I was in Vermont for a friend’s wedding, and we were having a party at the cabin we had all rented. He came up to me in the kitchen: You’re a cunt, he said. You really want to be nice, but in you’re heart, who you really are, you’re not a nice person. You may want to be, but that’s not you. I can see deep down that you’re not nice, and you never will be. I can’t be the first person to tell you this, he added.
They say everything sounds lovelier in a British accent. This did not. Pete Doherty puking on me in British accent would’ve been more enjoyable. Or hearing Ed Sheeran discuss his writing process.
I asked if he was, you know, taking a piss. He said he wasn’t: I’m not. I’m telling exactly who you are and what I see.
I patted him on the he shoulder for a brief moment, said good chat and turned around bewildered. I heard his a retort, a like fuck it was as I walked away.
I was stone cold sober. An expression, I’d never understand until that moment. It means you have to face something head on, with nothing to mollify you. When you want something to mollify you. I quit drinking for three months at the beginning of recovery for an eating disorder I have had on and off for 18 years. Babies have been born and and rejected from their first choice colleges in the time I’d been hating my body and harming myself. In grade school, I was bulimic. In high school and college I rarely ate as I was always on adderall. Post college when I wasn’t, I began binging and purging.
That night, in the kitchen, I was somewhere near day 45 of no alcohol. And no binging.
Earlier in the evening in the car, he’d told me how much he hadn’t liked me when we first met, 5 years ago, at a party. And how his wife’s friend really didn’t like me. But how he thought I was really cool now. I had been the designated driver.
My eyes began welling with tears because it fucking hurt. It didn’t matter that he barely knew me or that he was black-out drunk. It fucking hurt.
Someone once said my frequent use of expletives dulls their meaning, so let me clarify.
IT FUCKING HURT.
It hit a cord. It’s not the conversation you expect to be having, with anyone, the night before two of your favorite people get married. What I was experiencing now, had not been factored into that equation.
I’ve been to a lot of weddings and here are a list of things that have happened to me.
Climbed a rope down to a secluded beach, lost a shoe, and slept naked in a hammock.
Missed a first dance because I was talking about Game of Thrones
Had sex in the woods and gotten poison ivy.
And the most shocking of all— getting to the bar for the after party, and immediately leaving because I wanted to go home, watch Netflix, and do yoga in the morning
But this, this was new.
I told a friend of mine what happened. She assured me that I don’t have a mean bone in my body, and then tickled me claiming to look for it. I stopped crying. I herded drunk people into bed. Held someone’s hair. Run of the mill sober person at the party stuff.
I went to wash my face, and I noticed, on the back of the toilet, his hat. I realized how very easy it would be to throw it in the toilet. No one would know it was me. If he were capable of remembering the things he said to me, perhaps I’d be a top suspect, but he wasn’t going to. It made me mad. I shouldn’t have to be the only one of the two of us who knew what he’d said. But if I threw the hat in the toilet, would that make me, GASP, not nice?
Then I got into bed and realized that putting the hat in the toilet was a terrible call. Putting the hat in the toilet, taking it out, drying it, and putting it back where I found it, was the only way to go. It was much more sinister, and also frankly more considerate for whoever had to use the bathroom next. I didn’t want an innocent bystander fishing the hat out. But alas, I’m not OJ Simpson, and this isn’t, if I were going to throw someone’s hat in the toilet, this is how I would do it.
In short, I did not throw the hat in the toilet.
And that’s the end of the events of the evening. That’s the plot. The story of how the night before two people I love got married, someone said one of the meanest things anyone has ever said to me.
My list is short. I don’t keep a tally in my pocket, but I can pretty easily tell you that there’s now three really mean things I wish I’d never heard. The other two were said by people I knew. And that was awful. Gut-wrenching. When someone you love, who knows everything about you and still loves you, rescinds that love, with judgment, it is a terrifying, terra incognito of our souls.
But here was a person who didn’t know me. Who had just now spent part of the last 36 hours with me and five years ago spent maybe ten minutes at a party with me.
In many ways, I was mess when I was 25. Everyone at that party was on cocaine. My sense of self was so fragile, and I wanted people to like me. But when things we’re good, I could be charming, witty, and thoughtful. I laughed and smiled a lot. I had just starting working in independent film, and I felt as if I was constantly learning new things and being awakened to more and more art. I wrote my first short film. These were the things that happened on the days I got out of bed and left the house. These things coexisted with my often debilitating depression, the drugs, and my eating disorder.
25 was also the year it got so bad, I got scared and asked for help. I didn’t all get fixed right away, but it’s been going in that direction ever since.
Usually, it’s voices we use to speak to ourselves are the biggest assholes. You’re so stupid. How you could you do that? The loudest voice in my head is my eating disorder, and she likes to tell me I’m fat and unworthy of love. She is NOT a nice person.
This is my life though. I’m fighting my eating disorder. And I’m in recovery. And recovery is the space I will always live in. Because it will always be work. But it’s work that is giving my life back to myself. I’m not skipping a friend’s birthday because I spent all day binging. I’m not bailing on an engagement party and blaming work because I actually thought I looked too fat to leave my apartment. For I long time, I haven’t publicly talked about my eating disorder because I don’t want people to think I’m weak. I’ve been ashamed.
But I’ll tell you a secret. I am strong as hell.
