“And how much do you weigh?” he asks, pen poised to fill in another statistic on the page.
“Ninety eight” I reply, proud of making it to double digits.
Proud, before I remember that I`m not supposed to be proud.
As he scratches it in, he asks “why?”, not even looking up to make eye contact.
I`ll tell you why.
My mother opens the closet door as I sit on her bed.
Standing in front of the mirror, she turns this way and that before ripping the dress off, throwing it to the donate pile before changing again.
She pulls up her Spanx, asks me to hook up her corset, her tummy trainer.
My mother skips breakfasts, eats tomatoes and earth for lunch.
My mother takes no more than one serving at dinner.
My mother refuses wine at dinner, afraid of the calories that slip down with the forgetfulness.
I watch my father serve my brother a bigger portion than my mother every night, giving a whole pork chop to the growing boy and half a pork chop to the woman who is the reason he is growing.
My mother places a measuring cup in my hand as I pull out the cereal box.
My mother suggests an apple after I pull out a plate for seconds after getting home from dance.
My mother buys my clothes a size too big because I`ll grow into them.
My mother raises an eyebrow when I pull out snacks at night.
My mother tries weight loss programs; losing weight, gaining it, losing it again, fighting against the energy source of our existence.
I skip breakfasts and lunches. I eat one serving at dinner. I dont snack.
My mother tells me that I weigh what she weighed when she was ten years older than me.
I run out of energy to dance.
I fall asleep in classes.
I stand over a toilet, unable to make myself throw up.
I pass out in the nurse`s office.
I stand in front of the mirror, sucking in my stomach to count my ribs.
I lay in bed, watching as my hip bones stick out.
My friends are worried about me.
I begin to feel guilty about throwing out food when I know others are starving.
I tell my parents.
My mother says that its not an eating disorder, its just disordered eating.
I learned to be ashamed of my body from my mother. I learned to tie my stomach with belts and ribbons. But none of this is my mother`s fault.
My mother learned from her mother. She learned to be ashamed of wanting to feed herself. She learned to count calories and serving sizes, she was given a diet disguised as a nutrition label. She was labeled in a scale index designed to find a way to scientifically control women across the country.
I recovered. I fought. I`m finally eating seconds. I no longer feel guilt about eating that sorbet. I rejoiced when I finally hit 128 on the scale.
My mom is still fighting food. I tell her she`s not overweight, that she`s healthy. She disagrees.
I tell her that it might be her metabolism, her thyroid. She agrees. But doesnt go to the doctor. Wont get blood work.
Instead, she continues with lettuce and water, refuses seconds and desserts. Takes two to three walks a day. Fights to fit into the same clothes she`s owned for ten years.
We live in a world where women are expected to be like birds; hollow, empty, and warm. But you cannot be warm when your stomach is empty and cold. When you have no energy with which to create kindness and perfection. To watch over the perfect eggs of society`s ideals. To feed the world before we feed ourselves. To teach society how to grow and change and accept us while we are living on empty stomachs.
We need to eat.
We need to eat to maintain these bodies which have forged nations. These bodies which have brought men to their knees. These bodies which have created the future in the safety of our womb. These bodies which we have been forbidden to love, instead seeking worship where we will never be enough.
When someone asks you how much you weigh, answer them truthfully. Tell them that we weigh as much as all the love we have given but never received. We weigh as much as the children we have carried in our wombs, held in our arms, buried in the ground. We weigh as much the centuries of words and pain we have held back for fear of being too much. We weigh as much as the pounds of makeup we cake on to fit their definitions of who we should be. We weigh as much as the thrown away meals, the longing glances, the times a date has ordered for us without asking if we were hungry. We weigh as much as the silence of their uncomfort at our answer.
Our bodies are strong. Women, our bodies have carried us from our childhood through every heart break, every walk home, every month of pain and blood and tears as our bodies recreate themselves to be more powerful than they could ever dream of. Our bodies are the things of legends, of islands, of every woman who has come before us.
Our bodies are the safe haven that our partners run to, that our children collapse into, that we feed our babies with, that we create humanity with. Our bodies are worthy of our love. We should worship them with all the love they have never been given.
“And how much do you weigh?” my doctor asks me, as he fills in a number on a page.