A Beautiful Skeleton Made of Swords

Warning: Eating disorder triggers and incredibly harsh monster opinions about fat people. I would like it on record that I strongly disagree with my monster’s opinions on this subject.

I’ve recently been dealing with a monster who refused to let me force myself to do anything. Now meet the monster who believed passionately in nothing but forcing.

This started as a conversation about maybe losing weight in a non-forcing, physically and mentally healthy way for the first time in my life. It ended up being about much more than weight, and one of the most challenging monster talks I’ve had. Every time we thought we’d almost got it resolved, something else would come up. Both Big Sister and Mr. H were flummoxed several times and kept tag-teaming in and out. We got there in the end. :)

(This monster is a beautiful skeleton made of dazzling swords, hovering on razor-feathered wings. Eyes like points of pale blue fire. A heart of cogs turning silently somewhere in the ribcage. Feet that never touch the ground.

I need Mr. H here so much I can’t even.)

Mr. H: Wow. Hey there, Terminator. (Silence) Okay, sorry. You’re not a Terminator. Who are you?

Skeleton: (a voice like steel singing) I am perfection. Absolute purity. Absolute strength.

Mr. H: Well, hi. So you’ve got some problems with Eve losing weight without forcing?

Skeleton: Pure strength of will. Everything she yearns for. To become herself her sword.

Mr. H: For you, forcing is beautiful, isn’t it?

Skeleton: Beautiful because pure. Perfection is what remains when everything else has been cut away. Beautiful because strong. Pure power. Absolute control. The beauty of a black sky full of stars. Pure blackness. Dazzling light.

Mr. H: And what do you mean by becoming herself her sword?

Skeleton: Somewhere in her body is a steel blade. By unearthing it from the flesh, she becomes worthy to wield it.

Mr. H: Man, I love the way you talk! Still not sure I get what it means, though. You’re saying that – losing weight for her is a fairytale quest? To prove her worthiness and find her sword? And when she’s thin, her body will be a weapon? Something that gives her power?

Skeleton: Yes…

Mr. H: I don’t see her as that kinda girl.

Skeleton: Ssssss! Not that kind of power! Not feminine, not fleshly! And not only power, but worth.

Mr. H: Someone who’s worthy to wield a sword is a warrior.

Skeleton: You understand.

Mr. H: Yes. So what you want is for her to be a warrior.

Skeleton: (distressed) She needs her sword. She needs her sword.

Mr. H: Uh – are you gonna smack me down if I mention Freud here?

Skeleton: Not of the flesh! Of the will!

Mr. H: You believe she has a strong will that she needs to find, and you desperately need to know she’ll find it.

Skeleton: Yes!

Mr. H: Because you’re worried that she doesn’t have enough power and self-worth and – nobility right now.

Skeleton. Strength and nobility. Yes.

Mr. H: Oh. This is an Utena thing. Swords, of course. Little one who -

Skeleton: Little one who bears up alone under such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up. But she lost it. She lost it under flesh. And I need her to find it again.

Mr. H: You think she lost her strength and nobility when she grew up. And you think that because she lost it ‘under flesh’, because she lost it when she grew, in order to find it she needs to get rid of the flesh.

Skeleton: Yes. And the quest will make her worthy. The journey will make her worthy of what awaits her at the end. This is an old, old story.

Mr. H: Oh, I know. You believe that deep down she’s a hero. That’s wonderful. She needs that. I’m just not sure about this question of ‘worthy’. What is it that makes you think she’s unworthy now?

Skeleton: You know that. A hero is not a hero at the beginning. You know that. A hero becomes a hero. Because of the journey.

Mr. H: You’re making so much sense as long as I forget you’re talking about dieting!

Skeleton: (eyes flare) This… is not… a diet. This is holy. This is everything. This is purification.

Mr. H: The Road of Trials. You want her to be purified by suffering. All the things she doesn’t need stripped away. Wait, but stripping away things she doesn’t need is good! That’s healthy. She could really use a sword to cut away the crap.

Skeleton: I am not for cutting crap.

Mr H: You – are her sword?

Skeleton: Yes! Why do you think I look like this? I am the sword that lives inside her!

