On Saturday afternoon, my father took Edith down to the neighborhood pool for a swim. He came back haunted and traumatized. He told me in shocked tones how the afternoon had gone: Edith was very happy to go swimming; she enjoyed the water and the splash pad. But then, while she was happily playing in the splash pad, Dad turned around for half a second to grab his phone to take a photo, and suddenly, Edith leapt into the pool. I had warned him that this would happen and that it would feel very unexpected. She waits until your attention is diverted. He jumped in and fished her out where she’d sunk like a stone, and he worried that she would now be scared of swimming, having undergone something so horrific.


After this, Edith started to retrieve things from the stroller and throw them into the pool. “Everything that she could lift and wasn’t tied down went into the pool,” said my father, still clearly in shock. While he was retrieving those things, she jumped into the pool again and had to be fished out. I would not have fallen for this — it was an obvious attempt at a diversion.

Then, she began to run laps around the pool, faster and faster. “She must have run around the pool fifty times,” he said. “And she has to run right along the brink of the pool’s edge.” So, she went into the deep several more times. “It never seemed to phase her!” he said, aghast. “She choked on a lot of pool water, but as soon as she was done coughing, she was jumping in again.”

Also, the bees were an issue: the yellow-flowered bushes along the pool’s fence are teeming with big fat bumblebees and as previously mentioned, Edith loves bees, so this introduced another challenge for Dad. “She chased them everywhere, I don’t know how she didn’t get stung,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he concluded and then he took a long nap.

Edith really has no fear. I would say this is typical of toddlers, but from observing toddlers at baby gym and Edith’s swimming class, I have realized that they come in one of two categories: either they have no fear (and seemingly an active death wish), or they are frightened of everything. I was more the latter, but my daughter has never been frightened of anything. She is an adrenaline junkie and she takes injuries and accidents in stride. When she hurts herself, she either has no reaction at all, or she runs to me screaming and crying, I hold her for exactly one second, and then she immediately flails and kicks out of my arms to get back to what she was doing, like cuddling was all my idea. And even at these times, she really seems more outraged than afraid.

For example, at baby gym on Saturday morning she fell off a stack of mats directly onto the top of her head and after a one-second Mom cry/flail, she climbed back up and repeated the exact same move two more times glaring at the offending floor with fury each time she fell. After that, I quietly moved a second mat next to the stack, because I was afraid she was going to give herself a concussion, and when she landed upright on that mat, she strutted off in apparent victory.

For her entire short life, only one thing has truly frightened her. This thing:

Pictured is a little plastic bath toy with a pull-string that winds up a propeller which, when released, propels it through the bath water.

Edith hates this thing. She can’t figure out what its deal is. I have tried to introduce it maybe every other month and she is always interested in it as a stationary toy, but as soon as I make it swim through the water, she exclaims in distress (I can’t translate Edith-speak yet, but from the tone, I imagine she is saying something along the lines of “wtf!”) and stands up in the bath and grabs at me to be lifted out.

I even show her how it moves and let it go against her leg so she knows it won’t hurt her, and she continues to request to get out of the tub. Her attitude is less open terror and more something like, “that isn’t right, I don’t mess around with stuff like that, I don’t even like that guy’s vibe.” She won’t relax until I put the toy back in the cabinet.

So even the most fearless among us have our kryptonite.

I know it isn’t the monkey, though, because one of Edith’s more recent obsessions is another monkey: a stuffed one on a long leash. It’s actually meant to be a baby leash where the baby wears the stuffed monkey as a little backpack and the caregiver holds on to the leash, and Edith wore it for maybe two days when she was littler, but she very rapidly reversed that power dynamic, and now she drags this freaking monkey behind her everywhere she goes.

On the one hand, it keeps her entertained. She probably dragged it around the kitchen island for half an hour last night while I read a book. But on the other hand, the thing is filthy. She drags it all over the neighborhood and all around the back yard, through the dirt and mud and puddles and shavings and everything else and whenever I take it from her to wash it, she throws an ear-shattering fit.

