Creatrixsblood's Weblog


A personal history of writing

I’ve been crafting stories almost as long as I can remember. First they were just simple make-believe stories mostly about a strong, warrior princess (dressed more like sleeping beauty than Xena) often fighting dinosaurs or monsters. There were set characters my friends could be, but I had no problem playing alone and just filling in all the missing voices and fighting trees with dried pigweed stalks.

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I’m not Claire, I’m princess Vanessa. I’ve come to chew bubble gum and cut up invading bad guys… and I’m all out of bubble gum .

What got me to start putting stories on paper was a school project in second grade. We were asked to write and draw our own, 4-page version of “Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” While I don’t remember the contents of that project, I did have a very important realization: I could make my own books!! And I did.. many of them involved cats and utilized the various cat stickers I had on hand as well as my own drawings. Most of them were a great deal longer than 4 pages. That summer I wrote and illustrated a picture book in which a dragon saves a princess from having to rule a kingdom and enlists her help in essentially controlling the weather. Why that is less pressure for her, I’m not sure. But dragon!!

I don’t remember much about writing from third grade, but I do remember really falling in love with reading. We had a required 15 minute reading block, a fair selection of books in the room readily available, and an incentive program for time spent reading at home. It was also the first time I got so lost in a book that someone had to touch me to get my attention, because the teacher saying reading time is over and calling my name just didn’t cut it. The book was “Black Beauty”, and my desk-mate helpfully kicked my shin.

After my mom’s illness and subsequent coma, and just before fourth grade, I began writing without the pictures. The first story was brief- it was as much of a re-occurring dream as I could remember. Then I moved on to a second story, in which people and aliens were warring, and both had traveled time to get magical weaponry because why not. I wrote it by hand in it’s own notebook. One day when I couldn’t find it, I discovered it in the bathroom where my dad had apparently been reading it. He was impressed, but told me the alien name “Zortang” sounded too much like orange drink.

It was around this time I decided I definitely wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

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In fifth grade I remember being really excited about having an assignment to write a story, but was frustrated by the deadline (because I was trying to write a book, not a short story) and ended up tying everything together really quickly without much escalation to the climax. It was about an archaeologist settling a long-fought depute between ghosts in an ancient Egyptian pyramid. We were required to read it out loud to the whole class. I remember feeling my face get redder and redder as I told my story. Afterwards, most of the class of roughly 25 was staring at me with open mouths. I was the only one no one clapped for. To this day I like to say I’m not sure if the shock was because the story was so good or because of my color-changing performance, but I’m pretty sure it was because I became a cherry while I read.

Sixth grade was the first time I was introduced to the concept of writing poetry beyond haikus. The form of poetry that left the biggest impression on me was narrative because my teacher thought I had copied it or somehow cheated, and he ended up calling my Dad about my poem. In the end, my teacher “gave me the benefit of the doubt.”While I did use the basic structure of an existing narrative poem, the content was my own. His continued doubt of it being the work of kid was one of the highest praises I probably could have ever received. That same year grandma gave me her typewriter to type out my finished drafts. I was excited by the concept, but I was a terrible typist, so my typed copies weren’t much easier to read than my hand-writing.

In winter of Seventh grade, my grandparents, aunt, and uncle pooled money to get me an iMac and printer for Christmas with a Groiler Multimedia Encyclopedia on disk and an accompanying Encyclopedia of Science fiction disk that seriously expanded my reading list. Since I had no Internet connection, writing, researching. gaming, digital art, listening to music and customizing the system were about all I could do with it.

With this new bit of equipment, I set out to seriously write a novel. It was an ambitious project. I forced myself to write for at least an hour and half after school everyday, after that I was free to do whatever. My dad mandated the t.v. off when he went to bed, but I was allowed to stay up late as long as I got up in time for school. So, after 11pm or so I would have either books or my computer, and I would frequently chose to continue writing. If I got stuck, I would either move on to another part of the story or start a new one entirely. I never wrote outlines, so I would be entertaining myself as I went along. Around this time I also started sending in novel queries to publishers whose editors were likely confused by the strange font usage.

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By the time I was in 8th grade, I had finished writing a science fiction novel I strongly disliked. I scrapped it, but kept several characters from it and tried again in a different format. The resultant “fantasy book” actually made me proud even though I knew it had some issues. Encouraged, I plugged away on it and concepts for sequels to it the entire year. The best part was, I could work on it in class and not get in trouble because I’d look like I was intently taking notes!

