I went out to buy diet soda–again. This time, as last time, I chose not to go to Tedeschi’s, as they know me, but to CVS, where I can be more anonymous. There is another convenience store closer by, but they charge $2 a bottle, and CVS has diet soda on sale for $1.25 right now. That plus at the other convenience store, which is family owned, they are always giving me looks. I think they give everyone looks. Maybe not, though.
So I went to CVS, a longer walk to save 70 cents. As I approached the soda aisle, I saw some kids with their parent blocking the corner. Annoyed, I walked around an entire aisle to avoid them, then came up the next aisle, and all the way around to the soda. I don’t want to be seen.
There it was. Still on sale. Four for five dollars. I grabbed a bottle. Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. I checked ten times to make sure it was “diet.” I snuck around the back way to the registers. No wait. Good. I approached the cashier, a gentleman, maybe 60. Never seen him before. Sweet. I used my debit card, so that I could get a $10 bill for the cab to my primary care doctor’s on Tuesday for weigh-in (I take a cab there and bus home as it is a complicated commute). He handed me $30.
“That’s what it said. Thirty.”
“Okay.” I looked at the sales slip. Looked again. “Nope. I put in ten, and it says ten on here. You just owe me ten.”
“Well, thanks for your honesty.”
I hand him back the $20 bill.
It isn’t until I eft the store that I realized that he never asked me for my CVS card, and I didn’t get the 75 cent discount. They are supposed to ask for the card so customers can get the discount. Was I supposed to remember the card myself? Probably. But I didn’t. I expected the discount without it.
Was the guy new? Probably not. That particular CVS isn’t doing well enough to be hiring new people, as far as I know. Maybe he isn’t accustomed to working the registers. Maybe he normally works “out back.” I can only speculate. Maybe he just didn’t know the complexities of cash register work.
What I know he didn’t know was that I, his customer, was going to go home and fill up on diet soda so that I would feel full enough so that I wouldn’t eat anything, because I hadn’t eaten dinner. What he didn’t know was that I starve myself. What he didn’t know is that I am a lot skinnier than I appeared to him in the store tonight.
Or maybe I didn’t fool him. Maybe he knew. Maybe he has a daughter, a niece, a friend, a wife, a lover, a son, who is anorexic. Maybe he himself has an eating disorder. Maybe he is going to leave work, stop at Tedeschi’s, buy a couple of cheesecakes and three bags of chips, go home, gorge himself, and then puke his guts out.
We don’t know. Eating disorders are for the most part invisible. There are an incredible amount of people out there with eating disorders who are doing ED behaviors in secret. Even people who are unusually heavy or thin can hide their eating disorders–or the severity of their disorders–from everyone, professionals included.
When I first developed anorexia in 1980, no one suspected–not even me! I had never heard of anorexia, and I’ll bet half of the people around me hadn’t heard of it, either. Some noticed that I had lost weight, others did not. One person–one–remarked that I may have lost a bit too much weight, and showed concern on her face. This was someone on the music faculty at my college.
I’d like to talk to her now. I’d like to tell her that I wish I’d spoken up. I’d like to tell her that I wish I’d cried out for help just then, and told her about the obsession, the restricting, the fact that I ate so little, and wanted to lose more and more, and how deeply unhappy I was. I wish I’d asked her what my problem was called. Maybe she would have told me it was called “Anorexia Nervosa.” Maybe she would have told me there was such thing as eating disorders, and that I was not alone. Maybe she would have known where I could have gone to get help for it.
Actually, I don’t really know for certain that she knew. I can only guess. But chances are, she did.
But the subject was dropped. We went our separate ways. Nothing more was said of the subject. When we saw each other again, we talked about music.
Music. I swear everyone else at the college was clueless. Totally. Myself included.
Maybe I still am.
My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing. Click here to download the .pdf file. To read excerpts at my home site, click here. The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.