I really don’t understand the appeal. She does not interact with it in any other way, other than to drag it behind her on its face, but it seems to be answering some deep need in her for the moment, so far be it from me to interfere. It does seem rather hard on the monkey, though.

Watching Edith dragging the monkey around, I kept trying to think of what it reminded me of, and finally I realized:

Bees and Clocks

Edith has finally hit the age where she is having unique interests, and it’s very fun for me. Rather unexpectedly, the main things she is interested in are bees and clocks.

At some point in the recent past, she became obsessed with a bee-printed throw pillow that we have. She still isn’t really talking very much, but I think “bee” probably counts as her first word, because she definitely knows what it means and what it refers to, and she says it all day long with great enthusiasm.

“Bee!” she would shriek in delight, every time she saw the pillow, pressing on the various bees. “Bee, bee!”

She also began to happily identify bees in her picture books (children’s books, it turns out, are positively teeming with bees of all sorts). And shortly after this, she got a toy that had a little stick-on bee and some other insects, and she immediately seized on the bee, and began carrying it around the house crowing, “Bee!” and bestowing it lovingly on whichever adult she felt most affectionate toward that day.

We introduced other bee toys and books; they were all as big a hit. She also enjoys real-life bees, which is unfortunate, because she chases after them and wants to catch them, and this will eventually end in tears.

Also, she loves clocks. I have already mentioned her affinity for my father’s watch and the nursery room clock, but also whenever there is a wall clock, she posts up under it and points at it in wonder, asking questions about it. There are big wall clocks at most children’s locations, and she had a full-on meltdown at baby gym one time because she wanted me to give her the wall clock, which was impossible even if I were inclined to do it.

It’s really fun to see her developing specific interests and preferences. These are maybe not the first things I would probably have predicted a baby would get into, but they are solid choices! Clocks are pretty rad, and what could be better than a bee?

Music Class

One of the many things I don’t especially like about myself is my need to be the center of attention at all times. It very much depends on the situation, but in groups, I am typically one of the more dominant talkers. I have tried over the years to inhabit a lower profile social role, but it never really takes. I think at heart this is an only child thing — perhaps I feel most comfortable and accepted when everyone is looking at me and laughing at what I am saying because that sort of focused attention (me: performer; others: audience) is how I first encountered the world as a child.

Edith is an only child and she currently lives with four adults who are single-mindedly focused on her and enchanted by everything she does, and so at 17 months, she is already overly aware of her own powers. We’ve even fallen into a routine of literally applauding her for minor accomplishments or feats of athleticism — when we FaceTime at night with my parents, Edith will leap off a cube or buckle a strap and then turn expectantly to (Jenna Maroney voice) camera and pose while her grandparents and I obediently clap.

At Edith’s music class on Sunday, her expectation of centrality became extremely apparent to me. Usually Edith needs a nap by the time we get to music class, so she’s pretty subdued. She tends to stand next to the cubbies where we leave our things the whole time, and point insistently at our bag while glaring at me. But this past Sunday, she was awake and alert, and boy did she ever play to the cheap seats. She danced and she pranced and she gestured and she went all around the circle and stopped at each family to introduce herself and display her abilities.

When the teacher dumped all the musical instruments out in a pile in the middle of the floor, Edith horded up all the little bell wristlets and put them on one after the other, until she had a stack of five or so running up each forearm and then she stood there in the center of the circle, arms lifted, and rotated slowly around to display this cleverness to everyone, who all obediently laughed at her. She is clearly aiming for class clown.

“Edith is very cute,” said one of the other parents to me after class, and as I thanked them, I thought, with a sense of foreboding, “and she knows it. She already knows it.”

My concern about this is not that I want Edith to be more humble (she is right to feel herself, she’s objectively the coolest little kid who’s ever existed, and anyway humble people are snores) but more that I know the world is very hard on girls with high self-esteem who tend to seize focus. I know at some point in the near future, some other kids are going to take it upon themselves to knock Edith down a peg or two. And I guess that’s part of life, but I still don’t want it to ever happen. I wish I could somehow protect her so that she goes through her entire life this glorious and this confident and this universally loved.


