Even I - a self described feminist with a capital "F" for "Fanatic" - have put myself through torture in the pursuit of an anatomic ideal that I could only reach through drastic measures. Genetics hath not given my metabolism the ability to be a size zero without a lot of work. Period.
That's why I watched the Terri Schiavo case with dread. Somehow, through it all, no one spent much time emphasizing that her condition was provoked by bulimia. I find it strange that there wasn't a worldwide satellite broadcast that eating disorders, even if "self-inflicted," are a disease that kills.
Thinking about what she suffered, I took a look back at my own body-image history. I have starved, taken laxatives, diuretics. Done all kind of fasts. The Zone, Atkins, the Hollywood diet, the "Mexican water diet." I have not yet gone under the scalpel to have the fat vacuumed out, but only because my fear of blood and anaesthesia is still stronger than my fear of flab.
The credo thrown at us judgmentally by fitness aficionazis and women's magazines says: "No pain, no gain." I adhered to that principle. In my late 20s, during what I call my "requiem for a dream" period, I got addicted to diet pills and amphetamines to the point of ingesting as many as 12 a day, not caring that they made me as speedy as a hummingbird on crack and took me to the verge of the Hiroshima of all nervous breakdowns.
I wouldn't sleep for days. I had sores inside my mouth. My hands trembled. As starvation wreaked havoc on my central nervous system, I got cramps in my legs and feet from the lack of potassium and other nutrients. My condition was aggravated by the abuse of laxatives and diuretics. All for size zero! The only thing I cared about was seeing the numbers on the scale go down.
Sometimes I believe I am still suffering the consequences, yet I consider myself a "survivor" because I overcame a disease that made me a prime candidate to die of a heart attack or end up in a coma, just like Schiavo.
The poor woman's obsession was not so different from that of many women who do harm to themselves in their quest for an impossible weight goal. Her case should be used as a cautionary example to dieters who go dangerously far. "Take Terri Schiavo - please. This could happen to you."
But Bush and his cronies on the religious right didn't touch that part of her story. Come to think of it, as an agnostic, gay, ethnic woman, I'm probably not even in the category that Bush's "culture of life" protects. Heaven forbid some fundamentalist Christian is by my side during a sneeze attack and decides to club me on the head right then and there because they're legally allowed to put me out of my sneeze misery!
"She wanted to 'go.' She said clearly that she could not endure one more minute of hay fever torture, your honour, so I put her lesbian soul out of her misery. It's legal ."