Skepticon: Friday 4pm Classism: From Honey Boo Boo to Anderson Cooper

Are you going to Skepticon 7?  Capital!

I am hosting a workshop about class and classism on Friday — about recognizing it and how we can address it.  A class on class, if you will.  You should come.  It’s gonna be fun.

Here’s a preview of some things I may talk about:




Continue reading “Skepticon: Friday 4pm Classism: From Honey Boo Boo to Anderson Cooper”

Skepticon: Friday 4pm Classism: From Honey Boo Boo to Anderson Cooper

The ripple effect of suicide

Drawing of Camp Counselor

[TW: Description of Suicide Attempt]

The summer I was 15, I was at a camp where we lived in sailboats for a few weeks, learning to sail. Midway through camp, all the adults and counselors were at a meeting elsewhere, on a different boat, some 10 minutes away, leaving the teenagers alone on their own boats. Most of us on my boat were on deck enjoying the sun, but my roommate was not — worried at her absence, I went to check on her.

She had cut her wrists direct across, there were pills bottles and pills everywhere, and she wasn’t moving.  She looked like me — she was pale with blonde hair.  My brain felt pinned down by the sight of her.  She didn’t move until I touched her and she started crying, saying she was so sorry over and over again, and something like it shouldn’t have been me that found her. I talked to her, tried to see how deep her cuts were and how many pills she’d taken. I cleaned it up, I turned her wrists over.

I stayed with her for a moment and then called and asked for help, shielding her from view. I felt absolutely dazed. I knew she shouldn’t be alone and I knew we needed someone who could get her help and I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to die immediately, but I didn’t know how to execute that. Which is approximately what I said to everyone. The eldest guy said, “Well we need to get on the radio, what are you fucking stupid!” And I said, “I don’t know where to radio to.” He pushed past me and messed with the radio until it reached adults.

The push is the thing that broke my daze and I cried for two or three hours. Cried quietly while staying with her until help arrived, cried explaining how I’d found her, and cried loudly and uncontrollably when she was gone. I couldn’t eliminate the image of the blood on her arms from my head, on this apparent corpse that looked eerily like me somehow more in death than in life. And then I stopped crying, I couldn’t cry anymore. The images were still there and wouldn’t go away, but my ability to feel had gone.

She went to the hospital, had her stomach pumped and her wounds bandaged, and was taken home by her parents.

The entire camp watched Dead Poet’s Society, which has Robin Williams and is partially about suicide, that night, and I didn’t want to because I knew the subject matter and that it made me cry and I couldn’t imagine what it would do to me in that state. They made me though, suggesting it would distract me.  It didn’t make me cry, though, it didn’t make me feel anything. Nothing felt real. I just did what I was told. I didn’t even get bored.

My camp counselor suggested that I was probably in shock, that he definitely was, and that it would pass and that they couldn’t really do anything for me but talk if I wanted to. Others told me it wasn’t a big deal and she hadn’t died, so I shouldn’t be worried about it. Anyway, she’d been threatening to hurt herself so she could go home, so how was it a surprise. It was just a cry for attention.  There was no comfort, no one there who could comfort me, no one I knew.

I recovered from the acute stress reaction in about a week, and it was awful.  Not feeling anything had been so superior with dealing with my anger and shame and fear, for being so “fucking stupid” and being rattled by something that “didn’t matter.” It was the first of what would be many difficult mental health experiences in my life.  It is also where my mind would dwell when I started cutting myself when I was in college, it’s where my mind would dwell when I became suicidal myself a few years after seeing it — on walking into a room and seeing what I thought was a bloody corpse, there by self-inflicted injuries, bright red on white skin.

This is part of what people mean when they call suicide selfish.  It doesn’t go away for other people either.

The ripple effect of suicide

Help a trans student in South Carolina

As a member of the SSA at USC, I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Rukia Brooks, a trans student at USC who is a passionate member of the atheist and progressive movements.  Rukia was born with a different name, which she’d like to be able to change legally to reflect her identity.  She’d like her IDs and her diploma to accurately reflect her identity.  Unfortunately, it costs money.