My father has come for awhile, and Edith has a new best friend. After some initial hesitation, and in particular, pulling at the hair on his arms and legs and asking him about it in a semi-horrified tone of voice, he is now the favorite, and Edith follows him all over the house, chattering constantly and showing him her things. She’s obsessed with his watch and last night, she wore it for an hour, prancing around and pointing at it, and picking up the little clock from the playroom shelves and holding it up next to the watch.

I appreciate the break from her fully focused attention and attempted control, but after I had a minute to breathe, I felt a bit offended to have been so quickly and thoroughly discarded. Three days ago, my constant presence was essential to her equilibrium and if I stopped looking at her for two seconds, she acted as though her air supply had been cut off. Now, I can disappear for an hour and she won’t even notice.

Last night, she was so amped up that she spent a full 90 minutes in her crib after bedtime just monologuing to herself and running in place. I typically can’t get enough of her soft little chipmunk voice, but by 9:30, I was about ready to pitch her out the window.


When I thought about parenting and how I would parent, I was very clear on one point: I would not be the type of mother who is constantly hovering over her child trying to get her to eat things. If my kid didn’t want to eat, fine, they could go hungry. I wasn’t doing that.

So of course, I now spend all my time trying to trick or force Edith into swallowing some sort of nutrition. I’ve mentioned this before, but the piece I hadn’t put together as a non-parent was that if they don’t eat, they don’t stay asleep. And while I might be indifferent to Edith’s palette, I am not at all indifferent to getting a full night’s sleep.

Edith eats like an emperor, which is to say like an asshole. She will eat if the following two conditions are met: (1) she is ravenous, and (2) she is presented with something she especially likes. If only one or the other of those things is true, she will refuse food. I don’t know if it’s possible for a 16-month-old to feel contempt, but her refusal of food is, well, contemptuous. She refuses it in one of two ways: she will either gently raise one of her hands to airily and firmly push it away from her, or she will fling it impatiently onto the floor. Whenever I put a vegetable on her tray, she immediately picks it up and hands it back to me, without even making eye contact with me. Her dismissal of any food she does not want is so conclusive and condescending that it makes me feel like an underling. When there is something she will not be eating, she is insistent about handing it to me or flinging it, because she does not even want it on her tray. It’s like she’s offended by its mere presence adjacent to her more desirable food. If she’s especially done, she will use both hands to very rapidly toss everything on her tray behind her underhand, the way a dog digs in the dirt — this move is so rapid and unexpected, I’m rarely able to interrupt it.

“Just consider it for a moment,” I will tell her, handing back, say, a chunk of sweet potato she has immediately returned. “You don’t have to eat it, just sit with it there, and see how you feel. If you would only try it, I think you would actually— well, now it’s on the ceiling. That is my fault, you clearly said you didn’t want it, and I didn’t listen.”

This all feels like a real trial for me; it’s endless and boring, and I don’t even care what she eats, really — if she would only stick to what she likes, that’d be fine, but what she can’t get enough of one day, she acts affronted by a week later, so I have to prep like six mini-dinners every night to ensure that I have something that will catch her fancy. The only time I really get upset about it, though, is when I am on my hands and knees wiping up whatever dinner she has flung onto the floor, and she flings more food down on top of my head which has happened more than once. In those moments, I begin to feel like a real doormat.

Meanwhile, all of this only applies to meals with me — when Edith’s nanny is here, Edith’s appetite is voracious and her tastes adventurous; I hear a great deal about what a terrific eater she is for her age. It’s difficult not to take this personally.


Well, it happened. My household finally fell to the inevitable. Last Wednesday I got home from having my first ever filling (the dentist did not apologize for his staff having chipped it in the first place, but then I most likely gave him COVID, so it all comes out) to find our nanny waiting with her mask on. Her husband had just tested positive; she ran out and texted me that she was positive shortly thereafter.

