THE EARLY DAYS OF WONDER from Showroom of Perfections

27 04 2011


“Struck Sober”. I’d heard this expression over and over during my 20 years in a 12-step program that shall be unnamed because I respect the concept of anonymity. But let me just say that it was the wrong program for me. I mean wrong because it didn’t address my real addiction.

All those years, up to five times a week, I was praying and hoping that those rooms, filled with loving and struggling people would heal me. I silently replaced the word “alcohol” or “drugs” with “food”.

I loved those meetings so much, all my friends, lovers and husbands, they all went there and I couldn’t imagine my life without the structure and companionship of this Ersatz Family. I really tried and kept coming back, as they say.

But sadly, most of the time, as soon as it was over, I would stop at a Ralphs or Trader Joes and greedily grab what I needed to stay sane.

Bagels, Cereal, whipped cream cans, Ice cream, pasta on days when I needed to be careful with money, butter and honey and bags of nuts; all carelessly thrown in my shopping cart. I would look over my shoulder and sneak around isles when I recognized anybody who might know me. Having a kid made those overloaded carts somewhat explainable, but still…I had no time for mindless chitchat when I needed to get my drugs into my car and home as fast as possible.

Then I’d spend half the night cooking and eating and throwing up. In order to entertain myself, I had become super-creative with the way I combined food. I came up with meals that might even have been delicious, certainly novel and, well, a little strange perhaps, but I managed to never bore myself.

No wonder, my clothing designs had started to lack life and luster, considering where all of my creativity went to.

But, I always assured myself, at least I’m not shooting heroin.

The truth was quite different. Because I felt worse now then when I was drugging, drinking, wasting my nights in clubs and with one-night stands into the early mornings.

Because there is nothing lonelier than bulimia – it can only be done alone.

All other addictions involve at least some form of social interaction – from cooking dope together, sharing needles and joints, drinking in bars and at parties, sex with strangers, gambling, shopping – as shameful and destructive all those vices are, at least they involve others. And I’m all about others. I crave people, noise, distractions, chaos, love and friends and being stuck in this particular hell of isolation was so painful, that I often wondered why it wasn’t me who died from a raptured esophagus or a heart attack. I mean, it happened all the time, to other women, so why not me?

But now, back from India – I AM struck abstinent. I’m done. It’s not something I choose. That moment on the plane where I kept that sandwich down was the moment that changed everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been praying and wishing and praying some more to get to this place. I’ve done it all. From therapy and meditation, Kabbalah, inpatient and outpatient hospital treatments, medications, acupuncture, Marianne Williamson lectures, anti-parasite-diets, every New-Age and spiritual novelty, obsessive work, success, motherhood, marriage, divorce, feeling-diaries, 12 step work, Yoga, …way, way, way too many desperate methods to count – I really wanted to be free from my tormentor and I had the bills and hours to prove it.

After so many years of helpless struggle, freedom from bulimia meant so much more than just not binging and purging. By now, I attach magical and totally unrealistic qualities to my recovery.

In my fantasy, once I’m free from this, I imagine myself as a perfect being. Free from my obsession with Payne, hugely successful as a designer and writer, inspired and happy, at ease with everybody and myself – a parade of magical and fulfilling moments with nothing to interfere in my own recovery paradise.

But guess what? I’ve stopped and I’m more out of my mind now than I’ve ever been.

I can’t disappear in food anymore. I can’t blame “it” anymore. I’m so far from perfect and inspired, I’m so anxious and scared and so fucking hungry all the time, that I want to scream, pull off my skin and run so fast until my mind and my feelings hopefully catch up to one another.

Now I know. Now I know why I needed this hell and why I could not stop, no matter how badly I wanted to.

I’m raw and vulnerable. Hello, life!

As my days of abstinence add up, my world falls apart. I lose my designer job. My already always-rocky relationship with Payne becomes a minefield of constant aggravation. I’ve worshipped him and given him my undivided attention for so many years and he is used to his little co-dependant, submissive and always available wife. But without my tranquilizer of food and shame, I start to see the cracks in his charismatic and handsome veneer. He falls and crashes from the pedestal I’ve built for him, faster than I can scream, “Wait. Stay up there. Don’t you dare to become human and weak!”

Without the humiliation and my secret, I start to doubt his power. I’m like a teenager who realizes that her parents are not perfect.

It’s impossible to respect him without the illusion that he is the powerful, monstrous and all-knowing man-god we both need him to be. I’m starting to rebel against my role as muse and listener. I don’t agree with his view of the world anymore and that is another problem I did not anticipate.

A stooped little lady lugs a few grocery bags across the street in front on us. Payne shakes his head and sighs:  “Look how sad and hopeless she is. She has nothing to live for. Man, life is just so sad”.

“Why? How would you know?” I challenge him. “She could be totally at peace with herself.”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I just know,” He pouts.

He turns to me and stares me down. “I can’t do this anymore with you. I can’t be with somebody who doesn’t even like me,” he moans and cracks his knuckles.

“Ha. Because I don’t agree with your depressing observation that, by the way, might be totally wrong?”

“No, No, it’s not only that. It’s because you don’t like me anymore. Have you noticed that you’re never on my side? I mean, lately? ” He steps on the gas.

I surprise myself when I yell. “I like you just fine, but what you call liking sounds to me like you need me to worship you at all times and agree with everything, or all hell breaks lose. I’m a person, not a parakeet.”

He shrinks back, as far away as he can get without falling out of the car.

“No baby.” He looks confused. “You are not the women I love anymore. Who are you?”

I laugh. “What kind of question is that?”

“I don’t know you anymore. You criticize me every chance you get. You make fun of me in front of our friends. You make me feel so unloved and lonely.” Now he looks sad and I wish I could swallow my words.

“Let’s just go home. I don’t feel like going to the movies anymore.” He stares straight ahead, his face a mask of impenetrable pride.

“Drama Queen” I mumble just loud enough for him to hear. I sneer. “Okay, asshole. Life sucks for this lady. She is sad and hopeless. Everything sucks and we’ll all die from global warming and our kids have no future. Happy now?”