  • Required fees for the actual name change:
    ● Filing fee $150.00

    ● Fingerprints $10.00

    ● SLED check $25.00

    ● DSS check $8.00

    ● Student ID $35.00

  • Any extra money will go towards any other necessary legal fees, new social security card, and/or eventual driver’s license.
  • We were hoping to get her a new birth certificate, but South Carolina does not reissue birth certificates to trans individuals. 🙁
  • Excess money will be donated to organizations of Rukia’s choosing (we have the Harriet Hancock Center here in Columbia, which is a wonderful place for the LGBT people, for example)

If you have even a couple dollars to help her out, feel free to go donate, and if you don’t, feel free to spread the word.

Help a trans student in South Carolina

Job Hunting with Craigslist

I am looking for work in DC.  I am fortunate in that I have the luxury of being able to look for something that I really want and don’t have to apply to everything I might have a shot at.  Despite that, I have still gone to Craigslist to assist my search and discovered, yet again, how stunning Craigslist can be.  In addition to the many ads for “models” or “beautiful women to give handjobs on camera,” there are also a lot of just weird ads.  The following is my favorite of the day:


 [email protected] [?] 

Posted: 2013-06-10, 3:53PM EDT

 Text Message Interpreter (Northern Virginia)

I need someone to read and respond to text messages from my sister. She will send inflammatory, exaggerated, angry, hurtful texts that have no real correlation to reality and I need someone to read these epic missives, understand the batshit language they are written in (“i’m a good person but i’m not going to apologize for my son hitting your son. you never try to spend time with my family.”) and craft appropriate and de-escalating responses. Expert level speaker of “angry uneducated crazy woman” required. PhD students conducting research in “crazy females” are optimal candidates.
  • Location: Northern Virginia
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: Commensurate with the level of pain willing to be endured

Posting ID: 3862079890

Posted: 2013-06-10, 3:53PM EDT

Job Hunting with Craigslist

The life of the PhD student: Comprehensive Exams

These aren’t all of the books, of course

Tomorrow, I begin the journey of Comps.  There are 4 questions, over 4 days, and I have 4 hours to answer each of them.  It’s sort of the marathon of test-taking.

Last week I turned in a 7000 word historical research paper about the rural purge.  Maybe I’ll adapt that into some sort of much shorter blog post eventually.  I also helped two groups of students write research papers and ran their statistical analyses for them.

I still have another long paper about my visit to the Supreme Court to edit down and turn in.  I’ve written a lot of words, but they are not edited at all.

I also had to do a final proof of my article that’s going to be published in CrossCurrents about the relationship between religion and atheism and white-male dominance.

I am also in the middle of planning my move to DC (in one week).  Trying to find an apartment and a job.  Anyone in DC want to hire a super awesome person to do super awesome things?  I’m available…

From inside my head

And I’m recovering from surgery to remove cysts from my head.

I’m also debating whether I should audition for The Voice, because it appears to be my stepdad’s favorite TV show, and whether I should start spending more time writing fiction.

I’ve got 54k of a young adult fantasy novel in the Terry Pratchett sort of style.  I also have a screenplay (Bible Con – Comic Con for Christians) I feel I should adapt into a novel, because I think atheists would maybe buy it.  So many projects.

Would you buy a novel from me?  Maybe I’ll post an excerpt from one of my projects at some point.

So all in all, it’s a bit chaotic and thank FSM for Kate.

The life of the PhD student: Comprehensive Exams

Moderating Comments, Normalization & Anonymity

I was on this panel at SkepTech! You can read my prepared thoughts here.


-I improperly conflated psuedonymity with anonymity in the last third of the talk. Those are different things. I think pseudonymity (like Gravatar, Disqus, etc. offer) is one of the nice middle ground ways we can keep an eye on commenters across mediums.

-I stick with my remarks about wanting assorted -ist comments to be off my posts in the first place. Normalizing bad behavior perpetuates the problem. Removing awful comments in my little corner of the internet is one way I try to prevent normalization.

