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If the boys only knew...

by Ruby

This summer I lived in a house with five boys while I wrote my thesis for my masters degree. As the only girl, I maintained my position as the ballsy, independent, confident spirit who could handle herself in a group of boys; by being kind, affable and maternal, being relaxed and able to have a laugh, whilst also taking absolutely none of their shit. I had always been able to get along with boys, enjoyed their company, found it easy to talk to them, and over the summer, we grew close. However, I never let any of them close enough to ever realise my dark secret.

The boys would often joke that I was small and skinny, and would jokingly "tell me to eat a steak", and expressed disbelief at my unusual eating habits, which were infrequent and rationed. In contrast, all of the boys played sport, were tall and muscular, and would eat like savages. They frequently ordered giant wagon wheel pizzas for dinner, ate fry-ups for breakfast and whole packets of biscuits and cakes everyday. Of course, they needed every calorie with their size and activity levels. But they never knew that behind my bedroom door, I was consuming vast quantities of food that totalled above and beyond what they would eat. Amounts of food that they would even consider inhumanly possible to consume.

If only they knew, this wasn't even the start of it. Even worse, I often stole their food. They never suspected me of course, and would accuse each other for stealing packets of cookies or leftover pizza. They never once thought that the small skinny girl with the appetite of a gnat was to blame. Many times I would wake early to go to the supermarket and replace their boxes and packets of food, which ended up costing an absolute fortune. I was mortified, that I could not stop, and every morsel ended up flushed down the toilet.

It was my most shameful secret, and I wished I could tell just one of them. But I knew that boys, at least most boys, will never understand this agony. They would only be revolted by my secret food obsession, a habit that was so perturbed and unladylike.

I often watched them enjoying their food, not caring about the fat or carb content. I was so envious. I wished that I had been born a boy, so that I had less chance of being exposed to the pressure to be thin. I know that boys can have bulimia too, but it is infinitely less frequent. If anything, if I were born a boy, the pressure to be more muscular or strong as is idealised by some males, would have at least been healthier than an obsession with thinness.

I truly valued the boys and enjoyed their friendship. I just wish I could be honest with them. I wish I could apologise to their faces for all the times I took their food.

But one day, I just want to be normal, accept myself and live without secrets.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
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The Bulimia Recovery Program