I had never been, by any stretch of the imagination, a fat child. I shed my baby fat the instant i shed the title of baby, and upon entering preschool, i was pronounced to be a "thin little girl." All throughout elementary school i was one of the lightest girls in my class despite the fact that i was not an inch shorter than the tallest of them. i can remember sitting in a bi circle with the girls in my forth grade class, discussing our weights. we went around the circle and each of us disclosed our weight. most of us were sixty-something, myself being on the lower end of that group of "average." Adina, seventy-one pounds (and we were all so shocked at this immense number), insisted self-righteously that muscle weighed more than fat, and she ought to know because her mother was a doctor. We believed her, but still wondered how she could weigh so very much and gazed in wonder at poor little Lauraine, who had been in and out of the hospital a hundred times for her rare stomach condition, as she announced that she was only forty-something. The unfortunate little thing medically couldn't even eat except through a feeding tube in her belly button and was much shorter than the rest of us. I can still remember feeling resentment that someone was so much lighter than me.
By the time i reached fifth grade, i was the outcast of my class, hated for no other reason than the fact that my parents weren't as rich as everyone else's. It was frustrating. No matter how hard i tried, i simply didn't fit in. On the rare occasion that the other girls allowed me to play with them at recess, i always had to be the "bad guy," and i believe this began to take its toll on my self-image. "I wish i was pretty," i'd say over and over again to my mother.
She, of course, would insist, "But you are pretty."
"You only think that because you're my mom," i'd say skeptically. "Moms have to think their kids are pretty."
Sometimes she'd further argue her point. "No, really, if i saw you walking down the street, not a clue who you were, i'd still think you were a pretty girl." But other times, she'd accept the fact that there was nothing she could do to convince me and just shake her head in defeat.
Those were dark days. I can remember countless afternoons getting into our white Pontiac and just letting the tears roll down my cheeks as i told my mom how awful the girls had been to me at recess. my poor mother had no idea what to do, so she brought me snacks, treats to help me feel better. I gobbled them up with abandon and washed them down with my tears. The food seemed to heal the wounds, and i'd be alright until the next recess period came around when their cruelty pushed me to drown away my pain with more food.
One day at recess after chasing after Kathleen, shouting in my best "bad guy" voice that i would catch her and cook her in my stew, i realized something awful: i had a belly! I'd stopped to catch my breath, and for some reason, my shadow on the ground caught my eye. There it was, all distorted and strange as shadows usually are, the proof that i was ugly. My belly bulged out of my middle. I looked down at my actual belly to see if the shadow had lied. anyone in the world would have told me that it had. I was still a very thin little girl. But my eyes saw a fat flesh-belly, even worse than the fat shadow-belly. "I'm fat," i whispered in horror, and i resolved to do a lot more exercise from that moment on. When i got home from school that afternoon, i quickly changed out of my school shirt--a lovely, coral Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen knit that i had been so proud of before my awful realization--and into a nice, baggy t-shirt. Then i asked if we could go to my grandma's house. She had a treadmill, and i knew she'd let me use it. (Grandmas let their grandkids do anything they want, right?) I never wore that pink shirt again.
My exercise plan soon went away as i was a lazy child who only managed to remain thin through some miracle of a fast metabolism, and i forgot about worrying about my belly for a while. After all, it was so much more fun to play with the fat jiggling on my thighs, but soon, even that lost its interest and i somehow just forgot that i'd thought i was fat... at least for a while...
I don't think the person who introduced me to Ana meant for me to fall so deeply and irrevocably in love with her. I'm sure that whoever-it-was (i don't actually remember who it was) told me she was bad, harmful, even a mental disorder, but i was far too intrigued by her mysterious smile to simply take their word for it. I needed to get to know her more; find out for myself.
Her thinness made me remember that i'd thought i was fat, and it made me think it again. She held her hand out towards me. "Hi, i'm Ana, and i can make anyone skinny and beautiful."
Her forwardness startled me, but i clasped her bony hand in a friendly handshake anyway, shivering at the icy thrill her skin brought over me. "I'm Jo," i told her. "And i'd love for you to make me skinny and pretty."
And thus began my lasting friendship with Ana.