Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year (Part 3)

Shameful Secret #3 - Starving and Binging

So, early on, I learned that being with family meant eating all kinds of sugary, doughy, fattening treats.

For Fattening Time, Part 1, go here.
For Fattening Time, Part 2, go here.

Then my Mom died, when I was ten. I think my sister made most of the meals for the next year.  I was kind of oblivious, and my dad was usually out chasing pussy. Sorry, I know that sounds crass and vulgar - but if one is to talk honestly about my Narcissist father, crass and vulgar are a necessary part of the equation.

I don't recall spending much time with my dad after my mother died.  (I don't remember spending much time with him, period.  Before or after.)  Basically if he had a need that couldn't be expressed in any other way, he'd haul me or my sisters into it.  For instance, he'd played tennis in high school, and decided he wanted to play again.  He'd tried to teach each of my older sisters and they hated it and quit in tears, so when I was five he took me into the pro shop and had a custom racket built for my hand & size, and I got 3-4 tennis lessons with the tennis pro to teach me the basics.

And then we played together, a little, but for some reason at five I couldn't keep up with him at forty-five.  I couldn't serve with enough power.  My backhand was weak.  So, my lessons were abandoned, even though at that point I liked tennis.  He decided to take it up again with me when I was 10, but at this point, he had gout and arthritis and who-knew-what, and he couldn't keep up with me.  Again, one match and done.

I artistically blurred the upper part of Stepmom's face to protect her identity.
Not that anybody ever looked at her eyes anyway.
She had a very nice smile, too - another thing that got passed right over.
 Of course, I got the full brunt of his anger both times he - I mean I - quit, because "I" had failed him.  I didn't understand then how Narcissists worked, how they could flatter you and make you feel soooo good, and then, when they turned, make you feel soooo bad.

A year after my mother died, he married a woman who made Dolly Parton look like she was wearing a training bra.  I mean, seriously, those jugs must have been truly gruesome to haul around.

And my sister and her new baby, who'd been living with us while her Marine husband was serving his tour of duty, moved out, and it was just the three of us.  Daddy would take me grocery shopping, the one time of the week we'd spend together.  "Oooh, these brownies look good, don't they?  Wouldn't you like some brownies?"

I was a kid.  I was already hooked on sugary, fattening foods, and my dad wanted me to like them.  Of course I said yes.  He would load up the cart with junk food; brownies, donuts, chips, cake - all things he was buying "for me," in theory.  He was very, very good at playing me off my stepmother and vice versa.

My poor stepmother... She wasn't very bright, for one thing.  She was a high school drop-out, and she was African-American and worked in a laundry, and we were white - working class, true, but my father had a college degree, was highly intelligent, and held a white collar job. 

Not a lot of mixed marriages in the early 1970's.  Originally Daddy Dearest had moved Stepmom into the apartment where my mother had lived and died.  In an all-white neighborhood.  Understandably, she wasn't real comfortable with that, so we moved to a "mixed" (and very rough) neighborhood in the inner city.  We still all got a lot of crap.  I remember once bloodying another girl's nose for using the word "nigger" to refer to my stepmother. 

Things got ugly; my father and stepmother didn't like the new friends I'd made (truly, I didn't like them much either, but you either got along or you got your ass kicked.)  Dramatic fights ensued, and I ran away from home a few times, to stay with my new b-f's family.  I would come home during the day when both DD and Stepmom were at work, and gorge, because b-f's family were on welfare and I didn't feel right eating too much of their food.  One day, my dad left me a note and we worked out a deal for me to go live with my oldest sister (who was 27 and the married mother of two young kids at that time.)

She was great - if unprepared to "mother" a 13 y.o. at her age.  She and her husband gave up their bedroom so I could have my own room; I was encouraged to read whatever I wanted, drink an occasional wine cooler if I wanted, and to eat whatever I wanted.  We have the same basic body frame, and Sis was dieting, and so I became very scale-conscious and believed I must be really heavy (I wasn't) and needed to lose weight too, so I dieted right along with her.  This living arrangement worked for a year, but now I was 14, beginning to grow breasts, and getting some scary (horny) looks from my brother-in-law's friends.  I didn't know how to handle it, so I decided I wanted to go back "home" and live with my father again.

DD & StepMom had moved out of the "mixed" neighborhood into an all-black one.  Actually, nicer than the old one, except on one corner I had to pass on my way home from school everyday was a bar.  The unemployed low-lifes liked nothing better than to hang out in front and catcall at the weird white girl who didn't even belong in that neighborhood.

I hid in my room, and read and ate, mostly, but I did connect with a few of my former friends, and one day we had walked to the town square for lack of anything better to do and met some cool people handing out flyers that looked like comic books that told about Jesus.  I was intrigued, I went to the house where they all lived, a commune just like in Jesus' time where everybody shared everything and loved one another and there were no drugs and no sex (wow, no sex?! a safe place you could live where you wouldn't get hit on?!) and no fighting...  I ended up "getting saved."

