Wow, I sure remember. I entered UMass/Amherst in 1975 at age 17. My goal: getting away from Mom and Dad and making a new life for myself. Goal #2 was to get an education for myself. Rather quickly these two goals became integrated. I found that for the first time in my life, I LOVED learning. I was thrilled. The faculty were terrific. I also liked being in a place that was sort of a community in itself, a world where you were surrounded by academia and overwhelmed by it.
No, I didn’t like feeling like I was expected to be what’s now known as a “sheeple.” In case you don’t know what a sheeple is, it’s a cross between sheep and people. We were herded like sheep. All alike. Watch those videos carefully. I now view them and look back and sorta feel terrified, remembering how I felt. Kinda pissed off in a way.
I guess I could say I didn’t like the way we were bossed around in marching band one bit, so I quit that. No way did I care for the cookie-cutter approach of the overcrowded classes. Why did we all have to do the same thing? Why look alike? Why any uniforms at all? The appearance of synchronized anything (if it involves humans) now scares the heck out or me. I wanted individuality. Why was being unique and special discouraged?
I switched from full-time study to part-time study in the spring semester, 1978. That summer, I moved to Vermont.
Sure, you’ll get a good education at a large school if you like that kind of thing. But if you want smaller classes you can get that at a junior college for less money, and you’re likely to be able to allowed be yourself, not a number in a gigantic crowd. You will get far higher value in a smaller class.
I’m telling you this looking back. Decades have passed.
My next school was Bennington. Yeah, expensive, but I got financial aid. The school was like night and day compared to the large UMass campus. The classes there were so small, maybe six students at most. At UMass/Amherst, the classes were between 15 students and 200 students per class. Often at Bennington we’d meet with our instructors individually. Sadly, many of the smaller liberal arts colleges restructure. When applying for colleges, please look at how well financed the college is that you are applying to when you make your final decision. Things can indeed change. Sadly, I’ve heard that occasionally, a small liberal arts college closes some of their departments or combines two of them into one or makes some other compromise you may not be happy with. Another thing I’ve heard can happen is that your major might be eliminated, forcing you to apply and enroll in another college. This could end up in a financial hassle. That’s why some choose the more stable state schools even though they are larger and more impersonal, as I’ve described above.
I guess bad luck forced me to drop out of Bennington. So I floundered around for quite a while. I finished much later at Emerson College. I’d say this is a medium-sized school situated in a city, Boston, Massachusetts. So while Bennington is in Vermont, which is certainly rural, Emerson had the advantage of being in a big city. At Bennington some students liked being rather close to New York. Often, the Bennington students traveled down there via some sort of transit, perhaps bus travel on weekends. I never did but it was the “in” thing to do. Vermont is beautiful and cold. Bennington itself was a funny little town. The town had its dichotomy. The locals certainly saw the students as “rich kids” and the students saw the locals as “townies.” So see the divide I’m talking about? You could feel the tension. It led to all sorts of scandal, believe it or not that eventually was serious trouble. It ran deep, deeper than many realize. I believe it’s a serious problem even today.
I wasn’t an enrolled student at Southern Vermont College, but SVC is on the other side geograpically of Bennington. SVC seemed far more stable financially and certainly on a more stable level socially with the town. The college offered different majors so the two didn’t compete really, and coexisted rather peacefully. They were both small and although they had their little athletic teams they didn’t compete athletically against each other to my knowledge. I enjoyed my classes there and the class size seemed ideal. It wasn’t a residential school, meaning they didn’t have dorms, so everyone lived locally and commuted there. From what I recall, the school was situated on a large hill and the campus was gorgeous because from up high, you could see all over the town. I remember a long, scenic gravely road to get there. I recall a castle-like building. Made of stones.
At any rate, I’ll talk about Emerson for a bit. This was many, many years later for me. As I said, Emerson is in the heart of Boston, right on the Green Line (that’s the name of the subway line), actually not far from the Boston Common. Chinatown is nearby, too, and the Theater District. So lots is happening there. If you like city excitement, you’d be thrilled, but many don’t care for that kind of thing. I recall after I broke my leg I was crossing the street ’round there and I was actually shoved right off the sidewalk! I didn’t turn back but muttered to the person that surely they shouldn’t have done that. I’d just finished with my crutches and was no longer using them, but was still slow on foot.
The person said to me, rather rudely, “You sure don’t look disabled! Hurry up, klutz!” This is your typical city person who is in a hurry.
Naw, I didn’t fall or anything. I was lucky. I gathered my patience and moved on. I told myself there are plenty of impatient people on the planet and I’m proud not to be one of them!
So in Boston this is the life. Hurried people that don’t care and shove each other and walk around with headphones on. If you don’t mind that kind of thing, you won’t mind Boston. It’s not a bad place overall. There are cool places to go.