Mr. H: Wow. Okay, so for you, the quality of will – or the qualities of strength and nobility - are associated with her skeleton. Wait, her skeleton actually does give her strength! Like, literally! And it doesn’t matter how much flesh is on top of it, it still does that! And it gives her nobility, because it allows her to stand up straight. To have backbone. To hold her head up high. And all those things have nothing to do with how much flesh she has either! It doesn’t need finding. It’s supposed to be inside her. It’s already doing its job right where it is!

Skeleton: I… am already doing my job? She doesn’t have to strip away her flesh to find me?

Mr. H: No, she doesn’t! What made you think that she’d lost you?

Skeleton: One day she realised she was weak and cowardly. She had always casually assumed that she was strong and brave, but looking back at her behaviour, she saw so much grovelling and fear. So much hiding and cringing and pleasing and avoiding. All since she started to grow up.

Mr. H: Strong and weak, brave and cowardly are static generalisations. Sure, the qualities of strength and nobility exist, but nobody embodies them all the time. And everyone gets to draw on them sometimes. What Eve noticed was that she’d been acting out of fear a lot. Which is understandable because she had a lot of fear!!

Skeleton: I WILL NOT BE REDUCED TO YOUR PETTY PSYCHOBABBLE! I AM A SWORD!

Mr. H: Sounds like you’re angry and you need to know that your identity isn’t threatened.

Skeleton: …I’m confused. I don’t know what to think.

Mr. H: Is there something that you’re scared of thinking?

Skeleton: That it’s easy. I want her to work for me. She needs a quest!

Mr. H: Oh, you need to know that she has a quest? Oh my goodness, she has so got a quest. Have you looked at her lately?

Skeleton: A noble cause. One that calls for strength.

Mr. H: She has one.

Skeleton: I suppose being thin – does call for strength, but it isn’t really – noble.

Mr. H: Wow.

Skeleton: But then I can’t imagine a fat person being noble.

Mr. H: (briefly gobsmacked) How about Kevin Smith sticking by Jason Mewes through years of drug addiction? Or Fiddler’s Green in Sandman offering his life for Rose Walker?

Skeleton: Any noble fat women?

Mr. H: The Ride of the Valkyries! Warrior angels of the Viking gods!

Skeleton: (head tilt) Don’t let me fall apart! (collapses in bits)

Mr. H: Hey. Hey. None of that. Get up. You’re needed.

Skeleton: (puts self back together, staggers to feet – standing on the ground now) I am?

Mr. H: You’re her sword. And you don’t need to await her at the end of the journey. Think about it. A sword isn’t something to be arrived at when the journey’s over. It’s something to help you on the way.

Skeleton: Unless it’s the Sword in the Stone.

Mr. H: Even if it is. Especially if it is. C’mon, that was the beginning of an epic story!

Skeleton: I still have a strong sense of being stuck in something that I need to get out of. That she needs to undo what was done while she was growing up.

Mr. H: Of course! Stuck! She needs to undo her stuckness! And it’s true that once she’s done that, she’ll be able to experience you much more freely. And it’s true that a lot of her stuckness is around her body, so it’s understandable that you thought it was her body.

Skeleton: Yes! I want her to overcome this so that we can be reunited!

Mr. H: You’re already as much part of her as her bones. Strength. Nobility. Power. In her bones.

Skeleton: …

Mr. H: And if you keep telling her she has to work to achieve those things, she will never notice that she already has them.

Skeleton: I’ve been… keeping her from me?

Mr. H: No. You’ve just been keeping her from noticing that you’re already there.

Skeleton: What can I do? Do I have to change my shape?

Mr. H: No. You’re perfect as you are.

Skeleton: Perfect…

Mr. H: You’re a perfect image of the truth. That she has power in her bones. Backbone of steel. That her power is always in her. Just remind her of that. Teach her to feel the steel in her bones. Strength and nobility and all those fairytale qualities she’s been longing for. Right there. Not to be earned, just noticed. And the more she practices noticing them, the better she’ll get at it.

Skeleton: She doesn’t have to qualify? She doesn’t have to have worth?

