I once read this book about the “secret language” of eating disorders. It was probably one of the more insightful books I’ve read. In recent years, I’ve read other books and articles describing eating disorders as a kind of exclusive club. Not that anyone should feel badly about not being in that club. Quite the opposite. No, it’s about having a secret that you share with a few other people that makes you feel at least somewhat more worthwhile than you do.

I know this is true because certain words have different meanings to people in the club and outside of the club. I had some rather extensive medical tests recently. People outside the club seemed lost for words, saying, Wow that’s serious. People inside the club laughed and asked me if the instruments were warmed up. I don’t mean to be exclusionary, but I felt more comfortable talking to people who understood about it.

I compare it a bit to this short story I read once about this shy, insecure guy who finds a robot tiger at a toy store that acts like a real tiger. He has it follow him around for a bit, then after a while, just carrying the remote control around makes him feel less insecure. He says to himself, “I’ve got a tiger at home!”

I think secrets are kind of like that. I used to feel that way about having an eating disorder when I was in the middle of it. Like the will power made me somehow better than people I felt inferior around. Of course, that’s our culture’s fucked up fetishizing of the anorexic. Later, I felt that way about being a sex worker in some ways. Not to say that sex work replaced my eating disorder because it’s absolutely not like that. But knowing this secret that I can’t share doesn’t make me feel better than everyone else, just excited. Going from a session into my “real” life makes me laugh. Going to a meeting where I listen to someone else tell me what to do after I’ve just spent time commanding. That’s probably why my clients come to me, in part. A fantasy secret.


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