Tag Archives: pro ana

lost week-end – Part 2

And then, there is a pause, a moment of perfect still, complete calm, a sense of rightness.

Nothing to reproach herself about, nothing to make her fall into the abyss of self-hatred which she knows will follow.

At this point, she could, she knows she could, turn it all around, simply pick up the still packed grocery bags and with one decisive, beautiful movement,  dump them straight into the bin. She has done this before and lesson learnt, now knows to spray kitchen bleach onto the packages.

She could still save today, coke zero, peppermint tea, an hour of net surfing, seeking out thinspo – the perfect collar bones, the thigh gap, jutting hips to make a bikini bridge and then the gym.

After all, now she has the whole week-end, no ties, no commitments, she could, really she could make the whole week-end a 48 hr coffee fast.

She stands in the hallway, body twisted around itself, a pretzel of indecision, of contradictory longings and is unable to move.

Time passes

And then, she walks into the kitchen.

First off, there  is housekeeping, minimising the damage that the next few hours  will inevitably  bring.

This is, if she is being honest and honesty plays such a small part in these lost weekends , so much lying, to herself, all to X, Ys, As,Bs and Cs, hell she even lies to women in supermarkets who don’t even care, but this, this is  big lie, the one she doesn’t even admit to herself.

She tries to not even notice what she is actually doing, as she sits here, right here, right now….fingers popping out a pile of tiny yellow pills, 7,8,9,10. It is becoming more difficult to buy laxatives locally. She fears that  the pharmacy staff will start to recognise her, dreads an altercation, even questions, a request to account for her actions.

She has started using unfamiliar pharmacies, choosing the busiest, the most impersonal and squirrels away, hoards away in drawers and cupboards that she generally tries to pretend don’t exist, little boxes and packets. She finds them worryingly comforting, even if she can, almost, pretend that she had nothing to do with their presence there.

Now she is, like a junkie with a bag of fat rocks, edgy, wanting to make a start. The day, less face it, the rhythm of the weekend, this lost weekend, is already set.

All she is doing now is delay, she opens the kitchen door, regards the mountain of food, the just beginning to melt ice-cream, the cakes, pizza box and flanking it all,  the super sized sugar free drinks.

First things first…ice cream in freezer, oven on, cake sliced and resisted. It’s not time yet, there is still some pretence of control, of eating like normal.

She even sets the table, fills a glass, gulps down the first glass of cola, washes  down a handful, two handfuls of diuretics.

She waits for the pizza, the Indian ready meals….mouth salivating , she paces in front of the oven, one ear open for the microwave ping.

And the first 6, 7 minutes of eating is glorious, she has been so hungry for so long , stomach empty, always cold, skin too thin to cover bones.

She knows, tries not to know, that she is making that noise, a keening, moaning of physical pleasure, as she dips naan bread into chicken tikka and crams the bread, chicken combo into her mouth.

And every time, at this moment, she wishes she could stop now or in 2 or 3 or 4 more bites. This would be normal eating, a little greedy, but salvageable. She even tries a pause, wipe the sauce up, licks her fingers.

She could stop now, but smell of warm cheese, hot dough is filling the kitchen.

It’ s all too late now…..she knows how this will play out

Minutes later, the first onslaught is over, she licks her fingers, sucks the spicy, sweet processed food, mops the plastic containers with another piece of naan bread. There is no room for social niceties, for crockery, cutlery.
Not during a lost weekend.

Her stomach feels full, warm, she rests her hands there and then disgusted, punches hard, enough to almost wind herself
“Disgusting, useless, fat bitch”
She needs to wind herself up, get up a stream of hatred, stop feeling comfortable.

Grabbing and chugging the first bottle of coke, she checks her watch…12 minutes…..no damage done yet.
Upstairs, bathroom, do what needs to be done and afterwards, sitting on the bathroom floor, tears, fat tears, well what else would they be?
Experimentally, she tastes one with the tip of her tongue, warm, salty.
She wonders if tears have calories and the irony of that thought, pushes her to her feet.

The pizza will be ready, needs to be eaten, eaten quickly, fast enough to risk a burn to the roof of her mouth.
Real, external pain, a reminder of just how bad she is, how there can be no pleasure in any of this.

