A very honest and emotional interview….

28 11 2011

Monah Li to Host Show on Indie1031.com Tomorrow, Nov. 27th – LA …
We had a great time last week sitting down with design icon and author Monah Li . We shot a video blog of the designer (currently being edited) in her chic new …

Interview with the Hip Mix Membership Team about Belly Dancing

4 08 2011

1)     What brought you to belly dance?

I had just gotten into recovery of the most awful addiction I can think of (and I’ve had quite a few others, so I know): 19 years of non-stop bulimia.

19 years of binging and purging, day after day. A good day would be three times, but most days, I threw up five to 15 times. Even when I was not binging and just eating a perfectly healthy and low-calorie, vegan and balanced meal, the feeling of food in my stomach was unbearable and I had to get rid of it.

Every restaurant I went to, the first thing I did, was make a beeline to the restrooms and check out if the doors locked and the flushing worked. Only then did I order and eat. Most of he time, I managed to eat like a normal person, ordering what everybody else ordered and eat just that. But when anybody left food on their plate, I wanted to snatch it and stuff myself. I could not understand, how one could leave food on their plate – what a waste! I always cleaned my plates down to the last morsel and as soon as there was nothing else to munch on, I’d sneak off to the bathroom.

I could vomit without a noise. Even with somebody in the stall next to me, I flushed to scramble the sound of splashing, bend over and let it all come out. I had this insane believe, that since it was so easy, I was meant to do that. No big deal. No retching and burping, just a little splash and it was all over, all gone.

If the toilet looked like it might not be able to handle such overload, I’d just throw up in the wastebasket. Still today, more than four years later, I wonder how to make amends to the poor fuck who had to handle the garbage bags. I imagined a tired overworked janitor, lifting the bag out of the basket, ready to go home after a 12 hour shift of cleaning toilets and tables, getting splashed by a totally unexpected exploding and leaking bag of vomit.

Afterwards, I’d feel such relief, such a surge of adrenaline and dopamine, that I could return to the table and rejoin the conversation, high and happy, with much more enthusiasm than before my visit to the ladies room. Of course, this high never lasted. All too soon, I’d find myself hungry, shaky and desperately looking for the next food-fix. I’d suggest “Hey, what about dessert?” and greedily grabbing the dessert menu.

“How can you eat a whole meal and still have room for dessert?”

“Oh, I’m just blessed with a real good metabolism.  Look at my mom and my dad! That’s where I got it from” I’d lie with practiced lightness in my voice. The people who had met my parents nodded their heads.

“Your parents are really in great shape. Man, you are lucky! I wish I could eat like you and be as skinny as you. I guess it’s all genetic after all”

What I failed to disclose, was that both my parents were anorexic, obsessed with exercise and diets and that I grew up despising overweight people, as if they were the source of all evil in the world.

And of course, I never, ever let on how panicked and terrified I was to gain weight and join the group of humans that had obviously no self-control and dignity and no right to take up so much space in the world.

During dinner, when I had to live with my father and my overweight stepmother when I was a teenager, my dad told me that he had gotten into a shuffle in the subway. He was full of pride when he relayed his triumph:

“I was pissed that there was standing room only and when I saw this fat cow taking up two seats, I asked her politely if she had paid for two tickets. Of course she snapped at me, how to mind my own business, but I got right into her face and ordered her to get up and make room for others who had paid their fair share. Half the wagon got into it and agreed with me. She heaved herself out of he seat and out at the next station. Everybody was laughing. What a hoot that was and best of all, I got a seat!” he boasted.

Not funny, you asshole.  I kept that thought to myself and pushed the food on my plate around, high on diet pills, supplied by my grandmother, who was always on a diet.

