in the mirror, even when I was 20’s size and “hot,” and been more or less OK with what I saw. No size was ever small enough. I apologize for all the poking today, but I was just really fascinated by how different everything was. I will cut back on that. Like entirely. I will really try, I promise.
I think being at 15’s size and treating this body with respect is like giving 15 a chance to just be herself.
Yes, her body looked that way because of what she was doing to it, but that didn’t mean she was intrinsically “bad”, like that she was a “glutton,” “disgusting,” “repulsive,” or “took up too much space.”
So, 15, do what you’ve got to do.
20 and I are not here to judge. We are just going to hang out with you. We’re going to be unapologetically ourselves and we hope you will be the same. If you are eating alone in the bathroom so no one can see you, then we will be there, too. It’s going to be a bit cramped in that stall, but we’ll make it work.
We won’t tell you how many calories you’re eating, how long it will take you to work that off, or our master scheme to quickly get things “fixed.” We are just taking that all off the table. Hopefully forever, but for now just off the table. It’s not because I’m laying a trap for you. I’m sort of laying a trap for myself because if I make myself do that, then maybe I can end up wanting to do that.
It’s like with 20 when we were playing chicken (we might still be – thank you 20 for being patient and keeping me on my toes).
I would say that she could binge if she wanted to because saying that made her not want to binge, but my wanting is what would make her end up bingeing because she didn’t like me getting what I wanted at her expense, even if it was what she wanted too. (OK, breathe.) She wanted us to get there as equals rather than me taking all the credit for reeling her in. The lesson: she is sitting right here in my brain and can hear everything that I think, so I can’t hide things from her.
And I can’t hide things from you, either.
I am telling you things that I am not 100% ready to say at this moment, but want to genuinely mean them in the future. I was you when I was 15, and I know what it’s like to be told all those horrible things. I’ve been hearing them for years, from myself, so I really and truly know.
I want you to just do you and to ignore me while I get on board.
You are going to say I’m only “letting” you be “fat” and keep bingeing because if I let you do that now, I’ll be able to win you over and bring you under my control in the future so we can finally go back to being small and pretty and cute and likeable. I know that because I can feel you rolling your eyes and plotting my downfall all the way from over here. And I know that because that indeed is pretty much exactly what I’m thinking.
So please, rip me to pieces.
That’s what 20 did, she really tore me a new one, but I was so incredibly thankful for her to be gritty and “ugly” and truthful with me. So please, be as “ugly” as you need to be. Test me and put me through the wringer.
I was worried this whole time about protecting you from the world, when really I should have been protecting you from myself.
I wanted to make you pretty and perfect so no one could ever say anything bad about you and nothing bad would ever happen to you. But all the bad things ever said and all the bad things ever done were all me, the person who is supposed to protect you and love you and be your ally.
This is sappy and you’re repulsed and 20 is over in the corner rolling her eyes at me.
Seriously, what is with all the eye-rolling? You guys are making me feel really lame.
But I am trying to be as genuine as I can.
Maybe I am laying it on way too thick that it’s scaring you off, but I am just trying to speak my mind. Maybe I’m just telling you what I think you need to hear rather than telling you what I actually think because I’m worried if I tell you what I think, I’ll end up hurting you again. Because what I think, these automatic thoughts conditioned by years and years of thinking them, are not what I really think. When I sit back and consider everything, I don’t think that you are “ugly” or “fat” or “disgusting” or “gluttonous.” I just think you are a very sad, troubled girl who is using whatever she can get her hands on to make herself feel better and make the world go away. Just because the tool you use makes you look different than other people doesn’t mean that you are somehow “bad.”
However, no matter how much I believe all these things I am telling you, the reality of how I react when you reach for food or when I catch a glimpse of your body, what I actually end up thinking and saying to you, completely contradict everything that I am saying now.
But can you tell that this all is more an echo from the past?
I’m not actually saying, “ABC,” I’m saying “Normally, I would say “ABC.”” A very slight but tremendous difference. And if I do say, “ABC,” it’s more of a knee-jerk reaction: Perceive “fatness” –> Feel panicked –> Think, “Must get rid of this “fatness” or bad things will happen” –> Say something abusive to 15 to motivate her to get rid of this “fatness” by convincing her that she is bad and bad things will happen if it persists.