Mr. H: Her worry that she wasn’t worth anything was a lot of what stopped her noticing you in the first place.

Skeleton: Oh, no. My fault. But – somehow things don’t seem so good if they don’t have to be earned and chased. The best thing is always just out of reach. By definition. That’s fairytale yearning. Always in thrall most to anything almost. I don’t want her to stop dreaming the impossible dream. I don’t want her to settle for the possible. I want her to shoot for the moon.

Mr. H: I get that. I really do. Does it have to be all or nothing? I mean, while she’s chasing the impossible, can she still enjoy the possible?

Skeleton: I hadn’t thought of that. For me, chasing the impossible means cutting everything else away. Scorning everything else. Being haggard and wild like Don Quixote because you spurn the earth in your impossible quest for the moon. Infinity is so damn sweet, your mortal earth cannot compete. Starving for the other shore, I will not EAT! (Pause) It isn’t really about not eating, is it? It’s about refusing everything but what you can’t have. So the thing you can’t have can stand out all the more starkly in its impossible brilliance. So your dream will be more beautiful than everyone else’s. You strip yourself to rags and your dreams become diamonds. It’s impossible, but at least I’m striving for it! At least I’m closer than you! Go ahead and grovel like pigs in the things you can have. I eat the air, promise-crammed!

Mr. H: You’re right. That’s clearly what it’s about. And I have no idea what to say to that. Backup! Backup!

Skeleton: The nature of a sword is to be always seeking the next battle.

Mr. H: Yeah, but not to scorn all the less good battles because you’re saving yourself for the one impossible best one!

Big Sister: Okay, okay. The impossible dream. It sounds to me like you want to be the impossible dream for her. Which makes sense, because you’re a beautiful, powerful skeleton. That’s the anorexic impossible dream right there. You want her to give up everything that’s not you so she’ll become you. A being of pure power, without flaws or vulnerability.

Skeleton: YES!!

Big Sister: And yet you also acknowledge that that’s impossible.

Skeleton: …Yes.

Big Sister: I’m confused. You obviously love her very much, and you want her to give up everything to spend her whole life striving for the impossible.

Skeleton: …It’s just that she’s so beautiful when she’s striving! So noble! If I had tears, I would weep! Never tell me to be unmoved by this. Never tell me to accept less for her. I am her Will!

Big Sister: I understand. And the striving needs to be only for the impossible?

Skeleton: She’s so much herself when she’s striving for the impossible. So absurd it’s noble, so noble it’s absurd. Quixotic. I want her always to be quixotic.

Big Sister: (smiles) Okay. I see that. And does that depend on her striving only for the impossible?

Skeleton: If she gets too distracted by possible things, she might become – satisfied. Sssss! Satisfied!

Big Sister: Sounds like you’re really scared of that possibility. What might happen if she became satisfied?

Skeleton: She would stop striving and become a fat boring grown-up. More than that, it’s intrinsically disgusting. Satisfied! I need her to be always hungry!

Big Sister: You need to know that her needs won’t be met?

Skeleton: … Yes. All the little needs are too petty, too distracting. And the one great need that obliterates all else must be impossible. To become a beautiful skeleton. To become a being of pure willpower.

Big Sister: A being capable of forcing herself to do absolutely anything?

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: Is there some kind of meta-need that you’re trying to meet for her, by having all her other needs not be met?

Mr. H: Meta-need! If you never met a need, then you might meet her meta-need! (chuckles)

Big Sister: (suppressed giggle) If you can’t say anything useful…

(Skeleton quietly starts hovering in the air again.)

Big Sister: Are you trying to meet her need for hope and challenge?

Skeleton: For extreme, transcendent, all-consuming… oh.

Big Sister: Are you short of a noun?

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: You’re trying to meet her need for extreme, transcendent, all-consuming something but you don’t really know or care what?

Skeleton: You make it sound as if it’s not important. It is ALL-important. She needs to transcend and to be consumed. To the absolute extreme.

Big Sister: You’re trying to meet her need for spiritual experience? Loss of ego? To lose herself in something greater?

Skeleton: Oh. Yes, I guess the impossible dream is a… partial recognition of the truth that infinity is out there. That there’s always more. That you can always go further into it. So the impossible dream is really about.. infinite possibility?

