Even though I seem to be relapsing, I’m more concerned for other people than I was last time. My anxiety has settled on Meggie’s food behaviours. She’s now 12 and very teenage-y (god, girls develop early!) I’m just waiting for her to manifest problems with food. In our house, everything to do with food is too fraught, too emotional, too pregnant with meaning and significance. It’s too important.
I think she’s developing worrying tendencies. She will suddenly abandon food, abruptly announcing that she doesn’t like certain things, and has never liked them; She will say, 3 mouthfuls from finishing, that she’s full, and even that she’s willing to forego her pudding in order to stop eating. (She’s calling my bluff.) She becomes highly exorcised if she doesn’t get exactly what she wants on her plate.
It’s clearly a way of exerting control and establishing independence. She’s beginning to understand the highly charged semiotics of food in this household and has weaponised it: not getting what she wants is an example of paternal tyranny or neglect; a tiny difference in the perceived size of her portion, compared to her brother’s, is an example of favouritism (I recently had to weigh their pieces of birthday cake on the kitchen scales, and she only backed down when it showed her piece was actually 3 grams heavier!)
But the language of food, and its messages, are more wayward and insidiously powerful than she yet realises. By giving it a social utility beyond its simpler, more wholesome and sustaining functions, she runs a very serious risk of becoming anorexic in her turn. This would ruin both our lives, so I’m scared shitless.
Here’s the attraction of relapsing. When you’re seriously ill, you’re too tired, befuddled and hungry to give a shite. You can expunge these excruciating guilts. Anorexia is a cosily familiar room, Spartan yet comforting. You can lock yourself in, away from the terrible storms of responsibility and self-blame, of newspapers filled with unstoppable disasters, tsunamis of murderous hate-crime, breathe a sigh of relief, and focus on small, domestic issues. You can curl up with half a bagel and a calorie count…