Later, much later, she huddles on a kitchen chair, its wooden back pressing into her spine, she presses hard against it, hoping for bruises, more pain.

Her throat hurts, burns, eyes sting and she can feel her stomach churn, waves of discomfort with the threat of more pain, her body, her desires brought down to simple, shaming function.

She is reduced to hunger, shit, puke….and tears.
Almost new-born but with no hint of promise, no hint of salvation.

Just 2 more lost days until Monday morning.

And before that, late, very late on Sunday night, she will creep from the house, face swollen, stomach distended, body hidden in an over-sized sweat shirt and take the bin bag full of empty packages, boxes, tins, wrappers and drive a safe distance from home before shoving the bag into an empty bin and pushing the evidence far away, far from home, far from her.


The New Amazons

These are the new amazons, warriors for an age when battles are fought over inches and ounces, ground held firm with a will power you cannot understand and they cannot explain.

Every day when the killing fields is the  site of last resistance,  their own bodies. offered up, suicide bombers all

New bones map out a skirmish won, an enemy routed, another stand made.

The scales record betrayal, defeat, the spirit is strong, but the body weakens, turns tail, offers surrender when all that is required is a tactical retreat….a re-grouping….a re-arming with weapons of mass distraction.

The enemy creeps up in the night, pitches camp, lays siege to the body.

Bared, ready for morning inspection with eyes sharper than a sergeant major and a tongue more vicious too.

Everything must be checked, double checked, you’re in this army now.

The front line moves, an inch here, an inch there, movement hides the cost, becomes just a to and fro, meaningless battle lines with no clear winner…..dug in, all over by Christmas

A war of secret attrition, where the scars are buried deep, not displayed on special days for the curious, the non-combatants,  and those who fell at the first hurdle try not to stare, try not to feel a tiny frisson of envy, a sense of missing out on something big

Mummy, what did you do in the war?

There are no victory parades for these ana warriors, no wreaths of Flanders poppies, no awkward silences, praying that your phone won’t go off….not now.

But, just for  a moment, I imagine them, the ranks of girls, for they are legion, arms whipcord thin, collar bones as sharp as the creases in a demob suit, knees buckle under the weight of banners, but these are the ana warriors, spartan in their stoicism, shrugging off the costs of war.

To save the village we had to destroy it.


some biggish news……

Regular visitors to rubiesandduels will have noticed the Hunger Writing Project – an exploration of food, eating, hunger, body image and restriction.

Most, although not all of these, have been written with performance in mind and several have been already performed at Open Mike slots in Leicestershire.

But, I’ve felt for some time that I want to do something more formal and larger with them………………….so…………………..

with support from Leicester Writers’ Club and Carol Leeming – local arts promotor, i am working towards a one woman show in summer 2014, with performances in Leicester and hopefully beyond.

There will be more new pieces and re-writes of some of the current work and some supporting visual inputs……I’m very excited, if a little nervous, I’m not a performer by training or even inclination.

watch this space for  updates and more information.

The fasting girls

Fasting girls

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

” Fasting girls is a Victorian term for young females, usually pre-adolescent, who, it was claimed, were capable of surviving over indefinitely long periods of time without consuming any food or other nourishment. Fasting girls were girls who not only refused food but who also drew attention to their fast by claiming to have special religious and/or magical powers.

Sarah Jacob

A tragic case was that of Sarah Jacob (May 12, 1857 – December 17, 1869), the “Welsh fasting girl”, who claimed not to have eaten any food at all after the age of ten.[ A local vicar, initially skeptical, became convinced that the case was authentic. She enjoyed a long period of publicity, during which she received numerous gifts and donations from people who believed she was miraculous, but doctors were becoming increasingly skeptical about her claims.

Doctors eventually proposed that she be monitored in a hospital environment to see whether her claims about fasting were true. In 1869, her parents agreed for a test to be conducted under strict supervision by nurses from Guy’s Hospital. The nurses were instructed not to deny Sarah Jacob food if she asked for it, but to see that any she got was observed and recorded. After two weeks, she was showing clear signs of starvation.