My freshman year in high school, I asked the teachers I found the most approachable to critique my fiction writing. The first teachers were my freshman English teacher and my freshman social studies teacher. Each graciously read through a single spaced 100 page-long “fantasy book.” The former circled and underlined what he felt was working, and the latter gave me no notes, but told me she enjoyed it. When asked, her biggest criticism was that she found it hard to follow as I frequently shifted viewpoints.

After my freshman English teacher exposed me to Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man,” (and my Dad allowed me to watch the movie “Heavy Metal”) I was inspired to write a book of short stories as well as voraciously read anything else attached to Bradbury’s name. “’Write a short story every week [for a year]. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row,” Bradbury advised in a 2001 symposium. While I didn’t write one every week, I did write more than twenty short stories (as well as working on a sequel to the aforementioned “book”)

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My sophomore English teacher went out of her way to individually challenge each of us. She had a set of vocabulary words, she’d have us tick off if we knew. Then, one at a time, she’d have us come to a little room away from the rest of the class and ask what they meant. If it was confirmed that you knew that word, she’d pull out the dictionary and give you replacement words. While I can’t say I was really a fan of her Reader’s Digest assignments, they were better and more practical than book assignments, and she did have us write 2 short stories incorporating specific excerpts from Reader’s Digest stories which prevented me from taking the lazy way out and turning in a short story I’d already written.

I brought some of my favorite short stories to my sophomore speech teacher. At first, she would write one, cleverly-worded compliment of the story before giving it back to me. (Incidentally, in her her class I wore foundation like armor so no one would be distracted by my face becoming a tomato. Worked like a charm.) After I’d given her a couple of them, I feel like she tested me to see how well I’d receive criticism on a story that was essentially Romeo and Juliet in space. I remember she left more notes than usual, some good and this time, some critical. I remember she specifically picked at the word “hammock” to describe the bed in a sleeping quarter. I felt like there were more obvious points to pick at in the story, for instance: all the characters other than the two main characters were pretty 2-D When I talked to her, she said she was just trying to get me to think of more alien terms to remind the audience that none of the characters were human. I asked why she wasn’t more critical.

“I wanted you to keep writing,” she told me.

“ I have to” I replied. She gave me a sort of squinting look I didn’t really understand at the time, but I would recall it my senior year when I received my first real critique.

By my junior year, I’d written 3 (in retrospect needlessly complex)fantasy novels the last of which poked its foot into science fiction. Some of my past teachers were nice enough to read the whole trilogy.I did school paper that year, and was allowed to leave study hall to come to the journalism/yearbook Mac lab. The official story was that I was working on stories for the paper, and sometimes that was true, but other times I was reading blogs, posting on forums, and sharing my writing. I’m sure my supervising teacher was fully aware as I always used the same machine and wasn’t smart enough to delete the history.

My senior English teacher asked us to write a children’s book. I really liked being pulled back to picture books. I wrote a simple story which contained a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and involved a really dumb teenager because I concluded I couldn’t draw children. She also had us write a good number of essays, some of which I let leak into my fiction at home.

The newly digitally colored cover of the children's book.  Maybe some day, I'll color them all.. maybe..

A digitally colored cover of the children’s book in question. Maybe some day, I’ll color them all.. maybe..

That same year, I decided to enter a fantasy fiction writing contest at Wayne State college. I started with the concept of an urban fairy tale, but with notes of the classic format. Unlike everything else I’d ever submitted to magazines, contests, or publishers, I decided to have a couple teachers look at it before I sent it off. I gave one copy to my sophomore speech teacher/drama coach, and one to my senior English teacher.

My speech teacher basically put a gold star on the story. She felt my writing had come a long way… also she probably enjoyed that it had an almost happy ending for a change. My senior English teacher critiqued the first sentence in particular and the repetitive adjective usage. I asked her what she felt might be better, and then decided “Deep,deep, deep in the forest” really just set the atmosphere I wanted, and I submitted it without making that correction.

To my surprise, I won the high school division of the contest. My senior English teacher responded very sedately, but the speech teacher snuck the news into the school announcements. My foundation kept my peers from knowing I was beet red when they turned to look at me. After reality sunk in and I got $30 for my efforts crafting the story, I thought about the critique I received; and I understood not all criticism would necessarily be helpful. This really helped me prepare for what was awaiting me at my first writer’s workshop.