I/we have been doing this for years. Do you expect me to just stop overnight?
I basically have, I just have a slight twitch left. Sort of. I know you’re not going to give me a break either, just like 20, but I’m OK with that. I’m terrified, but OK with that. If that is what is needed to make me finally ditch this broken machine “Office Space”-style, then let’s do this.
Yes, I am saying this and still thinking, “Oh boy, just get through this and then we are on our way to losing weight! I can’t wait until I am back in control of everything.”
You are in the same room and can hear everything. I am just now starting to realize that, thanks to 20 bringing it to my attention. Very embarrassing. I now realize you all are not “stupid” and that I cannot trick you into believing everything I tell you. I’ve been nothing but tricks and schemes, so it’s going to be a while before I earn your trust. And that I be trustworthy. I’m really bad at that, as 20 has been so pleased to remind me at every opportunity. I’m saying that with love – thank you, seriously.
You are making me a better person and I am so glad you are giving me that chance despite everything that I’ve put you through.
Maybe you are doing it because of everything rather than in spite of it. I think you guys sort of enjoy watching me be humble and finally realize that I wasn’t as in control and superior as I had always thought.
This letter is just going on forever, isn’t it?
I’m hoping if I can somehow write this all in a way that I mean it (or come across as meaning it), then we can just get this whole mess over with and go back to “normal.” I’m just tired. This is hard. I just want it to be over and for us to be in that allergy commercial. Sitting in this swamp scares me. It’s such a swampy swamp.
But it also feels oddly right.
It’s kind of nice, when I really sink into it, to not be the big boss all the time trying to keep all my ducks in a row. It’s kind of nice to have people sitting with me, too. Because when we’re sitting together in the closet or the bathroom or the cafeteria, I’m not just sitting with you, you are also sitting with me. That may seem obvious, but it’s kind of just hitting me now that I also need you. I have needed you for a long time. I haven’t liked treating you this way. I’ve been doing it for “your own good,” but I haven’t liked it.
So, please bear with me. I’ve always thought that you guys have such a long way to go in terms of developing, but I also have a long way to go.
I know you stopped reading this letter a really long time ago and that I wrote all that mostly for myself, so I’m just going to end this. I can’t write my way into being the way I want to be any more than I can force you to be “normal.” I will have to embody it. And “normal” is off the table. There never was a “normal” and if there ever was a “normal” during any of this mess, I don’t want to go back to that. I want something new.
OK, even I am not listening now. This letter just keeps going. This ends now. For real.
Kind of hoping for a letter from 15, but I am not going to push you.
I’m just saying it would be awesome. I know writing this makes that 99% more likely to not happen, so just ignore this. You aren’t even reading this anymore, right? Oh wait, you came back just to read to this last bit? I really wish you guys weren’t so “smart.” No, I actually do. Get in here, group hug. No? Just more eye-rolling?
Alright, this letter is seriously over now. It’s over. It’s been over. I’m leaving. Goodbye. Bye. Picture me as SNL’s Bill Clinton saying that as he backs out of Hillary’s announcement video. Likewise, expect me to pop back in with a saxophone at any moment.
I think my excitement over us all potentially becoming besties is making me a bit loopy. This really is super cool.
Alright, finally done! For goodness sake…
(or “25” to make up for calling you numbers)
I can’t think of a question.
I’m just glad (and still scared) that you are reading this for whatever reason. I think I’ve been asking questions to get a response (obviously), which is what I genuinely want, but I didn’t think would happen unless I sneakily laid out a trap. I do genuinely want that, but I’m still being sneaky. My P.S. questions are like a discussion question at the end of a reading assignment that makes you hate what you just read.
So, here’s a question:
Can you spot any ways in which Ana is being sneaky that she either doesn’t realize or she hasn’t realized that everyone else realizes? Because she just caught this one. Sorry. And you don’t have to answer that. (Is that another trap? Forgive me, Reader.)