Senior year of high school holds such fond memories for me. That was the year I finally became thin and, by extension, relevant.
After some rigorous soul-searching, my friend Sophia and I realized that all of our life problems could be solved by a simple weight loss regime; it was so obvious, we couldn’t understand why we had never thought of it before. After all, it’s almost impossible not to realize in this day and age that being slender is synonymous with being sexy, and sexiness is tandem to success. It’s scientific. Look it up.
People always preached throughout my upbringing that the most magnetic feature a person can have is a terrific personality, which is, obviously, a horrendous lie. My eyebrows attract a net minimum of six compliments per year, but I can’t even recall the last time somebody told me, “You know, you have the most amazing sense of empathy.” This, I’ve come to realize, is because it isn’t education or personal affectations that attract people; it’s the confidence to wear your God-given looks well — the kind of confidence one acquires from being skinny.
It was probably about halfway through adolescence when it dawned on me that, in spite of my glowing charisma, I was still criminally under-appreciated by my high school peers. Two friends and I would spend lunch in solitude behind the science building, eating boxed California rolls and lamenting how misunderstood we were. Since the general consensus seemed to be that we were perfect personality-wise, it stood to reason that my only roadblock to universal adoration was an imperfect physique.
This epiphany was bound to strike at some point; like any other American kid who grew up in front of a TV screen, I was raised to believe that the average girl was born a waif and the average guy came into the world lithe, toned and with the face of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. These were common traits I noticed amongst the crowd of my favorite childhood celebrities and, I deduced, the markers of a likable, successful person.
The only issue I’ve been able to find with such thinspiration, though, is the extremism it seems to elicit from certain people. It seems that not everyone is capable of digesting the gently subliminal messages the media provides us with. I recently came across an expanding internet trend of people leading what they call a “pro-ana” lifestyle.
The women and men of the pro-ana (a shortening of the word “anorexia”) movement claim that “ana” is their friend, often personifying it as a “she” and stating that it’s an active lifestyle decision rather than a disorder. The movement has, like everything else, been condensed into a hashtag which can now be seen all over Tumblr and other websites, usually with an accompanying photo of a horrifically malnourished human being.
More than simply being “so jealousssss” of skeletal body types, though, pro-ana/pro-mia (for bulimia) activists have a tendency to insult anyone without visible pelvic bones or rib cages. It’s not uncommon to see one of their brood disparaging a fellow blogger just for having thighs that touch each other.
In one particularly troubling case, I followed the digital breadcrumbs of an ana-keen blogger all the way back to her YouTube account, where I found a series of videos documenting her efforts to juggle her pregnancy and anorexia.
“And this is me at eight months,” she said to the camera, lifting up her cami to reveal a third trimester bump no larger than a kaiser roll.
By now it’s pretty clear that I’m a proponent of beautification, but not when it flirts with self-harm. If you ask me, it’s absolutely indisputable that, while the quest for skinniness and popularity can often be one of desperation and extraordinary measures, it’s never necessary to develop an eating disorder.
The real question is, where did these disorders come from? Who could argue that forced regurgitation or intentional starvation are healthy dietary means? Why would anyone willingly suffer just to become thin? These will be good questions to keep me occupied while I wait for the next season of American’s Next Top Model.
DYLAN GALLAGHER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, cleverblog.tumblr.com/ask, or his office in the Downtown Davis Chipotle.