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  • sherrisacconaghi

I Noticed

“I think he is hitting on me,” I said to my friend Polly, referring to the guy sitting a few tables over. We were grabbing a bite to eat on our spring break road trip from the University of Oregon to a friend’s cabin in Lake Tahoe.

Friends since freshman year in college, these guys have put up with a lot, you know, with men hitting on me and all. (1994)

“Of course, he is, because you look really amazing right now,” Polly replied, sarcastically referring to my travel attire of mismatched sweats and a greasy ponytail. Apparently, we had been in the car way too long together.

It had been a running joke between us for years. I’d often say things like that to get a reaction from my girlfriends, but I have to admit; usually, I meant it. Despite my ongoing love/hate relationship with my body, during the years between college and pregnancy, I knew I hadn’t exactly been hit by an ugly stick. So yes, if I caught someone looking my way, I often times assumed they either found me attractive, or they were admiring my shoes. Either way, I thought it was positive.

By 2014, nine years into my eating disorder, people were still looking at me. However, I was well aware it was different. There was the the woman who quickly looked away, blushing, when I caught her eye in the produce section of the grocery store, making me want to hurl a tomato at her. The lady who elbowed and whispered to her friend as I passed by the window of the coffee shop, causing me to feel like the outcast in middle school. Or the little boy who craned his neck as I passed by him at Home Depot, looking at me with innocent curiosity the way kids often do when they see someone who looks different.

The day I saw the coffee shop girls whispering and staring. Yes I noticed and I remember the feeling like it was yesterday (2014).

“People are staring at me,” I told my therapist Karen, tears streaming down my face, “I know I am thin but really? What the hell is wrong with people?”

“Are they staring at you?” She asked, getting a bit emotional, too, ”or are you noticing because of how you feel about yourself?” Hmmmm, I had become self-conscious about my appearance. I could not ignore the obvious, but after careful consideration of her question, I was even more convinced. They were staring.

For years, as a result of the after-school specials that were popular when I was a teen, I thought I understood what anorexia was about. The ultra-skinny girl standing in front of a mirror, her ribs jutting out, staring at the “fat” girl starting back at her. But that was not me. I knew I was too thin, I crunched the numbers, I saw the pictures, and in no way, did I think I was overweight. Still, my brain, my hungry, shrinking brain could not see just HOW thin I had become. So, when I caught people looking at me, some with concern, some with curiosity, and many with a glare of anger, it pissed me off. It put me on the defensive, but deep down, it just hurt. I am a good person, I am someone’s daughter, I am a loving mom. Stop looking at me.

But the not so subtle glances did not stop, in fact, they were the just the half of it.


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