I had never felt air between denim and my thighs before. The jeans moved separately from my body and I swear it was like I was floating inside of them. Previously I had either purchased an aspirational size too small or the type of denim that was made out of such a high percentage of spandex that they barely counted as denim at all. Pacing through those halls I was a waifish size eight on a 5’10” frame in a pair of extra-spandex size 12s.
Am I thick still or am I thin? There are no catcalling men in the psych ward. Whenever I’d get down to a dress size eight the men would stop hollering as much, and like clockwork the depression would hit and I’d be back to my 12 and I wouldn’t be able to shut them the fuck up.
This realization is a reversal of what I thought was true all my life. Little girls who are molested rapidly gain weight. It is how we attempt to protect ourselves. And the food is how we soothe ourselves before we ever have the luxury of learning coping skills.
I put on the kind of outfit I’d wear on a third date. My Eileen Fisher pencil skirt through which anyone could see the exact outline of my ass. I chose the top that the woman facilitating occupational therapy earlier that day told me to pull up, I guess because my tits were distracting the other customers. I was furious with her for calling me out like that so I took the goddamn colored pencils to my room to finish my drawing. I asked her permission first.
I had my third date outfit on and I was strutting like I was on America’s Next Top Model around and around the ward. I was getting looks but no one was hollering. You’d think that people in the psych ward would be more likely to holler, but it turns out that pricks who shout at women on the street do not owe their rudeness to mental illness. They’re just assholes.
Having received none of the negative attention I had grown to expect, I wondered if I was the inappropriate one all this time. She did tell me to pull up my shirt, after all. I was being distracting.
So maybe all of those times I’d been harassed I was actually just asking for it. Maybe I was being distracting.
When I got out of the hospital one of the first things I did was put on a string bikini to visit the community pool. I went alone. There were teenaged boys behind the chainlink fences watching the pool activity as if it were a spectator sport, but they did not seem particularly interested in me. I was not distracting.
Two months later and the darkness would come back to sublet my body. I was occupying my body for a while but I couldn’t get out of bed anymore so I let the darkness have it for a few months. It was just a vessel by that point anyway, so I didn’t know the difference. The darkness brought too much food into the vessel.
The men started hollering again. I did not have the energy to be outraged. I did not have the energy to be anything.
I owed this apathy to mental illness. As I watch my body fluctuate between size eight and size 12 the thick versus thin debate becomes less and less meaningful. I just know that when the men stop hollering it’s maybe time to address a change in the tides.
This is what social conditioning does. I hate that this is true: I am very slightly grateful to these assholes for tipping me off to potential chaos before I notice it myself.
But I still wish they would stop.