Written by Alisha Nagle
Graphics by Hengjia Liu
This piece was originally published in ‘Pleasure and Danger’, Bossy’s 2020 print edition.
CW: Eating disorders, mental illness, and body image.
A unicellular water animal which flows about and takes in food.
–– You said mirrors shouldn’t be everywhere we go. I want to thank you. You never knew that sometimes I would cry when I was naked because I could not stomach myself. You dared to say there are too many mirrors, that mirrors invite self-loathing. I snapped, “I don’t mind them” – but only because I’m vain and self-absorbed, and I want so badly to catch a glimpse of what you see in me ––
We can be like little greyhounds, bounding over green hills, above the truth, until we realise someone is mocking how we look. We are all innocent until that day. Greyhounds run too fast, our bones are showing. One sentence from a stranger can break us for years.
For me, the first time was late high school. Someone on the bus was gossiping about my eyebrows. Someone on the bus said they look like sperm, my friend blabbed – and also, that I am pretentious. She’d been a bit too eager to tell me. Maybe she hated herself, and hated me, too.
It only hurt so much because I’d really looked up to the girl behind the gossip. She was in the year above me and we had one class together. She was tall, confident, and stunning. I was afraid of her. We’d barely said a word to each other. Learning she disliked me was such a shock that my heartbeat pounded in my eardrums several times when I entered the classroom, even though she barely ever glanced my way. Surely I meant nothing.
I licked my wounds, and went about fixing myself for her. Eyebrows were easy. Somehow, I wasn’t keen on plucking my eyebrows in a sperm shape anymore. All I had to do was get them waxed, and then they would be untouchable. I stood back up, and continued to bound along the hill.
The second time I came crashing down was in my first year of uni, when someone commented on my weight. I am still falling.
[ If it were the future, I would ask a scientist to change me into one of those perfect, underwater sea creatures, transparent except for a dash of unholy colour, gleaming like a halo when scuba divers shine a torch on them.
It must give the poor things a good scare, not knowing where their own light comes from.
I should be an amoeba.
Then I wouldn’t care about how horrible I looked.
But I wouldn’t look horrible, because I would have self-control. I would be studious about the way I eat, and it would come naturally, just like when I was at my thinnest and never even thought about it. I was a mindless greyhound before all of your mirrors.
As an amoeba, you’re always in control of your body. You don’t have cravings. You are composed. You don’t fear eating more than you should – you just have to get on with it. Because there is one thing that an amoeba knows: its constitution is so sensitive that one microscopic bite too far will destroy everything, and that one too little will invite immediate starvation.
Everyone can see what they’ve eaten, but they’ve got nothing to hide.
They don’t obsess, or pick at their skin, or feel guilty, because they just can’t.
Of course, a human body is probably the better card to draw. But sometimes I don’t think I’d mind spending my days hunting for every speck that passes through me, my life depending on it. That sounds like quite a rewarding life.
When it comes down to it, an amoeba and I are pretty much the same in terms of ultimate uselessness. The only difference is that one of us gets to remain happily unaware of this. And they have the perfect body.
I wish I were an amoeba, because then I would be an altogether superior version of myself. ]
In reality, I’d probably be one of those duds that die a few seconds after being spawned from the mother-nest. I’d be too quick to abuse my power, and gorge on some poor micro-moss until suddenly my organs would fail. And – pop – I’d be gone, permitting space for the new, normal amoebas who were born with the right brain chemistry. So I guess I’ll have to remain a human, whose faithful organs scream and cry for help when they’re hit with the truck-tons of sugar and oil that avalanche down into them when I binge.
“As if you are going to eat all those.”
“You do eat fast!”
“You’re already done?”
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP.
I don’t want anybody to look at me. I despise it when I find out that a stranger has commented on how I look – even compliments, because it sounds like they’re admiring some kind of virtue people possess or have control over. Fuck Off With Your Mirrors. Consider that maybe the person you’re commenting on hasn’t gone a minute of the past year without thinking about their weight.
My brain tells me I’m not sexy. The models on Dollskill.com tell me I was sexy when I was so thin that you could see my amoeba ribs when I lay on the bed. My brain ignores the plus-size models I scroll past, because I don’t look like them either.
There was a time I hardly ate. Later, when I talked about that time, I used to effectively brag that it wasn’t because I’d had an eating disorder, but because I didn’t yet feel the stress of uni, and my boyfriend was a beanpole with beautiful ribs who never ate anything except Pringles. It was all his fault! But now that I’m older, and slowly healing, I confess there was maybe something a little off about me back then, after all.