At first, other than feeling badly for her and her family, I was mostly just concerned about juggling Edith with my job because I really didn’t want to take off for a week, having just taken a week’s vacation. I’d always wondered how people work with small children at home and on Thursday I found out: not well! Edith tolerated the two calls I had that day and that was about it. And I use “tolerate” very loosely: on one call, she got out her banjo and began banging it festively as she marched around the kitchen island where I was on a Zoom; on another, she climbed onto a kitchen chair over my shoulder and well in the shot, and from there onto the kitchen table where she began to investigate jumping off. I was only half aware of this because I was concentrating and it didn’t really click for me until I saw everyone on the Zoom tensing up. I caught her just before she leapt.

But otherwise, we had a nice day together and I was feeling good about things as we went to bed. Then, at nearly midnight she woke up crying and I found that she had vomited all over her crib and was searing hot to the touch. I darted around half-awake, panicking and trying to do a million things at once. Somewhere in there, I took her temperature and it was nearly 105 and then I force-fed her children’s Tylenol and she immediately threw it up all over the bathroom. Finally I got us both to the emergency room– or, well, an emergency room. In my panic and confusion I took us to some sort of strip mall walk-in emergency room across the interstate from the real hospital and I await the staggering bill from what is undoubtedly some sort of no-insurance money trap any day now.

They brought her fever down and confirmed it was COVID, and once we went home, she ran a fever for about a day and a half and was during that time the most knocked-out I’d ever seen her. She lay in bed with me all day, which is not something I ever thought I’d see from Edith and was very droopy-eyed and low energy, except when it came time to give her fever reducer every four hours, at which points she fought like a bag of cats. Now she has a lingering night cough. I feel really guilty that I didn’t work harder to get her vaccinated promptly. I find the Moderna results much more compelling than the Pfizer for her age group, and her pediatrician only has Pfizer. The youngest I could find a pharmacy to do it is 18 months. I was going to see if they’d take her with a prescription but since she doesn’t go to daycare, it didn’t seem that urgent, and now I feel like a horrible mother.

I got COVID about 24 hours after she did and it was not too bad for me (vaccinated, one booster). I was very miserable for a night and the next morning until about noon, and then I felt regular sick. Then, I got the Paxlovid. The worst thing about my having COVID was that Edith really didn’t anymore, and I couldn’t take her out and about or do much and she was NOT understanding about this.

Our nanny was able to return on Tuesday (she and her husband had fortunately been less sick than we were), and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see anyone in my entire life. I felt like I’d just crawled through the desert and spotted an oasis. Meanwhile, work had piled up, the house was a disaster zone, we’d eaten nothing but bread and fruit pouches for four days, everything needed washing and disinfecting, and I’d had to cancel multiple appointments which all now had to be rescheduled. I have learned that my life works and runs very efficiently as long as it all goes as planned, but dropping the to-do list for four days turns me into Lucy at the chocolate factory.

Additionally, while I wouldn’t say she enjoyed being sick, there were a few accommodations that Edith became accustomed to during her ordeal: sleeping in my bed, unlimited access to my phone, having me immediately do whatever she wanted me to do, 24/7 hovering and dedicated focus from Mom. She was not giving any of this up without a fight and this week has been a lengthy trial of ongoing screaming tantrums and sleepless nights as we reestablish boundaries.

While all of this was unpleasant and I’d rather have avoided it, I was conscious throughout of how immensely fortunate I am. I work for a company that gives me no grief about taking off as much time as I need for things like this (even if I’d just taken a week’s vacation), I have a very comfortable house with all necessary indoor appliances and a private outdoor space, I’m able to afford delivery of food and medications, and I have very good health insurance so I don’t have to think twice about going to the emergency room or whether a doctor will be available to give advice and/or call in a prescription for me or Edith. Everyone deserves the sort of security that I enjoy and very few people have it, and I am never more aware of my luck than at times when everything is going wrong and yet nothing goes that wrong. It’s horrible to think that for so many Americans — maybe most Americans — they would have the stress of crucial income loss on top of all of this, among many other problems. And in a nation this wealthy, it’s really unforgivable.