Emerson is a good school. You’ll find good instructors there that will take the time to get to know you. I didn’t enjoy graduation at all. Too big. I’d say I wish I hadn’t gone except it’s one of the last memories I have of my beloved late boyfriend, who attended, along with my brother (whom I rarely see) along with my mom. It’s just that graduation there is so impersonal and doesn’t seem to represent what the education there was about.
That afternoon, Joe and I went out to lunch. Late lunch. I wouldn’t take that darned cap and gown off. Can you believe that? Me and Joe at the Halfway Cafe. The waitress thought I was nuts. She said, “Okay, I won’t ask.” I said, “Don’t.”
I can’t remember what we ordered. They always had popcorn as an hors d’oerves. I remember when Joe ate popcorn I wished Tiger was there at the Halfway Cafe to pick up everything that fell, cuz Joe sure dropped most of what he picked up before it got into his mouth. I doubt the waitstaff cared. They were tickled by him. He loved the food. He loved to compliment the chef.
He spoke of graduation. How proud he was of me. How proud my dad would be if he were alive. We were sad, too. We wished my dad could know, somehow, that I’d made it to that moment.
I remembered that day well. Only a few weeks later, I was accepted to grad school at Goddard College. This was the day of Joe’s funeral.
Years later, I finished grad school. It was the second week of July 2009. I thought of Joe. I remember the dinner after graduation. I had salmon with my fellow students, now proud graduates and their families. I thought to myself that Joe would be proud of me, too, if he’d known I’d accomplished so much. I think he did.
So I was going through that huge pile on my desk. You know how it gets, the annoying pile of junk mail. (I wrote “junk male” but deleted.) So I started throwing out stuff, empty envelopes and pages that my printer printed halfway, goofed, and then spit out. Those times I had to print out a test page and then said to myself, “Oh, I’ll reuse that paper,” and never did.
All that was an easy decision. And then it came to the huge, heavy magazine from Emerson College. Okay, kiddies, what am I supposed to do with this? I haven’t read it and I don’t read any of my mail except what comes from Social Security. And if something looks like it’s from the bank saying my card was canceled out. Once every few years that’s happened due to some charge on there that was funny-looking to them. Usually they notify me by phone and the mail notification is superfluous anyway. Banks are responsible these days. But those alum magazines irk me.
What am I supposed to think? They want money and I don’t have it. Not only that, what do they want money for?
They want money to enrich a rich kid’s life so a kid can fly to a foreign country, party, and have a good time. This is the college experience I suppose. I’m asked to give money so college kids can have a blast.
Yes, I was in that place once. Over the years I’ve had less and less money and can travel less and less. I wonder how I can put money onto my MBTA Charlie Card (it’s a disability card) so that I can pay for bus fare to buy groceries. I always wonder if the other passengers are going to yell at me when I’m trying to get off the bus with the groceries yet another time. It’s tough carrying food home in a knapsack, food for my dog and myself that I pay for with food stamps. That’s my life.
So the glossy magazine (which I don’t want to read) often tells about the wonderful work of these students. I do relate, but much differently than you’d think. Giving money isn’t going to do anything.
Yes, I can relate. I was in that place once. Everyone was a kid once. I went to college. I traveled. So here was that place for me:
I remember being alone in Europe. It’s the coldest place on Earth even when the temperature isn’t that low. I felt out of place in the train station. I silently cursed my mother for having given me a bright green ski jacket. Why did I wear that stupid jacket? Why did she always give me such garish colors, instead of something drab and ordinary? This stand-out color made it obvious I was American. Men and women hurried by, speaking clipped German, glaring at me, clearly annoyed at my mere presence. Spoiled American student. I hung my head. I had to get out of there. I had to figure out which train I needed to catch. But how?
No one would give me the answer. These train guys knew, but I had no way of figuring out anything. I didn’t deserve anything. Spoiled rich kid. They all looked down on me. I was nothing but dirt to them.
Finally, I asked them in French if they spoke French. “Oui,” the guy said. They did. So I asked in French how to get to where I was going and I got my answer.
This was how you survive the world. I deserved nothing.
I was alone somewhere. Some city, some country, not home. On a street. Just wandering. Other kids that traveled seemed to have it all together. I sure didn’t. I kicked the stones out in front of me.
It was around the time of my 20th birthday.
Back home, the Blizzard of ’78. I came home to a white world. I heard about what happened. People said no one had been able to get out for days.
I was a lonely kid once and that’s how I relate to kids. How you feel when everyone else is having a blast and you aren’t. And now, looking back, I remember.
No way do I want to throw all those colorful memories, even though they are sad, out the drain. My stories are precious and they make me the incredible person that I am.
Someday, I want to go to Emerson College and speak about eating disorders. However, every time I’ve called and asked if I can read there (telling them I am an alum and am published) I am turned down. Told some excuse. Put off. I think I’m approaching it the wrong way. Even at our 10-year reunion, I was told, “No, we aren’t having readings this year.” Now that’s weird. I felt so shoved aside by this college that I’d paid money to and worked my butt off and finished….So I’m now just asked for money and nothing else? Given no recognition whatsoever…..Do I have to be a rich donor? I guess so.