The vicar told the parents that she was failing and that the nurses ought to be sent away so that she could get food. The parents refused. They continued to refuse even when informed that the girl was dying, insisting that they had frequently seen her like this before and that lack of food had nothing to do with her symptoms. Sarah Jacob died of starvation a few days later, because she had actually been consuming very little amounts of food secretly, which she could no longer do under medical supervision.  Her parents were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to hard labour”

This is fiction, based on my reading around the fasting girls [ see above for some basic background information].

This is one of the pieces I will be performing in my one woman show “The Hunger Writing”

Watch this space for more info !

She understands that it is her hunger that puts food on the table, bread in the mouths of the others. Her sacrifice is what keeps everyone else alive and besides, what sacrifice is there is this anyhow ?

To turn her face away from food, to close her lips, shake her head, a mute refusal sets her above the rest, the crowds that come to see her, to point and press closer, their fetid food breath on her and around her.

Hunger has always been her companion, her closest friend, sometime confidant, helping her to feel special and as Ma & Da keep pointing out, she is a star now, a good girl, keeping all the babies well fed, fat even.

She takes delight in their chubby arms, rounded bellies, pink and white skin, they are not like the ones they lost, pale, skin yellowed, eyes too large for faces and so silent,still.

Ghost babies even when they were alive.

She can remember the hunger then, before she learnt to embrace the emptiness, when it felt as if her very guts would tear themselves apart and food was eaten fast, arm wrapped protectively around whatever they had found to eat and her mothers’ plaintive cry of

” Leave a mouthful for the babbies……just a mouthful”

Disregarded in their driven desire to fill their own bellies, for that moment, that evening, that few minutes of near warmth, near satisfaction.

So, she knows how quickly hunger can come back, silence these babies, make wild animals of the half-grown boys, she knows that it is only her hunger that provides and she basks, unworthy, in the power that her hunger gives.

She is not stupid, knows that what is happening is trickery, but every day, she prays to someone, some ethereal creature, that today and tomorrow and the next day, there will be no trickery, no sleigh of hand, that finally, she will live on light alone and her family will never go hungry again.

It started in drink, like many of her fathers’ plan, hatched in liquor and desperation and the guilt only a man who looks into the eyes of his starving children, but still chooses to spend the money on cheap Dutch gin, can possibly feel.

“My Sarah doesn’t eat, hasn’t eaten for months, she’s a little miracle”

The other men reflect that in his house, not eating is no miracle, but simple every day occurence. they have watched his starving children, too weak to play or make sound and each has judged him and found themselves to be better, more man, more father, more provider, when set against him.

But he is insistent

” You pay  a small coin and you can see her, our own fasting girl. Any time, night or day, you’ll not see food pass her lips” and he creates a display, his own daughter on display in the stinking courtyard outside the hovel that even he rarely calls home.

She is, unsurprisingly, already very thin and has begun to turn her head away from food, so the performance has a ring of truth and as days go by and become weeks, the whole valley has heard of her and there is a steady stream of the slightly less hungry, who are prepared to sacrifice a tiny coin, a heel of a loaf, a block of cheese, to stare at the grey/ white  skin, the eyes that fill the face, the shoulder blades that protrude like the very start of angel wings.

In a place where everyone is hungry, there is some pleasure in seeing someone embrace this starvation which all the others fight and rail against.

And of course, there are additional services, secret touches, stolen glances. Her father takes charge of this and she lies still, face up to the heavens, mind blank, empty of everything, waiting for weightlessness.

For the first time that she can remember, her father, even her wispy, bend in the wind mother, are pleased with her, pleased with what she brings in, but, her father has plans. Not staving is no longer enough for his family, he has dreams of the gentry, the fine folk visiting his little miracle, the child who doesn’t need to eat.

In some part of his gin soaked mind he has managed to forget the crumbs of bread, the slivers of almost good meat his wife feeds the child when the courtyard is deserted, he has begun to believe that she is actually existing on air and he wants recognition and the fortune he is sure will come when others, not just the miners and the dirt poor farmers, come to look at her translucent skin.

He has managed to ignore exactly how thin and slight she has become and how quietly she lies, eyes to the sky, hour after hour.

The vicar calls, all thin nose, beaky face, seeking a miracle, anything to raise up the souls who struggle in a landscape designed to drag them down. He stands, hands behind his back , trying to emulate the expression of scientific detachment he has seen on the faces of the gentleman botanists.

