A Joke | Teen Ink

A Joke MAG

December 5, 2008
By VandaNoon PLATINUM, West Pittston, Pennsylvania
VandaNoon PLATINUM, West Pittston, Pennsylvania
42 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
what i can remember
is a lot like water
trickling down a page
of the most beautiful colors
-Marie Digby 'Unfold'

Statistics blanket the Internet about eating disorders, dieting, and desires to be skinny. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat. Forty-two percent of first- to third-grade girls want to be thinner. Twenty-five percent of American men and 45 percent of women are trying to lose weight on any given day. Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year. Diets used to be the exception to the rule, but it seems lately they have become the rule.

One day, I almost became one of those statistics. I was talking with a few boys in my class. I gave the conversation only half a mind, as they veered off about bands and movies. When they mentioned sumo wrestlers, I glanced at the clock to see how much longer class would be, but then I paid attention again. One of the boys felt my eyes on him and blurted, “You look like you could be obese when you grow up!”

Hmm … lunch is in a little while … I wonder what we’ll do in math class … obese?! My brain sputtered from its train of thought, and my mouth dropped open. I muttered an indignant “What?” and he had the gall to repeat himself. I cussed at him, not caring that the teacher was only a few feet away. His friends called him a moron and told me to ignore him as he laughed at the shock on my face. I tried to transform my expression into that of a good sport. Someone with thick skin. But inside, a little piece of my confidence crumbled and died.

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and a million males are battling an eating disorder. There are many generalizations associated with those who suffer from eating disorders. We think of the cheerleading captain who looks like she weighs less than 100 pounds, despite being tall. We think of the skinny perfectionist who picks at a salad every lunch. The boy on the wrestling team who is dropping weight classes at a ridiculous rate also comes to mind. But at that instant, I understood that it’s not always the popular ones or the athletes. It could be the girl who hates sports and has a brownie stashed away for lunch. For a moment, it could have been me.

What has our society become? Why is weight the greatest insult? Someone can call me a liar, a thief, or a horrible person, and I would brush it off, but when someone wants to cause real pain, they mention weight, and the conversation is over. When they want not only to stab, but to twist the knife, they sling the f-word – “fat” – around, and the conversation screeches to a halt. There’s no comeback, because weight is such a sensitive topic. As a society, we are at a point where many of us ­define ourselves by our weight.

In that moment, I was not a smart brunette who loved to write. I was an ugly girl who looked like she would be obese as an adult. I know that’s not true. I know the definition of me is so much deeper, but I can’t help wondering what that boy was thinking when he insulted me. He laughed, like it was a joke, but he said it with a sincerity that frightened me.

As I walked out of class that day, my mind raced to analyze his words. If I looked like I was going to be obese when I grew up, that meant I looked fat now. Fat. Fat. Fat. Am I fat?

For a split second, I considered throwing away my lunch. I debated trashing my snack and beginning a diet. The thought left my mind as quickly as it entered, but in that moment, I felt horrible. I felt ugly and fat. I felt like less, while this boy felt like more. I believed I would be a better person if I was skinnier. I wanted to be skinny.

This moment of self-hatred could have lasted a lifetime and could have changed my life. Two paths stood in front of me. One was snarled with green vines wrapped around trees and undergrowth. The other was wide open with sun spilling in through the tree tops. I took a step back. The moment the soles of my shoes had touched that overgrown path, it would have been too late to go the other way.

That’s what eating disorders are. They are the vines that sneak up and grab you, and you only see them after it’s too late. I was lucky to see it in advance, but many don’t, and by the time they do, no freedom remains.

Luckily I never developed an eating disorder, just a blow to my self-confidence. I was fortunate. I went to lunch and ate my brownie with a vigor as I told my friends what the boy had said. My self-confidence returned. However, because I acted like a good sport and a girl with thick skin, the boy never apologized.

If, because of his comment, I had become one of the 10 million women suffering from an eating disorder, I wonder if he would have been sorry. But it’s not worth walking the other path to discover his reaction, so now I simply glare when I see him. He still laughs, just like he did that day. He tells me to get over it and stop holding a grudge.

He spoke in jest that day. It was a comment made in passing. A joke, he later told me. Time has passed, my anger has cooled, but I am still not laughing.

The author's comments:
Eating disorders are so very real, and I in no way mean to minimize the people who suffer from them. People who suffer from eating disorders are strong. They're just unlucky enough to not catch sight of the vines, before it's far too late. If you know someone suffering from an eating disorder, do what you can to help them. They'll thank you one day.

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This article has 30 comments.

Desanyx SILVER said...
on Nov. 2 2009 at 3:58 pm
Desanyx SILVER, Westfield, New Jersey
5 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
The imagination is man's power over nature. -Wallace Stevens

Good article, but it definitely doesn't have the power that comes with actually having been in that bad place. Careful with your word choice as well.

FallenBeauty said...
on Oct. 11 2009 at 3:54 pm
wow. this is powerful.

on Jun. 10 2009 at 4:45 pm
swimmergirl GOLD, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
16 articles 1 photo 14 comments
This is so true. Alot of my closest friends are a little 'plumper' then they wished, myself included. We considered going on a diet, but then we thought wait, stop you don't have to eat nothing to lose wait or falb. So now instead of eating 3 carrots and an apple all day we eat healthier foods and smaller portions and we do a 'healthy' amount of exercise and we vary it. Oh yeah and remeber muscle weighs more than fat so don't just judge by the number use a BMI.

on Jun. 9 2009 at 3:18 am
Hay_Wire PLATINUM, Independence, Missouri
42 articles 0 photos 219 comments
wish i could have been so strong. i havent fallen in head first, but its enough to hurt. i dont know ... somedays im ok, other days its a little much. because your right, once it starts, it doesnt stop. i tried to remember the first time i though ti was fat. 7th grade. and i wasnt fat.. i just thought about my weight. but then a close friend said one hing. from then on, it's hurt. thaknyou for being strong for the rest of us who werent, arent, and who feel like they cant be.

on Jun. 8 2009 at 11:17 pm
VandaNoon PLATINUM, West Pittston, Pennsylvania
42 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
what i can remember
is a lot like water
trickling down a page
of the most beautiful colors
-Marie Digby 'Unfold'

Thanks for the comments. To EMR, of course exercise works. My whole point was that this was an irrational moment for me, and that some comments made in passing can cut people deeply. Obviously, I don't recommend eating disorders or crash dieting to anyone.

EMR said...
on Jun. 8 2009 at 5:55 pm
For the record, excercise not only works, but is also much less dangerous.

on Jun. 8 2009 at 4:12 pm
LoveLikeWoe DIAMOND, LeSueur, MN, Minnesota
54 articles 2 photos 748 comments

Favorite Quote:
Whoever laughs first has the sickest mind.

woah! O.O that was a very AWESOME piece you've wrote here! luvvv it! ;)

Laura said...
on Apr. 16 2009 at 9:41 pm
This really touched me... it hit me hard like a ton of bricks. Thank you for writing this article.

on Mar. 1 2009 at 10:30 pm
VandaNoon PLATINUM, West Pittston, Pennsylvania
42 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
what i can remember
is a lot like water
trickling down a page
of the most beautiful colors
-Marie Digby 'Unfold'

Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece and that it sucked you in right away. ;)

Wmina said...
on Mar. 1 2009 at 7:31 pm
Wmina, Boston, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
very deep, it sucked me in right away. theres bits of disturbing information but its still your story. great work!

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