I Call it “Freedom”

“It’s important to protect your beauty while you’re still young. By the time you turn 40, it’ll be too late.” That’s what Granny S used to say. Then she’d go to her thrice-weekly salon appointments to have her curls finely rearranged. At 10, I’d learned that imperfection was catastrophic. “There’s no excuse for weight gain,” she’d say, dishing out a fat-free plate for my 12-year-old self. By 13, I’d already learned to obsess about my body.

Gran S never arrived at breakfast without makeup.

She always wore heels.

She spent an hour each night applying a veritable pharmacy of lotions and creams: Estee Lauder, Chanel, Clinique—you get out what you put in, you know.

At 50, her eyebrows stopped growing back from all the over-plucking.

At 55, she had to have surgery on her feet to undo the effects of trampling the earth in stilettos.

At 60, she could no longer fight the liver spots and sagging, but she raged against them anyway.


My paternal grandmother was a different creature. “There’s no excuse for being normal,” she’d say, dishing out Kentucky Fried chicken underneath a blanket fort. At 10, I’d learned that nothing was catastrophic if you only knew how to escape into your imagination. At 12, I’d developed a sophisticated appreciation for nonsense. Alice’s caterpillar was so much more interesting than the state of my hips.

Gran H never arrived at breakfast with a scowl.

She always wore whatever the hell she wanted, even if it was a purple wig.

She spent an hour each morning in her art studio.

At 65, her inner Cheshire Cat could be seen in the smile lines around her eyes.

At 70, she told love stories at funerals. Death? Well, that didn’t seem so bad when she was around.

Even so, Gran S’ lessons remained. Prettiness was a rent you paid for occupying a space called female, so I starved and obsessed and painted and shopped. I applied a veritable pharmacy of self-hatred to my psyche.

At 32, I was admitted to hospital with a bad case of dehydration and malnutrition. Anorexia will kill you if you’re careful enough, and that seemed as good a goal as any. I spent a lot of years seeking out recovery after that. Most of what I learned in therapy was useless because it asked me to get rid of my own toxicity. It never taught me to add to my life. Then I met a woman who reminded me of Gran H’s lessons: Be who you seem to be, honour your weirdness, to hell with Other People’s Expectations™. I learned to grin like a Cheshire Cat and dance in the kitchen; to celebrate nonsense instead of normality.

Gran H still wears purple wigs sometimes.

I call it “freedom” because that’s how it feels to me.

5 thoughts on “I Call it “Freedom”

  1. Kalliope

    I never had anorexia, or rather I was never diagnosed. I reach 37kg and stopped weighing myself because I felt like “yeah, that’s small enough”. I didn’t feel fat, I just like to be small… going up to 48kg my mum and her friend called my a fatso.
    When i was a child I was too thin and when I was 18 I was too fat.. I could never seem to please her. I’m scared to weigh myself because I don’t want to know what the numbers say. I just see how my clothes fit me now…

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I have enjoyed reading them, even if I don’t comment. And depending on how I feel about the topic I don’t always click “like”, because likes to me mean agreement. I don’t enjoy agreeing with pain and sadness. They make me feel sad…


    1. In treatment, we were told never to weigh. It’s a trigger for all of us. I don’t weigh, but I still swing a little with my weight. I think it’s a kind of bulimia: eat, lose, eat, lose. Getting out of that cycle is the trick, and weighing is definitely not the solution.


      1. Kalliope

        I am such a yo-yo. ednos. My weight just does stuff. And my hunger levels fluctuate. Sometimes I am voracious and other times I’m.. anorectic


      2. Kalliope

        My appetite is influenced by my moods. The more comfortable I am, I become lazy and hungry and sleepy and so hungry. And tired.
        But this year it’s like I was a kid again and I just wasn’t hungry. I don’t really feel like eating. I’m just so pumped up I need to “do”. But last year I got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and was perfectly manageable. This year was a real clusterfuck and nothing is reacting or behaving normally.


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