The End

In which I detail all my ailments in great detail like the old person I now am.

Well, over the past week, my body just completely fell apart. It was bound to happen eventually, but I didn’t expect it to be so concentrated.

First, I got my bloodwork back mid-week, and my cholesterol is, per the nurse who called, “extremely high.” I have six months to get it down with lifestyle changes, after which we’ll move on to medication. Not a shock given my lack of exercise and terrible diet over the past year, but still irritating to experience a consequence.

Then, on Friday, I finally visited the orthopedist (a foot expert one) about said foot. I tend to delay care, but it’s not because I have any anxiety about the doctor. It’s because I have learned that unless you have a broken bone or a clearly diagnosable disease, doctors always give you sort of vague advice that you could have figured out from googling on your own and it’s a big, time-consuming hassle to get it from them. Particularly if they don’t really know what’s wrong, they’ll order a million tests and possibly send you to specialists and each of those things eat up essentially a whole work day, and none of it ever helps. I work in tech support, and I know when someone is just distracting me with questions and attempts, while all the time hoping that I will forget or give up because they don’t actually know how to solve the problem.

In this case, after eating up a whole day driving into Austin and back, I was told that there was nothing clearly on the x-rays so to try a metatarsal pad and if that doesn’t help, we’ll do an MRI and a follow-up. The particular metatarsal pad they told me to try cannot be obtained online and is only sold at a running store off Burnet Road (which is far).

So after delaying care because the initial appointment was going to be time-consuming, I got a recommendation for….three more days worth of appointments and errands. Only retired people have the time to pursue health care.

I know that if I were to actually do all this, at the end of it, they would say, “huh, nothing super clear here, but we’ll try rest and physical therapy” and that would involve more appointments, and wouldn’t work either. Eventually I would give up and/or it will just sort of heal on its own. So I am just going to skip to that part.

Then, Saturday night, I was watching The Rehearsal and eating some muesli with soy milk (because cholesterol) and the back half of my front tooth just sort of crumbled into my mouth. This is because after not having gone to the dentist for two years because of the pandemic, I finally went several months ago, and the hygienist somehow took a chip out of my front bottom tooth. I didn’t notice it had happened until I got home and it was small and not noticeable, and I sure as shit didn’t want to line up a bunch more appointments and have conversations, so I let it go. But now the rest of the tooth has kind of flaked off to be in line with the chip, so my tooth has a ledge out of the back like it’s got a false second story on it. So now I have to get this fixed and am faced with a dilemma — find a new dentist to fix it since these fools chipped it in the first place, or have the old dentist fix it and pay for it? By the way, I had no cavities and have never had a cavity in my life, so the only thing I got out of finally going to the dentist was this catastrophe I’m so fucking glad I went!

After my tooth broke itself on some soft oats, I went to sleep and for the first time in my life, had a horrible burning sensation in my chest that kept me up all night and I woke up several times having to swallow repeatedly to keep from vomiting. Is this what heartburn is?!?!? It sucks, I hate it! And THEN, the next morning when I lifted Edith off the changing table, I wrenched my back somehow and suddenly felt like I’d been stabbed with a thousand knives. I couldn’t move for a good twenty minutes; I sort of waddled around sucking air through my teeth. I couldn’t get Edith into her chair for breakfast so I threw some Cheerios on the floor for her. I thought I had experienced back pain before, but I had not! I finally understand what all you whiners have been crying about all this time!

I don’t know what’s going to happen next, am I just going to disintegrate into a pile of dust on the floor? I feel like I’ve angered the gods somehow. Anyway, usually the way I handle an injury is to just get really furious at it and demand twice as much of the injured area to really show it how stupid it’s being. So I intend to work out a lot this week and also chew on ice all day. We’ll see how it turns out.

