At fourteen-years-old, I found myself in the downstairs toilet of my house, with my fingers in my throat, retching. This undoubtedly seems like an odd situation for a fourteen-year-old to be in. It is. Actually, it’s an odd situation for anyone to be in. I was there because my boyfriend at the time had made a comment about the women in porn and their perfect bodies. And we all know how mainstream female porn stars look, whether we want to admit it or not, and that is: petite, big boobs, flat stomach, slender legs, small waist. I, at fourteen-years-old, didn’t have any of these things (to be honest, I’m twenty-one now and still don’t have any of these things) and was quite distraught that my boyfriend admired these women’s bodies, who looked so different from mine.
So, there are two details here that fourteen-year-old me was too young and inexperienced to realise. These things are:
- People are allowed to be attracted to different things. Some people have ‘a type’, but some people don’t. Some people just like whatever they like and that’s okay. For example, a straight man may find a thin girl and a chubby girl equally attractive, despite their obvious differences.
- If a boy knows you’re self-conscious about your body (which my boyfriend did) and openly talks about how beautiful other women’s bodies are (especially unattainable bodies such as a porn star’s), he is insensitive and stupid. Dump him.
But Heinz sight is a wonderful thing and I didn’t realise these details at the time. So, my answer to this dilemma was to make myself vomit and get all the food out. All the food I’d eaten that day needed to be flushed down the toilet so I could look more like a porn star. Sounds silly when you put it like that.
I didn’t actually want to look like a porn star. I just wanted to be skinny. I had wanted to be skinny since I was six-years-old, I specifically remember. I remember being on the playground, wrapped up in a sensible winter coat my parents had bought me, happily playing with my friends. Somehow my friends and I had got into an altercation with one of the naughty boys. His name was Reuben and I’ve forgotten his last name because he moved schools not too long after this. He had blonde spikey hair, was always in trouble and used to pinch me (and I think the other girls) when we sat on the carpet during lessons. I don’t remember what the disagreement on the playground was about, but I sure remember what he said. “You’re fat.” And he ran away. He didn’t say this to any of my friends; he said it to me and only me. I don’t recall ever being body conscious before this moment, but after this I was hyper aware of my “fat” body and how “wrong” it was.
In case you’re curious, when I was fourteen and bent over the toilet, I wasn’t actually sick. I tried until my eyes watered, but for whatever reason it wasn’t happening. Soon after this, I realised how silly I was being and how forcing myself to vomit up food wasn’t going to solve anything. I went about my life, with this incident shoved to the back of my head. I still hated my body (this was a given) but hadn’t acted out in this way again – until, a year and a half later.
I tend to think of this incident as my first encounter with my eating disorder. At the eating disorder clinic, we’re advised to almost separate the eating disorder from ourselves, like we’re two different people. So, I explain the ‘fourteen-year-old toilet incident’ as meeting my eating disorder for the first time. It didn’t introduce itself to me in a big, brash, dramatic way. But it said hello, a quick and small encounter, so brief it was almost forgotten – but returned when I was fifteen to grow into something uncontrollable.
If there is a moral to take from this spiel, don’t be a dick about other people’s bodies.