F-Word In The Nursing Home

Wednesday night after having Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I rode with my parents to drive my stepmom’s mother back to the nursing home. I had every intention of waiting in the car while they got her settled in for the night. This was the plan I made for myself, but my dad had other plans. My step-grandmother shares a room at this nursing home with one of my dad’s relatives. I believe she is my great aunt but I would not bet money on that. Regardless, the roommate is an elderly lady that I have seen maybe ten times during my life. We all have some of those right? Chances are you have no idea what their name is, and if they know yours they will definitely pronounce it wrong. So, clearly I was thrilled about going to visit this lady, but it is the holiday season and I knew it would make my dad happy. We make small talk with the old lady for a while, but eventually, silence replaced conversation. This is it, ladies and gentlemen, this is the part of the story you have all been waiting for. I have no idea how old this lady actually is, but I know enough to know that her time on earth is numbered. I mean she may have a few more years, but her last chapter is underway. She has had a stroke and a few other health problems which have resulted in her living in the nursing home. I preface with these facts because I think it adds to my wrath about the dialogue that comes next. It had easily been a couple of minutes since anyone had spoken when she looks dead at me and says “How do you stay so tiny?” um…. Well, ten years of Anorexia and Bulimia have really helped. What the hell do you mean how do I stay so tiny? This question takes me completely aback and it takes me a moment to formulate a response. I choose “Well I work a lot. I’m really active”. Without any hesitation, she says “Well, I don’t want you to get fat”. An elderly lady in the nursing home with years of stories and wisdom decided that my body should be the last thing she and I will ever talk about. She could have asked if I have a degree… which I do. She could have asked if I had a successful job… which I have as well. Please know that if I live to be as old as this lady I plan on saying whatever I want too, with the exception of the F-bomb. Obviously, this woman has no idea that I am battling an eating disorder that jeopardizes my health every day. I also understand that times have changed. This woman obviously has not spent time reading about mental health. For all I know she asks everyone that walks in the door that question, but it hit something deep inside of me. What kind of life did this lady have for her to be focused on a 24-year-old’s weight while she lives out her final days? Why is my body the only thing of interest? How long has this been her mentality? My mind is filled with questions that I will never get the answers to. This woman has spent her entire life believing fat is the worst thing a woman could possibly be. When I think about the influence society has had on my negative self-image, I think about women around my age. A twenty-year-old model with a jutting rib cage is no more triggering than an 85-year-old lady telling a young woman that “fat” is bad. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Women have to learn and believe that they are not just a body and that the body does not define them. When my children and grandchildren come to visit in the nursing home, I want to tell them about all of the wonderful things I accomplished in my life rather than be remembered as an evil old lady who made them feel inadequate.

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