Big Sister: Yes. And I think the word you’re missing there is ‘love’.

Skeleton: Extreme, transcendent, all-consuming – love?

Big Sister: Would that describe what you want? For Eve?

Skeleton: (long pause) I’m not sure. Passion, certainly. And desire. Unquenchable desire. I need her to be always striving! That’s why I’m terrified about this business of ‘not forcing herself any more’!

Big Sister: Because forcing and striving are the same?

Skeleton: Forcing is a part without which striving is incomplete. Striving can be done with wholehearted enthusiasm, or it can be done with gritted teeth and fists clenched in pain. Or any point in between. In fact, striving that comes from pure enthusiasm with no forcing is the smallest part. To strive only when you feel like it would be like having a dog and only ever touching its tail.

Big Sister: That would be a sad, lonely, frustrated and confused dog.

Skeleton: YES!!

Big Sister: Are you feeling sad, lonely, frustrated and confused?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: Because you need appreciation for all aspects of you, not just one small part?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: And for her to appreciate all aspects of you – she would have to power through every situation on pure willpower, regardless of her other needs, and then she would achieve total oneness with you?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: Because – wait, isn’t that the definition of pure willpower? ‘Screw all my other needs, I am going to meet this one need no matter what!’ That’s you!

Skeleton: Yes, yes, yes!

Big Sister: …Whew. Now I need backup.

Mr. H: So how’s that working out for you?

Skeleton: What?

Mr. H: Insisting that she ignore most of her own needs. Wait, is that how you define strength and nobility? The power to ignore your own needs?

Skeleton: YES, HOW IS THAT NOT OBVIOUS?

Mr H: Wow.

Skeleton: To ignore your base, petty needs in favour of a greater need. Come on, this is textbook. I can’t believe I need to explain to you about heroes.

Mr. H: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Backup.

Big Sister: Okay! Other ways to approach the same thing! We have this crazy theory that if there’s a greater need that you really want to meet, you can meet it better, faster, stronger by meeting all the little needs you meet along the way! And that’s fairytale too! When you run into the ugly old woman who begs you for a loaf of bread, and if you help her she gives you magical guidance? When you save the little fish who rewards you with wishes? All the little needs along the way!

Skeleton: But those are – others. Needs of others. Not internal.

Big Sister: A true hero is a hero to everyone, right? No creature too insignificant, too ugly, or too small.

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: Then a true hero must also be a hero to herself. To stop on the road for this creature that seems the most hideous of all, the most worthless. It takes true nobility! True strength. The power in her bones!

(The skeleton can’t cry, but I am.)

Big Sister: She needs you every moment. She needs her sword.

Skeleton: Yes… But won’t she become satisfied? If her needs are met, won’t she stop striving and become just a disgusting lump of flesh?

Big Sister: Let’s see if I can get this straight. As far as I can see, you’re trying to keep her striving by using self-disgust.

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: The thing is, self-disgust is one of the most stuckifying substances known to science.

Mr. H: Like I said – how’s it working out for you? Are you getting a lot of results? Is she striving a lot?

Skeleton: No. Not now. But it has worked in the past. She – she got really – thin. (Pause) Why can’t it work like that now?

Mr. H: It might have worked in the short term, but not in the long term. Especially not now she’s growing and learning so much. She wants to chase her dreams. She’s really into the infinite possibilities. She doesn’t need the self-disgust. It’s just slowing her down.

Skeleton: Slowing her down? But I’m putting so much force into motivating her!

Mr. H: Self-disgust doesn’t motivate her. I’m sorry.

Skeleton: (eyes flare, lightning crackles) AAAARGH!

Big Sister: I’m going to ask you to do something very counterintuitive. Stop trying so hard. She doesn’t need you to put force into motivating her. She just needs to know you’re there. Her sword. In her bones. That’s enough.

Skeleton: That’s enough?

Big Sister: That’s everything. Try it for a while, see if it works. Are you willing?

(long pause)

Skeleton: Let her come to me.

Big Sister: Eve? Are you okay to come out here?

Me: (slightly nervous) Yes.