Monkey, Pee

Edith has a little stuffed monkey backpack with a leash on it that her nanny used to use when she was first running around and wanted out of her stroller, but now that she listens better it’s mostly just a toy around the house. Last night, while FaceTiming with the grandparents she became newly interested in it. First, she wanted to model it for them and after that was done, she became fixated on learning how to clip together the clasps on its straps. She focused on this for 30 full minutes. I have never seen her so absorbed in something. She didn’t stop until she managed it, and then mastered it, and then she wanted to keep repeating it even still. She wasn’t even interested in her night milk. She tried to take the monkey with her to bed, and threw a short fit when I made her put it down. I don’t know what’s normal for a kid her age, but I’m pretty sure this means she is a genius.

Meanwhile, us three adults sat and watched a toddler try to buckle a clasp for 30 full minutes, as riveted as if it were the new Better Call Saul, so you know, that’s what we’ve become.

This morning, while I was doing my usual getting up avoidance, the genius peed the bed. I have already sized up on night diapers but there is only so much that can be expected of a bit of absorbent plastic. This happened once before, and I thought, eh, I don’t need to get a mattress cover, I’ll just pay more attention. Now I had to newly Google how to clean it up, and I saw that this would require white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide or a specialized cleaner, none of which we had. It would also require baking soda, which was did have. So I made due with the baking soda until our nanny arrived so I could run out to the store, and meanwhile I bought a $90 mattress protector. While I was going around searching cabinets about this, Edith was screaming her head off and weeping and clasping my knees together and throwing herself at me repeatedly as if we were a separating couple in a ’50s stage play, due to her breakfast being delayed. I never regret having a kid, but mornings like this make it necessary to revisit my reasoning.


Before I had a baby, I had an impossible time getting up in the morning. We talk a lot these days about the advantages of remote work, but frankly, I have a lot of thoughts about how remote work exacerbates many people’s unhealthy behaviors to a very destructive extent, but this is sacrilege to talk about in my line of work, so I try to keep that under my hat. Mostly, I find that many of the people I work with are lonely to an almost incapacitating extent, they do not have social support networks in their lives and look to get everything through The Company, although I think that is also true for many people these days regardless of their work. But remote work really enables self-isolating, and I think it’s actually pretty terrible for people who have depression (myself included). That said, I would still rather descend into utter madness than ever have a commute and have to wear business casual and sit in a cubicle again. I think the real issue here is that we all need to reinvest in intentionally building communities outside of our workplaces, non-faith-based communities that provide mutual aid and support the way that churches used to.

This wasn’t what I was going to write about at all, how did I get onto this? What was I talking about?

Oh, right, so anyway working from home meant that I could fully succumb to the snooze button and it really became an issue. I spent hours at it, and nothing I did could combat it. Not moving the alarm to another room. Not setting up multiple alarms in a sort of obstacle course. Nothing. There was nothing so complex and time-consuming that I would not do it, and then get back in bed “for just a sec.” I was able to go ahead and get up if I had an actual appointment, so it’s not as if I really couldn’t, but there was no way I could fake that constraint for myself if it didn’t actually exist.

I thought having a baby fixed this, because while you can actually snooze a baby to an extent, mostly, they roust you out of bed pretty definitively.

But over the past couple of months, I have not only gotten back on my bullshit, but I’ve taken Edith with me. It started when Edith decided (perversely, randomly) that her new wake-up time was 4:30 (after we had agreed on 5:15 and had stuck to it for months). I could not accommodate this, so when Edith woke up, I stumbled through the dark to her pack-and-play, fished around on the floor with my toes to find the pacifier she had pitched out in a rage, and then hauled her back into my bed.

Weirdly, she permits this and now we often spend over two hours “getting up.” It looks like this: when Edith first joins me in the bed, we cuddle for awhile. Then, she begins to kick and flail, and I sort of clutch her to me and jiggle her madly for a bit. Sometimes she goes to sleep! More often, she doesn’t, and then I spend a long time alternately cat-napping and warding off blows. This is not restful but it’s better than getting up. I will at times turn my back on her and she’ll occupy herself somehow. When she’s starting to hit her limit, I hand her my phone (I’m not proud of this) and she fills up the camera roll with photos and videos of the pitch black while I genuinely sleep. Usually she does go back to sleep at some point for anywhere from 10 minutes to 40; it’s hard to say. I definitely get back into dreaming sleep, but I don’t know how long that lasts.

