Last Monday, I mentioned to my therapist that I was put on a diet when I was 10. I was in the 5th grade; and seemingly overnight, our 1970s harvest gold kitchen was transformed — divided by foods that were “mine” and “theirs.”
This was also the year I stopped going to recess.
Instead of going to the “senior” playground at Green Elementary School, I took my “diet lunch” (consisting of melba toast, a measured amount of cheese, and sliced carrots or a piece of fruit) to my 4th grade teacher’s classroom, where I sat alone, correcting papers.
I stopped playing when I was 10.
The story of being forced to diet in fifth grade has deep grooves in the brain. I know it like I know my name. But, I had never connected it with my ceasing to play with my pals. Or the understanding that I had become serious — young. And fast.
As a way of helping me develop compassion for myself, my therapist suggested I look at 10-year-olds this week.
“They are really little, ” she said.
I didn’t see any until today at dance class. My teacher’s daughter, Rose. She looks about 10 to me. She is small, lithe, boyish –with short dreadlocks. Adorable. I watch her wrap her arms around her stepmom’s waist, and around other students. Her father is away right now, in Africa.
I did not look like that at 10. I am certain of it.
I look in the mirrored wall of the dance studio and I see my soft arms and my rounded belly. And I think of Friday.
I am sitting in the cab of my friend Kelly’s truck — in the middle, three across. The third passenger squeezes in and says, “It’s a really good thing you are skinny, Lesley. Otherwise we’d never be able to do this.”
I don’t think of myself as thin. In fact, I’ve always guessed that my Weight Watchers members are thinking, “Yeah….she could lose 5 or 10.” Or that the reason they like me so much is that I am, ahem, “real.” And by that I mean, not “too thin.”
I tell the third passenger that he made my day. He replies, “It isn’t a compliment, Lesley. Just the truth.”
I want to believe him. Instead, I think that maybe I should get to know him better. That maybe he is really nice, rather than a teller of truths. I call my best girlfriend, Julie and we laugh. We talk about the word “skinny.”
And I think about 5th grade, and the Sasson jeans my mother bought me when I lost 10 pounds.