That's how much I weighed when first I was informed that my body was not okay.
I remember everything about that moment because it was the first time I sensed dread without knowing its source.
My grandmother, rail thin in her orange and navy breton, called me into her room to step on the scale.
She slid it from the closet with the toe of her sneaker, keeping her cigarette well away from the racks of beautiful tiny clothes she never wore. I knew whatever was about to happen, it would not be good.
I was in the fourth grade and, at 5'2" tied with Penelope Throckmorton as the tallest girl in school.
I had the dubious honor of being the first girl in my class to need a training bra, a cotton number from Woodward & Lothrup with a tiny embroidered tennis racket in the center. My parents were in the throes of their ugly, endless divorce and I suspect someone had recently discovered the empty peanut butter jars I'd eaten in secret, tucked in my hidden kingdom among the mothballed artifacts of the basement closet.
One hundred sixteen pounds. Can you even imagine?
At that point I was nearly as heavy as my grandmother and probably had ten pounds on Nana, her diminutive Swedish mother, Patient Zero of the eating disorder epidemic that plagued the women of my family since before Prohibition. Twenty-five years later I teleport my adult self back to my grandmother's room that always smelled like black coffee and Sea Breeze astringent and want shake her and scream "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?"
But then I just shook and wondered, "What's wrong with me?"
When a kid is sneak-eating, turning to food for comfort and going through the myriad humiliations of a precocious puberty and being a pawn in a spectacularly messy and public divorce (how messy? There were dead animals involved) who on earth thinks adding body shame to the mix is a good idea?
After that it was one slow slide into disordered eating and then, as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, Actual Fatness.
The more they punished me for my body --a body that, like the rest of my life, was changing rapidly and without my consent-- the more I sought comfort in the reliability of food.
Sitting in the closet among the racks of vintage Lacoste, I'd slurp down expired cans of mandarin oranges; fishing out each fat slug with my fingers, the tinny juice satisfying in its predictable unpleasantness.
Was that really so much worse than what came next?
The grapefruit spray I was supposed to put on my tongue whenever I was hungry? The weird chocolate drink mix that turned into a pudding if you put it in the blender? The notebooks full of technically inept self-portraits, all black and white except for the red pools rushing out of my carefully opened wrists, punctuated with awkward preadolescent sexual fantasies that all began with taking a magical pill that would make me "thin and beautiful"?
That flat shadowed afternoon was the last time I saw one sixteen on the scale. I grew. My loathing grew, my pain grew and finally it all expanded until my grandparents came to visit me in college and, exhausted from illness and misery --I now had a collapsed stomach from the Phen-fen my mother obtained for me in high school-- I rolled up my sleeve to reveal the long thin traces of what no one should've been surprised to see.
In the end, I suppose it was the hate that saved me. My grandparents moved me to Texas and paid for the therapy and treatment that allowed me to dig myself out of the pit they help create.
The story, gratifyingly, has a happy ending. I love my body, even though they'll have to amputate a limb (or three) if I ever want to see 116 again. My relationship with food is normal. A jar of peanut butter will last months and although I maintain an odd fondness for expired tinned mandarins, I never drink the juice. I've found love for myself and, as a bonus, I've found I've got enough to share with friends, the rare well-behaved relative and any number of variably worthy fellas who share in my correct estimation that my body is delightful precisely as it is.
Most importantly I've found that I can occasionally be of service to an internet friend or two (or two thousand, depending on that day's numbers) who are chugging along on their own journeys and could use a little support.
I came across this story of a woman recounting the moment she first discovered people thought her body was Not Okay and it inspired me to write mine. Maybe you'll write yours, too.