When I was 14, I went to boarding school in Michigan. There—at the school between two lakes—I got extremely fat.
The big secret at boarding school is that no one actually cares about you. No one notices if you get sick. No one notices if you stop waxing your mustache. No one notices if you fail math. And certainly no one notices if you've been sneaking donuts from the cafeteria into your room for the past 3 months. In spite of the incredibly close quarters, boarding school is a perfect place to keep a secret. Everyone turns a blind eye.
We didn't have any sports at this school, and in my previous life I had been an extremely active teenager. I had never had trouble keeping weight off; it just came off naturally. So it took me a while to make the connection between my third helping of pierogis and the buttons that started popping off my pants. I had gained 30 lbs during my freshman year. It was just so hard to resist all that cafeteria comfort food. Even now, as an adult, I hold a special love for that kind of food: cottage cheese and jello, white rice with butter and brown sugar piled high, no-bake cookies, pigs in a blanket, and instant mashed potatoes. I honestly don't believe that there was a single vegetable found in this midwestern art school. A dancer friend of mine told me the best way to keep your weight down at this school was to only eat the soup, and never, EVER, if it was a bisque. But I didn't just eat the soup.
Like so many classic weight gain stories, I hadn't even realized how big I had gotten until the week before prom, and my dress no longer fit. Ok, we didn't have “prom” at this school, we fancied ourselves too progressive. We had morp (which is prom backwards). Any grade could go and the normal traditions, like “dates” were seen as antiquated and eschewed. Our saying was go “stag, in drag, or with a fag.”
Months before I had ordered a red corset from Victoria's Secret to wear with a black puffy princess skirt. This is when you need the input of a sane adult woman, or anyone who could stop you from Victoria's Secret to wear as formal dress attire.
I tried on my corset. I could barely get it laced up, and I discovered my back cleavage was bigger than my front cleavage. In my vision for what I would look like, I saw a sleek clavicle extending toward a delicate small shoulder. The reality was sausage rolls of fat pouring over the boning. I decided that night that I would forsake everything for the next week and only do push-ups and sit-ups until I lost all 30 lbs. I also decided the best way to do this was naked, constantly monitoring any progress my body made in front of the mirror.
After a meagre two attempts I realized it was too late to do anything before morp, and instead I settled into a mild depression, drinking one Dr. Pepper after another and pretending to read Lord of the Flies for English class. Every now and then I would get up, take my clothes off and look in the mirror. I would mentally prod and pick and dissect my whole body, trying to envision what I would look like “if I could just lose this bit of fat,” as my hand cupped a sausage roll on my thigh.