I had always expected the wedding dress shopping process to be an exciting time in my life. I suppose I had never really thought about how being a recovered anorexic would affect the process. Or, rather, how the process of dress shopping would affect my recovery. As I began to look at pictures of dresses, the actual prospect of trying them on and looking at myself in a mirror filled me with dread. Downright panic, even.
Brides are iconic. They’re supposed to look a certain way. To be beautiful, and, of course, to be thin. Years of looking at pictures of models in wedding dresses, their humanity Photoshopped right out of them, do take their toll, no matter how much I tell myself I’ve risen above. This isn’t a story about me coming to terms with not looking like a model, though. This is a story of what’s happened since then.
Since becoming engaged, I’ve started dieting. Falling into old patterns is so easy—the diet plans and the calorie counting are so comforting. The charts and lists and numbers are like old friends, and they give me the steady assurance that I am becoming less.
For years, I worked tirelessly to be less. To take up less physical space in the world, yes. But also to need less from the men I dated. To be the girl who gave her boyfriend (whoever he was at the time) everything he wanted, without asking for anything in return. To be less myself, and instead, to attempt to be the exact woman that particular boy wanted. If only I could disappear into the image of his ideal woman, I’d be worthy. I’d be chosen. I never really succeeded in that endeavor, but I tried. Oh, I tried.
I still have those thoughts—I must make myself less in order to be the kind of woman who’s worthy of marriage. But then my fiancé comes in and reads me like a book and tells me, without any prompting from me, that he doesn’t want me to be less. He wants me to be more. More of everything that I am, because he knows me and loves me, authentically and fully, and it hurts him to see me become less of myself. With him, I am chosen, and it did not require disappearing into his ideal.
Like magic, he knows that I’m dieting, too. He’s told me that he’s worried, and I know that if this gets out of hand, he’ll be the one who asks me to seek treatment. In the meantime, he offers and he loves. He offers me food. He offers with authentic love and without judgment, and that really does make it easier to accept. I don’t need to be less for him. The urge to starve is still there, but my rationalizations for it are not. I’d be lying if I said I always accept what he offers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lose another pound last week. But it’s something. It’s a start.
If I could tie this story up in a neat bow, I would. However, our wedding is still a year away and this battle is far from won. This is not a victory or a moral of the story—this is merely a hope. When I stand with him on our wedding day and we commit our lives to one another, I hope that I won’t enter our union withering and less. I hope I am able to enter it as myself, authentic and full.
Photo by Vivian Chen (APW Sponsor)