The girl stares up at him, smiles and extends an arm so thin that every vein is visible, the vicar extends one hesitant be-gloved finger and even through the wool, he can feel the cold that emanates from her bones.

The father is in full spiel, he stands tall, chest puffed out, an angry robin of a man while he tells the tale, how his daughter exists only on sips of water, gains sustenance from light and air, is his little miracle and the vicar believes, needs to believe, wants to believe.

Everything changes then, the big house sends linen sheets, blankets. Her bed becomes a nest, a refuge, where she lies, day after day, staring up at the sky.

More visitors arrive, dresses lifted to avoid the filth of the courtyard, the ever-present spillage from the midden.

The father retains some animal cunning, understands that asking for money would set a jarring tone, instead, he smiles, twists the brin of his filthy hat in muck incrusted fingers and calls out the other children, still, by any standards, thin and allows them to stand, mute witness to his poverty, his desperation.

The visitors understand, bring little and not so little gifts, food, meat that is close to spoiling, but good enough, yesterdays’ white bread, cakes. The children approach these foods cautiously, their ever-present hunger makes them brave and eyes bright, they grab and run into corners, elbows sharp to fight off younger weaker siblings.

The fine ladies bring lace handkerchiefs, tiny bottles of scent. They dab the lavender and lily of the valley water onto the fasting girls’ forehead, sweet smells that almost, but not quite, cover the other ever-present smells.

More and more visitors call, the family begin to forget hunger, the children become louder, more of a presence in the courtyard, they begin to play, to call out and in the centre, a constant silence, is the fasting girl.

Late at night, when the households that share this courtyard sleep, the mother creeps out to the girl, tiny scraps of bread, meat, cheese hidden in her apron. The girl struggles to sit up now, needs the support of her mothers’ arms. She turns her face away as she eats, almost as if she is willing this not to happen, almost as if she has begun to believe her own fathers’ lies.

And then, a coach, painted, imposing, somebody important, arrives to see the famous fasting girl, but this visitor is different, less willing to believe, looking for proof. A man of science, a real doctor and one with a plan, a proposition to make.

He stands, fleshy, hat  jammed firmly  down on his  head against the winds that blow constantly down the valley.

He talks to the father man to man. An experience so foreign, but so seductive, that the father grows in stature, becomes more man, but also looses his valley cunning, his  natural cautiousness and makes a fatal error, perhaps because he has finally, fallen prey to his own deceit, begun to believe his own fantasies.

The child will be taken to a hospital and there it will be proven, by men of science, men of education, that the girl, his daughter is truly a miracle, can live on air, on light itself.

The parents stand at the doorway, the younger children silenced by these unusual occurences, the sudden appearance of so many solemn men into their home.

The girl is lifted, although she weighs so little now, that lifting hardly describes the action needed to move her.

The father smiles, it will be alright, he is sure of it, the miracle will happen, they will be rich and no-one will ever have to be hungry again.

Binging and purging and purging and binging……just add nauseum

Sometimes, just sometimes, the hunger stalks you, creeps up on you, a tsunami of desire, of need and then there is nothing you can do.

There are no evasive actions, nothing that will de-rail this lumbering leviathan,

Journey marked out

Calling at all stations

everybody change at the end of the line

First stop….The kitchen, you stand on the balls of your feet, poised for flight, for travel, for a quick getaway…..fooling no-one

You are your own hostess, your own bustling trolley dolly, gathering the in-journey refreshments

( as if there is any refreshment in any of this food….fixed smile…I’m mandy….eat me)

next stop….. the bedroom

( even when the house is empty, will always be empty, this eating must be done behind closed doors, a secret, even to the weary traveler herself)

Lay out the foods, neat lines, bisecting junctions of sugar and fat and carbs ( food reduced to its parts, sans taste, sans color, sans pleasure), tracks reaching out, journeys made again and again – a commute of hunger sated.

next stop ….the eating

automata….hands move like pistons…..hand, bag, plate, hand, mouth and repeat and repeat and repeat

chugga chugg, chugga chug, chugga chug

The rythmn of this journey, familiar, comforting…..

a known landscape and the next stop coming up sooner than you can believe.

