We had all been having a delightful lunch, catching up and laughing and just generally having a good time. Everyone at the table seemed to compliment her on how she’d lost so much weight and how pretty she looked. She took a second helping of rice. How admirable that she managed to lose so many kilos just through keeping a strict watch on her diet!
She disappeared into the bathroom after lunch for about 10 minutes, and came back surreptitiously wiping her lips.
She has never liked rice.
Later in the afternoon we were visiting some relatives. Oh how nice you look now! Before you were quite chubby weren’t you? Yes she was pretty fat and now look! So pretty! Here, do you want a chicken roll? No? Okay well I’ll pack some up for you.
I cringed. She looked bemused – after all, what appropriate response was there? Well now I know what people really thought of me, she smirks. Humor is a great defense. Unless you have cousins close to your age who can see through your armor.
In the car my mother was singing her praises. I thought I’d approach it: You know, you should really stop that, and so should everyone else. It’s too much. My sister caught my eye and nodded: You know that she’s probably done it in an unhealthy way, right? I watched my mother’s brow crinkle: What do you mean? Well, there’s no way a girl loses that much weight in that little time just by eating less fatty foods. And she disappeared into the bathroom after lunch, didn’t you notice? And here everyone is telling her she was so fat. What? Bulimia? No, it can’t be. You girls have an overactive imagination. But. But what if. I’ll tell her mother she’s too thin. She should stop now. I’ll tell your other aunt who lives close by to keep an eye out. That’s horrible. I can’t believe it’s true. But I should tell her mother. How? I’ll just tell her indirectly.
Three months later her roommate called her mother. Auntie, she isn’t well. Do something. We’ve tried to talk to her, but it doesn’t work.
I could have reached out three months ago. I could have told her mother three months ago. I could have tried to help three months ago. And even now I don’t know how.