He is right. He doesn’t know who I am but neither do I.

I’ve never told him. All those years of disappearing in bathrooms, showing up late and pale, the compulsive teeth brushing, the huge amounts of food I’d consume while remaining frail and underweight, the unworldly dentist bills he pays without getting his own teeth fixed – he is used to that. He has stopped long ago to ask me because all I ever give him are lies.

I put my boots on the dashboard. “Great, so now we can’t even go see a movie? Fucking wonderful. There goes another Sunday with Payne.”

“I don’t trust you. I can’t deal with the possibility of you starting a fight and a scene in a public place.” He says without looking at me.

I cringe when I see the hurt in his posture. But I have to say it anyway: “That’s all you care about. A scene in a public place. Fine, Fuck you too then.”

We drive home in stony silence.

While he prepares a loveless meal of beans, brown rice, kale and an acidic drink that smells like water from a public pool– it’s another new and most likely very expensive diet that is supposed to clear his liver – I tie up my running shoes, hop up the stairs and as soon as I’m around the corner of our house, I get on the phone with my Kabbalah Coach. She is the only person who knows the truth. She’s been working with me for months on this and until three weeks ago, I would always stuff my face during our phone sessions. I wonder if she knows this.

“I can’t stand this. I hate him. He is such a dick. I just want to leave him” I whine hysterically. “I mean, how am I supposed to be in recovery with this?”

Of course, she doesn’t agree with me. I should have known better. She has met Payne a few days ago after a reading. He showered her with his polite and benevolent smile while he signed her book with a personal sounding and probably very funny quote. Of course, she I smitten, like everybody always is after those events.

“Tell him the truth.” She suggests, “ Allow him to understand, to get to know you. You are not giving him the chance to love you by keeping this secret. It’s time. The light has brought you here and …”

“Ya, Right.” I snap “ Oh, by the way, Payne: I’ve been lying about me and everything for 12 years. And I need you to be okay with what I’m about to tell you. I don’t think this is gonna go down well. I’m sorry, but you are no help either.”

I hang up, frustrated and irritated. I run uphill until I feel my blood burning and pulsing inside my hungry stomach.

I catch my breath and just stand there. The Mt. Washington bird sanctuary hums with late afternoon insect activity. I watch a glimmering ruby ball of summer sun sink behind a black silhouette of palm trees, bathed in shadows of warm orange and yellow streaks of smog-clouds. A lonely airplane glides silently across the evening sky. The air finally cools off after another brutally Los Angeles scorcher.

I feel a gentle breeze on my skin. I mean, I really feel it. I’m in this moment with all this unbelievable beauty around me and soon it will be night and another morning and then another day and another night. My first thought when I wake up every morning makes me want to jump out of bed and jump up and down inside my new life: I’m free. I didn’t throw up yesterday, I’m fucking free.

I touch my stomach and it is flat and smooth.

I’m really doing this. Oh God. I really am. I haven’t thrown up in 21 days and I’m not fat. Something inside me, or outside me – I have no idea – is giving me a strength I never knew I had. My most stubborn believe that I clung to with every inch of my fading life, that without my bulimia, I would be the “Girl with the pretty face, if only….” is turning out to be totally wrong.

I’m aware that I’m measuring this miracle with a very shallow stick: As long as I can do this and not gain weight, there must be something like a God. But for now, that’s deep enough.

Monah Li reads “Lady Velvet”

20 04 2011

Lady Velvet’s Dominion from “Showrooms of Perfection”

19 04 2011


Lady Velvet lounges on a purple love seat, her long legs rest on an embroidered brocade pillow. Her blood red pedicure looks intimidating shiny and new.

I step in through a door marked “Private”, self-conscious and freezing in my exquisite Agent Provocateur lingerie ensemble. The smell of the leather of my thigh high boots wafts up into my made-up face. I am not used to heels like those and I have to steady myself on the doorframe.

She beckons me to come closer and to turn around.

“Lovely” she purrs and her voice sounds just like her name. “Now lets get your waist in shape”

She gets up and I sneak a peak over my shoulder at her. Her silky robe has fallen open and I get goose bumps from the sight of her abundant, creamy white flesh, spilling out a of burgundy lace teddy.

She pulls the strings on my corset. Tight and then tighter. I gasp: “Am I supposed to breath?” She yanks another inch or two.

“ Not really. Subs don’t need to breath much.” she says. “Or do much”

“ Subs? Tell me you’re kidding!” I croak.

Now she pulls even harder. I whip around. “There is no way I’m going to be a submissive, Lady Velvet, you are crazy” I say in my sternest voice, considering the circumstance. She ties the string and turns me around to face her. “Do you need the money or not?” she asks.

“Yeah, but not like this. Sabrina said…”

She interrupts me “Sabrina? She started as a submissive, like everybody else. Funny, how nobody wants to remember that. As if it was somehow lower than being a dominatrix. It’s not”. She lights a cigarette. “It’s not like, because you have a lot of rage towards men, you can just be a dom. It’s a very refined skill that needs to be learned and practiced”

“Lady Velvet, I’m a very quick learner”, I plead. “Give me one chance and I will show you that I am a natural talent. Just one chance”

Lady Velvet rolls her eyes. “Look, I will let you show your so-called talent in time, but for now, you have to pay your dues like everybody else”.

I’m not about to give up yet. “I can’t have guys do stuff to me! I can’t”, I whine.

“Listen”, she says with irritation, “I’m letting you wear black. All my other subs have to wear white. But on account of your considerable values, not at least your beauty and your accent, you can wear black. My last offer. Don’t stress my patience and generosity”.

She scribbles a number on her business card and hands it to me. It says “”. “Study this and be here tomorrow at 10am”.

A homely face with frizzy blond hair, puffy eyes behind drugstore glasses sticks her head into the door.

“Heya’ll, I’m here for my shift. I’m gonna change real fast for Mr. Briefcase”, she singsongs. She steps inside, her flabby body squeezed into a velour tracksuit. When she sees me, her face darkens.