To be continued…

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A History of Fatness: Existential Crises, Weight Gain and Denial
May 27, 2014, 7:41 pm
Filed under: autobiography, writing | Tags: , , , , ,

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been relating my life-long struggle with my weight and eating habits. In “The Younger Years” I shared my life as a fat child and teen. In “Losing Weight the Wrong Way,” I shared an unhealthy weight loss of 120lbs. within the span of 4 months. In “The Wieght Crept Back and Brought Friends,” I shared the beginnings of bulimic, addictive, and other self-destructive behaviors. In this installment, I’ll share the emotional unraveling in my early twenties that led the scale to read over 200 once again.

First, let me explain the delay between posts: It is always easier to write and reflect on the distant past than more recent events. It is also difficult to decide exactly what bits to share without getting too far off topic. Let’s just say that my early 20s may have tied or even surpassed my childhood for most tumultuous period in my life. For the sake of brevity, I’ve left quite a lot out.

It is worth noting that when I was 19, more information about what caused my mother’s condition came to my attention at the wedding of a family member. When I learned, I reacted poorly…an explosion caused by years of bottled mistrust as more and more details about my mother’s condition came to light. Although I didn’t think about it when acting out, I believe this may well have been a contributing factor to my erratic behavior.

Anyhow, when I left off, I had just moved into an apartment graciously paid for by my aunt and godmother. My grandpa gifted me my great grandma’s 1988 Pontiac Catalina. All I had to do was get to school and stay out of trouble.

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Here’s a photo of me and the mess I regularly created in said apartment. At the time I weighed between 180 and 190lbs.

I managed until about 6 months after I turned 21. I was still in poor shape emotionally. I mentally beat myself multiple times a day. I was still binging, desperately seeking input: looking for something external that would make everything O.K. again. In addition to old habits (like eating a quart of ice-cream over two sittings), I also drank most nights, often to excess, and took anything else I might be offered. Through this, I kept reasonable grades, but nothing near my previous standard. I maintained a weight of about 180-190 despite my increased intake of junk-food via purging and frequent long walks. Despite being surrounded by friends, I was too busy being ashamed of myself to talk about any of my feelings and worked hard to deny I even had them.

When my best friend at the time told me he was moving away at the semester’s end, I decided to wallow in my self-pity with six 24 oz beers at a small gathering of friends and acquaintances. Long story short, I drank so much that I blacked out. My friends attempted to hide my keys from me, but since the Catalina had been stolen while I was in jail, it could be started with a screwdriver. The resultant drive led to a DUI that ultimately landed me a year andhalf of probation.

This year andhalf deserves its own post, but suffice to say that I ultimately ended up  seeing therapists, leaving school, living in an oxford house, and working a soul-crushing job as an outbound telemarketer. I could seriously go on for hours about the crappy practices of both management and employees at this place.

The combination of sobriety, a terrible paying yet high-stress job, and the household drama resulted in a lot of binge-eating on my part. I remember regarding my legs as I laid in bed one night before sleep. Despite my weight, up until that point I’d always had clearly defined quadriceps which kept my legs looking nice even if they were thick and had some cellulite. I had been avoiding scales, but that night I noticed that my cellulite had begun to grow over my quadriceps. In that moment, I decided to give up on attempting to control my eating habits.

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Although it’s well-disguised in a black hoody and a crouched position, I weighed in just shy of 210lbs at the time of the photo.

Giving up had one good consequence. I quit purging after binges. However, it also had the consequence that I could no longer fit into most of my wardrobe. I felt like a rhinoceros. I put only minimal effort into my appearance most days. Halloween is the only day I can recall dressing up that year, and on that day I was heckled on the walk home from work by a random dude in in a car full of what I assume were drunken twentysomethings. After I refused to get in the car, one guy yelled out “That’s ok, you’re fat anyways!”

Although to most outside perspectives, I was getting my life together, my self-esteem was lower than ever. I rarely wrote or produced art. The most fun I had (and the most creative thing I really did during that time) was allowing the kids in the house to play with my paints and ill-fitting clothing as well as organizing scavenger hunts and other games for them.

There was one little girl there who reminded me quite a lot of myself. She was 9 at the time, and a bit overweight like I had been at her age. Her father had died when she was too young to remember, but she had a general grasp of the situation that led to his death. Although she was generally a sweet girl, she used her sympathetic situation to get things she wanted..generally junk food. At first, I would give it to her, but one day I told her that it would have made life easier for me, and it would be better for my health if I had tried to establish better eating habits when I was younger. Happily, she decided to quit asking for junk food. Unhappily, I continued to buy it for myself.

