Melissa Broder reads an excerpt from her essay collection, So Sad Today, published in March by Grand Central Publishing.
I Want To Be a Whole Person But Really Thin
I am an eater of numbers. I prefer packaged foods, foods with a bar code, because they make the math simpler in counting calories and that gives me a sense of peace. It’s just an illusion of control, really, but that illusion is everything. It makes me feel safe. It gives me a stillness in my mind. All I’ve ever wanted is peace.
I am a vanity eater, a machinelike-eater, a suppresser-of-feels-eater. I save the bulk of my calories for the end of the day so that I have something sweet and seemingly unlimited to look forward to. I do not trust the universe to provide enough of anything to fill my seemingly bottomless hunger. That’s the case with my consumption of a whole pint of diet ice cream with six packets of Equal poured into it every single night. It’s a way of offering myself something cloyingly saccharine and seemingly infinite. I don’t believe that the world, or god, will give me that sweetness. So I am giving it to myself. I am going to bed full of sweetness that the day may not have provided. And I am defeating the laws of nature by doing this with diet ice cream. Most nights I would rather curl up with the diet ice cream than be in the world.
I am an eater who enjoys structured magic. I don’t feel courageous enough to let myself eat whatever I want, because I don’t what to face the wrath of what my mind will do to me after. I have a vested interest in keeping things under control, because when I lose my illusions of control I get very scared. The world is scary enough as it is. Just let me have this way of life. Let me continue to live under these self-imposed systems of diet ice cream, where I can have some of what I enjoy about binge eating—just without my mind destroying me after.
I am an eater who doesn’t trust herself. I am a bad mommy to myself and a poor steward of my body. I am an eater of rituals and a ritualistic eater, an eater who knows better but sees no impetus to get better because this kind of works and I feel more secure in my body at this weight.
But I am an eater who is the worst feminist, probably, because I objectify other women. I compare my body to the bodies of other women. Occasionally, I win. What does it mean to win? It means that my body fits more closely to the bodies of the models in magazines on which I grew up. It means that I am skinnier. It means that I am in some way beyond reproach, or further from reproach. I am terrified of reproach. But reproach from whom? Who is the voice of the reproacher? Does it even exist? Is anyone beyond reproach?
I am an eater who feels safest at a place of very thin. I want to live in a body that is so far away from being fat that it has room to gain weight and still not even rub elbows with chubbiness. Fat, for me, in terms of my own body, represents terrible feelings: shame, disintegration, self-hatred. These are feelings that I experienced as a child and want to protect myself from feeling ever again (though that is, of course, impossible and I feel them every day in whatever body I have).
I am an eater who still longs, sometimes, for the full binge. There were moments in my life when I was mid-binge that felt like some beautiful return to self. I would be so caught up in the flow of the action, the pure pleasure of no restrictions and uncontainability, that I felt as though I had entered a silence that existed before words. But the words always returned. They were in my head and they yelled at me.
What was that silence? Was it the spiritual space of true freedom? Or was it simply another coping mechanism—food as a drug—to block out the world. Is it my true self to eat until my stomach can hold no more and I am repulsed by the sight of any more food and I cannot do anything but lie in the fetal position and groan? Or is that a reaction to restrictions that were placed—first by others, then by me—on some other true self? Is there a part of me that knows how to feed herself enough, only what she loves and what nourishes her, and never feel shame or fear if she overindulges a little, because it tastes so good? Did that part of me never exist and must be manifested? Or did it always exist, as it does for the animals, but along the way got buried? How would I even begin to uncover it?
I am an eater who knows, intellectually, that control is an illusion. I know it experientially and spiritually, through peak experiences and gentle experiences and love and sudden pain and tragedy. But asking the mind to give up control and the mind actually obeying is another animal.
I am an eater whose mind says no.
I am an eater who knows that ultimately you are responsible for yourself, an eater who doesn’t want to take responsibility for herself other than to seek the feeling of safety.
I an eater who is scared to be so honest here, a disordered eater.
I am a superficial woman of depth.
This is an excerpt from So Sad Today by Melissa Broder. Copyright © 2016 by Melissa Broder. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.