If she starts yelling at me, I put her on the floor and turn on the light, and then she runs around in the bedroom pulling things off shelves and out of drawers while I doze with an arm over my eyes.

Eventually, I get up. It’s really surprising that she permits this at all, much less for so long, and every morning! I’m really thankful for it, but I also think that it’s a testament to what a hold this habit has on me that I have somehow managed to get Edith (Edith! Of all people!) to tolerate it.

Still, sleeping in for hours now means that I get up at 7:00 am, which previously was my goal wake-up time. So in that respect, this problem has been solved.

Body Shit

(CW: eating disorders and body image discussion. Also an acknowledgement that everything I’m discussing here is from a position of extreme privilege compared to what many women have to deal with along these lines, etc. I know how lucky I am comparatively. These are small potatoes problems.)

I never wanted to deal with my fucked up relationship to my body and my weight and my disordered eating habits; I thought I could just continue to tolerate it and live with it until I died, and I would have, but then I had a daughter and I realized I had to fix myself so she didn’t model all of it, so for the past year I have been doing a lot of really hard and boring mental work. It is every bit as hard and boring and unrewarding as I always thought it would be, but it is also more complicated than expected, so although this is different and more personal than the sort of stuff I usually write, I want to share what I’ve learned so far.

My history is so standard, it’s not really worth going into. It’s the same story as most every white woman from the South: I was a pudgy teenager and then a moderately thin young adult and I wanted to be a very skinny woman (and truly thought that being one would fix all of my problems), so I starved myself for nearly two decades and along with that, I secretly binge ate, and I wrecked my metabolism and my hunger cues, and then I stopped starving and went into an absolutely manic extended binge for about five years, capped off with a global pandemic, deep isolation, fertility struggles and hormone injections, and pregnancy, throughout all of which I emotionally ate like it was going out of style, and now I am newly fat and also have a perfect little girl and am trying to fix my mental problems so that I do not hand all this down to her.

As soon as I had Edith, I got a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, and started to work on all this. As always with therapy, I saw the therapist for a couple months, and then got the gist and broke up with the therapist (although she was really great) because I really know what I need to do and I don’t need to talk about it, and now I am just doing it:

  • Accept myself at the weight I’m at now and any weight I happen to be at in the future, and give up on the idea that my weight is a reflection of my worth in any way, and/or something that I will actively manipulate.
  • Divorce my ideas about food from thoughts of good/bad, reward/punishment and let myself eat whenever I am hungry without telling myself stories about how I won’t eat tomorrow or whatever.
  • If I do binge, don’t beat myself up over it or promise myself I never will again, or try to starve for two days to make up for it, etc.
  • When I feel driven to eat compulsively, try to examine where that’s coming from and address the deeper need I’m having even if that’s hard or gross.
  • Really try to accept that other people’s opinions or thoughts about my weight are not things that I can control or do anything about, and don’t let my fears of other people’s perceptions of my body derail me.
  • Don’t put off doing things or seeing people with the vague idea that I will do those things or see those people when I “have my body back.” This is my only body.
  • Realize that Edith will see and model even those things that I think I am hiding perfectly. Everything I do to myself and my body and everything I say about myself and my body, she will internalize and imitate. It is not possible to hide your internalized misogyny and self-hatred from your kid.

All of this is so hard and so, so boring that it makes me want to puke. But I can’t because I don’t do that anymore! (Little joke!)

I even finally told my doctor that I have a history of disordered eating and so do not want to be told my weight, and also will not be losing weight and so need her to help me be healthy at this size, which is something I never had the stones to do before, not so much because I was afraid of my doctor’s judgment, but because I felt that this sort of request was only appropriate for women who had had “real” eating disorders (like had been hospitalized) and was overly dramatic for my situation.