After my probation ended when I was 22, I re-entered school and continued to work as a telemarketer. I signed my soul away for student loans, and moved to a place that I now refer to as “the Fight Club house” as per a description by a friend. It was true slum, but the price point was very difficult to argue with, and I didn’t have to sign a contract.

I unexpectedly quit working one day, as I called in with a migraine and was told I needed to come in even after explaining that were I to come in, I would arrive covered in puke and likely puke on their computer. Because my roommate and his friends had a tendency to steal my food and I was living on an extra tight budget, I ended up buying only things I knew I could either store in my room or safely put in the fridge because he didn’t like it. Mostly I ended up with hotdogs, pasta, and junk-food. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a car and the local grocery store carried produce which was well past its prime and often moldy.

While I lived there, I became something of a hermit, embarrassed to have friends over. My boyfriend was my only frequent visitor. The tight budget did not prevent me from binge-eating, but did lead to binges followed by days in which I’d eat almost nothing. This behavior was quite unkind to my waistline. I have no real idea of my weight at the time, but I wore a size 18. I gave away most of clothing in smaller sizes- largely to alleviate some of my frustration when getting dressed, but also because I didn’t see myself ever fitting back into them.

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One might say that I wasn’t very happy there.

Because of the prolific amount of cat-calling in the neighbourhood, I began to intentionally dress in unflattering clothing.  I stopped wearing make-up completely.  My opinion of my own appearance fell accordingly. I had difficulties finding another job and so my self-worth also fell accordingly.  Eventually, I was dumped by my fed-up boyfriend and felt even worse. I stopped going to class. I stopped going out.  I hid in my room and told myself I was worthless and did nothing. This cycle of self-loathing continued to worsen until I met friend who tolerated my being Miss Doom and Gloom. 

More in the next installment

 



Remember when you thought there were real adults?
March 28, 2014, 11:47 am
Filed under: autobiography, emotions, Journaling | Tags: , , ,

I wish someone had warned me that are no real grown-ups. With each year that passed after the age of 18, I kept waiting to cross that magical threshold into adulthood- real adulthood: That stage in my life where I would know exactly what to do with myself and am brimming with desire to go do it.

As I near the age of 28, it is becoming painfully obvious that adulthood is more of a fake-it-til-you-make-it sort of thing.

I used to say things like, “The 12 year-old me would be so angry at my lack of accomplishments, that she would kick my ass.”

Now I’m more inclined to think things like, “If I could talk to the 12 year-old me, I would gently tell her that her inflated expectations were making her judgmental and depressed.”

While some would say the difference in thinking is reflective of maturity, (and sometimes I say that too) part of me, age 12, believes it is merely a sign of defeat: An allowance to the world at large to steal my dreams away like lunch money.

 



A History of Fatness: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!

In my previous installments: “The Younger Years” and “Losing Weight the Wrong Way,” I shared how I had become a plus sized child and teenager before abruptly losing ~120lbs. within the span of 4 months via eating an extremely restrictive diet while over-exercising. Over the next couple years, I would attempt to get a handle on my disordered eating before ultimately failing.

After my friend had pointed out that I was showing signs of anorexia and non-purging bulimia, I tried to rectify my habits. After a few weeks of continuing my food journal, I still had a reluctance to eat more than 1,000 calories a day. Even if I didn’t write calorie amounts down, I was still doing estimations in my head. I concluded that I needed to stop keeping it. Instead, I focused on reasonable portion sizes, while still working out at least 6 hours a week. This strategy worked very well, and I managed to maintain a weight of roughly 145lbs. for roughly one year.

A photo of me with my fantabulous car in my senior year in high school.

I have to admit, that year was pretty great. Even though I still wasn’t totally happy with my appearance, I felt empowered. I did a lot of things I had previously been scared to do. I joined my high school’s Speech and One Act teams as well as participating in Quiz Bowl. I wore attention-getting clothes that my old self would have never worn.

I was still getting used to all the appreciative attention for my looks from the opposite sex, and often reacted to it badly. Example: While exiting a music store, some guy whistled at me. As it was unexpected, I laughed loudly and closed the door after me. Only after I left did I realize how mean that must have seemed.

