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Interviews with a Big Black Broad: Session #3

One Woman's Unique Insight into Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Interviewer: How was your experience as a college student while suffering with crude BDD?

BBB: My college experience was a slippery slope. The moment I graduated high school, I knew I was in for an entirely new set of challenges when it came to hiding my BDD symptoms. Or at least, I thought I knew. I spent my final year in high school listening to college graduates prepare me for this major shift into adulthood. What scared me shitless was the expectation that my social interactions would have to change. My mother was hopeful that I would finally find a boyfriend in college. As you can imagine, speculations regarding my sexuality were starting to take root since I never dated throughout my teenage hood. Of course, my makeshift friends at school knew I was straight, and understood clearly why I was dateless. My family, however, refused to accept what my friends and I had. Ugly girls don't date. Remember, some of them had actually introduced me to the unfortunate connection of being ugly and alone as a child, so these contradictory messages made their expectations unmanageable. As far as my personal life choices go, I stopped seeking their consensus right then and there. I'd just have to live my life the way I wanted and suffer the consequences of ending up as the cautionary tale. Besides, none of them will ever understand what it's like to be trapped in the mind and body of a big black broad like me. Period.

Meanwhile, I had somehow managed an uninterrupted, well-orchestrated and wildly successful pattern to hide my BDD symptoms from everyone. For instance, while in high school, I woke up each morning to a covered vanity mirror in my bedroom (I begged my mother to get rid of that thing), picked out the baggiest clothes I could get away with (again it was the 90s), head to the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet mirror before I cut on the light so that I didn't have to see my horrible reflection, clean up, dress myself and leave the house. Same routine when preparing for bed. This was the only way I could avoid random crying episodes of depression. If I starred into a reflective surface for too long, it would result in bouts of unprovoked anger and resentment towards my family, after which, I would isolate myself for a few days so that I could cry alone and secretly wish I were someone, anyone else with at least one desirable physical attribute. In the light of day, with people all around me, I would pretend to be OK. And, as long as I didn't look at myself, I was OK. In college, I couldn't get away with this convenient pattern of ignoring my appearance. I shared a communal bathroom, mirrors everywhere but the ceilings (yikes). We had a communal dining hall where I had to eat or starve. I rarely ate lunch in high school. Instead, I'd gorge myself before and after school to avoid having my classmates watch me eat in the cafeteria. I also had a roommate. She was friendly, but was my polar opposite in appearance in every way. Everyone thought she was gorgeous. After only a week as freshmen, our room became flooded with male visitors, all there to meet the pretty new freshman girl who had all the guys buzzing on campus. When they came, I left the room. Otherwise, I'd entertain other random visitors (a few other freshman I'd met while roaming the campus) with my funny banter, my fancy book collection, my equally impressive CD rack of diverse tastes in music. I relied heavily on my quirky personality and charm in order to sustain what social life I had in college.

My self-deprecating jokes had replaced general conversations I had with my peers in college. If they felt sorry for me because of how hard I was on myself, they never said a word. As far as they were concerned, I was a comedic genius. I say "peers," because saying the word "friend" would be a stretch. I managed to leave college with one friend that I still chat with every now and then today, but the others were just acquaintances. Although I was always able to make everyone laugh (usually at my own expense), I was still quite guarded with my feelings. My tongue was super sharp and ready to take down anyone who would dare insult my ugliness. Fat, ugly jokes were not allowed at my expense unless I was the one cracking the jokes. Although I considered myself a "people person," a huge part of me wasn't ready to open myself up enough to let a would-be close friend in. Those I interacted with, who only came to me when they needed to be entertained with my witty repertoire were my "friends." They walked with me to and from class. They sat with me in the court yard and in the cafeterias. They would call me up to take a walk into town with them to window shop. They invited me on weekend road trips during winter and spring breaks. I thought, the least I can do, to repay their willingness to be seen in public with me, was entertain them. So I did. That was my social life in college. I hadn't much time to concern myself with my appearance. I was always clean, and loved perfume, but I wore little to no make up. I kept my small, individual braids in a ponytail mostly. Like many of the students on campus, I was always in a sweat suit, jeans or sometimes pajama pants. Some girls would dress up a little on the weekends, but I was always dressed way down so that I didn't draw any unnecessary attention to myself. Besides, nothing I wore would make me any more attractive than I was. Pretty blouses and high hills were wasted on my wide stocky shoulders and doughy ankles and feet. I endured my fair share of insults while in college, only before I laid into my assailant in turn. Unlike high school, I don't remember too many depressive episodes during this time. It was quite fun actually.

