5 Reasons Your Girlfriend With an Eating Disorder Probably Hates You Sometimes
[Editor's Note: ED trigger alert]
Last week, the misogynist-troll website Return of Kings published 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder, by a writer named Tuthmosis. When I first read the post, I thought surely it was written ironically. (Of course, I also thought that the first time I heard the lyrics to Blurred Lines.) The “reasons” included hot thinness, cheapness to date, and wildness in the sack. Ugh. Understandably, the Internet freaked out. Then the site’s publisher posted a response to the freakout, including this paragraph:
I want to make it clear that we at ROK are not promoting eating disorders. These are devastating illnesses on those whom they afflict, and we wish sufferers are able to receive the treatment they need. It is unfortunate that sufferers continue to be stigmatized by society, so it surprises me that Tuthmosis’ article has been angrily received when it attempts to reduce stigma by encouraging our male readership to give women with anorexia and bulimia an opportunity for real intimacy.
I had boyfriends when I had anorexia. And they may have thought they were benefiting from some of the items on Tuthmosis' list. Yes, I was thin in a fashionable way … before I got thin in a starving-person way. Yes, I was an extremely cheap date – for dinner in high school, of course, but also for drinks in college. Someone who ate six hundred calories all day before going out gets wasted on one cocktail. Sweet, right?
But ... I was also slowly killing myself. While I think it's so sweet that Return of Kings wants girls with eating disorders to have a chance at love, I have some bad news for this guy and all other guys who read this post and want to date girls with EDs (assuming all these potential boyfriends don't also suffer from an eating disorder).
Five Reasons Your Girlfriend with an Eating Disorder Probably Hates You (at Least Sometimes)
You can eat without thinking about it. For those not in the know, anorexics think about food a lot. The food they're not eating. A lot. I would tally calorie lists, plan out meals and -- when I was dating my boyfriend in high school whose family life revolved around his mother's amazing home-cooked meals -- spend hours freaking out over how I was going to hide how much I was not eating when he invited me over for dinner. It irritated the shit out of me that I kept getting invited to those dinners and throwing a wrench in my carefully structured life. I understood intellectually how nice it was they wanted to include me in their family meals. I also understood intellectually how rude it was to not eat much when the cook had spent the entire day in the kitchen hand-rolling wontons. I understood all those things intellectually the way a drug addict understands intellectually that drugs are bad for you. The mind-fuck of anorexia is some heavy shit. So yeah, I sometimes found myself wanting to punch my boyfriend for insisting I taste-test his homemade spaghetti sauce with a piece of bread five times over the course of the afternoon, thereby wasting all my dinner calories before dinner ever started.
Having sex requires getting naked. One of Tuthmosis' pros for dating an ED girl is that she's crazy so she's probably hot in the sack. You might think she's totally into it. She may be an incredible actress. She may be wildcat in the sack, but she may also hate you for making her get naked while she's doing it. Two things: your ED sweetheart thinks she's ugly and fat, therefore she doesn't want you to see her body. And -- she's fucking cold, you moron, she doesn't have any body fat. When I was anorexic, I hated getting undressed for any reason because I had so little body fat I shivered when it was below eighty degress. Think about it. If she does go at you like the whore of Babylon, it's probably to burn calories. No, I'm not kidding. Anorexia kills your sex drive.
You don't respect the rules. In order to starve yourself, you are not actually vulnerable and weak, as Thuthmosis says, you're actually pretty fucking structured and strong-willed. It's kind of hard to override your body's survival instincts. In order to do so, you have to have a tight set of rules. Other people, often boyfriends, don't respect these rules and will invite you on all sorts of adventures that involve eating or drinking to excess, because everything, according to your rules, is excess.
You want to hang out during her workout time. It's easier to lose massive amounts of weight and maintain an unhealthy loss if you also excercise to excess. When I was sick, I worked out an hour and a half a day, seven days a week. That's a pretty big chunk of time. When I was in high school, my parents didn't let me hang out with my boyfriend every day of the week, so it wasn't very hard to schedule him around my militaristic workout schedule. When I was in college, it all went to hell. I was already scheduling him around classes, studying and my sorority activities (oh, hi, stereotype number 86 for white girls with ED!). He wanted to hang out and watch TV for hours at a time or hang out and drink for hours at a time, and neither watching TV nor drinking burned any calories at all. Activities that did not burn calories = hate from me.
She hates herself, and you love her. This is the kicker. When I hated myself, it was really hard for me to understand why anybody could love me, think I was beautiful, want to be around me. Oh, sure, I craved affection -- who doesn't -- but it was very go away/come back. In order to really receive that love, I would have to believe what my boyfriend told me. Now that I'm recovered and have the benefit of time, I understand that my boyfriends did really love me. I actually dated the same guy my senior year of high school and most of my freshman year of college, when I was at my sickest. He had to have loved me to put up with my bizarre behavior and mood swings and increasingly sickly appearance. I've never talked to him about that time because he dropped out of college and moved away and we lost touch, but I'm certain my eating disorder was hard for him. I'm guessing he didn't know how to help me. I'm guessing it worried him. I'm pretty sure people probably blamed him for not doing something about it. Does that sound fun? And he put up with all of that and I still sometimes hated him. Because he wasn't sick. And because he loved me.
Not all men (and I'm guessing some women) stand with the now 120k people who liked Tuthmosis' post. (It's gone up by FIVE THOUSAND LIKES since I started writing this.) I'm sure some boyfriend somewhere right now is wondering how he can help his girlfriend as she once again refuses to eat. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, you can email me and I will try to point you in the right direction. My personal email is email@example.com.
- Can You Prevent Your Child's Eating Disorder?
- This Ain't My First Rodeo: How Dr. Phil Got Anorexia Wrong
- The Connection Between Eating Disorders and Postpartum Depression
My debut young adult novel is The Obvious Game, published InkSpell Publishing. The Obvious Game is based on my experience with anorexia. I'm represented by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.
The Obvious Game is available in paperback and ebook (all formats) online at Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, InkSpell Publishing and Indiebound. If you are a librarian and are having trouble finding my book, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase the book at the 40% author discount price.