But it didn’t feel that way at that moment, only two months into recovery. I wasn’t a person who could be told her true nature is a cunt, and as Jay Z says, brush your shoulders off. Lemonade wasn’t even coming out for another 9 months.
One of my friends asked, “Why didn’t you deck him?”
I didn’t have the self esteem to “deck him,” literally or metaphorically and more importantly, immediately rejecting it as false. You can’t have an eating disorder and have high self esteem. If you cared about yourself in that way, you couldn’t harm your body and your mind over and over. Eat so much that you gain five pounds in one day. Puke until bile burns the back of your throat, and your heart pounds so painfully in your chest that it feels like it’s trying to escape your rib cage.
And worse in those new fragile months of recovery, you’ve lost your coping mechanism. You can’t eat your feelings. You have to have them.
My eating disorder started because of body image, but it morphed. It was and still is connected to my weight, but binging became the way I knew how to deal with problems. This wasn't the bulimia of my youth where I might throw up an average sized meal, though I did occasionally binge. Post college, it became a way to escape my problems, and for a brief moment and in a very self-contradictory way, my eating disorder. When the desire to binge kicks in, it consumes you. It holds you hostage, but then it silences everything else. Thing don't even really taste that good when you're binging, though you'll lie to yourself that they does. While you're binging and for few minutes after you feel not just relief from your anxiety, but a kind of euphoria. Then the need to purge kicks in. I've spent entire days going through a binge/purge cycle. I've also gone months without.
Other days might revolve around when I could have sugar, how much I wanted sugar, and being angry at myself for how much sugar I had. Even if I didn't purge, I'd feel so much guilt and anxiety, I wouldn't leave the house. Even if there was no actionable behavior, food and my appearance often dominated my thoughts so much and wrecked my self-esteem, I might cancel plans and go straight home from work. I often lied and said I was sick. And in truth, I was.
So what do I do now when I can’t tell a cinnamon roll that some wanker was mean to me? I meditate. And I meditate on the good days, so I can be strong on the challenging ones.
Do you want to guess what’s more fun? Eating donuts or meditating? Meditating is a lot of things. But process of learning to sit with yourself and be okay with who you are in the present moment is not fun. Interesting, yes. But I’d rather do what Marie Antoinette suggested and eat some cake.
I also journal. I use a skill, distress tolerance, that I learned in individual therapy, which I still go to, and group therapy, which I went to for about half a year. I started writing this that night because I couldn’t drink, and I couldn’t eat.
I wrote about how nice is sort of a blah word. What I want to be, what I hope I can be, is kind. I’m not perfect. I can be really judgmental of the shoe preferences of everyone on the subway. Have I lost my temper? Said things I regretted? Not called when I should? Talked shit? Not volunteered even though I keep meaning to? Yes, Yes, a thousand times yes.
But trying to be kind, caring about being kind, is the value system on which I would rest society, if I could.
So he blacked out and turned to the person nearest to him and said some mean, fucked up shit. It doesn’t matter why he did it. And I hope he never sees this article. I will say that when sober, he is intelligent, funny, and from what I’ve seen, a loving husband and friend. He apologized by email about 6 weeks later. But none of it, including that, matters.
What matters is what I do with it. And here’s where I’m going to argue that you don’t have to immediately brush your shoulders off. And you don’t have to break down. A different me, who didn’t have the skills treatment has given me, especially a drunk me, would have broken down. So I let it hurt. A lot. And by allowing it to hurt, even though I knew it wasn’t true, I validated an emotion I was having. And that’s being kind to yourself. That’s saying you matter. And it’s saying how you feel matters. And it’s a big old fuck you to everyone who has ever made you feel small or unworthy. Caring about yourself is the biggest fuck you, you can ever give.
And caring about yourself is the only way to freedom from an eating disorder. You let it all hurt. Losing a job or sleeping with someone who then doesn’t call, text, or like your #TBTs. You feel it instead of running away. You decide that escape is not an option..
He didn’t ruin my weekend. But he did put a damper on it. That’s just the truth. Looking back, the good outweighs the bad and the love outweighs the sorrow. That is true also.
It took me 24 hours to remember that I am nice, even kind at times. I am a loving daughter, sister, and aunt. A loyal, caring friend and a great cat mom. I hope the people I love know that I love them, and I try to make sure they do.
I drink again. I have a different and healthier relationship with alcohol. I have gotten drunk a handful of times in the last year, but I've curtailed the kind of drinking that makes me do things I regret. The escapism kind. While not drinking, I discovered vanilla seltzer. That almost makes it all worthwhile. Sure, I have an eating disorder, but have you tried Vanilla Seltzer?!
I have wanted to write about this since August. But I was scared to say in public I have an eating disorder. That was then. Putting it in the title of this essay is now.
I’m coming up on 1 year of recovery. I’ve done stand up about it. And every time I open up and tell you who the real me is, the eating disorder loses. Eating disorders thrive on shame. That’s what feeds them.
I’m not a cunt.
And neither is my eating disorder, if we’re being honest. We are the sum of all our experiences. That’s the deal on planet earth, for better or for worse. I am who I am today partly because I’ve had an eating disorder. I’m angry at all the time my disease stole from me in both big and insidious ways, but I’m really liking the person I’m getting to know along the recovery path. And if I could send her back in time to that night to talk to myself, I’d look me in the eyes, and I’d tell her to throw the fucking hat in the toilet.