Thursday, June 13, 2013


My teens poke fun at me for lots of reasons.  My mormonism, my perpetually disorganized desk, my djembe drums and hippie skirts, my weird (read: AWESOME) taste in music, my unapologetic misuse of the word "tenacious", and the list goes on.

One area they never neglect is what they call my "radical feminism".  I don't mind the term feminism, though the word radical upsets me.  It upsets me because I wish my ideas about women and specifically the female body were not seen as strange or deviant.  It upsets me but I will exercise patience because I remember being where they are.

I remember being in the thick of at eating disorder, yes, but I also remember something much worse: something worse than compulsive and destructive behavior.  Something worse than addiction.  I remember being in the thick of seeing the world and my place as a woman in it.  I remember what it was like to play the game of body-shaming, image-coveting, and oppression, not because I loved the game but because in my mind, it was the only game in town.

This was, in my mind, not some phase I was going through.  Nor was it a battle for me to really fight.  It was the way of the world.  There are just some things you must accept and cannot change.  One day our planet will run out of petroleum, the poor will always be with us, and the way a woman looks matters more than the way she thinks or feels.


Hop on that capitalist treadmill and keep running.  Why?  'Cause it's the only game in town, that's why. You cannot hop off.  You will get tired, but you are a woman and this is your race.

I believed this.  Until I learned that there may not be other games in town but I don't have to live in town.

I remember the moment I began to wake up (it's always a process) from my zombie treadmill run.  It would take years before I packed my bags and left, but I remember the moment I saw the crack in the door and realized I could leave and might someday have the courage to do so.

Age 14, sick, and as small as my body would let me get

My friends had known about my eating disorder for a while individually.  Eventually, several of them turned me in, my parents knew, I ended up in the hospital, and there was no longer a point in hiding it.  Everyone knew but we didn't talk about it most of the time.  What was there to be said?  Yeah an eating disorder is a bummer and I should probably stop but let's get real.  We're all playing the game--eventually it plays us to some degree or another.  

Not everyone felt this way though.  Danica Parkin was well ahead of her time.  I remember one summer day when I had ran to her and her brother Grahm's house.   I sat on his bed while we shot the breeze.  Danica told me that they had a gift for me and to wait.  She brought out a package.  I opened it up to find a pair of beautiful blue pants, size 13.

"Something to grow into".  She said.

"Thanks" I mumbled, mostly confused.

"Dana, we don't want you to be afraid of getting bigger.  We want you to get better.  We want you to stay alive."

I didn't understand the significance of that gift then.  I didn't understand it for years.  Danica was giving me a message that was an entire 180 from the one I was being bombarded with on a daily basis.

"Please.  Gain weight.  We want you to gain weight.  Gain plenty of it.  Don't worry about that size 2.  Here's a 13.  Go here and beyond, just please stay alive.  Please choose living.  Please choose freedom."

Danica wasn't playing the game and she was inviting me to step off too--to join her in a world where women are more than numbers, shiny hair, and pore-less skin.  A world where women don't have to pluck the personality, laser the life, and starve the heart and spunk out of their bold and brave bodies.   A world where I could say "I love my body," and leave out the "in spite of my this or even with my that or I will when it looks like her body."

"I love my body.  Period."

Thank you for the invite all those years back, Danica.  Sorry it took me a while to join you.  I don't know why I waited so long.  I was in a deep, deep sleep I suppose, and waking up isn't easy.  It's easier to stay asleep.

But it's better to wake up.  It's better to be alive.

Age 26 beautiful and vibrant and alive--many pounds heavier, many times happier.