I'm in the bathroom scrunching up a pair of pantyhose into both sides of my palms and pulling them over my toes, up the length of my calves. They stick at my thighs, seemingly too short to reach my hips. I think, "Frick. I bought the wrong size." But my confusion lingers. I purposely read the size chart on the back of the package, and this should be my size?
I tease them up my calves, tugging where any millimeter of material will give. Finally I squeeze myself in. I feel them press against the outsides of my thighs, like a ring around the largest diameter. A sensory memory resurrects itself.
I am 15 standing in my underwear and pathetic excuse for a bra. A woman wraps a flimsy measuring tape around the largest points of my thighs pulling the ends together like she's wrapping a present. A pencil dangles between her lips like a horse's bit. When she releases the tape, the white snake spirals to the floor. She jots a number down and stares at the paper.
I understand I am misproportioned; my large thighs do not match my small boobs. "You could tone this up a bit," she says pointing to my hips as though she's sharing with me her favorite shade of blue. The pragmatism in her tone indicates the sensible solution.
It's so simple. I'm unnerved with how I've never thought of it before. I must adjust my lower half to match my top. Then there will be symmetry, and she will be happy, and I will be good enough.
In the bathroom mirror I pull up my accordion skirt and stare at my upper legs through the pantyhose. It looks like someone's been throwing rocks at my backside and the indentions stuck around. My mind still remembers the body of the girl I used to be. Sometimes there's a split second of disconnect before I recognize the reflection, that this body is me. In a microsecond my subconscious pulls a sunken ship to the surface. Each word is a room and they break the surface together, as an entity. Cellulite. Gross. Fat. Dirty. Ugly. Undisciplined.
How did I let myself get like this, I think?
A microsecond after that, I realize the answer to my own question is simple.
I "let myself" get this way because I've allowed myself the freedom to live.
I have "allowed" this cellulite because my priorities have changed in the best possible way. I no longer spend my days obsessing over every bite of food and exercise and berating myself. I no longer refuse invites for dinner and friendship out of the anxiety of connecting or the uncertainty of food. The perfect image of what my body "should" look like is no longer my focal point, the measurement of my worth.
These dimples in my skin represent the meals and belly laughs I now share with friends. They represent the time and energy I have claimed and now use to focus on my goal and dreams instead of ever-thinner thighs. They represent connection in my marriage and being present in my life.
Just as crows feet will one day tell the tale of my smiles, these dimples represent freedom from the eating disorder that once consumed my life. They represent all the wonderful things I have won since shedding the ridiculous belief that the measurement of my worth could ever be defined by the topography of my body.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.