-I was a bit more wordy than I wanted–I’m lucky to have avoided the nerf gun.

What do you think? What did we leave out? 

Moderating Comments, Normalization & Anonymity

Brain Self-Help: An Incomplete List of Resources

Yesterday Andy pointed out that a list of non-going-to-therapy resources would be useful. Insurance, time, frustration with therapeutic experiences, inability to tell parents, etc, can make seeing a therapist either impossible or unappealing. Here’s a (totally incomplete) list. Please please please add other suggestions in the comments! I’ll keep updating.

Relevant disclaimer: I’m not a therapist. Most of the linked blog posts are not written by therapists. (Though most of the books are written by someone with a psych degree.)

The below are first general resources, then sorted specifically by disorder, followed by some resources if you do decide to seek therapy. If I could pick three I endorse the most, I’d say Boggle, How To Keep Moving Forward, and Don’t Tell Me To Love My Body. All three are italicized in the list.

Miscellaneous/Multi-Disorder Help & Information

DBT Workbook
This is one of many, but it’s received very positive reception from the psych community and did get an award for being evidence based. DBT is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on mindfulness and combines many principles of Zen with therapeutic techniques.

Mindfulness Course
8-week course on mindfulness, suggested by commenter kabarett.

CBT Workbook
Again, one of many, but I’ve looked through this one, and liked the formatting and set up. I’ll amend this with critiques or other suggestions if you have them. CBT is an evidence-based therapy and works for many people, but not all.

What It’s Like in a Mental Hospital

Breakup Girl
Advice and relationships. Suggested by Keith David Smeltz

Dr. Nerdlove
“dispenser of valuable love and relationship advice to nerds, geeks and neo-maxie-zoom-dweebies.”

How To Keep Moving Forward Even When Your Brain Hates You

Books Which Received the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Seal of Merit

The Bounce Back Book
Recommended by Miri–I’ve not had a chance to take a look at it.


Mood Gym

#450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed.

Boggle the Owl.
Boggle is an owl. And he is worried about you. Seriously, the best resource on this list.

The Secret Strength of Depression
A general self-help book, highly recommended to me.

Depression Subreddit, r/depression
Because nobody should be alone in a dark place.

I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression Have a close friend or partner who is a man with depression–or are one yourself? I don’t actually have either, but I’ve heard good reviews from friends who read this. And we really don’t examine depression in men nearly as well as we should. For instance, it often manifests in feelings of numbness, or unexplained rage–not things we normally associate with depression.


Boggle the Owl

The Take This Project
It’s dangerous to go alone. Designed by videogame developers, suggested by commenter michaeld.

Substance Abuse/Addiction

SMART Recovery

Suicidal Feelings

What to Expect When You Call a Hotline
 really like knowing how things go before I try them. This lovely little guest post from someone on the other and of those phone lines tells you what to expect in terms of conversation (you don’t have to know what to say!) confidentiality, and experience.

Samaritans Help Services

Fabulous IM styled chat where all volunteers you work with are trained in suicide prevention. Strongly recommend for people who don’t do phonecalls well or find dialing for help hard.

Befrienders Worldwide Directory of Hotlines/Help Web-Chats

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws
Written by Kate Borenstein, this book is not teen-specific, though it’s friendly to all ages. It operates on harm reduction, which is the philosophy that less-dangerous-but-still-risky behavior is always better than more-dangerous-and-risky behavior. I really like it, and do subscribe to harm reduction (it’s supported by evidence!). You also don’t have to read Hello Cruel World from end to end–it’s very easy to just open to a page and go from there.

Eating Disorders

Beyond Body Acceptance: This blog by Pervocracy is…therapeutic. Lovely. Beautiful.

Elyse at Skepchick: Don’t Tell Me To Love My Body

Science of Eating Disorders
n my pre-therapy days (also the worst times in terms of mental health, and when I did the most work to unlearn disordered habits) I often taught myself what not to do by learning all about my disorder. For instance, if most patients with anorexia ate Small Number X calories per day, I decided I was going to eat more than that every single day. To this day, I unlearn behaviors by starting from a research perspective. Also, lots of research focuses on what treatments work and which don’t do as well, which can give you some ideas for coping strategies.