(I step out in front of the beautiful skeleton hovering on its razor wings. I look up into those eyes. I’m awed and afraid.)

Skeleton: Do not be afraid. I am your skeleton. I am your sword.

Me: I’m ready.

Skeleton: I am your power. I am your strength and nobility. Embrace me.

(I hesitate. It is, after all, made of swords. Sharp blades.)

Skeleton: The power to revolutionise the world.

(That does it. Slowly, I step forward, touch the bladed ribs, put my arms around the skeleton, unharmed. And the skeleton embraces me. For a second I think it’s sinking to the ground, then I realise I’m rising into the air. Weightless. Its wings beating around me. I’m crying.)

Me: I love you. My sword. My sword.

(The skeleton lets me go and I’m turning in the air, the skeleton behind me. I close my eyes and I know to lift my arms up, outstretched, I know the skeleton is doing the same, and we merge. My wings of sparkling steel are beating in the air. I let myself sink slowly to the ground, let the wings fold into me and open my eyes. I start to grin because I know my eyes are burning with blue fire. My sword is in my bones.)

Secret Diet Ninja and Gender Monster

Warning! Potentially triggery for weight stuff!

The other day I had an amazing talk with a beautiful skeleton made of swords. It had to do with maybe losing weight in a physically and mentally healthy way for the first time in my life. I’d really like to blog it, but Secret Diet Ninja has a problem with that. Nobody can know I’m trying to lose weight!

Secret Diet Ninja kind of looks like Zhang Ziyi.

I’m attempting to do this by myself because I want to give my headcast a break after the exhausting time they had with the skeleton made of swords.

Me: Hi there. I hear you really want to keep this weight-loss thing secret.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes! If people know, they’ll freak out!

Me: Why?

Secret Diet Ninja: Because they’ll assume you’re going back into your eating disorder and want to save you from yourself! They’ll have a million concerns and pieces of advice and suggestions and questions and you’ll either crumple under the pressure or lash out and hurt people! Nobody will trust you to do this in a healthy way because you’ve never given them any evidence that you can! And even if they do, they still won’t accept it because you can have health at every size and the only reason to lose weight is to conform to the patriarchal beauty standard or to avoid dealing with your internal-sexist body issues, both of which make you a bad feminist! Also, you will be insulting all the fat people you love!

Me: So you don’t want me to lose weight?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, I totally want you to lose weight. I just want you to keep it secret so you can’t be hurt by all this pressure. Remember how horrible it was then? When you had people crying and raging and threatening and begging you to eat, and the only way to resist was to become like stone and tell yourself nothing mattered but being thin? I don’t think you’re capable of doing that any more.

Me: No, I wouldn’t want to.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you’re completely vulnerable to them!

Me: Now is not then. People behaved like that because I was starving myself, not eating a sensible healthy diet.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes, but some of your friends remember that time and will get all of their stuff triggered and will be incredibly worried about you!

Me: If that happens, I think I’ll be capable of remembering that that’s their stuff.

SDN. Bollocks. You’re terrified.

Me: And that’s my stuff coming up in response to their putative stuff. I’m also capable of remembering that.

Secret Diet Ninja: I just don’t want you to go through all this pain! And what about all the feminist stuff? You actually have no comeback to those arguments! See, this is just like then because losing weight is still a shameful wrong thing that has to be done in secret!

Me: I do have a comeback. I have the feminist beliefs that everyone has a right to do what they want to with their own bodies, and that it’s not okay to shame a woman just for doing a patriarchy-approved thing, because maybe she wants to do it for her.

Secret Diet Ninja: I still don’t think you’d last five minutes against a real feminist with real political opinions and knowledge. You’d be backed against a wall squealing in protest and begging them to please stop saying the scary words.

Me: That was verging on shoe-throwing. You just implied that I’m not a real feminist and I don’t have any real political opinions or knowledge. Please talk to me in a way that I can hear.

Secret Diet Ninja: I’m really worried that they’re going to scare you.

Me: (nods, feeling a rush of affection for her) I hear you.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you promise me you won’t say anything? I mean, if you just tell everyone that you’re giving up sugar and following a hypoglycemic diet for your mental health, they’ll never suspect anything! And you can say you’re going vegan too!

