Sunday, July 25, 2010

Missive from Middleton

I’m still feeling the effects of an icky hangover from a most humiliating cocktail: I was caught purging by my husband. This happened days ago and should have, by now, receded into the land of repressed memories. And really, it’s happened so often it shouldn’t really be a big deal. But it was.

The scene: I was still at my friend’s house in Upper Peninsula, Michigan and spent the afternoon walking the beach, collecting driftwood for my daughter’s lizard cage, and watching over the kids as they heroically swam in the very cold waters of Lake Superior. We wandered back up to the house and had an afternoon snack of chips and homemade salsa—fiery hot habanero peppers, freshly picked tomatoes. It was good, and for once, I was actually hungry.

So I ate a few chips. Ate them fast, tried to pretend that eating them was okay, that my hunger was okay but IT kept nudging me in the ribs: Fatso. You aren’t allowed to be hungry. You don’t get to eat between meals. YOU ARE BINGING and that is DISGUSTING. You are disgusting.


Christopher went back down to the beach to gather up swimsuits; I strolled out into the woods to collect wild blueberries for my next day’s breakfast. No concrete thought of purging. Truly. I was simply going to spend fifteen minutes collecting blueberries, like some bucolic woods version of Laura Ingalls Wilder (who was my hero for much of my childhood.) I bent down to the bushes and the mere act of bending over immediately triggered that big bad urge to purge. Like a muscle memory. All I had to do was open my mouth, tighten my stomach muscles, and Bam!(as Emeril might say).

And then I raised my head and saw Christopher striding purposefully towards me.
What do I do? I didn’t want to get caught so I took a step to the side and stood on top of my vomit. Let me repeat: I stand in my vomit. IT said: You are a cesspool. You are truly disgusting. This is how low you have sunk—standing in your own slop.

But I also thought: It could work. I might be able to keep Christopher from seeing what I’ve done. And what have I done? Contaminated the woods, ruined the blueberry patch. At the very least, have reduced myself to exactly what I hate—this furtive, sneaking, deceitful animal.

So Christopher kindly made small talk for a few moments—about going to the bear sanctuary the next day, about a bonfire later on the beach, about how wonderful this trip has been for the kids—their freedom, their ability to explore the woods and beach, to be kids. (And I’m thinking: You will never be that innocent again. IT will never let you go.)

Finally, he sighed. “You purged,” he said, matter-of-factly.

I nodded.

“Why,” he asked.

“Because I ate some chips.”

“Then you shouldn’t have eaten them if you were going to purge” he said.

“But I was hungry” I said.

“Of course, you’re hungry. All you eat is yogurt for breakfast and lunch. I’m surprised you’re not ravenous.”

“I don’t get to be hungry,” I said.

More of the same back and forth, no resolution except for the agreement that I would try to turn my back on IT, redouble my efforts, salvage what was left of the vacation.

Which is what I am trying to do as I sit here in my in-laws living room in Middleton, Wisconsin, on my husband’s birthday. A day where I have played golf badly, but had fun, a day where I managed to eat Mexican food for the first time in years and didn’t purged afterwards, a day where I put on my bikini and hung out with the kids at the pool, a day where I was able to give my husband the best birthday gift possible—IT tried to make inroads, but I have not let it. Instead, I have managed to bask in the sunshine of my family’s love and support and understanding. A vacation, if only for a day, indeed.