In early elementary school, my best friend asked me, “If you could change one thing about your body what would it be?” Even in the days of my budding youth, I knew the correct answer was not the truth. “I guess nothing,” I replied. What I meant was “I guess everything.”
In junior high school, I was just ugly. Everyone has those years though, and in junior high you more consciously realize it. I would rush to the bathroom between classes, just to make sure I didn’t look even worse than I did when I left home in the morning.
In ninth and tenth grade, I didn’t eat. It was less of a conscious starvation effort and more of a “I’m so nauseated by how I look that I can’t eat anything.” I soon started taking a medication, with weight loss as a side effect. At my worst (or best), I weighed 98 pounds at 5’5″. It could have been so much worse, but even as I typed that I only finalized the thought after typing and erasing the word “better.”
I felt so much better than everyone when I was skinny. Even the most gorgeous girls, the most intelligent girls — I was skinnier than all of them. It was power. It was about the power.
When I stopped taking the medication, I rediscovered my appetite and how damn good food tastes. Some days I wish I hadn’t, other days I’m happy I did. Reaching a healthy weight made me feel happy in one way, but in another it made me miss the feeling of emptiness, of lightness.
I never thought my problems stemmed from the media’s impossibly perfect portrayal of women. I still don’t think it has, but I’m probably wrong. What I do know is that it is so much about the power. Everyone wants to feel beautiful. If you’re not beautiful, you’re not good enough. You aren’t paid as much at work. People you’re attracted to don’t give you as much attention. You don’t feel as worthy.
I know that “pretty” is a choice. A choice of mindset. I also know that I’ve made the choice to eat. But I still feel inadequate sometimes, I still won’t let anyone love me without the lights off, I still will yearn to hear the words “You are beautiful” but doubt their truthfulness every time.
A few weeks ago, I was at dinner with a friend. During some part of our conversation, she said “You know, if you think about it, nothing really matters when you aren’t attractive. You can be as successful, as smart, as rich as you want, but if you aren’t attractive than a pretty person will always be better than you. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.” And for as many people who don’t believe the world should be like that, most of the time it sure does feel like it is.