I am a sibling.
One (the eldest) of three.
This blog is not about my siblings (who are, by the way, totally wonderful and I love them to bits); but I think it might be about a younger me’s reaction to them, so I’m going to include this.
It is important to distinguish between your reality and the alternative versions of reality; the stuff that belongs to other people, and that which belongs to you.
This bit is mine.
Earlier today, someone asked me what I liked to eat as a child. Hoping to access my pre-ED tastes, I decided that casting my mind back a little (lot) and exploring the things that I used to look forward to at mealtimes sounded like a good idea.
It was. I just didn’t find what I was expecting.
Hoping to form a little connection to my childhood favourites and re-awaken any tastebuds that I’d snipped at the roots, I was waiting for the images of homemade macaroni cheese (yep, liked that) – or breakfasts at the weekend with my Dad (I know I used to enjoy these) – or crumble and custard on Sundays (a favourite, I think), to arrive. Instead, I got a hideous wave of inferiority and a horrible flashback to how I used to feel –
I was not, as a child, the skinny one.
My brother was a beanpole. My sister, petite and pretty. And me –
Normal. Healthy. Attractive. Big. Ungainly. Fat.
With a good appetite. A dead cert for seconds. Enjoyed her food. Greedy. Uncontrolled. Fat.
These things were not, of course, said; nor, I am certain, even thought. It’s just how I felt. Them – and me. Thin – and fat. Acceptable – and totally not.
I don’t know when I decided that body size cast the deciding vote. This certainly wasn’t a family message; and, it seems, oddly, to dismiss all the things that I clearly excelled at – school, music, reading, the ‘clever one’ – possibly, because even writing these things reminds me that they were irrelevant. Instantly negated. Uncool.
For whatever reason, at some deep and complicated level, worth and self-acceptance got all tangled up with whether I was skinny or not -
And, as a child, I was not the skinny one.
So, when I go back, even after all these years, and after the balance was so dramatically altered, the surge of inferiority is still uncomfortable; and the feeling of weightiness, bowls me over. And, even if I try to move beyond this, and go back – back – further – back to an earlier stage, where it didn’t matter so much or I wasn’t so aware; the memories of food remain hidden, and all I can see is –
One wooden chair leg, and a not skinny knee, poking out from a pair of cotton shorts, with the sun streaming through the window behind. A fork, on a plate, and sitting at the kitchen table wondering why I always wanted more.
Photos that made me feel horrible. Climbing frames that I seemed too big for. Clothes that I had outgrown.
Summer days, and paddling pools, and swimsuits with frilled bottoms, and queuing for barbecues, with an acute awareness of just how much space I seemed to consume.
This might, I think, be where some of it started.
In this small, still throbbing, sense of shame – and self-consciousness – and older sister awkwardness, some of the nerve ends remain red and raw.
I need, I think, when I’m feeling a bit braver, to go back and acknowledge that it hurt (that I felt I was different); and reassure, my younger me, that it was nothing to be ashamed of (this taking up of space). To explain that sometimes feelings, are just feelings (and not the reality); and unstick this person, who is still a little stuck –
Because I’ve probably been carrying this childlike sense of inadequacy around for a very long time -
And, it’s time to move on.