Monday, December 04, 2006

Weight

Around about eight my friend Veronica rings me. She almost never does. It’s sunset here, the sky the colour of blusher. I am standing outside near the punching bag, burning old papers in the incinerator.

“Can you talk?” she says.

“What’s wrong?” I can tell there is something in her voice. She is very bad at lying, keeps her secrets close to the skin.

“Where are you?” I say.

“My dad’s house. Family barbecue” she says.

As soon as she says that I know what is wrong. I wait.

“I hate him” she says. “I'm in the kitchen. I had to come in here in case I cry.”

I say nothing. This is something you have to let out, not something you can reach in and extract. After a while I speak.

“What’s going on?”

Her voice is quiet. “He keeps saying things. All through the meal. Everything I eat.” She breathes in, a long breath just this side of crying.
‘Don’t you think that’s enough?’
‘You’ll get fatter’
‘No wonder you look like you do’ ”.

“Jesus”. Veronica is eye-catchingly beautiful. Medical students lust after her and the man who fixed our air conditioning a few months ago spent forty minutes in her office and five in mine. I was terrified of talking to her when I first met her.

“Does he know you get sick?”

“He’s always known.”

Veronica was in hospital a while back. There are very few facilities dedicated to those with eating disorders in this city, but the larger private and public hospitals make an attempt. Her father is on the board of one of the larger banks, a man whose success is measurable, demonstrable, mentioned in the right places. He makes sure his offspring have the best private health insurance, she spent a few months in Clearwater a while back.

“He knows. He knows I go home after these things and I’m sick for days.”

“Look, it’s wrong, he’s wrong…” I begin, but I know as I speak that the words are falling into the void. But I do what I can. “He should be proud of you and what you are.”

“Times like this I want to strangle him. Is that wrong?”

“No. Actually strangling him, they say that’s wrong. But I can write you a sick note, say you weren’t of sound mind...”

She doesn’t smile. I try again. “He’s wrong. You’re a lovely person, you do an important job, you’ve achieved things any father should be proud of …” But as I speak I get the image of him coming into her bedroom every morning, like he used to do all through primary school. Weighing her and graphing her weight on the back of her bedroom door.

Sarah worked with Veronica once, asked me one day if I knew whether Veronica's father had abused her. At the time I said I didn’t know.

“I just want to be sick” she says. “I feel like I have to be sick”.

“Don't. You’re a good friend” I say. “You’re a good friend and people who get to know you like you.”

There aren’t many who get to know her. She has, if truth be told, few female friends - she looks too good, dresses too well, smiles too much at men, as if she defines herself by the approval of male authority figures. Her boss, unaware of this history, says she’s a man-eater, when in fact it is she who desperately wants to be eaten, savoured, accepted.

There is more stuff I say, and more stuff she says, and at the end of the phone call she says she feels better. “Thanks” she says, and hangs up.

And she’s probably driven home by now. And I don't ring her that often, and she sometimes doesn't ring me, and I know if I ring now the phone will ring and ring unanswered.

And there’s something going on here, some complex intertwining of food and sex and rejection that I can’t begin to understand. A significant proportion of her boyfriends have been men of a certain type - policemen and prisoners, men with some relationship to violence or authority, hyper-males. One is doing five years in prison, attempted murder - for a long time she visited him in jail, bought him gifts every weekend.

“Hope I helped” I say to the phne, and I don’t know. For a moment I stand there, one fist holding the phone, one poised in front of the punching bag. I think about violence, smashing the bone and skin of men - jabs, hooks, crosses, uppercuts. Splitting the mouths and swelling the eyes of people I have never seen, their faces crumpling and bleeding in front of me.

But they are not here in front of me, and the damage is already done. It's night-time, time to go in.

I walk out of the shed and the ashes drift across the yard. The sky is dark, a dull blue grey, the colour of sickness.

John

7 Comments:

Blogger lauritajuanitasanchez said...

Oh! Women and weight! I feel for your friend. In my first real job (flight attendant), my professional value was entirely dependant on my weight. If I passed the 145 lb mark (and I'm 5'9"), then I got fired. Didn't matter that I'm bilingual and have a steel work ethic. Couldn't be fat.

My first ex-husband (there are 2) used to pin me down on the floor and pinch me. He said that if it hurt, then it was fat and I had to lose it. I lost him instead, that bastard.

Now, 15 years, one other husband and two children later, I really am a bonafide fatty and I couldn't care less. FAT IS FREEDOM!

All the same, I can remember feeling what your friend felt and reading your post made me happy I got rid of husband #1. If we had had children together, he'd have done some assinine thing like chart their weight (and mine).

My children will be fucked up for entirely different reasons! YEAH!

:)

Love you love your blog, man!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad has problems with my weight too. He's constantly on about it, and I hate it. I don't understand the fascination, really I don't. I suspect you're onto something though with the interconnectivity between food and relationships. Much of what goes on in my family can be observed in the way we deal with food. Food stands in for the things we can't say in words.

Posting incognito just because.

Anonyrat

5:45 PM  
Blogger SEAMONKEY said...

What a nightmare. Her father is a criminal. Do you think his behaviour was some sort of screwed-up defense against incestuous thoughts?

But what about you? You're soaking up more pain. I hope you can find some joy to counterbalance it.

5:04 AM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

The whole weight thing is huge, no wonder there are so many books written on it. I know as a doctor I feel a kind of "what do I do now?" feeling when I see overweight kids. You don't know if telling the parents to watch what the child eats is always a good thing.

I think in families there is some element of control about it, and fat is selected because it's a visible sin. Dad can't tell if you're SMSing porn to your boyfriend or mainlining your Pepsi, but he can and does dictate what is acceptable and and what is fat.

And in some families there is that disturbing element seamonkey mentioned.

Bet dad's no bloody Adonis, either. But it's probably worse if he is.

Thanks for the comments.

9:36 AM  
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7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bronze John,
be careful.You are being a good friend but Veronica is acting out in a way that would suggest that she is a CSA survivor. This in itself is not a bad thing, but a couple of your comments concern me.
The serial realtionships with inappropriate men, who may be percieved as powerful enough to protect her from what only she knows what! I would bet money that Veronica kept contact with the prison ex at times when she felt vulnerable and alone.
IF she is a csa survivor, defining herself through her sexuality and that being the only thing that she perceives as beneficial in her relationship with men is a unfortunate consequence. Woman who are CSA survivors often see woman as unhelpful, jealous or out to get them. Often CSA survivors don't get woman. You said it your self:
"she looks too good, dresses too well, smiles too much at men, as if she defines herself by the approval of male authority figures. Her boss, unaware of this history, says she’s a man-eater"
If all your colleaguese see is the inappropriate relationshsips ( If known) and behaving in a way that only attracts men, then they would see a man eater.
My concern is for you. You stated in an earlier blog that your partner would not accept a close emotional relationship with another woman. Are you clear on what is happening with Veronica? Or is she unconsciously grooming you to be the next powerful man who will save her?

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck,
the last comment is heavy. But it would explain the sex, food, rejection thing.
Define yourself through your sexuality, but can't control what others are doing, must be thinner to be better, reinforced by bastard father, can controll being sick.
Rejected by Bastard father/inappropriate boy friends, must be thin to be desirable, control the food i eat...
Cycle leading to god knows where,

Posting incognito because all to familiar.

Anonygeek

9:41 PM  

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