Back on the horse

A little over a year, I stopped writing here.

I admitted to suffering from an eating disorder, then promptly scarpered. It’s not that I never intended to write more – I’d barely started, and I loved getting my mad musings out.

I stopped, and I left, because I felt like a fraud.

Why should anybody listen to anything I say when I’m weak and stupid enough to wind up with something as delightfully self-indulgent as an eating disorder?

That just goes to show how warped my thinking processes can get sometimes. I’d never be so callous towards anybody else who’s been through that particular hell – but my scumbag brain finds it perfectly acceptable to whale on me for what I accept without judgement in others.

My relapse was a one-off, and I’ve been symptom-free ever since. But I’ve stayed away so long because I felt icky about owning what I’d said. About being judged. About not being perfect.

In any case, regardless of how I may be perceived as an eating disorder survivor, being honest about my struggle seems important. Because I firmly believe that each and every one of us has a breaking point – a fault line as it were – down which we’ll crack given the right combination of pressure and stressors. At that moment, we’re no more to blame than a plate dropped on the floor.

If think you’re so bright and special and strong that you’ll never break – well, I used to think like you too. But I also never thought I’d be strong enough to fix myself, either.

The unpredictable can be beautiful as well as terrifying.

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I can’t think of a cool headline, so whatever: I have bulimia

There’s a memory that stands out very clearly from my formative years. One that keeps bubbling up unbidden and unwanted, like something unspeakable that just won’t vanish down the U-bend no matter how many times you press ‘Flush’.

I’m 14, on a lazy summer afternoon, in English class. Exams are over, everyone’s relieved, and we’re enjoying a shared lunch of pizza to celebrate. As the hands on the clock inch their way around to the end of class, my friend Ellen digs me in the ribs and motions towards a girl slipping out the door amidst the pizza frenzy and ghosting into the hallway. Cara – popular, striking, and very very thin.

“Look, there she goes again,” Ellie whispers.
“What do you mean? I whispered back. In reply, Ellie sticks her finger into her mouth and makes a gagging noise.
“Oh, no way – you reckon?”
“Yeah, she’s always doing it after lunch.”I shrug, and utter the immortal words:
“Stupid fucking bitch.”

Now, it is me who is the stupid fucking bitch.

Yep. Hi everyone. My name is Jem, and I have an eating disorder. Actually, my real name isn’t Jem, and I sure as shit am not going to reveal it here. Because the number of people whose attitudes towards eating disorders mirror my own at age 14 is shockingly high. Bulimia, like many of the darker quirks of the human psyche, is really badly misunderstood. It’s easy and expected for a normal person to think, “How the hell does someone start doing something THAT stupid?” Continue reading

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What I hope to teach my kids (if I (a) have them, and (b) retain a smidgeon of sanity)

I’m still not sure if I ever want to have children.

Sometimes I stand in the shower and look down at the curve of my body, and wonder what it would feel like to be pregnant. I’m momentarily struck by the glorious wonder of what our bodies are capable of, and as the water runs over me I’m lost in curiosity.

Would I love carrying a child, or hate every moment of it? What changes would I notice in myself? What would my children look like? Who would they be, what loves and hates and desires and fears would shape them?

It’s not sleep deprivation, stretch marks and the inevitable rivers of projectile vomit and bum wees that put me off (though none of them sound like a barrel of laughs). It’s the sheer terror of being responsible for another life. A ridiculously fragile, helpless little human – counting on me to teach them how to survive and thrive in the world.

I can feel the weight of that responsibility like a steamroller squishing me feet-first. Fucksakes, navigating to my front door on a Friday night has been known to defeat me on occasion … finding the right path through life? HA!

All jokes aside, I’m not 100% clueless. I do have a couple of very important insights I hope to pass on to any future ankle biters of mine, and one in particular I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

Some would call it horrible and morbid, as well as demonstrable proof I’d make a thoroughly awful mother. It’s certainly not something I was ever taught, and I won’t be speaking to my kids about it until they’re capable of coping. But if I’ve learned one thing so far in life – something most people go to massive (and massively damaging) lengths to deny – it’s this:

Bad things can and do happen to good people.

There is no magic set of ‘rules’ you can follow that will guarantee you a long and happy life. If bad things happen, it’s not because you did something wrong, or because you’re a ‘bad’ person and you deserve it. It’s because our fates are, for the most part, determined by factors completely out of our control.
Continue reading

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Sharkastic Newsflash*: ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ not two huge homogenous masses

Shocking new research has uncovered findings that could completely revolutionise male-female interactions.

Sure to blow the minds of trash mag columnists, lazy psychologists and conservative politicians everywhere, the research indicates ‘men’ and ‘women’ may not all be cookie-cutter replicants with interchangeable personalities and motivations.

There are even suggestions that within each of these groups vastly differing emotional makeup, sexual preferences, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, desires and morals can be found.

Researchers M. Bolicks and B.S Jones made the striking discovery after initially examining their own social groups.

“I first became curious after listening to my female colleagues talk about the opposite sex over drinks one night,” Dr. Bolicks explained. “If you read online dating advice, or the ‘Life and Style’ section of the paper, it’s very clear: women are attracted to a very specific male ideal: tall men with deep voices and ‘kind’ faces.”

But to Dr. Bolicks’ amazement, each of his workmates claimed to look for different things in the opposite sex: “One said she likes dark-haired blokes, one said she goes crazy for men with light hair and nice arms. Half of them loved facial hair, half of them hated it. Some of them wanted a lovely, caring man; others wanted an adventurous, confident man. One woman claimed to enjoy one-night stands more than dating … and one even said she enjoyed sex with women more than men!”

