The first Thanksgiving I did not enjoy, I was a tiny little 6th grader. I was still reading The Boxcar Children and wishing I had American Girl dolls. I did not have an ounce of visible fat on my body. I could do 11 pull-ups in a row and 80 sit-ups in 60 seconds. My body was strong and powerful. No girls in my P.E. class could beat me in any of the fitness tests. I beamed when the boys picked me first over all the other girls to be on their team. I gained confidence from the things my body could do, but I always wanted more from it. It wasn’t perfect. My body couldn’t learn how to overhand serve a volleyball in time to make the team. As a sixth grader I decided to tryout for the seventh grade team despite having never touched a volleyball, and miraculously made it to the top 15. The coach kept 13. I was cut, for the first time in my life; I was athletically rejected. My body failed me. I failed my body. I walked away from the list I didn’t appear on with my head hung, my feet dragging.
I didn’t love volleyball, I wasn’t sad that I wasn’t going to be playing volleyball. I was furious for failing. I dreaded telling my dad I was cut. I sorely wished I had tried out for cheer instead. At least I would have definitely made the team. And kept my friends; who all tried out for cheer and made it. Even an inevitable loss of friends and chance at popularity did not deter my undying desire to make my father proud of me. He strongly suggested against cheer try-outs and somehow convinced me overnight that I could be a star volleyball player. I walked ever-so-slowly to the payphone. The phone call would be miserable.
It was only the first weeks of middle school, and I was already a nobody. Seventeen magazine would be disappointed I didn’t follow their 25 Tips To Popularity article. Instead, I went online and wallowed in self-pity to strangers in a chat room. I began to waste every minute I was home alone, online, discussing with [mostly older] girls how much we hated our bodies and what we were doing to fix it. That November, I spent all Thanksgiving day figuring out how to avoid dinner. I wanted to eat all the food. I wanted to help my mom in the kitchen. I smelled the pumpkin pie, my favorite, and knew I would not be able to resist. But I had created rules. Rules that turned into stricter rules. If I didn’t follow them, I would immediately gain 10 pounds. That was the punishment, and I wouldn’t ever want to find out if that would actually happen. I feared my imaginary punishment so intensely that I began to think it was real. It was like a second life I created that no one knew about except me and the strangers in the chat room. No one could find out because it was imaginary. Illogical. It was like a game. A contest with myself, and I couldn’t let anyone down except myself. So I pushed a lot of food around on my plate and no one said anything. I ate just enough to not get caught. My family was oblivious. Why would an 11-year-old plan not to eat Thanksgiving dinner?