Me: Well, all of those are things I might be interested in doing for real. I’m uncomfortable with using them as a way to lie to my friends. Also, there’s going to be a lot of really interesting monster-talk material that I can’t publish on my blog unless I’m honest about the fact that I’m losing weight. Which is a problem because I need things to publish and I think people might find this stuff helpful.

Secret Diet Ninja: It’s simply not worth it for the emotional agony you’re going to go through.

Me: Would you be willing to listen to a list of things I could potentially do to make this easier on you?

Secret Diet Ninja: Okay. I’ll listen, but it’s not going to work.

Me: I could read up on feminist perspectives that allow for weight loss -

Secret Diet Ninja: There won’t be any.

Me: I think that’s unlikely, but if you’re right, I’ll make some up.

Secret Diet Ninja: They’ll suck because it’s impossible to be a feminist and lose weight. You will basically be a walking statement that women are not allowed their bodies. Opening your mouth and trying to contradict that will make you a walking joke.

Me: Ouch. I have lots of pain-from-then around the concept of being a walking joke. From a time when I talked a lot about high ideals and massively betrayed them.

Secret Diet Ninja: That is exactly what you’ll be doing if you talk about feminist ideals while losing weight!

Me: I don’t know where you’ve got this. This is not my idea of feminism.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes it bloody well is!

Me: YOU KNOW WHAT, FUCK THIS BECAUSE I AM NOT A WOMAN! (deep breath) Whoa. Whoa, gender monster on board. Hi, gender monster.

Gender Monster: WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS CRAP ABOUT WOMEN’S BODIES THIS AND WOMEN’S BODIES THAT WHEN YOUR BODY IS NOT A WOMAN’S BECAUSE IT BELONGS TO YOU!!

Me: Hold on a sec. (To Secret Diet Ninja) I’m sorry. It looks like something urgent has come up here. Would you be willing to take a break while I deal with this?

Secret Diet Ninja: Sure, but promise me you’ll come back to me so we can finish our conversation.

Me: Of course.

(Secret Diet Ninja spins around and melts into the shadows)

Gender Monster: UGH UGH UGH THERE IS A WHOLE OTHER CAN OF WORMS HERE!

Me: It’s okay, you don’t need to shout. I’m listening.

Gender Monster: If you make this public you’ll have to have a million conversations about you as a woman and your womanly woman’s body and the political implications of what a freaking woman you are! And all of your gender stuff will be triggered so horribly you might as well be fat!

Me: Oof. Okay. You know what, I’m done making this hard for myself. Backup!

(Mr. H and Big Sister skid onto the scene cartoon-style.)

Mr. H: We thought you’d never ask!

Me: (laughing) Thanks, guys!

Big Sister: Soooo. Hi, by the way. So you believe that if Eve has a conversation about feminism and losing weight, she has to have it from the point of view that she’s a woman?

Gender Monster: Yes, because it’s not like she’s got a coherent genderqueer identity that she can actually assert instead. She’s not trans-anything, she’s just… all over everything.

Big Sister: How is that not an identity?

Gender Monster: Well, she’s not ready to pick a label for it. And she’s also quite shy and embarrassed about it and not sure she has a right to it, and worried that people will disapprove of her for denying she’s a woman. So yeah.

Big Sister: So it doesn’t sound like you think she has to talk about herself as a woman, just that she’s scared not to.

Gender Monster: Yeah. And it hurts her every time she does, and I want to protect her from that by making sure she doesn’t have the conversation. And I have a huge investment in her losing weight because that means her body will feel more like the genderfree, anything-you-want-to-be zone that her spirit is. And she’ll feel better in male or androgynous or gendersilly outifts and she’ll dress up more and I really want that for her!

Big Sister: So even though you came in here screaming at that ninja, you’re actually on the same side. You both really want Eve to lose the weight, you just don’t want her to talk about it.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Big Sister: Because you believe she’ll be forced to talk about it in ways that are painful for her.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Secret Diet Ninja: (silently reappearing) Yep.