“Don’t kill yourself, Queen Dawn” Lady Velvet says. “He called to say he’s gonna be late”

Lady Velvet gets back to me. She looks at me, deep in thought. “You have a Snow-White beauty, but with a nasty undertone”. She thinks some more. She steps away from me. “I got it. Your name here will be Belladonna. From now on, you’re Belladonna. Welcome to the family”.

She opens the door and I am dismissed.

Outside in the tacky foyer, I reach for my coat, still in my lingerie get-up. I have one arm in my coat, when the heavy entrance door opens and in steps a no-neck Asian security goon, his eyes glued to the floor. Behind him is an executive looking man, cruelly handsome in silver cropped hair, dressed in a 5000$ Armani suit. The goon carries an equally expensive looking briefcase. He sets it down next to Armani Suit, bows and steps outside without looking up.

Suit guy does a double take and reaches for my hand. “Oh hel-loo”, he coos. “I didn’t get your name”. “Monah, I mean, Belladonna”, I stutter and belt my coat.

“Don’t tell me you’re leaving!” he says. Lady Velvet takes his coat.

“How lovely to see you, Mr. Goldman, Queen Dawn is ready for you upstairs” she smiles.

Queen Dawn, now all dressed up in extreme dominatrix gear, purple leather from head to toe, black lipstick and fake eye lashes, glides down the stairs.

“You’re late, Slave. I hope you have a good excuse. Queen Dawn waits for no one”

I can’t help but giggle.

Mr. Goldman’s eyes feast on me while he gently touches Lady Velvet’s arm. “Can I talk to you for a moment? In private?” he says, without taking his eyes off me.

They disappear into her office. Queen Dawn crosses her legs and gives me a mean evil eye.

Lady Velvet returns from her office with Mr. Goldman.

“ Belladonna, Mr. Goldman wishes to have you in his session too. Queen Dawn, take her upstairs to the Midnight Room and show her the ropes, so to speak. Thank you, Queen” With this, she dismisses us both.

Inside the midnight room, Queen Dawn gathers equipment. Handcuffs, riding crops, whips and heavy chains, I guess, the usual torture equipment, and sets it all down under a big fat rope that is mounted into the ceiling. Mr. Goldman shuts the bathroom door behind him.

Queen Dawn, her eyes mean slits, glares: “It’s very bad form to snatch clients. We don’t do this do one another.”

“I didn’t do this. I was just about to leave.” I stammer, “I don’t even know what to do. I’m totally freaked out”

Queen Dawn arranges the equipment without looking up at me. “He’s easy. Light spanking with lots of pretend drama. The hardest part is to avoid sex. He always tries. Obnoxious”

“Sex?” I gasp, “ This isn’t supposed to be about sex”

“Of course, sex”, she snorts, “It’s all about sex. Do you live in a fairy tale? Not giving it to them is what this is about. That’s what they pay for”

Mr. Goldman enters from the bathroom, his clothes neatly folded in his arms. I have to stifle a laugh when I notice the rainbow with a unicorn printed on the ass of his ridiculous tiny little-girl panties.

Queen dawn whispers “Don’t you dare to laugh”

She fixes her eyes on him “ Slave. Keep your eyes to the ground at all times. Now let me check on your folding job.” She throws a pair of cuffs at me. “ Here, use those to tie him up. He’ll whine, but have no mercy and do it tight”.

I snap the cuffs on him. Queen Dawn picks up a dangerous looking riding crop and without further ado, wanks him on his ass, hard. He groans. Queen Dawn sneers: “You call this a good folding job?” yank.  “Didn’t we have a talk about this last time, slave?” yank “On your knees, slave. Do it again.” Yank. “Fold it! The right way, this time”

Mr. Goldman whimpers, “ I am very sorry, Mistress, it will not happen again.” He unfolds and folds all over again.

Queen Dawn yawns. “Shut up Slave. Now, Belladonna. My boots need a cleaning. Get down.”

“Excuse me?” I say.

“You heard me, Slave Girl”. She swats the riding crop on my calves and I jump.

“What the fuck?” I scream.

“Language, watch your language, Slave. Now get down on your knees and lick my boots.” She hits me again. “I’m just about to run out of patience. You!” she hisses at Mr. Goldman “Crawl over here and help her”.

I get down slowly. Mr. Goldman pampers her boot with his tongue. But when my face gets so close to the unicorn, I crack. I really try, but I can’t stop myself. I look up at Dawn and she is pressing her fist into her mouth. We both explode into helpless laughter.

Mr. Goldman doesn’t seem to notice. With his tongue on her boot he mumbles in a little boy’s voice: “Are you satisfied, Mistress?”

I am back the next day. Lady Velvet puts her hand over the phone and points to me. “I hope you did your homework, Belladonna. He’s on his way to see you. Alone this time.”

I tie him to the leather bed. He looks at me with cow-eyes.

“I missed you, Belladonna”

I don’t know what to do with him, so I talk with my best Austrian accent. “You better be good, you dirty little insect”

He likes this. “Oh mistress Belladonna. You make me feel like an Auschwitz prisoner. I fucking love you”

At this moment, Lady Velvet sticks her head into the room to check up on us.

“You do not use profanity in here, Mr. Goldman. Is that how you speak to your mother?” I hiss. Hs face crumbles. Lady Velvet steps in.

“Leave Mr. Goldman’s mother out of this, Belladonna. It’s one of our rules here”

Now I’m really out of my element. I look to Lady Velvet for a clue when he moans. “Oh mistress, hit me. Please hit me hard, like Mommy used to”

Lady Velvet nods into my direction and closes the door behind her. I take the biggest whip I can find and hit him, not hard at all at first. Suddenly, I really get into it and whip him again, over and over. What I feel, the rage that comes over me scares me. Until I feel something warm on my hand.

“Oh Mistress. You got me so excited, I’m having an accident” he giggles. I jump back and watch a stream of urine splashing from the opening of his girl panties.

