My Mum says my weight problems started when I was five. She reckons my insatiable need for food is the direct result of my after-preschool care ‘mum’, whose name I can’t even recall now, I just remember my bestest-friend-in-the-whole-world-Zoe (my world being Upper Mt Gravatt, Brisvegas, 4122). I also remember building horses out of toilet rolls and Cornflakes boxes and, of course, the food. She (lets call her Sugar Mama) introduced me to the pleasures of snacking. I discovered and eventually pillaged a world of artificial food taste explosions that was as deep as the back of the snack cupboard, which we had VIP access to. Cheezels came in individual ‘fun-sized’ packets, not like at home where the fun was sparingly rationed from a family share bag by Mum: snack dungeon master.
Le Snaks, similarly, gave me a sense of independence as only an overpackaged creamed cheese and cracker combo can. I learnt to be an independent woman that Summer. Maggi chicken-flavoured 2-minute noodles enabled me to be my own Masterchef and feed myself, should the need require it and I be forced to brave the world alone.
My mum was right, I suppose, my eating disorder did start there, just not in the manner in which my mother has always prescribed and appointed blame for. You see, my new baby bro/sis/but-hopefully-sis was coming and I smelt something stinky. My Mum was spending an inordinate amount of time looking worried, and she was also spending an inordinate amount of time with me in lieu. I became talked about in hushed tones. “Oh, how do you expect Melissa will manage? You know, with You-Know-Who, in the picture?” “Oh I dunno”, my Mum would respond, “She’s been Mummy’s little girl, we’ve been inseparable for over five years! She’s been my little buddy. But she’s ‘ad enough now. She’s ‘ad more time alone with me than this little one’ll get. She’ll learn pretty quick. She’s gunna have to. It’s good for a kid to have a sibling anyway, or they grow up too spoilt.”
You see, the problem with the older generations’ rule of children needing to be seen but specifically not heard, is that it didn’t cover the part about whether I was allowed to listen or not. And I always did. Unbeknownst to me, I had become a problem. I loved my Mum so much and I was so sad to be a problem to her that I secretly imagined my exit plan to save my Mum from me, should the s-word hit the pedestal fan. I could just make it to McDonalds (the golden arches being the only visible landmark from my front verandah) if I walked all afternoon up my street, and from there I could plot my future life. This plan generally consisted of me acquiring a pot, and a stash of 2-minute noodles, Fads, red frogs, rainbow Freddos and Cheezels. This fantasy later manifested into an actual stash of food for ’emergencies’. This was where my addiction to food really started. I was constantly anxious of my impending forced independence.
I became a bigger problem to my Mother that Summer when I stumbled upon the greatest idea that anyone had ever had…ever! I learnt from a young age that creams make women princesses for forever. And as an entrepreneur, I was going to reformulate the hydroxy-meta-compounds of face creams to create THE ULTIMATE FACE CREAM! It was so simple I actually couldn’t believe noone had thought of it, when a five-year-old had! And then, like the Avon lady, I was going to go knocking door-to-door in my street and sell it and gain my financial independence, and Mum would be relieved that I wasn’t a problem anymore! I could also stop having to convince Dad that the concept of ‘pocket money’ existed, and that money had nothing to do with my friends either wanting to or not wanting to jump off bridges. I had also recently acquired a nasty habit of pinching the extra 50c and $1 coins out of the terracotta piggy bank near the phone to fund my emergency stash. I was really keen to fix the latter of these issues at any effort because I had only 5 months ago learnt at Sunday School that baby Jesus got murdered so that no-one would ever steal or disobey their parents again. For the course of about 2 years, my petty theft led me to believe that maybe I was the antichrist who was making bad things happen in the world because I was the only person capable of breaking Baby Jesus’ spell and being bad.
The logic for my business plan was sound, I think; my process, however, was not. Or rather, the sourcing of my ingredients was not. I crawled into the bathroom cupboard and scooped out exactly half of every classy or sciency-looking bottle, jar, or ampoule. As anyone familiar with the concept of ‘the pink tax’ would understand, this was a pricey affair. I mixed all the gloops together in a big pot while I pondered changing my name to Estèe, and then redistributed them into jars and other odd empty receptacles such as Mum’s miniature porcelain watering can. I was proud as punch of my invention. My Mum, however, was not. For the first time in my life, my Mum deployed the “I’m so dissappointed in you that I don’t even want to look at you” face. And I was sent to bed.
From that day on I consistently learned that it was better not to talk to Mum about everything, but especially my plans and dreams…