Big Sister: Okay! I think it’s time for- ‘The Big List Of Ways That Eve Can Be A Sovereign Being And Not Get Forced To Talk About Painful Body Stuff!’ Ready?

Gender Monster/Secret Diet Ninja: Ready.

Big Sister: Okay. She can state her needs clearly up front. She can give people empathy for their worries, and reassurance that she’s going to do this healthily, and then explain that because of her eating disorder history, she has Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being pressured to eat or questioned about what she is or isn’t eating, and she needs to feel absolutely safe from this. She can state that she doesn’t want advice, suggestions, or questions about her eating behaviour or the motives behind it.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people want to talk about why she doesn’t want to talk about it?

Big Sister: She can say she also doesn’t want questions about her need for safety.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are desperate to be heard and furious at being silenced? What if they respect her needs on the internet and then bring it up face-to-face when she’s even more vulnerable?

Big Sister: Well, she could pre-empt that by saying, ‘If you’re very concerned and really need to be heard, please tell me your concerns in a medium that isn’t real-time and doesn’t require a response, e.g. email rather than chat or face to face.’

Secret Diet Ninja: That would be just about okay as long as there was absolute permission not to respond. But what if people still bring up concerns in chat or face-to-face? She can’t just order people to behave a certain way and expect that they’ll all follow it! What if they don’t want to? What if they forget? What if there’s some complicated food-eating situation where they can’t not mention it?

Big Sister: Would it be a problem if they just mentioned it? Like, ‘oh yeah, you’re trying to lose weight’ with no judgement implied?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, no problem at all. It would just be a huge, terrible, colossal problem if she felt she had to justify or defend herself.

Big Sister: Okay, that brings me to a really important point. She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. Ever.

Secret Diet Ninja: Really? Because that’s 90% of what I’m terrified about. What does she do if she’s on the spot and someone asks her a probing, challenging question with a tone of obvious disapproval or urgent concern?

Big Sister: She can say, ‘I get that you’re not happy’ or ‘I appreciate that you care’ and then, ‘I’m not going to justify or defend myself. I’m feeling terrified right now because my eating disorder triggers are going off and I really need to feel safe. Would you be willing to change the subject?’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they refuse?

Big Sister: She can suggest they email her about it later, or she can say, ‘If you’re not willing to change the subject, I’m going to need to leave this conversation.’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they accuse her of being a coward and ducking the question because she can’t admit they’re right?

Big Sister: She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. If people start throwing shoes like that, she has absolute permission to just focus on getting herself safe.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if she accuses herself of being a coward?

Big Sister: We’ll have a talk with the You’re a Coward Monster.

Secret Diet Ninja: Wow, you really have an answer to everything.

Gender Monster: What if she tells people she’s losing weight because of gender, and they react by telling her how to do gender? Like, ‘Weight shouldn’t have any effect on how androgynous you feel.’

Big Sister: If someone is telling her how to do gender, she’s well within her rights to say, ‘Don’t tell me how to do gender’!

Gender Monster: She wouldn’t say that. It’s too confrontational.

Big Sister: Then she could say, ‘I guess everyone’s different. This is my experience of my gender and it definitely is like this for me.’ (Long pause) Any more what-ifs?

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are angry with her for thinking they might react badly when she should know they would never do that?

Big Sister: She can explain to them that she knows that really and she appreciates it, she just has a ton of Ludicrous Fear Popcorn. And that this isn’t about them, this is between her and her. (Long pause) Anything else?

Secret Diet Ninja: Nope.

Gender Monster: All done here too.

Big Sister: Great! Next question: are we okay to tell the world by blogging this conversation?

Gender Monster: Bleh. Don’t wanna think about that now. Too tired.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yeah, that’s a question for another time. Let’s leave that for now. We need a rest.

Big Sister: Okay, bye! And thank you!

Needless to say, we did decide to blog this conversation. :) And I had SO MANY revelations in the wake of it.

Like the fact that my Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being argued out of things goes back to early childhood, when it was totally rational and legitimate to assume that I was doomed to lose an argument against adults on whom I depended for survival.

And the fact that I’ve had a label for my gender since forever. It’s ‘silver‘. This is my birth gender. And the fact that it doesn’t explain anything is perfect.