In recovery, one of the hardest things that I have to deal with are comments about my weight. People often mean well, but these ‘observations’ sting, every time with a newfound pain. For me, a part of my eating disorder revolved around other’s opinions. Sure, I purged for myself – desperately clinging on to any form of control, trying to achieve the perfect body. But a massive part of my ED was about how others viewed me. Did they think I was skinny? Did they see the massive whale that I saw in the mirror? Often, if someone would ever compliment my body, I would grab my stomach or bingo wings and exclaim: “What, you think this is beautiful? You need your eyes checked.” Or, I would say nothing. Blush quietly and smile, while the voices in my head twisted their kind words into hateful thorns, pricking me until I bled out.
I have recently started a new job. It totally revolves around teamwork and camaraderie; we all help each other to get the job done quicker. However, last night, something shook me so badly that I am questioning whether to go back. Many of my colleagues are romanian, and they often speak to each other in their language. Last night, someone told me that while I was working, one of my male co-workers called me fat. “Look at that chubby one. So cute.”
Now, to many, that sounds almost like a compliment. ‘He meant it as a joke! Don’t be so sensitive’. But when you have an eating disorder, being called fat, however said, can be absolutely detrimental, both to mental and physical health. I was in the middle of my shift, and I felt like my heart had been shattered with a sledgehammer, the sharp pieces injecting themselves in my lungs, cutting my breath short. I had spent almost three years in fear of this kind of comment. It had finally grabbed me by the hair, pulling with all it’s might. As I carried on my shift, robotic smile sullenly plastered on my face, I realised. As we work, we often give each other small touches on the shoulder or arm to show that we are there for one another. But where does this stop? The male co-worker in question had been squeezing my ‘love handles’, the small area of fat that just spills over my jeans above my hips, every chance he could get. Waiting in line for our orders. Behind the bar, making drinks. As he walked past me. A couple of times, these touches even went below the belt. I put it down to a friendly touch, to let me know he was there. The same way that I touched the girls in the restaurant. But it wasn’t. This comment, paired with the inappropriate touches, could have meant a month of starving myself. I could have run to the toilet and stayed there, making myself puke until I was numb. Or, the suicidal thoughts could kick in. It only takes one comment to send one spiralling.
I talked to my co-workers, who both said that they had experienced the same thing. We all decided to go to the boss, who handled the situation very well. I received an apology, but he will never understand how this will affect me. My superviser couldn’t promise me that he will be fired. I might have to see this man every day until I leave, and leaving now is not an option. Simply, I need the money. Even thinking about seeing him again is putting a lump in my throat. Seeing his best friend, who may or may not know about the situation (they speak romanian, remember?), who may hate me because I got her friend, someone who has worked there for fifteen years, sacked? Honestly, I am shaking. The manipulation and control of women in the workplace is still happening in this day and age. This fact makes me sick. What makes me even more sick is that if I didn’t have my ED, I would have let the inappropriate touches go. Dismissed them. It was the comment that spurred me into action, and for that I am lucky. However, I now have to go back into work, somewhere that I no longer feel comfortable. Because of one man. Because of a touch. Because of a comment.
These comments, especially in the workplace, have to stop. These touches do not represent camaraderie. They are not nice. We don’t ask for them. We don’t want them. But how can we stop them? I am lucky that I had my co-workers by my side. Many don’t.
It is nearly 2018. When is enough enough?