All I remember from my tenth birthday is how psyched I was about having received the very Barbie doll I’d wanted from my beautiful big sister Maggie. She’d just gone off to college, and anything we shared was automatically the most precious thing I owned. That Barbie doll with golden hair and tinsel adorned clothing became my obsession.
For days I came home after school and locked myself in my room until Mother forced me to come and eat dinner with the family. Father always tried to occupy me with questions about my school day.
“Maxine, I hear you’re learning the anatomy of the brain in science…,” his words flowed steadily in their drone-like tone.
They made the effort to talk to me, but it didn’t matter. Barbie doll was always on my mind: her plump lips, perfectly shaped curves, and skinny thighs kept me thinking about how imperfect I was and how much I admired her figure.
“Maxine, I’m talking to you. Where’s your head lately, sweetie? Is there something you’d like to talk about?” He practically snapped at me with a concerned tone. My reply was as distant as my mind as I imagined myself being weightless in space, floating amongst the stars.
“I’m just exhausted from all the learning I did today. May I be excused?”
“Yes, you may.”
Mother chimed in with pure paternal concern.
“Sweetie, you’ve hardly touched your food.”
We all looked at my plate and saw the same thing: a full serving of mashed potatoes mixed around with the peas and a few stray chunks of meat that I’d been poking at for a while.
“I’m just really wiped… not much of an appetite tonight.”
“But, Maxi, it’s your favorite, honey… meat loaf and mashed potatoes with the skin mixed in. Do you have a fever?” She reached out to feel my forehead.
“May I please just be excused, Mother?” I shouted while scooting quickly away from her, avoiding her touch. Don’t touch me, I thought. I’m not a baby anymore. Her countenance was painted with sadness and worry. I didn’t wait for a reply. I just went to my room to admire Barbie doll. After a while of the routine role- playing, I caught a glimpse of my own body and felt disgusted. I just lay in my bed feeling hopeless and ugly. I just wanted to be a Barbie girl – full of potential and… beautiful.
As I was walked to my first hour class the next morning, I heard a couple of beautiful girls a year above me talking about binging and purging.
“There are ways other than sticking your finger down your throat, ya’ know. For instance, try using the handle of your toothbrush. Then when you’re done you have faster access to its cleaning powers!”
“Yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ll try it when I get home.” The second girl had a sad look on her face, but she was so thin and gorgeous.
I wanted to use the tall girl’s method of weight control right after lunch at school, but I wasn’t old enough to go home for lunch, and I was too scared that someone would hear me in the bathroom at school. So I waited.