“You did not just piss on me!” I yell at him.

“I’m so sorry, Mistress Belladonna”

“Shut up, you sick fuck!” I slam the whip down on him. And just in time, I remember the website. I unhook his ties and push his face into the urine puddle.

“You better clean this up, Slave”

In utter disbelieve, I watch as he laps up his own mess. He really does what I tell him to do. With renewed confidence, I yank him up.

“I’m still thirsty, Mistress” he sighs.

“I know you are” I say and drag him towards the bathroom. I sit down on the toilet and pee. He whimpers. When I’m done, he crawls to the bowl and begs: “please let me wipe you!”

“No” I say, “Get down and drink, asshole”

I stick his head into the toilet and push him down. I smack him on his ass and allow him to come up, toilet water streaming from his face. I push him down again and watch bubbles floating up. I yank his collar.

“Now, lick the rim, Slave.”

I check my watch. The hour is almost up.

“That’s a lousy job. You don’t deserve to lick my toilet.” I say, now bored.

He slowly raises and looks at me with doggy eyes. I throw him a towel. He cleans himself up.

“Allow me and accept my gratitude.” He reaches into his jacket for a handful of $100 bills.

“You may place it under my boot”. I offer.

Back down at Lady velvet’s office, Mr. Goldman is in his suit and has regained his executive aura. Mr. Pitt, the security goon waits by the door, his eyes, as always, are glued to the floor.

Mr. Goldman gushes: “Lady Velvet, Belladonna just earned her first Academy award as ‘Best Supporting New Dominatrix’. She is truly divine.”

He turns to me: “Thank You Mistress, you’ve made my day”

He kisses my hand. Pit holds his briefcase, opens the door for him and they leave.

As soon as he is out the door, I sink into the sofa and laugh until my eyes spill over with tears.

“Where the fuck did this come from? I mean, WHO AM I?” I snort.

Lady Velvet smiles at me. “ You’re Belladonna at Lady Velvet’s. You’ll do fine. See you tomorrow”

THE FIRST TIME from “Showrooms of Perfections”

18 04 2011




This year’s birthday is so different than the last one, where I waited in NY for my connecting flight to Austria, starting to kick and feeling so desperate, scared and ashamed about my forced return to Vienna. I had nothing to look for but getting fat, losing my true love – meth and heroin – and all my boyfriends, my LA sugar daddy and all the crazy fun I’d been indulging in for the last year.

But this time, still in Vienna, just a year later, everything is totally different.


I’m successful beyond my wildest dreams. I have a bank- and a savings account with more than enough money to get back to LA and start my business there. I have a studio that is so outrageously gorgeous – everybody who steps in here sighs with envy and admiration. I have friends; a commune I’m living in with people I adore and my out of control eating has been under control for a while now. I’ve lost most of the weight I put on in rehab.


I have a long list of costumers who pay me incredibly well to dress them in my designs and I am happy and independent. Dr. Herman has signed my papers and I have booked a flight back to LA three months from now.


My friends are throwing me a party as a birthday gift in this really cool Middle Eastern restaurant and everybody I care for, everybody who means something to me shows up. Costumers, Renate, Veronica, Petra, my therapist and most friends I hung out with before I left for LA. Some of them were angry with me, for fucking myself up in America. I guess they were mostly scared that I would not come back from my drug-trip and not be the person they loved anymore.


Even Christian, the love of my life before America seems to have gotten over his contempt and disappointment that I’ve fucked up. Honestly, he was the main reason that I stayed in America when my visit with my mom should have been over. I was supposed to go back to University for my second year of med-school, but when September came around, my mother offered to pay for Fashion School in LA.

I told myself that I did not feel like going through another cold winter in the commune I lived in.

But Christian had ripped my heart out when he broke it off with me. He held my hand across the bar we had drinks in and I knew what was coming before his words hit me like a sharp riding crop.

“I have to become an important artist. I know I have it in me. But I love you so much and I’m so afraid to lose you if I don’t marry you right now. I want to have babies with you and settle down but I can’t. I guess you could say I love my art more than you. I can’t do it both. I rather be miserable and miss you forever, than to not follow my dream.”

We both cried and got drunk and for the first time in nine months, we slept in separate beds.


I could not bear to stay and stand it to live with him in the commune, listening to him fucking girls he brought home from the bars we still went to together. He could not either. When I brought Hubert home, a tall and handsome architect who was totally in love with me and stayed over, Christian gave him the stink-eye over our bleary-eyed morning coffee.

Than he handed him two huge bags with trash and asked innocently: “Dude, since you are on your way out anyway, you wouldn’t mind throwing this in the trashcan down stairs, do you?”

I could not help, but giggle. Hubert was such a graceful gentleman. With total self-confidence and grace, he replied:

“No problem, man. See you tomorrow” and hoisted the bags over his shoulder on his way out. He kissed me in he doorway, in full view of Christian and all our roommates and slammed the door behind him.

The trash bags sat right in front of our door when Christian left for wherever he went to. He never asked Hubert for “favors” again.

And then there was the fact that I had not seen my mother in over ten years and now I had her. I needed a mom, so I stayed.


Everybody is here in the restaurant.  I’m almost acceptably thin again, dressed in my own designs, confident and giddy with excitement. I feel so immensely grateful, but at the same time, I can’t believe how fast everything has changed.


And then Marcus shows up. I’ve had a crush on him for the last few weeks; we’ve been hanging out every day, enjoying an easygoing friendship with a lot of tingly sexual tension. He is the cutest boy – not as cute as Christian, but I’m a little crazy for him. Actually, a lot.


When he enters the restaurant, I blush. All my friends agree that we are or should be a couple. I’m struck by how handsome and beautiful he looks and how naturally he moves and talks. Everything seems so easy for him, like he never has to think first about what to say or how to act. He’s not Christian, who is for sure the best looking man I’ve ever been with – movie star beautiful with his perfect chin, perfectly shaped bedroom eyes, almost blindingly white and straight teeth, curly and thick brown hair, that he wore just so, not like a hippie, but like a true New Wave Hipster and such an artist at heart. But Marcus is a lot like him, maybe a bit more straggly, not so perfect, but hot and sexy – those boys form the Tyrolean Alps have the kind of confidence and humor about themselves that makes me love them, maybe because my dad is from the same mountains. I never had any attraction for men from Vienna.

