California Diaries #9: Amalia. Fate.
Ann M. Martin
The author gratefully acknowledges Peter Larangis for his help in preparing this
Interior illustrations by Stieg Retlin
Copyright © 1998 by Ann M. Martin. All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Inc.
CALIFORNIA DIARIES and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered
trademarks of Scholastic Inc.
Printed in the U.S.A.
First Scholastic printing, October 1998
This eBook is for educational and reference purposes only. It is not intended to infringe on or circumvent copyright. No monetary gain is made from the distribution of this eBook.
Nbook, you are not going to believe what magazine I have in front of me.
I hate Teen’Zine. 99% of the articles are about guys and zits. (“How to Tell Them Apart” might be a really useful piece.)
I know, I should be doing h.work, not wandering around the periodical rack. But I’m bored.
Anyway, my eye catches a title on the cover, right under “Where Your Favourite Celebs Shop” and “Banish That Blemish”:
You Don’t Have an Eating Disorder—But Your Best Friend Does
Well, maybe. I can’t help but think about Maggie.
She is so thin, Nbook. Much thinner than when I first met her. And she doesn’t eat a thing at lunch.
I’m leafing through the article. It’s full of headings and subheadings and testimonials from kids who have survived all these disorders.
Extreme cases. Anorexics who have almost starved themselves to death. Bulimics who wrecked their digestive systems from throwing up too much.
I read about “binge-eating disorder” (out-of-control eating), “anorexia athletica”
(staring yourself because you’re preoccupied with exercise), “night-eating syndrome”
(starving during the day but binge-eating at night), “nocturnal sleep-related disorder”
(Starving during the day but eating in a half-asleep, half-awake state).
Suddenly I felt very full.
He article’s pretty hopeful, though. It talks about successful treatment, kids who’s gone on to lead normal lives, etc.
Okay. What about Maggie?
Anorexic, or just a nervous stomach.
I don’t know.
Cut out from Teen’zine, September issue:
How Can I Tell is My Friend has an Eating Disorder?
Answer yes or no.
1. Is your friend preoccupied with food?
2. Is she/he preoccupied with his/her appearance?
3. Does he/she take frequent trips to the restroom?
4. Have you noticed your friend purchasing large amounts of food that vanish quickly?
5. Have you noticed the smell of vomit in the restroom after she/he has used it?
Had your Friend:
6. Lost of gained a significant amount of weight?
7. Developed a severe diet or abnormal eating habits?
8. Remained dissatisfied with his/her weight, despite weight loss?
10. Become socially isolated and/or depressed?
3, 4 and 5 came out no.
But in this questionnaire all the eating disorders are lumped together. 3, 4, and 5
refer to bulimia (which Maggie definitely doesn’t have) and binge eating (which I have never seen her do).
Every other question, Nbook, is a yes.
So, according to this, Maggie may actually have anorexia.
Don’t jump to conclusions, Vargas.
These magazines exaggerate.
Can’t believe she’s that far gone.
Sleep lees in Palo City
Yes, I can.
Me, zonked but determined
You know what I wish, Nbook? I wish I knew how to talk. I meant really talk, not blabber. Express what’s on my mind, with the right words, in full sentences. The way Sunny and Dawn do. And of course the way my beloved sister, Saint Isabel the Perfect, does.
Maybe I should just draw everything I want to say. Stop talking completely. Then I’d stay out of trouble.
Today, for instance.
Maggie and I hand out at the Vista Hills Mall. After reading that article, I’m looking at her differently than I used to. Noticing things. Like (1) She’s constantly gazing at herself in the mirrors and sucking in her stomach (such as it is). (2) She changed the subject when I suggest a snack in the food court. (3) She’s being weird about clothes.
We’re browsing in Carswell-Hayes. I find this retro ‘70’s skirt—very cool, very Maggie—so I hold it up. She feels the material and makes a face. Then she says, “Too clingy” and turns away.