So when a month after I'd moved back "home" my dad told me it "wasn't working out for him" and I needed to decide where else I wanted to live (I was 14,) because it wasn't gonna be with him, I chose the fellowship.  Which was full of love and sharing and prayers and Bible studies and almost NO FOOD.  The people living there would get jobs -  but they got moved around a lot, so they were unemployed a lot, and the rent got paid first, and utilities, and then food.  I think my dad chipped in $40 a month for my room & board, since I was too young to work.  I remember living off cinnamon toast one week, as you could then get three loaves of bread for a dollar; then the butter ran out so it was just toast with cinnamon sprinkled on it, dry.  I remember somebody somewhere donating whole wheat pancake mix, and eating two pancakes that expanded in my stomach and felt like I'd swallowed a bowling ball.  And brothers and sisters would periodically fast for the good of their souls...

Besides, being a true Christian was supposed to be about crucifying the flesh and you were supposed to offer up your hunger - if you were hungry, if you were so weak as to be aware of hunger at all! - as a sacrifice to JEEsus, after all he went through on the cross wasn't being hungry an insignificant price to pay?! 

Plus, I would walk "home" on the weekends with my laundry and sit in my dad's kitchen, reading while I washed my clothes, and as the clothes cycled, I inhaled everything I could in the refrigerator.  Oh, and I got a few dollars allowance from my dad, too, which the fellowship didn't know about.  Not enough to buy an actual school lunch, but it was enough so I could stop by the donut shop on the way to school in the morning and buy a couple of donuts to fill up (2 for 25 cents) if I was particularly hungry.

I suppose I should have felt guilty, getting in that extra "food", but I never did.  And while I still have a sweet tooth, I don't much care for donuts, these days. Fancy that!

I spent the summer of '77 at the fellowship main headquarters in lower Manhattan.  They did try to serve regular, nourishing meals there, but I often missed them, having been out all day on carpet cleaning door-to-door sales assignments (If you ever watched Seinfeld, you might have seen this bit:, or talking to people on street corners at night about JEEsus.  Or up all nights cleaning the machines.  (Sisters being the "weaker" sex, we didn't do the actual carpet cleaning, just the filthy and physically demanding job of cleaning the machines, checking and oiling the nozzles on the wands, and restocking the milk crates with fresh chemicals.)

So, meals were caught in the communal kitchens here and there, a lot of PB & J on stale bagels.  (I didn't know bagels were supposed to be chewy and not rock hard until I was well into my twenties.)  A lot of my allowance in NY was spent on frozen yogurt - until the big blackout, when the guy with the ground floor convenience store started giving it away for free.

Eventually DD & SM (#1) split up.  My father had led her to believe he had a lot more money than he actually did, for one thing, and I moved back in with him for a while, though he tried to guilt-trip me into believing his divorce was all my fault, that he couldn't bear to live apart from his darling daughter any more.  This time, I didn't buy into it.

I would have liked to have gone to college, but most of the funds that were supposedly being set aside for that, from my Mom's military service and Social Security survivors' benefits... mysteriously, not there.  (There was enough left to buy me a crappy car once I was on my own.)

Plus, while my head was all wrapped up in religious mania, I hadn't taken any of the college prep courses I should have, nor SAT's or any college exams (not something DD asked Question One about or paid any attention to, ever.  In fact, my last two years of high school I had to fight not to be suspended because my immunization records weren't up to date, and DD just said, "I don't have time, you deal with it.")  And StepMom #2 was on the near horizon; ready to move in with her 16 year old daughter - and there was not enough room in that small apartment for four people.

So I moved back with with my oldest sister upon high school graduation, at 17, and into my own place at 18.  And in my own place, I was dead broke at first and lived off a lot of mac and cheese because it was filling and all I could afford.  Wasn't till I became a prospective mom that I really began educating myself about nutrition and trying to eat healthy foods and a balanced menu, to serve my child healthy foods.

I know a lot of women and men with eating "issues" have deliberately starved themselves at times, which is a path I haven't taken.  However, I do know what it's like to feel constant, painful hunger while trying to brainwash oneself into believing it's a good thing.  I also know what it feels like (too well) to eat oneself into oblivion.

I'm struggling to find balance, now, as I separate myself emotionally, not just physically, from my OCPD, anorectic b-f, who has very unhealthy attitudes about food and eating.  Who is now starving himself once again (he's 6'2" 160 lbs) as he thinks he's fat.  Who always thought I was fat, even when I wasn't (mind you, I am heavier right now than I want to be) and continually told me so, in snide remarks, nasty comments, and evil looks.  Along with dirty looks and snide comments for being a picky eater.

This year's ginger cookies - and nobody bitched
at me for messing up "his" kitchen, yeah!
 It's a real battle for me right now to not stuff myself with every "forbidden" food in the grocery store, just as a Demand Resistance thing.  I have done it, more than a little, since getting my own place.  And used the "food as narcotic" crutch, as this separation and the delving I've been doing into my heart and feelings has been hard.  I certainly learned the lesson, over the years, to eat fatty, sugary foods to cope with grief, stress, and economic uncertainty.

I'm not blaming myself or beating up on myself for going there, but I'm ready to turn it around, I think.  To start a new chapter - not on dieting, not on depriving myself of something I crave, but learning to live with a healthier attitude towards food.  What a concept!  I'm joining (if I can figure out how to officially sign up/on) an online group working through Susan Albers' Eating Mindfully and really looking forward to the insights I'm already learning.

For Fattening Time, Part 1, go here.
For Fattening Time, Part 2, go here.

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