Most Viennese men are funny and interesting, but they hide behind a sticky veil of sarcasm and dark reflection. Viennese men are prone to hypochondria and focusing on what’s wrong. They whine and complain a lot and watch way too much TV. But maybe I do not want to betray my dad, who has nothing but contempt for those guys. I dumped my first boyfriend form Vienna to please my dad.


I am always happy when I see Marcus. Even when we just go out for breakfast or get vegetables at the farmers market, mundane things we do since we are practically neighbors, I’m always in a delirious state, a mix of feeling comfortable around him and the sense that I can be who I am. I feel liked and appreciated. Sexual tension is slowly building up between us and we both know it. It’s this delicious state of attraction before anything serious has happened, before the reality of two people who are not the same, but feel like they are, has set in.


About 40 people eat, drink and celebrate my birthday, which also marks my first year off drugs. I sit between Marcus and Christian and I can’t imagine a more perfect moment. Everything is just so right. Marcus leans over to give me his present – he has made a bracelet for me out of tiles and wire and it’s the second greatest gift I ever got from a boyfriend, right after Christian’s “Painter Rat” a few years ago – now that he has become one of Austria’s most successful artists, it’s a priceless art object I still hold on to.

Marcus plants a sexy kiss on my lips. I notice with satisfaction that Christian is jealous. Marcus asks me to step out with him and we lean against the wall of the restaurant.

He kisses me and then holds me away from him.

“Monah, I’m crazy about you. I’m in love with you. But you are leaving in a few weeks and I can’t have my heart broken again. You’ll go back to America and I can’t stand to miss you and I just can’t get into this right now.”


I have gotten new sheets for this night.


I kiss him back and whisper: “Three months is a long time, baby. None of us knows what might happen tomorrow”

“Look, I want this as much as you, if not more” and I feel from the way he leans into my body that he means it. “But I’m not as strong as you. I know myself. I’ll be such a mess when you’re gone and no, I can’t”


But then he kisses me again. We make out on the street that is still warm from the summer heat. What he does wipes his words out, at least in my mind. But he stops and takes my hand.

“Lets go back inside, it’s your party after all. Please, lets be friends, I like you so much, and you mean so much to me.”

“OK. Let’s be friends” I force myself to smile, but my heart screams in pain and sinks into the underground Viennese sewers. So does my mood.


All of a sudden, that yummy food I ate with so much pleasure before, feels like a nasty and disgusting load of dead maggots inside me. Instead of returning to our table, I sneak into the bathroom and lock the door. I bend over the toilet and before I can even stick my finger down my throat, everything I ate spills out into the bowl.


Suddenly, out of nowhere, I got the magical touch. I stumbled on the solution to all my problems. I mastered bulimia. I can do this! I’m on top of the world. I finally am in control.

I rinse my mouth out at the sink and check my face in the mirror. My make-up is in place, my eyes are big and bright and my face looks small and tight, not bloated and red like it always did after all my countless unsuccessful attempts to throw up.


I’m high when I sit down at the table again. I’m not sure yet if this was just a fluke, so I sample a bunch of other dishes and disappear again inside the toilet stall. The food almost falls out of me, just by contracting my stomach muscles. It’s like, I’m meant to do this. I must be or it wouldn’t be so easy. Is this the Universe’s Birthday gift to me? Yes!!!. It certainly is.


I’m free. I’m powerful. I give the finger to every diet I’ve ever been on and say, “Fuck you” to ever getting fat again.


The world and all the food in it is mine to enjoy as often and as much as I feel like it. There is a treasure chest of food I’ve denied myself since I was ten or eleven, a world full with possibilities and delights. From now on, I am in control. I don’t need drugs anymore.


I fantasize of Viennese pastries, bread, cheese and butter, nuts and chocolate and whipped cream, cakes and cookies and everything I’ve tried to avoid my whole life. This is no fantasy anymore. This is real. I can have it all.


I’m free. I’m fucking free of the tyranny of diets, hunger and the humiliation of being fat. Watch out, mom. I’ll beat you. I’ll be skinnier than you have ever been. Fuck all of you, fuck all of this, I love my life and all of you people in it. Fuck you, Marcus, fuck you Christian, fuck you heroin and meth, fuck every women’s magazine that tries to tell me what I should eat to look like the fucking skinny models you cram down my throat and make me feel inadequate and like a loser cause I’ll never be like that. Fuck you diet programs and most of all, fuck you, fucking shame and fear.

Here! Watch my stretched out middle finger, telling you to fuck off. Your time of dominion is over. Now, I’m the master of all of you tormenters. I’m in control now. Now and forever.

When the birthday cake arrives, everybody sings and claps and I have the biggest piece of cake and damn, do I enjoy it!


15 04 2011


But Monday morning, I leave the hospital as if I was going to Peter Herman, but I get off the subway on St. Stephen’s Place and call in to work.

“I’m sick, some female problems, I guess.” I say to Petra while I check out new fabrics at the best Inner city fabric store.

“Feel better, I’ll make sure to tell Dr. Herman. He should be at the hospital later anyway to make rounds. Maybe he can prescribe something to you. “ She says kindly.

“Well, ya, I’ll try to ask him, but al I want to do id sleep” I feel bad about lying to her and of course, the fact, that the doctor will not find me at the hospital is a problem I have to deal with somehow.

“No wait!” I have an idea “I’m going to the clinic to get checked out. So I’m not gonna be there. I’ll let you know what they say and when I can come back to work”

So, this gives me a day of freedom to work. Tomorrow? Who knows?

I buy a super expensive wool crepe and silver buttons with the money my father gave me for cosmetics and with the 40$ that came back from America. When I step into the salon, Werner grunts at me as a way of saying “Good Morning”. He barely looks at me.