I’m not expecting this reaction. I mean, clingy dresses are made for figures like Maggie’s. and size 4 is plenty big for her, anyway.
This is what I mean, Nbook. She thinks she’s too fat. I’m thinking, Is this bizarre or what?
But it’s not bizarre at all. It’s typical behaviour of an anorexic. I know that from the article
So. Time to talk, right?
But I don’t want to be obvious. I figure I’ll lead into it gently. In a roundabout way,
I talk about clothes. I talk about movies. TV. CDs. Homework.
We have a lovely conversation. About nothing. Then we go home.
And now I feel like a total chicken.
Me. Loudmouthed, opinionated, honest Amalia.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
James is wrong with me. That’s what.
He changed me. Made me guarded. Cautious.
True, we didn’t go out for very long. True, I broke up with him when he turned into an abusive jerk.
But you know what, Nbook? “Breaking up” is the wrong phrase. You don’t break.
Not totally. Now when the breakee still wants to get back together. And he sends you notes and puts little unwanted gifts in your locker and stares at you in the hallway and generally makes your life tense and miserable.
After awhile, the fire is sucked out of you.
Well, no more. Today I stop feeling sorry for myself.
Face it, Vargas. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be. James is fading. The notes have stopped. He’s losing interest. Which ie exactly what I wanted.
No more excuses. It’s back to the Old Amalia.
I tell Mami my thoughts about Maggie. She said, “Its never too late to talk to her.”
I say, “I’ll take her to dinner at Body-Soul Joy.” And she says, “I’ll drive you.”
I am so glad to have a mom like her.
So I call Maggie right away. B-SJ is super macrobiotic, low fat, etc., and I’m sure it’s about the only restaurant she’ll even think of entering.
She says no thanks. But I insist.
And I win.
We’re meeting there at 6:30. Between now and then, I;m going back to that Teen’zine article. Especially the section about how to talk to your friend.
Everything perfect. We get a table outside, on the die walk, where we can people watch. Leonardo DiCaprio is our waiter (well, a clone anyway). The smells from the kitchen are making me drool.
I’m a little nervous. The truth is, even thought Maggie and I have become pretty good friends, we’re just not that close yet. We’ve never really confined in each other.
I’m trying to ignore all that as Leo brings our menus.
She’s embarrassed, uncomfortable.
I’m remembering all the stuff I read in Teen’zine I’m supposed to
- Focus on Maggie, not her eating.
- Ask questions for clarification.
- Be supportive and caring.
- Understand that recovery is her responsibility, not mine.
- Use “I” statements: “I feel like I’m losing you.” “I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself.”
I’m not supposed to
- Give advice unless asked.
- Give “You” statements, like “You need help.” Especially stay away from “You’re too thin.” This is encouraging her, telling her what she wants to hear. Also, for future reference, is she started gaining, don’t say “You look good with some extra weight.”
She’ll just lost the weight again.)
Nbook, it’s easy enough to write this stuff. But try to remember it while you’re having a conversation. Impossible
Everything’s jumbling up in my head. I’m totally tongue-tied.
It doesn’t help that practically the whole restaurant can hear us.
So I can stand up, take her arm, and we both leave. (Leo gives us a dirty look, but hey, he’ll get over it.)
Maggie doesn’t say a word until we reach the little park at the end of the block.
We sit on a bench, near some sad-looking hedges.
Just like that, Nbook. She admits it.
A BIG step, according to the article.
I’m seeing something I’ve never seen before in Maggie. She looks venerable.
The confident, Straight-A Girl of a million. Talents? Gone.
“I—I wasn’t sure you knew that,” I say.
“For a long time I didn’t,” Maggie replied, “of if I did, I was lying to myself.
Then one night it hit me. My mom came home incredibly drunk. Like staggering., she knocked over the angel statue in the family room and didn’t even notice the shattered pieces under her feet. My dad went ballistic,. He told her she needed to face her drinking problem. She just stood there and said she didn’t have a problem. Just denied it, over and over. So I started thinking, am I like that? Am I doing the same thing?”
