By Melanie Raybon
When I moved to Tallahassee as a ripe 18-year-old, highly underprepared and ill-equipped to handle the independence and staggering loneliness of university life, I weighed 129 pounds. In high school, I was that super annoying skinny girl who could eat two vending machine honey buns, a root beer, and a bag of hot Cheetos a day, and not gain a single pound. I didn’t even have to work out to maintain my naturally lanky physique – I’d simply been gifted a hummingbird-wing metabolism and a rather tall stature (thanks, parents). The only real exercise I ever did was during the summer and fall, when I marched outside for hours at a time with the West Broward Performance Ensemble. But let’s be honest, try calling marching band a sport and you’ll get side-eyed by even the most dedicated bandos. My weight was just one of those things I took for granted about life, happily oblivious to the notions of “hormones,” and “changing metabolism,” and “you’ve gone through three pints of Ben and Jerry’s while bingeing Lost; maybe you should stop.”
I had a harder time than most transitioning to college, going through a pretty serious break up within the first month. He was my high school sweetheart, my only real friend on campus, and losing him felt like the sun I revolved around had imploded. I spent all hours that weren’t class hours, and sometimes class hours too, in my moldy dungeon dorm room watching every conceivable TV show available to me on Netflix and eating piles of junk food. The powdered donuts and chicken nuggets and wavy Lay’s weren’t quite as comforting as his warm body next to mine, but slipping off into a Shonda Rhimes universe helped me forget about that.
However, we humans are obligatorily social creatures, and my roommate was too kindhearted to let me stay isolated and friendless. She invited me out one night with her and her friends, and getting sloshed with a bunch of hot, horny, underage college kids was a lot more fun than rewatching Gossip Girl and cuddling a large pizza for warmth. Drinking way too much way too often became my new way of life, the only way I could really dull the pain that bubbled up like bad heartburn after too much McDonald’s. Which, by the way, I drunkenly ate a lot of. Eventually, as was bound to happen, my ass gained a little extra jiggle, my thighs a little more thunder.
I have no idea when I decided to start throwing up. Maybe it was when I realized that my jeans fit snugger around my hips when I slipped them on to go to Pot’s. Or maybe I noticed how much better I felt when I would vomit up the entire contents of my stomach after one too many tequila sunrises. Maybe it was after I caught sight of my ex grinding on a double-D size zero from across the dance floor. Anybody’s guess.
At first, I couldn’t do it unless the community bathroom I shared with 20 other girls was completely empty. I was really loud and really messy, like most people when they’re violently expelling half-digested muck, so I waited until three or four in the morning, when the floor was mine and mine alone. After a couple weeks, I’d become so good at vomiting that I could do it in the bathroom at Chili’s without a single splash or groan. I got daring with it, shoving my fingers down my throat even when someone was in the stall next to mine. But I never got caught.
I tried really hard to make myself bulimic, I did. I continued eating whatever I wanted and threw up at least once a day, sometimes more. I convinced myself that I had a problem, that my binge eating and drinking was out of control, that somebody would notice and try to get me help. But nobody did. I thought I must have failed somehow. So, I stopped.
Instead, I swallowed half a bottle of Benadryl and tried to sleep forever. When I woke up the next morning, I had failed at that, too.