Since that guy was obviously not quite a charmer, let me give another example: In my junior year, I was approached by the little sister of one of the few boys who had been nice to me all through grade school despite my weight. He had sent her to ask if I would go to a dance with him. Dumbstruck, I just kind of stood there blinking. She made a knowing face and said, “Ok.” Then she left, and I slowly parsed together what had happened. Although I certainly would have gone, I was too shy to say anything to either them after that.

Then, half way through my Senior year, I started dating a goth boy who fancied himself a romantic. He regularly took me to dinner, bought me little gifts, made me photo collages, and (this is the cincher) talked to my mom even though she’s so brain damaged she mostly only said no. (Unfortunatelymy mom’s condition hasn’t improved since then.) While I had dated previously, I think half of my motivation was just to be able to tell people I had a boyfriend. I never did really let my guard down around the guys I was seeing. However, the goth boy’s patient devotion and acceptance allowed me to let him into the tangled web of emotion I usually kept between myself and word document. He was the first to get my crazy. I still feel sorry for him.

One thing he did for me was help me embrace my body despite it’s imperfections. For the first time ever, I felt comfortable in a swimming suit.

While we dated, I gained 15lbs. We spent all of our spare time with each other, and although we went on long walks and got –ahem- other forms of exercise, all of the dining out went to my waist line. I went up a size, but I wasn’t too worried about it. My ideas of small portions steadily grew.

After graduation, I moved an hour andhalf away for college. Goth boy and I had made plans to get an apartment near campus, but those plans fell through after he failed to save enough money. As a result, I was poorly matched with my roommates. There were two girls from a private, Catholic high school, and a cheery former cheerleader. They all kept everything super-tidy in a specific way, loved reality tv, and country and pop music. I was in hell.

<3 the chick with me.

On the bright side, I got to dye my hair magenta.

Aside from a few bright spots and a wicked wardrobe, my first year in college wasn’t much fun. I was an outsider in my own home, I didn’t really have any friends going to the same school, and I got to see my boyfriend 3 times a month if I was lucky.Although I did get out occasionally with the help of a few area friends or my twin aunts who lived in the same city, it wasn’t frequently. I coped by immersing myself in class, books, cartoons and junk food. Some days I would forgo meals entirely in favor of junk food. Other days, I would I sit down with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon, eat it all, and then purge. The change in eating habits didn’tshow, probably more due to the fact that walking was my primary mode of transportation (I had elected to leave my car at home to cut costs and the bus frightened me)than my burgeoning bulimia.

In my second year in college (I was 19), things had evened out a bit emotionally. I lost the boyfriend, brought my car from Dad’s place, got a work-study job in the library archives, had friends on campus, and had cool roommates whom I got along with reasonably well. Although I began smoking cigarettes and drinking occasionally around this time, I was generally more well-balanced, and as a result I mostly didn’t binge-eat. Between my work, school, social life, and romance, I didn’t have time to. Once again, dating led to poor food choices like fast food or sit down restaurants with enormous portions, but I managed to stay around 160 lbs.with an intermediate amount of exercise.

Things didn’t really start to go downhill until I was living alone for the first time in my third year of college, but the decline didn’t take long. I shared a story about my childhood clepto-mania with a party cohort I had idealized as a buddy flick-like friend. Long story short: After activating the bad influence, I carried on by myself, landed myself in legal hot water, lost my job, was sentenced to jail time, and moved (while still going to school) rather than deal with it. The resultant stress led me to binge everything: food, alcohol, cigarettes, basically anything enjoyable I could get my hands on.

An image depicting how my 20 year-old self felt about law and auothrity.

An image depicting how my 20 year-old self felt about law and authority.

I am not sure exactly how long I was “on the lamb,” but it was only a few months.  By the time I weighed in when I went to jail, I was something near 180lbs. (I was pretty stressed out, so I don’t remember an exact number.)

Contrary to popular opinion, I found it quite easy to lose weight in jail. The food was disgusting. I didn’t care how hungry I was, I found most of it inedible. I lost 15 pounds during my 28 day stay, but that weight came right back when I moved back to Dad’s house for the summer. Dad was understandably frustrated with me, as I had hidden the entire ordeal from him until I was physically in jail. I internalized ever little thing he said in anger. I felt worthless.

With the help of my generous Aunt Corrine, I returned to college in the Fall and proceeded to make a huge mess of everything about six months later.