And was your mother right? Did you find a boyfriend in college?

This is a tricky question. The simple answer to your question is: No. I took a very valuable lesson with me from high school. During our last session, I mentioned that I was never asked out. That was true—until a week before high school graduation. Two guys started to flirt with me heavily out of no where one afternoon. One was sort of my comedic touchstone all four years. We would only trade insults before his sudden change of heart during this week. He'd started winking at me. Throwing his arm around me in the halls. Buying me candy. Weird. The other guy shared a few of my classes, and started to sit next to me in those classes. He would move his desk in close to mine, playfully pinch the dimple of my right cheek, and start telling me how he "loved big girls." Every now and then he'd wave off the other guys in class who sat by watching, hardly able to contain their laughter. My fellow comedian gave up after just a few days of enduring my very public rebuffs. I heard him tell a friend, "I was trying to get her back to my uncle's cabin for the graduation party. I'm trying to have a rack of girls by the end of the summer. I don't care what they look like." Ah-HA! I thought. Oh, well! Better luck with the next ugly duckling you try to coerce into fucking you so that you don't go off to college or to work a virgin. The other gave me the cold shoulder on graduation day. He'd asked me out yet again, this time, to the graduation cruise that night. I shouted. "NO! Now will you please get the fuck out of my face?!" Everyone around us gasped. Out of pure embarrassment I'm sure, he countered. "Really?!? Your ugly ass should be grateful any dude would wanna hit that. Fuck you, bitch!" I laughed. Where did the nice, sweet guy with all the compliments go all of a sudden? And that confirmed my suspicions as far as he was concerned. I'd never felt more proud of my intuition in both cases.

I was beginning to see it all around me. I saw girls I knew, who were considered less attractive than the beautiful, popular girls, succumbing to the advances of whatever guys paid them attention so that they didn't end up alone. It didn't really matter who the guys were. For the most part, they were disrespectful, aimless users who were known to pray on us ugly girls, who were likely to settle for them simply because we didn't think we could do any better. We were easy marks. We were desperate for attention and affection, so we "gave it up" easy. All we needed were a few half-attempted swoons to help boost our self-esteem, and presto! Our legs magically opened for them! They'd have to work twice as hard to nail a beautiful girl. Nope, I thought. That won't be me. Even as ugly as I felt, I was determined not to be humiliated in this way. I'd rather die without ever being touched by a man. That was until I got to college, and saw so many gorgeous guys roaming the campus. I felt repulsive sure, but that didn't change my nature as a young woman. These were not the little boys I was used to. The upperclassmen were grown men: Facial hair. Pecks. Cologne soaked to perfection. A few guys made advances. Perhaps for the same reasons I described above. I took the bait only a few times, but limited our interaction to "physical" ones. I was in total control of our trysts. Once that was over, and they pretended to want more, I'd conveniently loose their number, stop calling them. They'd get the hint and leave me alone.

Who were they kidding? They could only want one thing from me. And the feeling was mutual. I wouldn't conceive of any deeper connection between us. I wasn't susceptible to the sweet nothings they tried to waste on me in order to keep me on the hook. Needless to say, there was no romance. We didn't go on "dates." We didn't hold each other afterwards. They were not my boyfriends. No one else really knew we were together. And there was no animosity between us—no need for spreading nasty rumors around campus (who wants to brag about being with the ugly girl anyway). They respected me and my wishes to keep things casual, discreet and most importantly: BRIEF. It was kind of perfect.

Did your perception of your looks grow more positive or negative throughout these experiences?

Well, let's just say, how I saw myself during college did change—very drastically after a while... 

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