Not my flavor of help, maybe yours? I might just be picky.

If You Do Look For Therapy

Green Flags: What You Want in a Therapist

Braaaains! Being a Skeptical Mental Health Services Consumer
shameless plug]

Gaylesta: Find a member of the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association in your area. (Your mileage may vary–I’ve not tested this IRL.)

Brain Self-Help: An Incomplete List of Resources

Forward Thinking: What Would You Tell Teens About Sex?

Libby Anne and Dan Fincke have been running a project called Forward Thinking. Prompts are proposed, and bloggers can respond. Every two weeks a roundup of links is published.

The most recent topic is what we should be telling teenagers about sex. Being as I was a teenager a very short six months ago, I have Thoughts and Feelings about this. Lots of them. My own sex education (in Texas) wasn’t all so hot. Like, seriously, I would have thought abstinence-only education would be all about asexuality–“Some people don’t really think sex is the most interesting! See! It’s not worth trying!”–but nooooo. So, this is what I’d tell teenagers about sex and relationships. 

You don’t have to know who or what you like right now. But if you do, you get to feel exactly that way and anybody who frowns or corrects you or says its stupid or gross or weird should be frowned at the way you frown at your feet when you step in dog poo. Because that’s actually gross, and loving people isn’t.

Speaking of which, you don’t actually have to love everybody you do sexy things with. I’d like them to be people you trust and people who know what consent is and like communication, but you don’t have to love them. Kissing is fun and bodies are nice and hooking up with people who have especially nice bodies or brains or who are just friends with exactly enough time and singlehood on their hands is fun.

Condoms break. Getting Plan B is scary. Sometimes the pharmacy is out or closed or the person at the counter looks like the math teacher who was always cranky. Just buy some ahead of time, so the two of you can just fish it out of whomever’s nightstand and take a deep breath.

Just like some people prefer pistachio ice cream, you can have sexual preferences. You can like fat bodies, thin bodies, muscly bodies, femme men, femme women, women who like to be tied up, and people who only have sex in missionary. But it’s worth considering if the only reason you like pistachio ice cream is because that’s all the shops have been telling you is worth buying. Because that doesn’t mean some genius somewhere isn’t making brilliant raspberry sorbet that you could realize is five times better, if only you examine your pistachio conditioning.

Anyone who describes any part of your body as gross doesn’t deserve to see you naked. They don’t get to negotiate this.

The baseball metaphor sucks. Not only does everyone disagree on what each base actually stands for (your euphemism is a failure when you have to argue about what every part means), but it ranks things. Some people can take or leave P-I-V–or, you know, their partnerships don’t include one penis and one vagina–and some think oral sex is the best thing ever. And some people would actually rather be playing baseball.

Shaming people is stupid and uncreative. This applies equally to shaming people for all the sex they are having, and shaming people for all the sex they’re not having.

Monogamy is not required, but honesty and communication are.

Mostly, I want teens to know that adults aren’t always right–and one of the ways we’re very good at being wrong is in talking to adolescents about sex. This is also perhaps the first time that your beliefs and actions can be something your family considers morally wrong, repugnant, or unnatural…and that’s really scary. Luckily, if everybody is consenting and legal, you’re probably in the right.

Which leads me to the last thing–consent. This is actually the most important thing, and I’m okay with you rolling your eyes and ignoring my too-old-to-understand advice if you listen to this.

More of my female friends and acquaintances have been assaulted, coerced, or raped than not. I’m not estimating–that’s the reality that this college student sees. One of my friends rapists still lives in this town. I run into him frequently. He hasn’t, and probably won’t, suffer any consequences for his actions.

You must get consent for everything, every time. I don’t care if it’s painfully awkward to ask if they’re into it, if they want to go further. If a little bit of blushing is scary enough to move you from Consensual Sex-Haver to rapist, you shouldn’t be doing anything with anyone.