“Do you really think you look fat?” he asked.
I shrugged and, admiring myself naked on the couch with ribs poking out, just said: “Sometimes.”
We’d go out to prance naked in the forest together like silly greyhounds, and I never, ever ate–
And then some girl who barely said a word to me back in high school spread the news that I’d lost weight. The male acquaintance who’d overheard her sold it to me as a compliment, because he’d never seen me in high school when I looked perfectly normal, and thanks to Dollskill.com, he didn’t consider I might currently be unhealthy…
Of course, when my boyfriend and I broke up, my lifestyle went back to normal. No more living off grass. Except now in my mind, ‘normal’ evidently meant ‘FAT.’
Often when you look slim, no one thinks much about how hard it might be to stay that way. Because you eat too fast, and you eat out of stress. Sometimes I felt like it was taking me over.
Sometimes I could not stop thinking about food, and the mirror, and the fleshy parts on my stomach that rolled over the top of my old tights. The hundreds of pale stretch marks across my ass, about which I still haven’t the slightest idea. When did they even appear?
[ There are some amoebas called brain-eating amoebas. Well, scientists aren’t quite sure: they’re not really amoebas, not bacteria, but a type of something-something. Naegleria fowleri. Funny how they sound a bit like ‘Nagle’. They are extremely rare. 146 cases have been reported in America since 1962. Here they are.
They live in lakes. Normally, they munch on even smaller organisms. But if one of these foul critters is lucky enough to get sucked inside your nostril, it knows exactly what to do. Almost all infections are fatal. You have to admire that, seeing as none of their little friends have probably ever seen a human brain before.
Maybe I should invite one to live inside me. It could take over my brain cells, and probably put them to a lot better use than I do. Maybe there is one already eating away at me. That would account for a lot of the mess. ]
If I can’t be an amoeba, why can’t I get over it and become a sexy model campaigning for self-love? It would be nice to enjoy life instead of living out this ridiculous cycle of lying to myself and binging on chocolate then hiding the wrappers. People with a kink might pay to watch me eat, instead of raising their eyebrows at how fast I finish my food.
My brain tells me I’m too weak to just give in and love myself as I am. ‘You shouldn’t love yourself like this, that’s lazy – you need to try harder and then you’ll be happy.’ I’m in a stalemate with my brain, and my body soldiers on, fighting between two extremes – lean, not curvaceous, not skinny, not sexy. Average isn’t sexy. Why can’t I just be like this model online, telling all her followers to stop worrying and eat what we want? She’s the size I used to be, when being thin wasn’t an objective, it just was.
I’d preach self-care from up on my skinny throne, too, if I could just stop thinking about eating. See, the size zero, she doesn’t think about food! If only I could live such a life, then it would happen, just like before. But I’m truly stuck here in the middle, no matter how horrified I am when people remind me of my eating habits.
[ …Oh, you noticed that I ate fast? It’s true, I can’t deny it, I joke about it all the time. You think I’m gluttonous, insolent, and pathetic? So do I. How about I stop eating altogether, so that you won’t comment on it ever again? And I’ll waste away until I am thinner than an amoeba, until I grow angel wings, become untouchable… ]
I’m not like this because of one man who loved me and who lived on Pringles. I am like this because of the shit you see on Instagram’s explore panel after you follow one vegan recipe account. This influencer says you need to drink at least two litres of water a day. This influencer says you should also find ways to ‘eat’ your water. They no longer drink water and have honestly never looked back (because drinking treated tap water might not be healthy!) #relatable #health #selflove #selfcaretips #selfcarematters. Self-care matters. I am not doing enough just by breathing. I am not doing enough. I must care about measurements, calories, and percentages. The water content of a strawberry is 92%. The water content of an orange is 85%. According to the Internet, that’s about 2% more than the amount of water that makes up the human lungs. No wonder it often feels like we’re drowning.
It would be easier to ask a scientist to turn me into an amoeba than to work on my own human body and make it healthy. I am a great galumphing beast, chock-full of all kinds of perfect creatures taking advantage of me, laughing at me and the food I put inside. “She really ate those chips again? After they gave her gas last time and all us stomach bacteria had a really fucked up day? What a loser.”
I’m still falling… Some days I fall slower. Sometimes I even scramble at the cliff face and crawl back up a little. But then someone flicks me back down again, or a rock dislodges and sends me tumbling. I don’t know if I’ll hit the bottom.
Mirrors shouldn’t be everywhere. They hurt. They invite self-hatred. I love your mind, I wish we all thought the way you do. I said I didn’t mind them. I am addicted to being eaten alive.