Next Installment: Coming Soon



A History of Fatness: Losing Weight the Wrong Way

In the last installment, A History of Fatness: The Younger Years, I cut to the root of my emotional relationship with junk food. I shared how I spent the latter half of my childhood in the plus-sized section, and how I began to lose weight.

At first, my methods of weight loss were pretty sane. I began losing sometime in March, and at the beginning of May my average rate of weight-loss was a manageable and healthy 15lbs per month or about 2 pounds per week. I kept a food journal, I walked between 2 and 4 miles each day, and I did body weight resistance exercises 3 times a week.

Then, with the help of weight-loss books, I calculated my frame-size (medium framed at 5′ 6”) which based on bone positioning and created a goal of weighing 130 pounds (the lighter end of healthy for my frame size)… by my birthday. At the time, I weighed 220 lbs. I wanted to lose 90lbs in 2½ months.

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In these photos, I weigh between 220 and 230lbs.

After school was out for the summer, it was crunch time in more ways than one. I made weight loss my main goal. In addition to the body weight resistance exercises, I began weight lifting and walking longer distances. I began calorie counting. I ate 1,200 calories each day, about 500 less than was recommended for weight-loss according to my books. I was obsessed with creating calorie deficits. I wasn’t satisfied in the morning unless I weighed at least a pound less than I had the previous day.

By the end of May, I weighed about 180 pounds, 50 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the month. The women’s size 16 jeans I previously would lay on the bed to squeeze into fit perfectly. Some were even baggy. My friends and family were impressed. No one worried that the weight was coming off too fast. They made every effort to encourage me. I, however, had hit something of a weight-loss plateau and was still 50 pounds from my goal-weight of 130 lbs and a month andhalf from my goal-date of my 16th birthday.

I made my diet more restrictive. I cut my daily consumption down to 800 calories with two, 1,000-calorie “cheat” days. I would spend somewhere around 4 hours each day walking ( I covered an average of 17 miles) in addition to an hour-long anaerobic work out. I would go to sleep exhausted and hungry.

On my birthday I was 10 pounds shy of my goal-weight. Although I was glad to no longer shop in the women’s plus-size section, I was wearing the largest size most store’s junior’s sections carried at the time- a size 13.

It is worth mentioning that my perception of my size at the time was skewed in part to the arbitrary sizing in womens‘ and teen girls’ clothing and my own refusal to admit to being any bigger than a size 16 when I was younger. At 250 lbs I was squeezing into size 16 pants when I probably should have been wearing a size 22. When I weighed 140, I wore a women’s size 10 or 12, but that translated to a junior’s 13..so basically I perceived a loss of 10 dress sizes as a loss of 3. Also, since I was wearing the largest junior’s size in most stores, I must still be fat.

Because of this thinking, it seemed like my aunt Corrine was almost more excited about my smaller body than I was. She bought me a new wardrobe that summer, marveling over how cute and tiny everything was. Even though I weighed 110 pounds less than I did in May, I still wasn’t happy with my body. I still hated how I looked in swimming suits. My belly was still lumpy, my arms were still flabby.I cut my calories further.

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In this photo I weigh 140 lbs.

When school started, I imagined kids would whisper that I’d gotten liposuction. That didn’t happen. There were (almost) none of the mean comments I’d grown accustomed to. For the most part, the boys didn’t treat me much differently, but I wasn’t prepared for how differently the girls would treat me.

Even among friends, I was suddenly part of the group; I was invited on shopping excursions to neighboring cities, to water parks. Girls who had previously snubbed me treated me with respect. The older girl I mentioned in the previous post who bullied me, despite being a year behind in math class, decided I had become her mortal enemy. However, the most threatening things in her arsenal were telling me I dressed like “a hippy” and that I would marry for love and be poor while she would be a gold-digger. As usual, my biggest obstacle was internal.

In general I felt more confident about my body, but I couldn’t stop comparing it to other, thinner girls. Unable to obsessively exercise, I cut my calories to 500 or less a day. This behavior continued for a little longer than a month. I only managed to lose 15 pounds, and squeeze into a junior’s size 9.

Finally, one of my friends who had been quietly observing my altered eating habits at lunch talked to me. She said that she had also been exhibiting anorexic and non-purging bulimic behavior, and that her mother had pointed it out to her.

“You are skinny, Claire,” she said. “You have to eat.”

I managed to keep the weight off for several years in varying degrees of health. However, I never was really happy with myself. Eventually, my body began to reflect it.

Next installment: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!