Finally, alone at home, I did not have to keep the show of being a normal eater going. I prepared and ate such enormous amounts of food, plates and pots lined up in front of me before I sat down to read fashion-and literary magazines, and book after book; well written, convincing, intellectual and smart books and articles about politics, global warming, conspiracy theories and manifestos that would scare me to tears without the buffer of food between me and the information I was able to inhale and comprehend. I was able to focus and read difficult to understand information because I was stuffing my face with my drug that kept me emotionally just removed enough, to read on for hours.

I was very well read and informed during those years and could join just about every conversation. People thought about me as smart and intelligent and were in awe of the amount of knowledge I could provide during every discussion.

During those reading-and food sessions, I had to get up every twenty minutes or so to rid myself of the food I shoveled into me without tasting anything. Then I would go back to my books and magazines as if nothing had happened and keep going until I would either pass out from fatigue or because there was nothing left to eat.

I had heard of people who would eat what they threw up and that really grossed me out. I would never do THAT. That would be really sick and I was not that crazy. No, not me.

Until one day, I was out of food and sneaked to my neighbors trashcan to look for left over’s. They were spoiled and disgusting, but what did it matter? It would not be long enough inside my stomach to do any damage. I ate green bagels, gruesomely covered with fungus and rotting chicken wings, spoiled cheese and once – be still, me heart, I came across a half eaten birthday cake, fresh and moist, dripping with rich frosting and sugary letters on top. All I had to do was scrape off the drips of candle wax and – hell, what’s wrong with eating a perfectly good birthday cake from a trashcan?

I was sick a lot during those years, going from doctor to doctor, from quacks to healers, always complaining about the fatigue and the bloating of my hands and my stomach and the paralyzing depression that I could not explain.

Even during my pregnancy, I was binging and purging day after day, racked by guilt and fear of what this would do to my unborn baby. But no matter how firm my promises and decisions would be every morning to stop and eat like a normal person – by noon, I’d find myself shuffling tuna, corn and beans from the can, not even bothering to use a plate. I was a hopeless case of an addicted women, so out of control, that nothing, not even the concern about my baby, could keep me from gorging myself with food I did, for the most part, not even like or enjoy.

Then, after almost 19 years of this insanity, I stopped.

I was on an airplane, returning from New Delhi where I had spent two weeks in a factory, designing my new collection. The night before I left, I looked at the samples I was about to bring back to my business partners and knew with squeaky and shaky certainty, that each one of those dresses and tops I had worked so hard on, sucked and would certainly be rejected and ridiculed by my nasty French Business Partners. After I packed the ill-fated samples and my belongings, I called and ordered room service.

The cart with covered dishes arrived, complete with a set of four plates and I signed the check, made out to my room that was paid by my partners.

“Where is your company?” the polite and quite attractive waiter asked as he laid out the feast.

“They are on their way” I smiled “leave the covers on to keep it warm, they are delayed by an accident on the main road”

“As you wish, mam” the waiter smiled back and handed me the room-bill to sign.

“Would you like me to keep you company until they arrive?” he winked.

“No, no, it’s quite all right, they’ll be here any moment” I flirted back. Get the fuck out of here you smuck and give me space to do what I need to do.

He finally left and I sat down to my lonely dinner, not even bothering to get to the bathroom a few feet away to throw up in between stuffing the excellently prepared cuisine down my throat. I used the flimsy wastebasket to get rid off the shrimp and lamb, the chutney and rice to make room for more. I tried to pace myself and at least enjoy the excellent and quite expensive meal for four, but it took less than an hour until it was all gone. Now what?

My fear and apprehension about the ill-fated samples in my suitcase stuck to my brainpan like the sticky mango-rice I could not vomit up, no matter how deep I stuck the hotel supplied toothbrush down my raw and bleeding throat.

I woke up bloated and fat, tired and so depressed, that I could not even look at the array of empty dishes, covering every surface of my beautiful hotel room.  To the cleaning personal it must have looked like the end of a decadent party and I dropped a handful of Rupees and Dollars on the nightstand before I rolled out of the room, dragging my overstuffed suitcases out to the waiting taxi cab.

