Bones

Bones - student project

I am trying not to romanticize my bones.

In an essay on anorexia, Leslie Jamison talks about the tendency of anorexics to talk about our bodies in ethereal terms. Slenderness, brokenness. Jamison writes that this perpetuates the central pathology of anorexia, which is to make our bodies endlessly perform our pain.

When I was anorexic, my teeth emptied out their insides and my mouth filled with metal. Photographs—and there are only two or three that survive from almost ten years—show a puppet collapsed on its strings.

Afterward, in the way-station of nurses and rehab and ECGs and DEXA scans, I learned that I had the bones of a woman in her late fifties. I was 24 years old. I was instructed to avoid running on concrete surfaces, not to fall, and never to do headstands in yoga. I was warned that my vertebrae might crumble or crunch together into a small, humped back.

I would be lying if I told you I did not romanticize the fuck out of this metaphor: the hollowness in my architecture; wood supports rotting in a mineshaft, the elevator juddering down my spine into the pit of my back. Honeycomb bones. Dead branches crackling. Caverns opening inside my hip bones and femurs for grief to gather and pool. The slow drip of—you get the idea.

In part, I could not believe in the consequences. Like the opening days of the pandemic, without any symptoms or deaths of my own: whatever devastation was tearing holes in my bones, or in the fabric of the universe, I could not feel it. In part, I needed my bones to authorize my feelings about myself: broken, sick, needy. I didn’t know how to accept care from anyone other than doctors, especially not from myself.

Even years later, it was my bones that allowed my to say I am grieving and my life feels cut off and this is devastating.

By this I meant the condition of my bones and the possibility of collapse, but also the whole damn thing. The feeling of being in my body. The hot-cold fever of the world. The army of police officers and immigration officials and senior academics and high school boys scrabbling around in the fishbowl of my skull, fighting with one another in endless raised voices, thudding on the glass.