Damn, what did I do? Is he mad at me?  I worry while I take the steps down to my new kingdom.

A few minutes later, Werner comes down with gorgeous a tall blond woman who looks like she stepped out of an aerobics commercial. She grins and shakes my hand.

“I can’t believe I et to meet you! Werner told me so much about you. I’m so excited.” She gushes. Werner winks at me and I pick up on his public relation trickery.

“Well, I’ll leave you two alone, I have a lady with foils under the heat lamp. Monah, take good care of Susanna. She runs the restaurant next door and she could use your genius to make some really necessary updates to her wardrobe.”

“Oh Werner, hahaha, only you can get away with comments like that, you bad boy, you!” she blushes a bit and turns in his direction, but he’s already upstairs.

“Can you believe that? If my husband talked to me like that, I’d kick his ass. But Werner, he’s so honest, he just says whatever comes t his mind and I totally appreciate it. But not everybody likes that. He has a reputation as the rudest, but best hairdresser in Vienna.” She makes herself comfortable in one of the ancient barber chairs and pulls on the fabric of her designer jacket that looks like it cost two years of my Dr. Herman salary or Kenya’s GDP.

“So, how would you dress me?” she asks.

“I could see you in a dress like this one” I’m still wearing the dress I made yesterday “ But on you, it would look smashing in red, a deep ruby red. And a dark grey jacket, belted like a trench coat. That would look great on you” I’m just free floating, improvising as I grab for words in the dark. But she digs it.

“You are fantastic. I would love to have this dress in red. And a jacket. Lets start with this and go from there. How much money would you like me to leave as a deposit?”

She doesn’t even ask how much it costs. Jesus.

“Two thousand for now” I say nonchalantly, as if I’d taken thousands of Euros for a dress before.

She takes her check book out “Are you sure that’s enough?”

“For now, yes” I say and she writes the check. As she hands it to me, she giggles “Werner told me a bit about your unorthotox method that you developed to make patterns that fit better than anything out there. I’m ready.”

I roll out 2 feet of construction paper on the floor and ask her to lie down on it. She takes her shoes off and stretches out. I outline her body just like I did for myself just one day before.

When we are done, I measure her chest, waist and hips and put my pen away.

“That’s all you need?” he wonders

“That’s all I need, yes. It works, trust me,” I say.

“Can you come over for lunch over at my restaurant? I would love to chat with you. You seem like such an interesting and fascinating women.”

“I’ll try. Thank you very much. I’ll have to check my schedule. If not today, can I have a rain check?” I panic at the idea of food. I just don’t want to be tempted or even think about that. I want to get to work and not eat at all. Who knows what will happen once I start?

I open up a bank account with Susanna’s check and then, since they will not let me take any cash out yet, I return to the studio and start to work on Susanna’s pattern. Then I start on my own jacket.

By the time the salon closes, my jacket is almost ready. I dread the hospital and the moronic jokes and stupid junkie/prison people more than ever and of course, most of all, Dr. Herman. Holy shit! He was caught up in his sweatshop and never made it to the hospital!

The next days I pull the same trick and go to my studio instead. Werner brings me a few more costumers and by Friday, I have 10.000 Euros in my account. I meet with Renate for another fabulous party, but when I return to the hospital – a minute before curfew, my social worker looks grim.

“It seems you haven’t appeared at your work-rehabilitation program all week. Dr. Herman is very upset. He expects you on Monday and you better show up. I’m on your side, but my word doesn’t count for much, so please promise me that you’ll go. I care for you and I’d hate for you to get in trouble.”

“OK. I’ll go. But only to quit”

“We’ll se about that. I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Good Night.”

I spent the weekend at Werner’s studio, working, creating and some of my old friends drop by. They can’t believe that I lucked out and got that space. I sense some jealousy, but mostly, they are happy for me. My ex boyfriend, my love and heartbreak and one of the reasons I went to America, drags me into the bathroom of the cellar studio and has wild and passionate sex with me. I’m starting to be happy to be in Vienna, but this doesn’t change my longing to go back to LA as soon as possible. But at least I’m not miserable and full of shame and dread anymore. I have something to live for now.

I show up in my new dress and my new haircut at the Slave Camp and Dr. Herman checks me out with hostile eyes as I waltz into the sewing room. By noon, he calls me into his office and closes the door behind us.

“You are a little bit too confident. No, no, I’m not saying that that’s bad in itself, but for a junkie, just three months off the needle, that’s a red flag. I’m going to need a pee-test from you” He hands me a plastic cup and calls Veronica in to go to the bathroom with me.

The test comes back clean. His face darkens.

“Whatever is going on with you, I’m going to ask you to keep it down. The way you strut around here, that’s just not healthy. You’re making the other patients uncomfortable.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, “Are you saying that I’m not allowed to feel good?”

He leans back and closes his eyes. He sighs: “I’ve worked with addicts for 20 years and I can tell you, false confidence always leads to relapse”

I get up. “I’m not going to work for you anymore. I got my own studio and I’m going to design what I want. I appreciate what I’ve learned here, but I’m ready to move on.”

He laughs. “That’s not really up to you to decide. You are court ordered to be in an inpatient program for nine months or they will not let you back in the US. I’ve seen your papers. You’re going to have to stay.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“I am very serious. And what’s this nonsense about your own studio? You don’t have that kind of money.”

“I don’t. Werner Berndorfer gave me his downstairs rooms…”

“Werner? Honey I know that sleezeball. He doesn’t give away anything for free; did you have to fuck him yet? I mean, if you ask me you’re lucky if that’s all he wants from you. He’s into kink.” He interrupts me and giggles.

“You’re wrong. I already worked there all of last week. Yes, I called in sick to work and obviously I wasn’t. I went to work instead. Sorry. And you can’t keep me here. I’m here on my own behalf. You do not own me”

He sneers and adjusts his way too tight leather vest. “If you want me to sign your papers, you will have stay for another six months. End of conversation”

He leads me to the door. Just as he is about to dismiss me, I mention in a tone that would be more suitable for a pleasant cocktail party conversation.