Also, despite everything I ever heard…you can also write about sex on the internet without the Earth exploding.

What would you tell teens?

Forward Thinking: What Would You Tell Teens About Sex?

Racism, homophobia, and how I lost my dad last week

I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone, your father has forbidden me from seeing you in person.  I’m sorry, he just cannot support your lifestyle anymore, he will not be speaking to you again, he asked me to tell you.

That was my stepmother, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after she discovered I was dating someone.  Someone who was not white.  Someone who was black.  Someone who was sitting in the next room and knew what the phone call was going to be about before it even started.

Your father wants you to know that he still loves you.  But you’ve gone too far.

She won’t say the reason.  She won’t acknowledge that it is a race thing.  Like not saying “because he’s black” makes it not racist.

Your lifestyle is just not OK with him, he has bent as much as he will bend.  He has bent so much and you haven’t bent at all.

I insist on clarification, “My lifestyle?”

Yes.  Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix.  It was the final straw.  He loves you, he just doesn’t like you.

“So, this is entirely because he’s black?”

I told him it didn’t matter to you, that all you cared about was that someone didn’t believe in God and nothing else.  But he just can’t bend anymore. You knew this would be his reaction.

I was admittedly worried he’d disapprove, but then he’d meet the boyfriend and like him and it would be fine.  Also, my boyfriend isn’t even atheist.

We’re not telling you what to do.  If you love him, you should be with him.  But I’m going to stand by my husband, just as you some day, if you get married, will stand by yours.  We both love you, he’s just not going to talk to you.  Maybe, in a long time, he might change his mind, but I don’t think so. I think it was too much.


I met someone several months ago, our mutual friend introduced us and we hit it off immediately.  It’s long distance, so at first it was just days-long text and video chats, which became weeks-long, which became months-long — we only stop talking when we absolutely have to.  I don’t even know how we’ve filled up the space. And the chats became long weekends and meeting friends and Facebook status changes and negotiating holidays and what will happen when I graduate with my PhD.

He is smart, but more importantly, he is passionate and open and honest to a fault.  He was introduced to me as the “straight male ani difranco”, he makes documentaries and works for non-profits. I play the ukulele, he plays the guitar, and we compete heavily for lead singing duty.  Theoretically we will learn to sing in harmony.

I have been remarkably happy, regardless of other setbacks and challenges and the realities of life and school, I have felt very lucky to have this relationship blossom over the last few months.

He was with me for Thanksgiving, to meet my mom and stepdad and brother and rest of my family.  Except my dad.  My mother, who is much wiser than me and deserves full credit for being right, told me not to tell my dad until she could grease the wheels, but I, who wanted to make the boyfriend part of my family, foolishly overreached and talked to my father thinking that she was underestimating his fundamental human decency.

And now my father has just disowned me.

I suppose I am thankful that he waited until the day after Thanksgiving to do it.  Not that he told me, he made my stepmother his proxy as he was too angry to speak to me directly.  I have been disowned for loving someone my father does not approve of.

To be fair, we weren’t the closest of friends.  He did not approve of my liberal politics, and I didn’t approve of his crush on Sarah Palin, but we were civil and spent birthdays and Christmas together. I loved him very much, and I still do.  For whatever that’s worth. He is extremely conservative, but he’s not super religious.  It’s weird, as I think about it, I can’t think of anyone who was disowned by a non-religious parent.  I am sure I will discover it to be an illustrious club now.

As a gay rights activist, I’ve always struggled with the idea that there are people in society who think it is appropriate to punish someone for being in love.  Love is the most beautiful thing humans can experience, there’s simply no reason to deny it to anyone.  If I was reading this, without knowing the full story, I would just instinctively assume that it was a story about someone being gay, because you still often hear about people being disowned for that.  But no, this was way more 1967 than that.

I was disowned for having a black boyfriend.

