To the Woman Who Congratulated My Friend on Declining Candy
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
You probably don’t remember me and my friends. We were the 15 and 16-year-old kids who knocked on your door this Halloween. We were laughing and you guessed our costumes, allowing us a few minutes to return to our childhood. But then you offered candy and we took it thanking you – except for one friend who smiled and said no thank you.
You told her you were impressed by her ability to resist – or something to that effect, I can’t quite remember. It doesn’t matter.
In that moment, you unknowingly validated her eating disorder.
Her smile showed me that she’d been proven right, starving herself was the “strong” choice. You didn’t know that she’s deep in a fight with anorexia nervosa. You didn’t know she had only been allowed to go to summer camp on the condition that she gained weight. You didn’t see the slight argument with her mom about taking a candy bag trick-or-treating. Neither her nor her mom wanted to have the discussion “in front of company,” but her mom just wanted her to take a candy bag. She wouldn’t. As an outsider, I can only imagine this is a normal occurrence in her household.
You don’t know she skips lunch every day to do homework and then goes horseback riding for hours. You don’t know she has spent years criticizing the way her thighs touch. If you’d known all that, I assume you wouldn’t have said what you did. At least I hope you wouldn’t have. So I don’t fault you. You too have been pushed to believe that dieting is strength and weight is weakness. She doesn’t “look” anorexic, unless you know her. You were maybe projecting your desire to lose weight onto an insecure 16-year-old. In that moment the innocence and fun of running around asking for candy was gone. Yes, you were not the first person to make some sort of comment; we’d been told we were too old to be trick-or-treating and our costumes were boring, but nobody had said something with such lasting impact. So if you read this, I just ask next time please think before you speak. I believe you are probably a very nice person and I hope you use this as an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of your words.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
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