“Do you know Renate Possarnig?” I say pleasantly.

“Who doesn’t?” he glares, “that slut who lived with Kaddafi, so she could write a book about him. Everybody in Austria knows about her”

“Well, she mentioned that she would like to write an expose about your so-called work-program. That you use patients and state-money to get your collections made. She says that’s kind of illegal. It is, isn’t it?”

He walks back to his desk and lights a cigarette. I sit down again and look at him for a long time. He stares back with his little pig-eyes.

“What do you want?” he finally says.

“I want you to release me from this job here. I am willing to stay as a patient in your hospital until the nine months are over. I will participate in group therapy and show up every night. Unless I’m busy. And you will sign my papers and give me an excellent review and prognosis. Deal?”

“I don’t make deals with patients” he snorts. “Who do you think you are?”

“Honestly, I don’t really know yet. But I know that I just got the chance of a life time handed to me and I’m not going to pass it up”

He slams a folder on the desk. His face is now shiny with sweat and red with rage.

“Get out of my office. Veronica will show you what to sew and you better be on your best behavior and do what she tells you to do. If you ever want to go back to Los Angeles, or wherever you just came from, you better shape up and forget your crazy pipe dreams of your own design studio. Ha! I can’t believe the nerve you have.”

On my way out, I kick his stylish trashcan and slam the door behind me.

I sit down at my sewing machine, my hands shaking. Veronica hands me a pattern to cut out and I get to work.

“What was that all about?” she whispers.

“Nothing.” I mumble, with tears creeping dangerously close. I swallow and take a deep breath.

“I need to make a phone call, ok?”

Before she can say anything, I storm outside into the coldest snow and sludge on the street. Without my coat, my teeth are clattering. I am so cold. But I find a phone booth and place a collect call.

“Renate Possarnig at Profile Magazine”, I tell the operator, “Yes, collect, she will take my call”

I spend the next few hours of this day sewing and nobody dares to ask anything else. I am quiet and focused and when Dr. Herman pushes through the room on his way out, I don’t even look up. I don’t talk to anybody and nobody addresses me either. They all know better.

At five in he afternoon, he returns. He stops in front of me and waits until I look up.

“We need to talk,” he says, almost politely.

“Okay. What?” I say, like I don’t know.

“Lets get some coffee. Veronica, would you please excuse us?” he grabs my coat and my purse and walks out in front of me.

Out on the street, he helps me into my coat and signs me to follow him. We stop in front of a Coffeehouse and he holds the door open for me and lets me pass inside before him.

Ha! That dude has manners after all! I think and smile.

We sit down and order coffee. He picks desserts from a passing tray, a huge plate of pastries and cakes and tucks into a fluffy Danish. It disappears into his mouth and he is on to the next. It’s a trip to watch another person pig out, but thank God, it isn’t me this time cramming food. He keeps offering hi plate, but I decline.

When his plate is almost empty, he wipes his mouth and beard and orders the waiter to remove the plate. Than he scoots forward in his chair.

“I’ve been thinking about our talk. I have come to the conclusion that you might be right. I will let you go. Under one condition: You stay until the show because I really need you and you will be at the booth and help out.”

“I can live with that. The show is in one week. I’ll be happy to be there and do what I can. But after that, I’m not working for you anymore.”

“I’m glad we could come to a compromise. I’m not a bad guy. I really want my patients to learn skills that will prepare them for work after they are released”

“Thank You, Dr. Herman” I smile as I get up and reach for my coat. He jumps up and helps me into it.

“See you tomorrow!” he calls after me as I walk out, hiding my triumphant smile. I skip out of there. I’m free.


14 04 2011





I show up to work in my new studio on Saturday at 7 AM. I got fabrics and everything I need, but what I don’t know yet, is how to make a garment from the beginning. I’ve learned to sew quite well during the last three months, but I have no idea about pattern making.


I find a huge piece a brown wrapping paper and pin it to the wall. Then I draw an outline of my shape – something I will do many times in Eating Disorder Therapy – and cut it out.


Werner hobbles downstairs. His leg is in a cast, but even though he’s obviously in pain, he is in a friendly mood. He watches my attempt to figure out how to make a dress and laughs.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, but it looks like fun”. He stands close to me and I can smell shampoo and cologne on him – the smell from his upstairs hair salon.


Here it comes, I think. Payday. My dad always said that nothing is free in this world, especially not from older men who are generous and attractive. Well, so what, you’ve done worse for less, goes through my mind, but still, I step away from him.


He reads my mind. “Don’t worry, I’m into the very young ones, my weakness. I love the really young girls. Not to offend you, you are hot and attractive, but I’m taken. My little Yugoslavian apprentice upstairs is my girlfriend and I’m too old to keep up with her. You’ll meet her soon and I want you to make a very special dress for her. Deal?”

“Ok. Deal. I’d love to, Werner. But I have a lot to learn first. See this cut-out figure? That’s not how it’s done, but I’ll make it work somehow. I always do”

We look at the shapes, now spread out on the floor and I sigh.

“I can’t believe what a fat pig I am. Look at this. I used to be half of this”

“Don’t ever call yourself a fat pig again if you want to keep this place. The last thing I need here is a self-hating woman who infects my girls upstairs. You’re juicy and curvy and god dammit, accept it or throw yourself in a diet.”

I know better than to tell him about my countless unsuccessful diets. I’ve been on diets since I was 12 and the only ones that ever made me skinny, were speed and heroin.

“Naw, I’m not up to that right now.” I reply.

“Well then, work with what you have. I must go back upstairs, but I’ll send you one of my clients, a really nice lady who owns the restaurant next door. I told her about you and she is excited to meet you. You will like her”


With this he leaves me alone with my tools and fabrics. I start to work on my dress and somehow I figure out how to transform my two-dimensional copy of myself into a three-dimensional pattern. I take a deep breath and cut into my very expensive black knit fabric and then I just sew. A few hours later, with music blaring – Einsturzende Neubauten and The Fall – I try it on and I have to admit that this dress is really cool.


