Long, long ago, one whole lifetime ago, pre-Ireland, back when I was married and trying to have a baby and before I was divorced and waiting for a visa and living with my parents, I wrote a post called “Bikini Body,” which was Freshly Pressed and got me a lot of attention. (“A lot” being relative here.) It was about how aggravating it is to be a woman with a body in the world. I wrote it on a whim and certainly did not expect a lot of attention for it, so it was short and sweet and didn’t outline all the ways it is difficult to be a woman with a body in the world. The post was specifically concerned with the public’s laser focus on a woman’s desire to eat food (you know, that stuff that keeps humans alive), but what it really was about was this bizarre and often hugely gross universal that a woman’s body is for other people. This universal makes it okay for people to holler things out at women who are just walking on the street, because if they didn’t want sexual attention from men, they wouldn’t be out there, taking their vaginas out for walks, right? This universal makes it acceptable for tabloids to post unflattering photos of women enjoying themselves privately at the beach, with giant red circles around their cellulite, because how dare those women leave the house looking like actual human beings.
This universal also opens up a woman’s body as a topic of discussion for everyone around her. Every single woman I know has gotten unsolicited commentary on her body both from people she knows and from strangers. This has happened to me since I was eight years old, when my little brothers, who were “growing boys,” got to eat their bowls of ice cream in peace, while I was once told to “cool it with the sugar,” by someone I’ve already made to feel really badly about it for twenty years, and therefore won’t name here.
As a girl, this feeling that my physical body exists for the enjoyment (or horror) of people who are not me has followed me my whole life. I’m particularly fired up about it right now because the last four months have been a total free-for-all in terms of commentary on what I look like, with very little attention paid to what I feel like.
Since June, when I left for Ireland, I have lost twenty-five pounds. I haven’t weighed this little since I was fourteen years old. This weight loss has not been intentional nor has it been the result of healthy eating. Apparently, coming home from a major life-changing trip and looking at every aspect of your life and thinking, “Nope. Needs to change,” makes all food taste like dust. When you upend the table of your life – your job, your relationship, your house, your life goals – and you sit in the middle of all the pieces, you can’t even want to try to eat a cookie. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been able to eat my feelings. In fact, my feelings have been so hard and brutal and tragic that they’ve made even food seem useless. So, after walking around in an anxiety cloud for months, working full time and writing a Master’s thesis and commuting for hours a day and processing a divorce and getting a new job and worrying about moving across the world and handling some other things I’m still not brave enough to discuss here, I’ve lost a ton of weight.
Because I have not been well. I have not been happy or healthy or a joy to be around. I’ve been miserable and stressed out and without an appetite.
And you know what I’ve heard, from everyone? “You look so great! What are you doing?”