My mother, she’s told me how fat she was in high school. She didn’t go to prom, she didn’t go to homecoming. My Dad is the first (and last) man that she’s been with. Oh, she was fat.
She lost in all in college, all the weight, at least. She’s never gained it back. I’ve diagnosed her as chronically anorexic, and I think she binges in secret when no one else is home. Her weaknesses are dark chocolate and buttery biscuits. She prides herself on how little she eats—and the only time I make her proud is when I eat as little as her, too. I, on the other hand, pride myself on how I can eat as much as my Dad. Two plates of spaghetti, really Brooke? she’d yell at me during dinner, Your Father eats two plates of spaghetti! That was third grade, when I was a skinny little thing, a tom-boy.
But now we’re talking 17 years old.
“You’re going to school like that?” she said to me while she was lying in her bed, her body tangled in the rumpled blankets, watching the morning news. She was still in her night gown, her hair all a mess. Every day I tried to sneak past her double doors to go to school, to evade her. Usually I could make it, but Fridays were her day off.
I turned to her, angry on the outside, and started to speak, “Yes…”
She looked so small in her huge bed. A seething person, she was merely 5’3”, her beady dark eyes beaming on me. “Every day you go to school with your hair in a pony tail, jeans, and a t-shirt,” she snarled. “Are you wearing any make up? Do you appreciate anything I buy for you? That brand new mascara?” My mother smacked her hand against the mattress, her lower jaw hanging open revealing her jagged teeth.
I stood in s i l e n c e, my battle-cry against her, which would destroy her little by little as my high school years spun me upside down. I stared at her.
“Don’t you have any respect for yourself? Any dignity?” she barked. “Is this how I’ve raised you?”
Yes, I do have dignity. The words pounded against the inside of my skull, rhythmically and repeatedly, harder and harder. I stood in silence.
“Huh?” she shouted. “Answer me!”
“Can’t you even say good morning to me?” I snapped at her. “Jesus.” And I walked away. As I skipped steps down the stairs, I hooked my pointer fingers through the belt loops of my Lucky’s so my butt crack didn’t fall out. The pants were a size 7.
You can barely squeeze into those jeans, she spat at me last week, accusing me, eyeing my body up and down, shoulders to feet. Why don’t you wear shorts anymore? Huh? Why? Do they even fit you? The ones I just bought for you? Do they even fit? My mother, she was just worried. This is how I could hold my silence. I knew better; I knew that she was afraid, afraid that I would get fat like she was fat. She was projecting her own fears and insecurity onto me, the psychotherapist explained to me, and that I was not actually fat and that I did not actually disappoint her. They were her problems, not mine. But more importantly, my mother’s told me that, obesity runs in the family, and what you look like is important.
So, I’m not fat, I would tell myself, You know that, you eat healthy. Who was I trying to convince? I knew I was at a healthy weight, and I understood it, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel not fat. I wondered, how could any mother in the world say things like that to her own daughter?
I pushed through the front door and dropped my backpack at the bottom of the stairs. “Hello?” I announced to the house. Anybody home? Only the little Shih-Tzu came sliding across the tile to greet me.
“Awesome,” I said aloud to myself. I headed straight for the kitchen. I gazed into the abundant pantry full of low fat, nonfat, fat free, low calorie, sugar free, and/or low sodium processed foods. It was early afternoon and the house was shining bright. The blinds were pulled on the windows and the sky was hot and clear.
My eyes squinted, searching. I wanted to eat something. I was not even hungry. But my mother was gone. Now was my only chance. I pushed aside some boxes of whole-grain crackers and Slimfast meal bars. And there was a brand new package of Double Stuffed Oreos.
My Dad liked to sneak in treats for my sister and me.
The plastic wrapping crumpled in my hands. I thought about how my mother and how I would never talk to her. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to her, but what could I possibly say? She didn’t care about anything that was important to me. She couldn’t look past my clothes and the number on the scale. I mean HELLO, I thought to myself, I play Varsity Soccer for chrissake. I weigh 135 pounds! I am 5’7”!
I read the label. Double Stuffed Oreos, two cookies, 140 calories, 7 grams of fat. I had become a calorie counting machine. I ran upstairs to my room with the unopened package of Double Stuffed Oreos tucked under my arm. I locked the door, and sat onto my bed eating the Oreos one by one, alone, in silence. The chocolate cookie smooshed into the crevices of my molars and stuck in between my front teeth. The Double Stuffed cream splooged out of its sandwich against my cheeks. My tongue pushed the food around inside of my mouth, and as I swallowed, a strange satisfaction overcame me that was not nourishment. I looked down into the three rows of cookies and one row was entirely gone. I swallowed hard and thought, Oh shit, not again?
I slipped the tray of Oreos back into the plastic wrapping and tucked it into my pajama drawer. I flossed thoroughly, brushed my teeth twice, washed my face and hands to erase any evidence. I knew she’d be home soon.