By Monah Li*
The night before I leave New Delhi, I stare at the dress-samples hung up for my inspection.
I force myself to smile. Those women, some not even 12 yet, have worked around the clock to bring life to my lackluster designs, all without a fan in India’s brutal heat. I don’t want to seem ungrateful!
While I pack my suitcase at the Taj Mahal hotel, I order room service from their 5-star menu. The cart arrives with dinner for six.
“Where are your guests?” the waiter asks.
“They’re on their way.”
“Would you like company…?”
“I would love to. But. They’re almost here. Another time?”
“When the fuck will you be out, so I can eat!”
Finally! I stuff myself using my hands. This could be dog-food. Too frantic for the bathroom ten feet away, I vomit into the Champaign-bucket whenever I need room for more.
I try to pace myself. But an hour later I’m licking the last plate.
Panic about those samples sticks to my brain like the sweet burhfi (yes, that’s an Indian dessert) I can’t throw up no matter how deep I stick my toothbrush down my bleeding throat.
I wake up to the stench of vomit. Handfuls of extra money will help the cleaning crew to see this as the remains of a decadent party – I hope.
Dragging myself onto the plane, I have no idea that last night was to be my last orgy with food.
I need to back up. How did I get trapped in this hopeless cycle of binging and purging for almost two decades?
I grew up in Vienna, in a family obsessed with weight. To maintain my ideal of 90 pounds, I had to become a junkie. Another deadly trap I barely escaped.
But, my friends and even my dad are at my favorite restaurant to celebrate my first year without drugs.
They are amazed – and so am I – how fast I’ve changed from junkie to celebrity fashion designer – with my very own boutique!
However, the downside to clean living is killing me:
I can’t stop eating. I’ve gained 60 pounds!
365 diets have all ended the same: with a monster binge.
365 mornings start the same: ashamed and even fatter.
So, before I blow out my candle, I decide to try what my beautiful sister does to stay so skinny. It hasn’t worked before, but maybe tonight it will.
With a spoon up my sleeve I sneak to the bathroom. I bend over the toilet, touch that spot she showed me so many times, and: WOW!
Everything I ate spills out.
I have the magic touch!
I can eat whatever I want and lose the weight! My life-long dream has become real.
I rinse my mouth and check my face: I’m meant to do this. Otherwise – would it be so easy? This is a gift. It’s my reward for staying clean.
I am finally in control.
Over the years, I train myself to vomit without a noise. In public bathrooms, I sit all the way back on the seat and barf between my spread legs.
I’m envied for my slim figure. But the price I pay for this is steep: By 45, I have full-blown osteoporosis. My teeth are replaced with implants, for the cost of two houses.
Relentless back-pain, constant fatigue and shame make me suicidal.
I pray for just one day of freedom, but I am stuck.
Fast forward to the present and to India: A holy man I asked about my future has warned me: “I see a huge rock rolling towards you. Too late to change direction, fight or it will kill you.”
Stuffed with salty airplane-grub, I’m in the bathroom, about to do my thing, when a sudden image stops me: An image of a scale holds my public self and my private self in such a very dangerous balance, shivers run down my spine. I flee back to my seat without throwing up.
This moment in a stinky toilet marks the end of my shameful double life.
I land in LA. In Los Angeles, my fantasy of reclaiming my fame as a designer, a famous designer free from bulimia is just that: a fantasy.
Out of my mind and too anxious to focus on my work, I inspire confidence in no one. I am lonely and bored. I miss food … my only friend.
I’m fucking hungry all the time and terrified of getting fat again. I spend too many hours at the Gym, hating every second.
After five months of agony, I can’t take it anymore. Then, one day, about to leave the gym to binge myself into oblivion, exotic music pulls me into a room, where a dance class has just begun.
I am intimidated but I join the class anyway. What I see in the mirror is a pathetic and ungraceful weirdo, not a dancer at all, but I stay – for the music and the costumes that remind me of my lost creative fire and fill my heart with hope.
But why does the beautiful teacher look so familiar? The voice! Dark bangs, falling over those eyes?
Oh My God!
She is my ex-husband’s former girlfriend. The last time I saw her, she cried and said I stole him from her. I did not know he had a girlfriend but I should have.
That encounter was 20 years ago. Now this woman stops the class to hug me. Then she returns to her place in the front and starts to teach me the steps and moves that begin to save my life.
Which is how, for the past five years, I’ve exchanged my bottomless longing for a passion that feeds my body and my soul:
*Monah Li, a native of Vienna, Austria, is a fashion designer and writer living in Los Angeles. This is her second story for TYTT. Her first was Speed Kills. Contact her at monahli.wordpress.com.
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