 



A History of Fatness: The Younger Years

My most-used clothes are the ones I can hide in. Such as the large, soft black faux velvet shirt I am wearing in the photo below, and have owned since the summer I turned 13.  Although it is a little worse for wear, (it has oil paint stains, missing buttons, and a cigarette burn in the sleeve) it is still a staple in my wardrobe.

ninja

The bandanas are another article I love hiding in. I currently have 4 different ones, but this one is my favorite.

For me, the body-image thing started when I was 7 years old. Before then, I saw myself as pretty and had no second thoughts on the matter.  I can remember my dad saying that I was getting fat around then.  I am not sure if he was the first to do so, but it is my first memory of being referred to as the dreaded F word.

Of course, I knew from television and movies that fat people were a thing to be mocked, and at best could provide the quirky comic relief.  (The internet was not available to me outside of school for the majority of my formative years.)  It was obviously a BIG DEAL.   I responded by favoring over-sized clothes.

My mother did little to reinforce good eating habits ( and truthfully, I didn’t help, fussing over anything green);  we frequented fast food restaurants, my favorite of which was Long-John-Silver’s. To this day when I go there I always order extra crumbs. Before that, I favored a little mom and pop place (which closed, sadly) called the “Y Not Cafe.”  There were phones at every booth to order.  I always got a sloppy joe with curly fries and a chocolate milkshake.  The milkshakes were so good. They brought you the whole metal mixer along with your nice glass with whipped cream and a cherry, so it was like having TWO milkshakes.  I digress.  In any case, we ate out multiple times a week, had since I could remember, and it contributed to my waist-line.  

Third-graders can smell weakness. My baggy clothes andself-conscious posture made me a target for bullying.  I remember a boy on the playground calling me “Godzilla” and falling in time to my footsteps. Even through this, when I see pictures of myself from that time, I was only a little chubby.

I believe this photo was taken the summer I turned 8. The dog, Jack, loved to attack fireworks and running water.

I believe this photo was taken the summer I turned 8, and I entered 3rd grade in the fall. The dog, Jack, loved to attack fireworks and running water.

After my mom fell ill, I turned to many of the comfort foods I remembered enjoying with her. I did’n’t really do it consciously.  All I knew was that I wanted foods like chocolate, icecream, french fries, fried chicken, and lots of it! I recall my fourth grade teacher stopped me from going up for seconds telling me that I was too fat. (She really meant well, but it was in front of the entire school, essentially, and added to the teasing.) Other kids in the class would say that the one boy who was cubby in our class of 22 and I must like each other because we were both fat.  But honestly, what I remember hurting the worst was that after I had dealt with name calling and embarrassing public interventions, I had to deal with comments at home.

Although I was praised for good grades and a generally more mature demeanor than many of my peers,  ( I was constantly reading, drawing, or writing) school nurses mailed my dad notes twice a year to remind us that I was obese.  My dad would  say things like “We’re poor, and you’re fat.  It makes no sense,” and  My Grandpa would occasionally pat my belly when he saw me eating.  For her part, my Grandma Sue recognised stress eating when she saw it and tried not to give me a complex, shooing my Grandfather’s concerned, but condescending hand.

By the time I was 10, I was regularly comparing my body to the bodies of my peers and worse, women in television, movies, and ads.  The resultant depression led me to bouts of stress-induced binge eating.  I would frequently eat when no one would see me- finding the privacy for it wasn’t hard as I found it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. Given the opportunity,  I would eat so much that my stomach hurt, and then I would eat more.  By the time I turned 11, I loathed my body.  I mostly hid from cameras.  I don’t have a lot of photos of myself from this time. Bullying at school continued to escalate.

12

As you can see, this photo of me (which I think was taken the summer I turned 12) was neglected in the care of my younger self. I hated how round my face was, how bulgy my belly was, and how my thighs rubbed together.

If memory serves, my Uncle Clifford took the above photo while I walked across these rocks, pretending they were much higher, and miles away from the world of 35mm cameras.  I would often avoid mirrors.  My Aunt Corrine saw me struggling with my body image.  She helped as much as she could, taking me to the mall so I could chose my clothing from the same stores as my friends (whenever possible) and introducing me to new stores. It wasn’t all bad either.  I allowed myself to cut loose and quit caring with the right friends.

122

This photo is from my 13th birthday party. Myself and 4 close friends (including the one taking the picture) are playing balloon baseball.

