I wanted to go to ballet lessons like my older sister had but my mother, the former professional ballerina, said “you don’t have a ballerinas’ body.” I went to gymnastics lessons for one semester before she said I wasn’t graceful enough on the balance beam and refused to pay for the next semester’s lessons. I was six years old.
When I was invited to my father’s second wedding she said “if you go, it will kill me.” I barely spoke to him for fifteen years. I was 23 years old the next time I called him. We went to dinner, we went to a bar and drank beer together. We have the same eyes. For the first time I realised what I had really missed out on, I realised how similar we were, I realised how much easier my teenage years might have been if I had known him then.
After dinner I cut a piece of chocolate cake and my mother said “do you really need that?” In my bedroom I talked about school with my best friend, who was a skinny girl from a family full of skinny people, and my mother walked in and told my friend she should teach me how to exercise. I was nine years old.
I sat in the car next to her on a cold morning and asked if she thought I was pretty. She concentrated on the road and told me that she didn’t think any parent thinks their child is unattractive. I asked again, I pushed the point and my mother said “I wouldn’t call your face pretty, but I think you’re pleasant looking.” I told her that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and she said “you won’t make a living as a writer.” I was twelve.
Running at 5am in the pouring rain, skipping classes to go to the gym, living on cigarettes and lettuce leaves. I was always cold, my hip bones dug into the bed if I lay on my stomach, counting my own ribs. I fainted while waiting for the bus and fell face first onto the concrete, my face covered in blood and a cut that would turn into a scar that is still noticeable ten years later. I was fifteen years old and my mother said “if you lost two more kilograms you would look great.”
And my mother said “big Bertha” and “boys don’t want a fat girlfriend, he only likes you because he thinks you’re easy” and “you don’t have the body to wear something like that” and my mother said “slut.” I was seventeen. When I was nineteen I invited her to come and visit my new house, to see where I lived. She never came.
At 22 years old I stood in her living room for the last time and told her about how she had made me feel for all those years. I told her that I was moving on with my life. I left. A week later she sent me an email denying it all and telling me I was going to be cut out of the inheritance when she died. I didn’t reply.