Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Letter

Dear Skinny Girl In My Chemistry Class,

Hi. My name’s Jess. I’m afraid I don’t know your name. Or the colour of your eyes, or your face, or even how you are at Chemistry. But I’ll tell you what I do know: I know you are thin.

I could describe to anybody who was interested how skinny your legs are. I could take a rough guess at the circumference of your wrist and I’ve spent a good proportion of my time trying to estimate your height. So I can estimate your BMI, see. Estimating your weight takes up even more time.

I could probably be doing gas calculations or enthalpy cycles or, you know, things to do with my course and my future- but it’s hard. It’s hard when you are sitting right there and all I can think is that you’re looking at me and thinking ‘look at you. You think you’re anorexic? Look at me: I’m thin. You are not.’ I tend to guess that you haven’t eaten today and probably never will because I cannot imagine you with food inside of that almost obscenely flat stomach.

Skinny Girl, I know you’d be confused because we’ve never really talked, but I think about quite a lot. Well, not just you: sorry, Skinny Girl In My Chemistry Class, but you’re not the only one. Take a seat next to Emaciated Girl From The Library and That Girl Who Only Ever Drinks Diet Coke At Lunch.

I’m sorry for staring at you. I often joke that I spend way more time looking at girls’ legs than the guys do. I am practising the all-important art of comparison: aka, how can I make myself feel bad next?

And I’m aware, Skinny Girl, that it isn’t fair to call you Skinny Girl. I’m aware that this entire letter isn’t fair. That’s why I’m writing it here, on this site, to show what anorexia does to the brain. It makes me want to stalk you, to try and find out if you’re anorexic or ill or naturally thin or a figment of my imagination. I’m aware, Skinny Girl, that when I say that your boniness is mocking me, that that is illogical.

You have a name. I don’t know it, but I know you have it. I bet you have a favourite animal. I bet you had a toy you always played with when you were younger, a career you’d love to pursue if you had the time and skills, maybe a recurring dream that you’ve grown used to. You get up and go to bed and use the bathroom and do real, human things, because you are a real human being.

But this, this is what eating disorders reduce us to. When you look at people through eating disordered glasses, you see them in 2D. You note the curve of their hips or the jut of their spine and that is all. It’s difficult to look past your bones, Skinny Girl, because they’re all I ever damn well notice.

So I am writing this letter to say sorry. I extend this apology to every person I treat this way: eyeing you up as though you’re a piece of meat that doesn’t exist on my radar except as ‘potential competition’.

And I’m sorry for me too. I’m sorry that I have to make myself hurt every time I see somebody like you. It’s sad that every underweight person I see gives that voice in my head more material for its scathing commentary on my day to day activities. I’m sad for both of us, Skinny Girl.

I’m never going to show you this because, to be blunt, this isn’t even really about you. It’s about me- about all of us. About how the disorder drives us to look at weight, weight and nothing but weight. About how it flags up the tiniest person in the room in order to create a mental ‘spot the difference!’ for us. About how pointless and futile it is, and how just plain wrong it is. Maybe one day I’ll talk to you and find out a little more about you. Maybe one day I’ll stop caring what you do or how much you weigh. For today, Skinny Girl In My Chemistry Class, all I can say is that I can’t help this right now, no: but by acknowledging that these comparisons are not healthy and it’s not okay, I’m taking away a little bit of its power. Week by week, day by day, glance by glance.




  1. Thank you so much for writing this Jess, I found myself having very similar thoughts today as I watched all of the girls in my year file out one by one from a French exam. Nearly every one of them has a completely flat stomach, something that I feel is unattainable even for my anorexic body. It's great to know that others think exactly the same way. I have recently started my own blog and hope to reach out to people in the same way that you do.

    Thanks again,
    G x

  2. Oh Jess, I didn't not realize just HOW MUCH I compare myself to other "skinny girls" (oh she's smaller than me… I wonder is she's anorexic, I wonder if she's a dietician too… I wonder if she knows I have struggled as well… I wonder if she tries to stay that way) I didn't fully acknowledge I had these thoughts until reading your letter and quietly saying "oh yes, that sounds familiar". The ED can numb the mind from SO MANY hurtful practices and it isn't until we write them out that they sound completely absurd! Thank you for your honesty in this letter. These are thoughts about that girl we do not know we ALL have yet do not realize it in the moment. What would a day look like without comparison? Golly, I can only dream… You are a gifted writer dear… keep moving forward!

    Love from the U.S.,

  3. Thank you. Just thank you. It's like you are reading my mind, but I've never really thought about how absurd this is. I honestly think I'm more obsessed with assessing peoples' bodies than most guys are, and I spend most of my time staring at prepubescent girls. Under any other circumstances, that would be SO creepy, but it's completely ED-driven. You put this into good perspective. It's not normal or healthy. It's more proof that eating disorders really whack out your mind.

  4. I love you Jess, for your writing and for wanting to see people in 3D... Wanting is a huge thing, you kow?

  5. And I thought I was the only one that did this... It's good to know it's actually ED doing it, not me. I just thought I was weird...
    I hope by acknowledging we can start accepting that comparing ourselves to every other woman on the planet is a complete waste of time and does nothing to move us forward in life.

  6. Back again!

    I was so inspired by this letter that I have now written my own to a girl in my year-group and posted it on my own blog.

    Thank you for inspiring me! x


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...