When you trade in something, you get something in return for something lost. What is lost is not necessarily found, and what is returned is not necessarily equivalent - as in an even exchange - to what is acquired.
So there’s that. One thing is for certain, however, that which is acquired is not lesser in value. In fact, a trade in is governed by two parties. It’s not a one-way street. If you don’t want to trade in something, you don’t have to. It is your decision to do so, should you find the other party’s possession desirable.
I’m trading in my eating disorder - the power to control how much I weigh - for something bigger than myself. I’m trading it in for a reclaiming of that power I had when I contributed to society in my own small way. I used to confront men who stopped to stare, leer, and make sexually charged remarks at me. If I could even get my point across to one person, that’s all I needed.
I cringed at the idea of unwanted attention by men, as do most women. No one enjoys a catcall or having eyeballs plastered to their rear end when wearing anything but harem pants.
I remember going onto the Queens-bound F train platform at 63rd and Lexington after my internship. I was wearing a pair of straight-legged jeans with a small hole on the right knee, the result of having fallen face forward while wheeling my small red suitcase along the cobbled path of Locust Walk after a weekend trip home. I had on a short sleeve button-down David Bitton Buffalo plaid shirt. My hair was pulled into a side ponytail. I was wearing my “at home” glasses frame- a plastic black frame with a neon interior. I felt put-together in a casual summer day kind of way. I didn’t expect to be approached by a large unwieldy man that day much less anyone else. As I was about to pull out my withering stare and go off on my feminist spout, he looked me in the eye and said, “You’re beautiful.” His voice and eyes were so genuine in spite of his outward appearance. “Thank you,” I replied before entering the train.
I remember purposely wearing baggy shirts during the warmest summer days when going for walks because I wanted to hide any curves from the wandering eyes of landscapers. It was a reflex for me to cross the street as soon as I heard the whirring of lawn mowers in the distance.
I remember my grad school crush smiling at me and our occasional catching glimpses of each other in our peripheral vision.
I remember dropping pounds, wearing a dress that no longer hugged my thighs and wearing audible heels, walking the streets of Manhattan. I remember men turning their heads at the sound of the “clip, clomp,” only to be met with a straight-edged figure without so much as a bump aside from knees and shoulders. “Nothing to see here,” I thought, smiling, on the outside and inside. They turned their gaze to the next heel-wearing woman, someone who met their expectations - a body that menstruated.
I remember seeing my crush’s face contort and jaw drop when he saw me 4 months later and 20 pounds lighter. I remember feeling hurt, embarrassed, confused, and a tiny bit regretful. Again, there was nothing to see here.
I’m not told I’m beautiful anymore, but I also don’t get that unsavory attention. I don’t need validation, but I am human and hearing compliments does well for my heart and mind. I’m trading off my eating disorder at the risk of being approached by undesirable men but will also have the chance to be complimented and admired again.
I’m trading off curvy thighs for the ability to become a mother, the ability to run, to bike ride, to ride against the wind’s direction and feel as if I’m levitating as opposed to feeling as though I’m suffering a blow to the face and gasping for air.
I’m trading off what has become a very small, closed off world to the one with problems in the most obsolete pockets of civilization that I had once felt weighed on my shoulders as well.
It’s a trade-off, but it’s not immediate. There is a lag time and that period of waiting is proving almost too much to bear. It is so very uncomfortable to remain sedentary, to stop myself from enjoying the weather, to try and pass time with immobile affairs that have the potential to flex the mind- or not.
I remain awake and refuse to slumber. And of the four times that I have committed to laying horizontally, only twice did I feel it justified. The other times I felt weakened, hopeless, and deadened, and yet it was an accomplishment because it was one step closer to recovery. One less calorie expended.
I need to get my liberal college of arts & sciences ass on the level of my undergrad peers groomed by Wharton - I have to go to the stock exchange and make that trip to Wall Street on my own. I need to trade in this hell for another hell- one that I can sideline, one that I can observe, one that I can avoid and help others to avoid as well, one that does not have to be lived.