But what I really want to write about, because I didn’t expect this to be part of it and haven’t seen it discussed elsewhere, and it’s really kind of rocked me, is that doing this work has really brought home to me how much of my experience of the world and my life involves being an aesthetic object in it. I’ve never really thought of myself this way; I have of course had many girlfriends who were primarily interested in being a decorative part of whatever scene they were in, and sometimes I had fun with participating in that, but my primary self-worth has always been elsewhere and I didn’t think of myself as that invested in it. But now, I am having to re-learn how to exist in various environments and how to experience things like summer days, swimming pools, vacations, parties, winter scenes, etc. without looking the part. My habitual way of existing in the world has been more viewing myself as I am viewed than being in the world and experiencing it as something happening to me. And when I no longer am contributing to the aesthetic of an environment, I don’t know what I’m doing there, or how to enjoy it. Having a drink on a sunny patio is for me inextricably bound up with being a girl in a cute sundress. Going for a swim cannot be divorced from appearing in a swimsuit.*

And I think this is something that happens when you become a mom or just middle-aged generally; my friends and I all talk about the utter relief and weird dissonance of suddenly becoming invisible. But the big change in my body at this exact juncture is really compounding it.

There’s a sort of explicit metaphor for this with leg hair, because (as anyone who normally grows out their legs and has leg hair knows) our nerve endings are in our hair, so when you grow out your leg hair, you suddenly feel the breeze on your legs, which makes you realize that women’s ordinary experience of having summer legs is having numb legs. It’s more important to present a particular image to the environment than to actually be in and feel the environment. And with the extent to which having a child has blown my heart open in a way that it wasn’t before, I am feeling everything more these days, which is both good and bad, but mostly shocking, because I truly didn’t realize how utterly numb I was before.

Along with this is thinking about how much of my self-image relies on having models, and I don’t really have models for who I am now. Mostly when I am trying to figure out how to be present in a social environment, my models are now men. Frankly, I think about how I would exist in a space with other people if I were a middle-aged fat dad and then I do that: that helps me to really put aside the whole question of being a perceived object so that I can sort of learn how to just be a person. It also helps me stop worrying about how I compare aesthetically to other women (which is probably much easier for me to do than it would be for most women because I’m not trying to date ever again; I can’t imagine how impossible all of this would be if I were also still interested in being attractive to men). Then the question shifts from how I might look drinking a beer and/or what other people will think about me having one to just whether or not I actually want a beer and everything proceeds from that perspective.

It’s a hard shift to make and maintain, and I didn’t realize how much simply accepting my body would mean actively changing the way I view and exist in and experience the world. And of course, realizing this fills me with feminist rage and resentment, so then I have to also deal with that.

I kind of hate to admit it, but I do feel mentally healthier now that I’m working on this. I feel less conflicted about who I am and more authentically myself. I don’t feel physically healthier or happier yet, but I know that I will eventually.

Anyway, this is all probably not very well expressed, so I will share some a couple of resources that have been extremely helpful to me while I’ve been going through all this:

  • Maintenance Phase podcast. Not every episode, and it’s kind of spun out by this point, but the early episodes were extremely helpful to me. Mostly it has helped me really internalize that weight cycling is bad for me and that starving doesn’t even work.
  • The most recent issue of the excellent Pipe Wrench magazine, which is focused on medical fatphobia. Pipe Wrench is edited by my friend Michelle who is one of the most brilliant and funniest people I’ve ever met. Caroline Moore’s essay for this issue is so beautiful and absolutely broke my heart.

*I should note here that I am not intending to imply that you cannot both be a fat woman and an attractive aesthetic object. Of course you can, and young women are working on changing the general idea that you cannot be (and are doing a really good job of it). I hope that Edith’s generation will be more accepting of the genuine beauty of all different kinds of bodies, of every size, gender, race, and etc. Rather, my personal experience at the moment is that I am trying to figure out how to not feel like I have to be an aesthetic object in the world at all, because I don’t want to be one really, and I have always felt it was mandatory without really being conscious that I thought that. And my own body image and how I’ve tried to take control of it is inextricably bound up with my need to fit into an aesthetic that has been described and presented to me by a very particular social group.