  In the summer I turned 13, a month before my birthday, my Grandma Sue died.  I got bigger than ever.  If there was no junk food in the house, I cooked it.  ( I had been cooking for myself for a while before-hand and used to bake with my Mom.)   My mom’s twin sisters, my aunts Amy and Ann, took me on couple trips after the passing of my Grandmother, in part funded by my Grandpa. The summer I turned 14, we spent a week in L.A. and visited several family members living in California. I had a great time there despite getting an awful sunburn and having to wear a swimming suit on the beach (loaded with tar!).  I entered high school.

In high school, the bullying was different.  Most people didn’t bully me to my face, they just avoided me.  Some people would actually move if I sat near them at lunch.  Pairing off for whatever reason was generally difficult, especially in Gym class.  My most vocal bully was a girl a grade ahead of me, but in the same math class…to this day I don’t know why she decided to hate me.  I spent most of my time alone.

The following year my twin aunts and I went to Spain for a week, tagging along with a school in Omaha that Ann worked for just before I turned 15, but I don’t have many photos of myself there because I was so self-conscious.

Here I hid in baggy jeans and a t-shirt that came down to my elbows.   This is, sadly, the best photo I have of myself in Spain.

The girl on the left was named Rachel. We bonded over body issues. I’m the one in front of the fountain. I hid in baggy jeans and a t-shirt that came down to my elbows despite it being upwards of 90 degrees. This is, sadly, the best photo I have of myself in Spain.

The self-conscious theme continued through my sophomore year only I defended myself. I cursed more often at people who called me fat, including my own father. – “Oh Shit! Thanks for telling me, I thought it was an allergic reaction!”- I didn’t go out for any sports, or activities.  I did attend the occasional friend’s party, but avoided any situation where I thought I was likely to be picked on.  The bullying happened less frequently, but I still had problems finding a place to sit at lunch.  By then my internal monologue was worse than any bullying I received.  I would write disparaging words on myself, and at my worst, I would cut words and designs into my skin on places I never showed people.  ( Some of these, unfortunately, I still have today. )

I had gained a substantial amount of weight and crammed myself into jeans that were too small and hid everything else in giant t-shirts.  Then, toward the end of that year, when I weighed 250lbs, I came down with the flu.  Unable to eat or drink anything of substance for a week, I lost 10 lbs.   The prospect of weight loss suddenly didn’t seem so impossible.

I started keep a food journal, despite getting strange looks at school over it. In one of the nicer incidents, a girl in Spanish class was incredulous that I wrote down a small handful of m&ms  I won in a round of educational bingo.  One of my friends copied pages of beginner-intermediate body-weight resistance exercises from her mom’s workout book. They made me sore at first, but I did them.  By the time the school year was over, I had dropped another 20lbs.

I was determined to not be fat by the time I turned 16, and I would succeed.

To be continued (In A History of Fatness:  Losing Weight the Wrong Way)

 



Autobiography excerpt

The following is an excerpt from an auto-biography I’ve been working on.  I find writing it to be painful, but therapeutic:

I keep a mental snap shot of all the people who are important to me. The one of my mother is just outside of the craft shed where she worked, cutting wood into the shapes of flowers or buildings or angels.  She is a large woman with wild, curly brown hair hanging just past her shoulders. She is wearing a red t-shirt and black stretch pants with stirrups and dirty white sneakers. Her glasses cover and magnify the apples of her cheeks, her lips are spread in a smile, and her open arms welcome me for a hug.

      I am 9, and most of my mother is dying. We are at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, I came with my Grandma.

      Dad and mom’s twin sisters are here too. They all think I won’t understand, so they do not explain. Mostly, they look at me in pitied glances. When I ask what’s happening, they tell me that she’s in intensive care, and I can’t see her because I’m not 13. They also say, “You’re so brave.” 

      I sit alone in the waiting room, there is a lot of light, but all the colors are dark. The chair I sit in is stiff and dark blue, just like the sofa across from me. I’m trying to read.

      A moment just a couple weeks previous refuses to leave my mind: My dad and I were walking toward her hospital room, and a nurse was helping her shuffle through the hall. When my dad said, “Look who’s up!” She turned to look at us. Her features were frozen and doll-like. She wasn’t my mom.

      Presently, I push the thought aside and bury myself in my book.

      The book is not a comforting one, it is a young adult horror novel about a boy’s father transforming into a plant-monster. It is told in the first person, so I feel like I am the “I” that is trapped on the pages.

      Right now, there is nothing else.