This is a serious topic you are writing about, Polly’s comments, bold and red stared back at me from the page, lines slashed through various parts of the Word document, don’t try and be too funny, it’s distracting.
I had shown Polly the draft of my first Skinny-Truth blog post before I published it fifteen months ago. Not only is she one of one of my closest friends but she is also an accomplished writer and author and I wanted her opinion before I spilled my guts to the virtual world.
Her comment caused a bubble of self-doubt to float around my brain. I wasn’t sure I could write anything worth reading without the sarcastic barbs and witty puns I scattered through so much of my writing.
But that’s my thing, being funny, I wrote back to Polly, trying to defend what I believed to be my creative talent.
Just don’t hide behind it, she responded immediately.
I saw her point. Writing about my experience with anorexia, a disease I spent so many years trying to hide, without the protection of a well-placed joke or sarcastic barb, felt like walking down a crowded beach butt naked. I wasn’t sure I had the balls to do it.
I have always enjoyed making people laugh, and it gives me joy to put a smile on someone’s face. However, over the years, as my struggle with anorexia progressed, my sense of humor became more than getting a satisfied chuckle from family and friends. It became a coping mechanism, a way to get through those painful, confusing, lonely years of living with an illness. The sicker I became the more unleashed I became with my humor.
Being funny was the way I connected to others. The further I isolated myself, the more I relied on my sense of humor, especially in regards to my life of a wife and mom. It was my way of saying, "I know I look different, but I am just like you." For this reason, I loved social media and posting universally funny things. Stuff I suspected might resonate with others. Food containers put back in the fridge with one bite left, empty toilet paper rolls sitting on the holder for weeks, and pretty much anything to do with my Oregon Ducks kicking the crap out of my husband’s OSU Beavers. The three men in my life have given me a lot of good material over the years.
But humor was more than just connection, it served as my protection too. If my friends and acquaintances thought I was funny, maybe they wouldn’t notice my body or disordered patterns. Perhaps my absence at neighborhood events ( wine at three in the afternoon, no thank you) or my kid’s team celebrations ( ugh, a pizza buffet for lunch, gross) would be excused, and my lighthearted humorous persona would override any concerning differences in my behavior.
Most profoundly, however, being funny was how I kept family and good friends at an emotional distance. If I could keep the mood light over a night out with the girls, perhaps I would not have to hear about their concerns over my dwindling weight. If I could distract at family get-togethers with witty stories of my kids’ shenanigans, then maybe I could prevent the comments about the lack of meat on my plate that so often would cause the heat of embarrassment to spread cross my face and leave me wishing they would all go home.
Maybe if I were funny enough I could convince everyone I was fine.