The glossy went into my recycling collection. I’m sad. I’ve got a bunch of things to do over the next few weeks, but approaching Emerson College and asking to speak there is one of my goals. I mean, I’m offering to speak there FOR FREE. No pay. A gift. This is far more valuable than any money I can send them.
But I’ve got to approach the right people, the right department, the right personnel. I was a kid once. This is who I am.
Okay, having just read an excellent dispute of this….Well put….
Of course, there are subsets and different mindsets of binge eaters. I have no clue what it’s like to have been overweight since early on, and be fighting a lifelong weight issue and of course, perhaps the worst of it, the bullying and horrible weight bias from I mean like day one that goes along with being the least bit chubby or accused of having even one part of you that’s even imagined as chubby.
This is another world and it’s a world I’ve stepped into very briefly in my adult life. Let’s say I tested the waters, then quickly yanked my big toe out as if the pool was filled with sharks. I was fucking terrified.
Oh yeah, I do remember struggling with my weight, begging my doctor to take me off the darned pill that had gotten me to that point. In other words, this is a trait that never really happened to me except by artificially-induced means, I’m talking true extremes. Like you had to force me into that mold.
Okay, so if a person is of that mold, then, is it a different disorder than if they are my type that is the restrictive type, that started their disorder because of a diet?
See, so many people I know of with ED started with a diet, maybe schemed to get skinny, then developed further bad habits such as binge eating cuz their bodies were so starved. Then, say, they panicked, saying, WTF? what’s this? and purged out of terror for what they had done. Then maybe they looked up “laxatives” online and said, “hmm, maybe this will work,” and decided to go that route. Or whatever. By then, the whole thing is incredibly unstoppable.
Okay, what of this diet…why go on a diet to begin with? Low self esteem? I mean, most of us weren’t even fat to begin with, right? Most of gained “the freshman 10” maybe, or something very, very negligible and were still within range and could very well have exercised it off during summer break instead of going on that 300 calories a day crash diet we went on.
Agreeably, this is not the same as the pattern of the person who has been overweight since childhood. I am wondering to what extent the dining commons, the Freshman Ten, or any of this…none of this means the same to the entering freshman who comes in say, already clinically obese and most likely the instant target of bullying. Or maybe not. You hear about the stereotypes. The “fat kid” who is the “life of the party.” Or, the “fat kid” who is, conversely, the “depressed loner.” Either may be a secret binge eater. Or maybe the kid never does have what we now will know, officially, as this painful disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, but the kid overeats at many, many meals, enough to sustain a larger body than he or she should have.
And folks, are we ever, ever going to find out? For freaking years and years and years? Sure, the presentation is that this is the fat kid. Sure, the other young college folk assume maybe the kid “likes” to eat. They dismiss this. No one wants to talk about it and it ends up an uncomfortable subject. Like, forever. This is a painful path to walk on. Even doctors don’t tread this ground.
Well, folks, they should. And now, they will. Binge eating is real and it’s serious. Just as serious for someone overweight as it is for me who has anorexia with binge eating and does not and is unable to throw up, or someone with anorexia who does throw up, which is the one written up somewhere, the “binge-purge” type. Do we have to talk about these stereotypes even?
Binge eating is serious for anyone who does binge eating and should be treated seriously, as seriously as is the behavior.
Binge eating itself causes massive damage in our society and of course to each and every individual sufferer.
And yes, you can indeed die directly from the act of binge eating alone.
Never mind the suicides, car accidents, financial ruin, wrecked marriages, night after night of lost sleep, shattered sex lives, multitude of health concerns, legal issues, and troubled children.
Yep. I’d say BED is right up there with severe alcoholism.
I’ll throw homelessness in there, too.
And yes, you CAN smell it on a person. Not all the time, but some of the time. Try a whiff of donuts or chocolate or the smell of dangerously high blood sugar on a person’s breath. Or the scary drop in blood sugar some folks experience afterward.
I’m going to put out a poll and I hope it posts related to binge eating. I believe these polls are anonymous. Or I hope so. I myself that I know of will be unable to track folks who answer. (Don’t panic yet…no obligation to answer but it will help change the world…well, maybe. I hope in my own little delusion of grandeur over here that everything I do makes its footprint on the world. Well, everything we do, sorry, does a carbon footprint thing, they say, right?)
If you don’t want to answer the poll, and I’ll bet most of you won’t, or if you have never or generally don’t engage in binge eating, then just think about the questions and what your answers are or what someone else’s answers might be. And think about tomorrow. Goodnight.
Okay, see ya later, done with polls…I hope, again, I did this right. Best of luck answering them.