After recovering from the initial shock, Dr Bolicks enlisted close friend Dr Jones to help him explore these radical ideas further. “Having Briar (Dr Jones) on board became really important once it occurred to me that our relationship is technically impossible. I mean, we’ve been friends for over a decade and I’ve never once tried to shag her. Hell, I actually like her – as a person, not a pair of tits. Read any evolutionary pseudo-psychology website and you’ll know that doesn’t make any sense.” It was an opportunity for both researchers to discover more about their own social spheres – one that Dr Jones jumped at the chance to be part of. Continue reading

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Why don’t young more women embrace feminism?

For the first 20 years of my life, I suppose you could have called me a ‘feminism virgin’.

Living a painfully beige existence, brought up by laughably conservative parents and mixing only with other Nice Middle Class Girls From Good Families(TM), I simply never encountered feminists – much the way one doesn’t come across lorikeets while snorkelling.

I actually used to parrot that infuriating lie: “It’s irrelevant now. We have equality in the West.” It’s a line that seems to be popping up more and more when school-age girls are asked about their views on feminism, and this perception acts as a big-ass barrier to recruiting the next generation of gender equality game-changers.

So why did I used to say it?

Apart from the obvious (that I had never encountered a real live feminist before), I genuinely thought we did have equality.

Like thousands of other little middle-class Western girls, I was given a step-by-step timeline for my life about the same time as I was given my first nappy change. Exit womb. Go to school. Study hard. Be pretty enough to attract a husband. Get a job, or go to uni in the meantime. Get engaged. Marry. Get a joint mortgage. Get pregnant. Quit job. Spend rest of life looking after hubby and bubby, possibly while juggling part-time hours. End of.

Most of us never think outside this rigid timeline, because the very idea is unnatural. We’re taught these are all things we must do – as inexorable and natural as needing to pee after your fourth glass of wine. Sure, we know other people do different things, but we don’t think too much about it. It’s only once we try to deviate from the script ourselves that we realise how hard it is to choose differently, and finally click that if you own ovaries – you don’t have equality of choice.

My own journey to enlightenment began one Friday night, sitting on my battered green couch next to my partner of seven years. Dinner cooked, dishes washed, reality TV shit blaring away. Still on tonight’s list of to-dos: monotonous vanilla sex I didn’t particularly want to have, and sleep. And I thought: this is my life now. My one special, precious, bittersweet and short life. We’ll get engaged one day, then married. I’ll have a big fancy party, all my friends will be jealous … and that’s it. The end. I won’t be ‘me’, I’ll be an extension of someone else. My boyfriend’s rules were clear: I was to be a dutiful wife, dishwasher and masturbatory aid; and my career ambitions and travel dreams were both out of the question and ‘immature’.

I was living the dream. The life everybody always told me I’d want, on the path to being MARRIED! And LOOKED AFTER! And I didn’t fucking want it. I never had. But I’d never been taught about any of the alternatives. Continue reading

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Breakup survival tips that don’t suck

Breakups are shit.

I’d forgotten just how shit, though, until last week – when Biker and I decided to call time on our relationship. We love, complement and respect each other wonderfully, but he has personal issues that need resolving and we can’t go any further together right now.

In the meantime, I’m a single lady once more (OK, maybe not a lady, but you get the drift) and I’m stuck dealing with the emotional sucker punch that comes with losing a great relationship.

I’ve found good advice to be pretty sparse so far – friends and family offer only different variations of “Smile! Plenty more fish in the sea!” and “Let’s get you laid, stat!” If you Google ‘breakup survival guide’, suddenly you’re up to your eartips in useless Cosmo-esque crap (get a sexy new haircut! Listen to angry girly music! Eat a whole block of chocolate (then run thirty kilometres while self-flagellating yourself with rusty barbed wire dipped in salt, fatty!)

Fortunately, I don’t need advice. I’ve got quite a few breakups under my belt now (some might call me a connoisseur of sorts), so I figure now’s a good time to share what I’m going to do to get me through. Continue reading

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Making boobs of ourselves

Collectively, we’re a weird bunch, us New Zealanders.

We’re obsessed with a game based around the world’s most stupidly shaped ball (seriously, have you ever had a go tossing a rugby ball round? First time I tried I nearly managed to hit my own face). We tend to answer every question with “Yeah, nah” before giving an actual answer. All our younguns flee our laidback lifestyle and gorgeous land for gritty concrete jungles. And on Budget Day, in the middle of a global financial crisis, the most read news story on our national news website concerns a lady complaining about her huge boobs.

I have a little sympathy for you, Julie Roulston. I’m sorry you think you look “like a plump milkmaid” and find clothes shopping difficult. But you clearly haven’t learned the rules of this game yet.

I’m not convinced there’s a woman alive who has always loved the way her breasts look. And those among us who have managed it do so not because they have perfect pillows – but because they’ve run out of fucks to give.

There’s no way to win, you see. Being short and slim, my ‘assets’ are on the small side. And I wasted so many years wishing I could be like you. Where you worry about looking top-heavy in dresses, I used to despair of looking “like a little girl playing dress-up in Mummy’s clothes”. I thought about getting a boob job, but realised many people complained about fake ones feeling “like plastic bags full of water” and pointing up at the ceiling in a weird, off-putting manner. Still others said real boobs only look good in a bra, and go droopy and flat once unleashed. Some said really big boobs are super gross anyway. Then there were the concerns about one being bigger than the other. About nipples that were too large, too small, too dark, too pale, too pointy, or not pointy enough, or pointing in the wrong direction. Continue reading

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