Miscegenation is apparently still a problem, at least for my dad.  It’s not that I thought I was living in a world that was post-racial, I’m just unaccustomed to racism being so blatant.  Tacit disapproval, sure, but outright racist comments were, I thought, essentially the purview of Internet trolls and people who apparently exist but no one knows very well personally.

Hopelessly naive, I suppose, to think that some fifty years on people could, with some prodding, be willing to judge someone by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.


1967, the year the Supreme Court forced every state to recognize interracial marriage in Loving v Virginia, seems like a very long time ago to me.  And 45 years is quite a long time.  But my dad wasn’t so young then, already in his twenties, and it’s not like South Carolina was very happy about it.  It took until 1998, which doesn’t seem that long ago at all, for the state to formally remove the anti-miscegenation laws from the State Constitution.

Things have changed rapidly.  In 2010, 15% of new marriages were interracial, a third of people report being immediately related to an interracial couple, and the overall percentage of marriages that are interracial is now 8.4%.  Among my generation, approval of interracial dating is at 94%, and among my dad’s generation, approval of interracial dating is 84%.  We have a mixed-race president!

Of course, none of that means that the problems of racism are in the past, far from it, but I’ve always felt like so much of the problem was structural and unconscious, not malicious and open.  Racial inequalities in schools, health outcomes, poverty, prison rates, drug rates, and education rates are horrific — at only 16% of the population, black people make up over half of all new HIV cases, 60% of the prison population, and 43% of murder victims in the United States.

It is important for people to acknowledge the deep iniquities in this country that need to be addressed.  It is important for people to acknowledge the depth of racism that has survived the counter-culture that we still must fight every day.  And I do not claim to be perfect on this front, far from it, just as I am not a perfect feminist, but I try.  It is important to try.


I keep running through my mind of what I could have done differently.  I could have followed my mother’s advice and not told him, let her try to soften the blow.  My poor mother is devastated for me, that’s worse than what happened with Dad, really — she is the best and I hate making her unhappy.

I could have pointed out all the things that I haven’t done to be a disappointment to him.  I mean, yes, I’m a liberal who supports equality, but I just keep making a list in my head of all these other things I could have done that would have been upsetting to him*:

  • I have never been a drug addict
  • I have never been a drunk or alcoholic
  • I have never killed anyone
  • I have never been arrested
  • I have never been a sex worker
  • I have never gone through a rebellious phase
  • I have never gotten pregnant out of wedlock
  • I have never failed school

I am, in general, pretty much the opposite of a fuck up, and I sit here and wonder… would my father like me better if I’d gotten drunk and run someone over and been sent to jail and dropped out of school… and I think the answer is yes and I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t know how one goes about coping with these things.  I have a very supportive family, friends, and boyfriend.  And Dad and I were never super close.  And, perhaps there were things I could have done better, but none of them change the fact that my dad is the kind of person who would disown their only child for dating “out of race”.

And I know some will say that I’m better to be rid of him, and maybe they’re right.  Maybe it’s a relief to just be able to be myself without that particular Sword of Damocles hanging over my head, but he’s my dad.  And I’m his only kid.  Well, not anymore I guess.

I guess it’s sort of like a divorce. I don’t even think I have any insight to add to this other than the following: This still happens in 2012 in the United States.

*things that would upset him, not things that represent anything like justification for disowning someone and most of which aren’t moral crimes at all to my mind

Racism, homophobia, and how I lost my dad last week

The Weight of It

We give so little weight to our thoughts.

You can push them away and mold them and let them be and more than anything else, just not think about it.

This is a sharing story. It’s personal. It’s descriptive. This is your trigger warning.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I won’t ever reread my own mental health writing. I write it in dark rooms, on late nights, where the only light is from my computer, with big headphones on and the kind of music that’s sad pianos and violins. I send it off for proofing and then I never look at it again; schedule it without a single reread. You have to, to paraphrase someone wise, let it all flood you just enough to really feel it, just enough to write it well. And then you shove it away.

But, thoughts.

