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On my journey to self-confidence, which is still equivalent to walking a tight-rope that sometimes catches on fire, there were moments I refer to as “turning points.” They are points in time that are stamped to the inside of my skull, moments in my life where I realized I had issues with body image, food, addiction, and the loneliness that came with harboring those things.
My first turning point was at 8 years old. I had a pixie cut because lice had taken over our school. It took three times of being mistaken for a boy for me to have my mom take me to get my ears pierced.
I was a girl.
I loved girly things. I loved cheerleading, dancing, painting my nails, and dressing up. I loved the Cheetah Girls.
I loved the tabloid magazines in doctor’s offices and my mom’s bathroom.
Someone—my nana, my mom, someone who meant well and wanted to make me happy—got me a subscription to a couple of magazines as a kid. American Cheerleader was one.
Seventeen Magazine was the other.
Now, I am not saying anything against Seventeen. I haven’t read one since I started high school. I’m sure their content has become self-aware the way many media outlets have become aware of their influence on young girls. Many outlets have changed to influence girls in a positive way instead of influencing body image issues and the like.
In 2003, Seventeen Magazine introduced me to the idea that I needed to lose weight. I would tear out articles like “Seven Ways to Banish the Belly Fat!” and “Lazy Arm Exercises To Do At Home!”
My neighborhood friends and I would pour over my magazines, doing exercises in our front yards. I would save my favorite ones in a binder on my bookshelf, along with skincare routines since I was nearing double digits and already suffering with a genetically gifted nose full of blackheads on my dad’s side. I would tear out “Back to School Beauty Routines” and “Fifteen Easy Lunches to Beat the Freshman Fifteen.”
Eight, nine, ten year old girls should not be concerned with a Freshman Fifteen.
No one should truthfully give a shit about the Freshman Fifteen.
Seventeen would still be a close friend I would turn to when I began to be horribly teased in fifth grade. I was teased for being fat, teased for already having to wear a B cup, and then when I tried to cover up by wearing one of my mom’s jackets all day, every day, in the Florida heat, I was teased for sweating and smelling bad. The girls in Seventeen didn’t get teased, and they weren’t fat. Surely there was some correlation there.
The girls in Seventeen were my gateway to the girls in my mom’s back issues of US Magazine.
Oh yes, US Magazine, you cheeky gossipy bitch. Tell me all about Bennifer breaking up. What will the “Friends” do now that the series finale has aired?
WHAT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT IS IN PARIS HILTON’S BAG?!?!?!
For some reason, the article from US Weekly that sticks in my head, that was torn out immediately and stored away for constant reference, was an article called something like “Celebrity Snacks!” Which detailed what the beautiful people ate on the run to keep them full, and the calories the snacks carried.
Kathy Goddamn Griffin would have a medium banana and a Diet Coke. It was 105 calories. It sounded like the solution to all of life’s problems.
From that point forward I would mutilate the tons of magazines I stored in a storage bin in my closet. Teen Vogue joined the party at some point, along with Entertainment Weekly. My favorite celebrities would have their pictures torn out and stuck on the wall, but US and Seventeen got gutted for a more secret, more shameful reason. US and Seventeen were to make myself better. EW and Teen Vogue were my inspirations.
I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be on Broadway. I wanted to be a famous singer. The girls in the magazines I treasured were famous, they were beautiful, they were perfect.
And they were thin.
There had to be a correlation.
The idea that being beautiful and happy, and being thin had anything to do with one another would be a constant recurring theme in my life. This was the start of the walk on the tightrope.