Lesson one, being something is a matter of letting life draw you along, like a leaf in a gutter when the rain comes, it might be bias, I admit I am, to me most people let this happen to them, to my mind the world is full of devices to let a person do this very thing.
For what feels like forever I have looked in at society from the outside, as a child I felt distance from it, I didn’t want to be what my mother expected of me, it was at odds with what I wanted so I grew sullen, removed, belligerent even. A child has little ability to say no otherwise, and she wore me down, so we reached a compromise, I did what she wanted, behaved as she wanted and worse what she wanted – if. The if was that I could indulge myself with what intellectual pursuits I wanted and did as I pleased in my own time. I wasn’t lazy, this was not about doing chores or not, nor was it about being haughty, had I been she’d have approved. But I did sneer at her lifestyle, those of her friends and more importantly her friends’ daughters, the last thing I wanted was to be like them. The major conflict that arose from this was my behaviour at school, she felt that I should be participating in what the ‘other girls like you’ do. I should be with what the Americans call the ‘mean girls’ we don’t really have a term for it, and Australia is fast becoming another state of America so it’ll do.
I did try it, but I didn’t like where they were going, vain jnr. bitches, headed for a life of – well becoming like their mothers. It was all about how you looked, where you lived, what your parents did, what you wore out of school and how much of a bitch you were.
One small revelation I discovered, in time was that the girls I hung out with, the nerdy less attractive crowd was that all their scorn for the popular – mean girls, it came down to jealousy. As I said more than once, I was a smart kid but I was naive, I thought that most people spoke their mind, did as they wanted best to do and made the kind of friends that they wanted to be around.
Around the time of puberty some of my chubby friends suddenly developed the usual eating disorders, I say usual because it was almost inevitable where I come from, maybe where you do too?
For the sake of bitter irony I’ll call her Ana. Ana was a reasonably attractive, not ugly, girl of Chinese extraction, smart, lively and quite witty. Over the summer break she went from chubby, not fat but chubby to a size 8, which is not thin according to my mother’s lobby, not as thin as I was but it was dramatic and that changed her, dramatically. I noticed an aloofness, almost instantly. Her and I were school friends, meaning that I didn’t see her out of school, she was from Balwyn which is difficult to get to from where I lived, I mean you had to change lines, and it was in the ‘zone two’ of our public transport system as it was then, how remote.
I noticed she paid more attention to our enemies, the meanies, bitched about them less, which was significant for her, she being a major complainer. School yards are about as political as life is, in fact I have this theory that the school ground stays with us though out life, and I’m sticking to it, it makes us, or at least leaves an indelible mark on us for life. Ana ate like a horse, one of my early observations about girls who were not thin was the speed at which they ate, and that mainly came from her and two other girls I hung with. Oddly she would vanish right afterwards, for the loo, not something that particularly set off alarms until one day I needed to pee right after she vanished and that’s when the other one in the one plus one equation looked stupidly obvious. She’d become bulimic, we had a nice term for that ‘mia’ for bulimia, as though it was something nicer that way.
Lesson two, the more attention the better. I was beside myself, and here in came a series of revelations, the first being that people who get little attention soak it up like a sponge when it does happen. And I immediately paid her more attention, I tried desperately to try and save her, in a stupid kind of pre-teen way, I thought reason would work. I thought if I tell her, don’t eat as much, that’s what I do, then you won’t need to ‘purge’ you should do this slowly, but even if you don’t I still think you are pretty, yes, I was that naive. Nothing worked, I went to her place, hung out with her, but nothing mattered, she’d cry, hug, swear to God and do it all over again, sometimes in front of me.
I felt like a failure, and more and more I became obsessed by saving her, finally I decided she needed intervention before her teeth were eaten away and she died of throwing up or whatever, which is my version of medical science age about 11 or 12. I told my mum, who told me it wasn’t my concern and I needed to find less stupid friends, her only real reaction was-
“You’re not doing that are you? Do I need to take you to the psychiatrist?” I was insulted, and I pressed her to do something, “Like what call her mother?”
“Yes!” I pleaded, she eventually relented, I’ll give my mother that, she was no coward. But as it turns out her mother said nothing to her, glad that she was finally not chubby. The real and only effect was I lost her as a friend and ended up being labelled a traitor. My school life, less that fun out of class got worse, my group dwindled, as Ana’s grew, until the went to hospital for the first time, not that this helped me one bit but I felt vindicated.
Which is typical of me to think about myself first, life lesson three, everyone thinks of the universe revolving around themselves, no surprise Galileo was imprisoned for trying to convince the pope otherwise. From that point onwards I gave up on my foray into aiding other humans, in fact it solidified the already firm belief that I was different.
I wasn’t able to reconcile the causality, I tried hard to help, it made things worse and now everyone hates me, a notch up from the non-thing I was. During the period where I was trying to save Ana I remember her ranting to me that how could I possibly understand what it was to be her, that everything about my life was a gift, the way I looked, that being chief of God’s gifts, and apparent cruelties to her and those like her. Lesson four, the not pretty are cursed by the pretty, its the fault of the attractive that life is like this, this I don’t believe but everyone who is plain, chubby or otherwise physically not beautiful deep down, they hold that as a grudge. Most will deny it but I’ve heard this a lot, I read it between a lot of lines.
Why can’t I be beautiful, its plastered all over the internet and what do you say to it?
Lesson five, everything is someone’s fault, its society, the media, God, Darwin or you, you being an individual or the masses.
I can understand, when I’ve been hard done by I wanted to hate, and have created my own idols to hatred, my mother being my chief demon, yes, I realise that, but does it change a thing, no, it’s irrationally deep, I have cause of course but murderous hatred it is nonetheless, and believe me that’s not over emphasising.
People are like clay, if you squeeze them the mark stays, we all have these, being conscious of them helps but they in no small way mould us, pardon the reliance on clay.
How do we escape this? We don’t that’s what I have found, we have to live with the markings, or put make up over them, if we are so disposed, but, come night time you need to pull it off and there you are in front of the hateful mirror, still you, still imperfect. The only answer I have ever come up with there is that you need to both work at changing what you are – inside and come to terms with what you are on the outside. Or get surgery, which I’ve done too, sorry to disappoint you but its fairly minor – cough. I’m vain, and not without a point were I give in, though as I get older this seems to be hardening, I have the funds to go nuts in the vanity department but having lived as an obscene object of desire in my work life, I’ve become somewhat blasé about it.
There was a time not so long ago that I thought I could impart wisdom from where I’ve been, decimate my thoughts and events that might help others, but I look at myself as a girl and remember how close minded and stubborn I was, I have changed that much, but the school yard, that’s just bigger now, its the same outside the gates as it was inside. The people that might do something with it are not going to listen and as a good friend pointed out to me – you are the choir, and all I am doing is preaching to you. Lesson six.