“You’re not that bad.”
(Great work, Vargas. Insult her mom.)
“I don’t want to me,” Maggie says. “I want to stop before it gets worse. I’m starting to embarrass myself. Like at that restaurant.”
“Don’t worry. Next time we’ll wear masks so the waiter won’t recognise us.”
Maggie barely cracks a smile. “I was feeling so much pressure. All that food was going by. Knowing I had to order some.”
I’m thinking, Pressure? (Don’t worry, Nbook, I don’t actually say that.)
“What do you mean?” I ask.
She tells me the vegetarian taco salad is maybe 700-800 calories. The whole-wheat rolls in the bread basket are 100 to 150 each, etc. etc. etc. She knows the calorie count for everything.
I suggest she should stop counting because she looks great and doesn’t need to lose any more weight.
She says that everyone tells her that.
“Maybe they have a point,” I say as gently as I can.
“Maybe. I mean, I try to believe hem. Sometimes I realise I’m being ridiculous.
Then I break down and eat something fattening.”
“Hey, you’re human.”
“I don’t feel human. I feel disgusting and fat and bloated. I have to skip a few meals just to get back to the way I was.”
“You could just pick a weight,” I suggest. “You know, a target. Like, 110 or something. If you go below it, eat more; if you go above, eat less.”
“It’s not that easy, Amalia,” she snaps. “Targets may work for you, but it’s different for me. I have a problem, okay? You don’t know what I feels like.”
I’m contradicting her. Maggie. Giving advice. “You” statements galore. Putting her on the defensive. Getting her mad. Exactly what the article said not to do.
But I notice what she has said. A problem. Those are her words, Nbook.
She really knows how serious it is. And that’s important.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
I try to be positive. “Have you talked to anyone about your problem?” I ask.
“What about your dad and mom?”
Maggie looks at me as if I’m nuts. “My mom hasn’t even noticed anything’s wrong. Once or twice a week, when she’s sober, she says, ‘I am so jealous of your figure.’ Dad knows something’s up. He said I’m dieting too much. But he’s the last person I’d talk to about this.”
That is so sad, Nbook. I can’t imagine no going to Mami and Papi with my
I suggested she talk to her closest friends like Dawn and Ducky. (I almost mention Sunny, but I don’t. Not the way she’s been these days. She pushes everyone away.) Maggie nods vaguely. “maybe.”
“One step at a time,” is say.
“Yeah,” Maggie answers with a sad smile.
Don’t know what time it is.
Thinking about you-know-who.
I was lucky today. I could have made Maggie worse. I could have lost a friend forever.
When I jabber away, I say all the wrong things. When I stop to think—when I try to be correct—sometimes I feel so phony. Like I’m trying to recite a textbook page.
Some friend I am.
Maggie’s counting on me, Nbook. I’m the only one who knows what’s on her
What if she decides not to tell Ducky or Dawn, and I remain her only confidante?
I’m not expert. What if I give her the wrong advice?
I want to talk to Mami and Papi about this. But I can’t betray Maggie.
I know what Mami would say: “Be yourself. Don’t try to fix her problem—just listen, understand, and emphasise.”
Papi would say, “knowledge is power. The more you know, the less you fear.”
Okay. I can be a better listener. Empathizer. Whatever.
But I still don’t know enough. If I understand her problem, I won’t feel like such a dork.
Teen’zine is only a start.
I’ll look for other info tomorrow.
Why wait till tomorrow?
The internet to the rescue.
(Duh. I couldn’t have thought of that before?)
‘Bye, Nbook. See you in cyberspace.
But I’m wired.
Let’s to report. I’m up past 1:00 last night. I download tons of stuff. It’s all sitting on my desk.
And I remember it.
Here it is, Nbook, while it’s still fresh.
- Anorexia is not only a problem. It’s an attempt to solve a perceived problem, even though the “solution” becomes a worse problem.