There are some accepted ways for white girls to deliver poems on eating disorders. They might analyze their mirror and remark on the ugliness of the light refracted back, so thin and so cracked. They might struggle under the weight of a thousand magazines, feel the pressurized dig of Vogue Models’ heels into their backs. They might feel bound by the shackles of patriarchy, break out of them with teeth.
And they are always believed. Because anorexia’s face is straight and white. She is from a developed country. She has always had enough food to eat and chose to give it up.
The rest of us are immune.
As if eating disorders rain down in UV rays and we’re walking around lucky and sunblocked by our SPF 50 skin. This is one disease the colonizers couldn’t give us.
I’m a little brown dyke who has always liked math even more than I liked girls.
White doctors in white coats do not understand what I have ever had to starve for.
But they forget I can calculate the entropy of the universe. And an eating disorder is by comparison a very manageable amount of chaos.
My body is the most satisfying problem I have ever solved.
I was so good at measurements that I put the model in model minority, wrote equations for the lines that take us between art and death, grew exponentially backwards into my own mortality, defined my absolute value as distance from size zero.
At 14 years I was in multivariable calculus and 30 pounds underweight. I figured it would be just some weeks before my bones would show their faces, just a few more and my body temperature would fall 2.5 degrees permanently, 15 blood pressure points down I’d feel constantly high and faint everyday, two-thirds of my dinner needed to be discarded to make the other numbers work out.
At 16 years and 25% less mass I told my guidance counselor I might be anorexic. She told me eating disorders are only common in white girls that it was likely my genetics and I could try eating just a bit more, and if I didn’t it was all right I would fit perfectly in the corner of a Benneton ad.
That year I flew away to college. At the security checkpoint my mom held my hands. She said I was getting hard to hug, that my bones were so jagged that they hurt her sometimes. Her tears soaked through my hair which was falling out in clumps and I estimated that at this rate there were two more years before my heart would stop.
When I cracked the spine of my first college math book I thought, it may have been my own back breaking. I was shivering in the California sunshine, thinking my legs would not be strong enough to trace my foremothers’ footsteps, that I wanted to live to honor their stories.
To brown girls whose bodies are never enough, to those who have been disappeared in nighttimes and bleached away in daylight, remember, there are revolutions to feed, protest songs to be rung with our fullness. We are all more amazing in three dimensions. Keep the future in your hearts and love yourself for appetite. Because we are the most beautiful equations the world has ever seen.
Janani sometimes calls themselves a queer South Asian scholar-activist, a poet, and an advocate for a more peaceful food system. They’re a senior majoring in Atmosphere/Energy Engineering and Queer Studies. More of their poetry can be found at queerdarkenergy.sqsp.com.
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