It’s tight and long and goes all the way up to my neck. I’m fat, but this dress makes me look curvy and sexy and when I check myself out in the huge mirrors, I feel almost high.


When Werner comes down to my cellar with his apprentice in tow, her almost unreal beauty floors me. She is skinny, of course, but so gorgeous, that she would even be beautiful with 30 pounds more on her. She talks in a little girl voice, but what she says sounds intelligent and way older than her 17 years.

“Werner, look at this dress! I want one just like it. Please? It’s just so, so, I don’t now, different and mysterious. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Werner winks at me. “Of course, baby! You’ll get one just like it. Monah, can you make a trace of her like you did before? I mean if it’s convenient for you, I’m sure you have hundreds of other things to do?”

“No, It’s my pleasure. I have enough fabric left over anyway.”

He kisses her on the cheek and leaves us alone.


While I work with her, she tells me about her drunk and violent father and she cries when she talks about her mother and her siblings. She lives with Werner outside the city in a converted farmhouse and is safe from her father’s abuse. I start to really like her.

A few hours later, she has a similar dress like mine and she looks stunning.


A warm feeling of accomplishment and happiness spreads through my body and my mind. I’m good for something. After all, I’m not a useless mental patient without a future, except relapses and prostitution anymore.


Werner loves the dress on her and invites me to come upstairs and get my hair done. For free. Until then, I’ve died and cut my hair myself all my life and even though, the half shaved, but grown in punk rock haircut was good enough to dance in LA Clubs, I’m ready for a little bit of professional help.


There is a reason he is Vienna’s number one hairdresser. He is a genius. He cuts and dyes and blows my messed up hair into a chic bob that is worthy of a blooming designer. The person that looks back from the mirror is a hot and confident woman, ready to take on the challenge to do what I always knew I was meant to be.


From this point on, that’s what all my designs are all about. Show it off. I don’t hide my fat ass in baggy jeans anymore. No more overalls, no more flat boots. I’m glamorously fat and no, I’m not proud of it, but this is the beginning of some kind of acceptance.


While I’m feverishly cutting and sewing, I have no idea that this will be the cornerstone of my career, but I’m aware that I’m on to something.


Most women I know are not happy with their bodies, everybody is on a diet or some kind of program to be thinner than they are and it’s just a never-ending cycle. I personally don’t know anybody who has really lost weight. Except Sassa, the girl I used to turn tricks with before I went to America. But she is dying from AIDS.


If I can find a way to design clothes that make me feel all right the way I am, than others will respond to that too. I don’t know how right I am, I have no idea that soon, I will be known and celebrated for that kind of work. Right now, I’m just so happy to work and not crave drugs and I don’t even notice that I have forgotten to eat.

One Year Later

8 04 2011


I don’t want to call this a year of sobriety, because god and my friends know, it wasn’t exactly sobriety – not from substances, alcohol, outright craziness, sexual acting out, emotional roller-coasters and lots of fear and doubt – but wait, this is what a first year without the drug of my choice looks like, no?

But this year I became myself. When I walked out of my 15-year relationship/ marriage a year ago today, I was a completely different person. I was beaten down, at the end of my wits, at the end of everything.

I walked out of my husband’s mansion all the way up on Mt. Washington, away from money, power, prestige and total humiliation.

I moved into a place all the way down the hill from his gorgeous, art-filled and spacious palace into a cute little house that’s the size of his bedroom.

A year ago on this day, we returned from Robert D’s Birthday Party in Malibu and sat down to watch Madman season four. The episode was all about Don Draper’s cheating and I could not take it anymore, got up, wandered out on his magnificent terrace, overlooking all of Highland Park and San Gabriel Mountains, sank into one of his tasteful redwood outdoor chairs and started to cry. I cried like I never cried before. Payne came out, took me into his arms and the we both cried.

I realized in this moment, that the cheating would never end, no matter what he promised, swore and pleaded. I knew that if I stayed, I would have to become a character from Madman and accept that he would always have other women and cheat and lie and I could either accept that or leave.

I choose to leave. I walked up those stairs, got into my car and drove down the winding roads I’d driven thousands of times before.

I went home to my place and made a reservation at the Biltmore Hotel to end my life. I was done. 15 years of making this relationship work had led to this. I could not imagine a life without him, but the life with him was so painful, so degrading and so crazy making, that death seemed like the only place to go for peace and relieve.

I did not die. I lived and the people that came into my life at just the right moment showed me that there could be something worth living without him.

I loved this man with all of me, with all my heart, with a ferocity that made me love him even when he had stopped loving me. We had a connection and a love that was able to overcome our craziness, our fights, our constant break-ups, our doubts and fears of closeness. We shared the ugliness of our addictions and we held on to the hope that we could save each other.

I still love him. I still miss him.

But my friends who gathered around me and took my weeping calls at 2 AM and assured me that I was a person, a women, an artist, a worthwhile human being, a blossoming power to reckon with, slowly convinced me that I had a right to exist and a reason to exist and something worthwhile to contribute.

Piper, Lisa, Kateri , Rachel, Mesmera, Anne, Diana, all my friends, but most of all, Elda  – they all took over and became the cornerstones of my new life. They saved my life. And of course,  my lovely daughter, who needed a mother that was alive when she went through her own, crushing depression.

Today, I am grateful. My brain is my own brain now. I used to think and judge the world with Payne’s brain, that was negative, paranoid and, well, his brain, not mine. It was a struggle, but eventually, I got my own self back.

My own self is still a mystery to me. Allowing Payne access to my mind and the way I looked at the world was awful and ugly, but safe. Safe, in that I did not have to use my own intellect and critical thinking – he laid it all out for me – but that safety never felt right and kept me in shackles and caged.

I am Monah now. With all my flaws and talents, with all my very own demons, but it is me now I wake up to and most days, I love who I am. Just like everybody else.


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