Almost the end of the line……the window

And like a dozing suit, warm, comfortable, in that space between wake and sleep…a moment of peace, of calm and then……………….

A crash of grinding gears, metal buckling, brakes applied too little, too late…..

Almost de-railed,

Almost fallen off the tracks,

Head jerks up, terrible realization of what has almost happened

Next stop…..purging

hair pulled back with a practiced hand

The same hand that rams into your throat again and again and again

Half chewed, un- digested food hits the toilet bowl

red and green and orange – traffic signals of loss, of cleansing against the white porcelain.

journeys’ end…..destination reached

final stop…..the bathroom floor

face puffy, stomach bloated from the food that got away

hot forehead cooling on the black and white tiles

The traveller has arrived…….



A New Jewellery

they are fashioning a new jewellery

articulated, articulate bones

held together by filigree clasps of hunger and need and longing and loss and hurt and betrayal

and I see them, these girls becoming skin and  bone in darkened rooms, faces lit only by the glow of screens while they make their own filigree connections

discount  their obvious  fragility, these chains are tempered steel

binding, holding fast

holding to a fast when all sanity says – let go

they are fashioning a new jewellery

pearls of wisdom

shared via the silken threads of a world-wide web

learn to chew and spit

hide food in clothing

tell them you ate in school

and I see them, all cheek bones and jutting hips, wrapped in blankets, comforters, self-imposed refugees from the other world, their journeys to no-where made on treadmills and stationary cycles

they are fashioning a new jewellery

where less is always more

and Coco Channels’ words come back to choke us

a choker of deprivation, closing their throats from temptation

deliver us

we are fashioning a new jewellery

I model it well.


Hunger 11 – hunger logic – part 1

Sometimes, she wakes convinced that somehow during the night, fast asleep, she has crept downstairs, raided the fridge, the biscuit tin, shoveled handfuls of raisins, dry cereals, lumps of cheese into her mouth.
She can almost feel the ghost of food in her mouth and has to run her tongue over her teeth, the roof of her mouth, not once, but many times to reassure herself that nothing has happened.
But, the feeling of unease remains, the seed of doubt, once planted, cannot be completely removed and so she does a triple set of crunches, sit ups and decides, just to be on the safe side, to skip breakfast anyway.

She worries that the fat from moisturiser, sun block, lip balm will be absorbed into her blood stream, she visualises the little blobs of fat travelling down veins, attaching themselves to organs, dimpling the skin.
She compromises, avoids lip balm, all too easy to lick, to chew, but allows herself a dab of cream on her face every other day.

She weighs herself 5 and 6 and 7 times a day, bows down to the absoloute tyranny of their rule , but chooses to ignore any weight but the heaviest each day. This is the true weight, the weight that must be acted upon, recorded in the notebook that she uses just for this purpose, pages upon pages of numbers, a mapping of desire versus control.

She hears the phrase ” I can put on weight just by looking at food” and despite a good degree, wonders if she should google to check the truth, the likelihood , the outside possibility of this being an actual, verifiable fact.
She knows that late one night,when logic vanishes and the walls crowd in and life comes down to numbers and bones that she will search the internet, just in case.

She loves to bake, loves to watch you eat, takes pleasure from your pleasure, your satedness, the dash of cupcake icing that remains on your chin, long after the cupcake is gone. She urges you to eat more, but when you balk, stomach full, all caked out, she leans forward and runs a finger over the top of the last remaining cake and after
wards, when you, replete, walk home, she carefully carries the cake in to the bin and then, quickly, while she still has control, pours vinegar over it.

She considers cutting off her hair, long, dark curls. The hair she hides behind when her face is simply too ugly to show to the world, the hair that keeps her neck warm, when the cold creeps into her bones and cannot be shifted.
But, the hair has weight, mass, presence. Cutting it off must make a difference, must influence the numbers.
It’s loss will feel like an offering, a sacrifice.
It will be worth it.

She is trying to make herself invisible, trying to become so much less than she used to be. She feels herself diminished.
Dreams of a time when she will be so tiny, so perfect that she will, finally, vanish, become just the ghost of the girl she used to be.

The thinner she becomes, the more people notice her.