They started in eighth grade. That is, they started collecting, gathering mass and steam and power. If I really think back, I can pinpoint patterns that started even before I left elementary school. Age eight, after weeks of worry, telling my mother I thought my calves were too fat, and how shocked she was. Standing by a blue locker in sixth grade and worrying about the shape of my upper arms–getting so trapped in the thought that I was nearly late to class. It was just seven steps away, and I couldn’t make myself move, because what if I was putting on weight?*

I was ten.

By the time I started my freshman year, I would have weeks where I worried about my weight. I’d go a while with always wondering if I shouldn’t just be a little slimmer, and then suddenly it would stop, and I’d think, That was pleasant. I’ve gone a whole day without thinking I’m fat.** How silly of me to have worried before. A few weeks later, there would be a little thing–pants that shrunk in the wash, a magazine cover, someone looking both happy and slim, and it would start again. I thought I was normal. I thought it was a teenage thing. I thought I just needed a little more distraction, a little less boredom.

The deprivation started with oranges. Two of them–little mandarin ones–and one granola bar. I didn’t eat them. They were my after-school snack, for the two hour break between eighth period and twirling practice. I don’t know why–I think I just wanted to see if I could.

Damn curiosity.

My stomach was empty enough to hurt by six. Three hours later–three hours of running and dancing and leaping about later–I hadn’t touched them. It felt really good.

I try not to think about this very much, that good that permeates everything when I don’t eat. I can’t do it anymore, and–and I’m well aware how horrible this is–I rarely feel that overwhelming, shot-through-with-stars, top-of-the-world, utter happiness. If there’s anything that’s ever made me sad, it’s that the easiest way to really feel good is to fall into a habit that could have killed me. My choices look like weighing some of the happiest I’ve ever been against a plateau of stability. On really good days, it’s not a hard decision. There are fewer Really Good Days than I’d like.

But those oranges.

They stuck in my mind. I could do it–eat less than I used to. And I could do it with limited consequences, I thought. I shouldn’t skip meals entirely; that was Bad. But I could reduce them, couldn’t I? One yogurt cup for lunch. An apple for dinner. Three hours of twirling practice. Bed. Four strawberries for breakfast.

Over about sixteen months, I ate somewhere around a third of needed caloric intake, while maintaining twirling or ballet practice every single day for several hours. (Just so we can enter this in the Annals of Perfectly Obvious, let me say this is a terrible idea.)

The thing is, it’s hard to deprive your body of perhaps the thing it values most. You have to demand control. You have to just absolutely refuse to entertain the thought that you could eat more. You worry that you’ve consumed just a little more than last time. Every mirror is an invitation to compare, to examine, to fuss and pinch and panic. And so you think about it–food, exercise, the shape of your hips in your jeans–all the time.

By the time I was even slightly considering that I should eat more, food took up about 80% of my thoughts. How much, when, what kind. Could I eat a little less today to make up for yesterday? Over and over and over and over. Nothing could happen–not a date, not a kiss–without mentally running through everything I’d eaten since that morning.

Think about that.

Do one simple task today. Get the mail. Wash some dishes. And imagine that you can’t do that without thinking about say, the shape of your eyebrows.

It’s not just a passing thought. It’s everything you think about. Every curve looks like eyebrows. Everything is reflective, and you see your face in it all. You can’t look away. You can’t even stop yourself from trying to find more reflective surfaces.

Think about doing that every second of your day. When all you want to think about is making out with that cute boy, and how nice he is. When all you want to do is sit in class. When walking down the street means every building is a potentially reflective danger zone. It eats what makes you…you.

We give so little weight to our thoughts.

*Numbers aren’t important, and I’m not going to use them here. They aren’t important because if you think that anyone at any weight should have to spend their mornings curled up on the bathroom floor trying to convince themselves they aren’t too repulsive to go out in public, you are the problem.

**Let’s be really clear here. The problem here is that I thought weight was a determination of my self worth. It isn’t. It’s also true that weight does NOT (really, I can’t possibly say this enough) determine whether or not you can develop or have an eating disorder. The problem is more that I thought weight had any bearing on my person. 

The Weight of It