Granny & My First Crash Diet

I'm adopted and sometimes that comes in handy. Like when I'm glad I'm not blood-related to family members. 

Granny, my mom’s mom, was a real weight-obsessed bitch.  The technical term, I now know is ‘Anorexic chain smoker.’  But back then, we just said ‘bitch’ and we weren’t wrong. Well, we thought it.

She constantly commented on my and my mom’s weight, even though we looked fine.

When I was eight, she suggested I make a girdle out of an old tire.  One summer day, she sat in our kitchen, the walls all yellow paint and plywood. It was the 70’s in Grand Prairie, Texas. And it was hot. We were at the table with the red-checkered tablecloth. A giant wooden spoon hung helpless on the wall. She stared at me then croaked out, “You know, when I was your age, I got myself in shape for boys. I made a girdle out of an inner tube. Then all the boys liked me. That’s what you should do.”

What am I supposed to say to that?  I stared at her age spots as her bony hands delivered her filtered cigarette to her mouth over and over.  Her spiky shoulders and saggy boobs poked at the front and back of her velour top. Her wrinkles raced toward the linoleum floor. 

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This is the woman who’s counseling me about my looks.

I wish I could tell you it didn’t bother me, but it did. It’s so easy to zap the self-esteem of a child. I was being told that no man would love me, and I was eight. I might live to 88. That’s a long time of being alone. I’d already been abandoned by my birth mother, so I couldn’t risk losing more love.

I didn’t make a tire girdle, or duct tape corset or any other hillbilly apparati. ha! But to make myself acceptable to mankind, at ten years old, I went on a crash diet.  Hot on the heels of 9 to 5 success it was called the Dolly Parton diet.  Also known as the Cabbage Soup diet, because you get to eat cabbage soup, all day long. Yay?  Otherwise, Day 1, you eat fruit, Day 2, vegetables, Day 3:  fruit AND vegetables.  Ohmygod, it was horrible.   Day 4 – bananas and milk.  Day 5 – beef and tomatoes.  I forget Days 6 and 7. I’ve blacked them out from self-hatred.

The diet worked and I lost ten pounds.  One for each year of life.  Granny was thrilled to have a thin granddaughter.  Dreams do come true!

Now I could get attention from guys. Weird attention from guys. Like, from strangers at the public pool, and from some of my older brother’s friends. It made me self-conscious. I didn’t love my smaller body, I was afraid of it. But I liked the attention and I needed love.

I went on to gain and lose that 10 pounds at least 100 times since then. “Tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen,” indeed.

What’s awful to realize looking back is that people already did like me. I was a precocious kid. And cute and funny and smart. And I already got attention from guys, btw. But once I was told guys didn’t like me, I couldn’t see how great I was anymore.

This is how strippers are made, by the way. Or food addicts, or serial killers. And comics.

Low self-worth cuts in both directions.