I did not know this then, but for reasons that I still don’t understand, this hotel-orgy was to be my last binge.

On the airplane, I asked the stewardess to remove my tray with gloppy and over-salted grub after a few bites. I snaked my way through a crowded isle to the dirty, piss smelling lavatory and before I could bend over to relieve myself of the few bites I had eaten, a vision of an enormous, old-fashioned picturesque scale with grains on both sides of the scale in perfect balance appeared between my face and the dirty toilet. It stopped me cold. I saw this scale and in a vividly bright and eerily colorful vision, I imagined how my self-destructive action would add the one-grain to cause the scale to tip over, causing a horrible earthquake, floods and worldwide destruction.

The precarious balance of our earth, already tipping towards irreversible damage and death was just one grain away from total annihilation and adding that grain would be my fault. Shivers ran down my spine and I sat down to pee. A wave of diarrhea gripped my body and I sat there for what seemed like hours, wracked with cramps and fear.

When I was finally able to get up, I had decided not to be the cause of the destruction of the world that was after all, home to my daughter and my friends.

I retuned to me seat. For the first time in 19 years, I had left a toilet without vomiting. A sense of peace and calm enveloped me and I joined a conversation between a professor of art who flew back after evaluating a collection of antique paintings and a women who had just gone through a serious cleansing process in one of the many ashrams in the South of India.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I stepped into a limousine my wealthy boyfriend (and almost husband) had arranged for me to pick me up.

As I had expected, my partners in our fashion company rolled their eyes when I presented them with my work. I excused myself, claiming extreme fatigue from traveling and drove home to the crappy cottage cheese ceilinged apartment I had rented; so that my daughter could go to the High School she had begged me to go to for years.

I quit my job and spent the next few days at my future husband’s mansion in Mt. Washington. I was done with the bulimia. I ate very little and never once threw up. We got along and were in love. I attributed this to my sudden honesty and lack of secrecy and maybe I was right – at least during those first few, almost magical days.

But I was terrified of gaining weight, I fact, I was convinced that I would certainly get fat, so fat that somebody would eventually ask me to give up my seat – not in the subway, since I never had set foot into the LA subway (except once, when the only way to get to the anti-war protest in Hollywood was by subway), but maybe somewhere else, on a plane maybe?

My solution to that phobia was to spent hours at the YMCA. I did not enjoy this at all – to work out, run on treadmills, doing Pilates, Yoga and swimming, because I only did it to feel good after words and to calm my overwhelming panic.

To make matters worse, my back, that had been bothering me for years, started to hurt again. I was in constant pain, probably from over-exercising and at one point; it had gotten so bad, that I was scheduled to have back surgery. Thank God I backed out of it at the last moment. But now, with my new, even more brutal and Nazi-like regime, the pain had become almost unbearable.

One Saturday afternoon, on my way downstairs to the hateful smelly locker room and the torture machines, I noticed a belly dance class going on in the big hall upstairs.

It had been a difficult and painful day so far. My new husband (we had finally gotten married after 13 years of me nagging him to) let me know once again that he had done me a huge favor by marrying me and I felt unloved, unwanted and alone. From the moment I woke up, I could not stop thinking about food. I needed relieve so badly. I imagined and obsessed over the almost orgasmic pleasure I would get from buying a cake at the Glendale Armenian bakery, sit down with it at my kitchen table and read all the magazines that were heaped on a huge stack of things I could not read without food. I missed reading. I missed my best and always reliable friend to provide me with comfort and ease, if only for a few hours. I knew how horrible and disappointed I would be afterwards, but the tension that had built up inside of me over the last five months was about to explode and take me down. I ate my regimented breakfast of one egg and half of a toasted bagel and took a bite out of the other half.

I chewed for a few seconds, relieve and pleasure washing over me, the trance I was so familiar with, so close and so available, almost winning, when I remembered.

What the fuck are you doing? You know where this one bite will lead to!

I spat that bite out, jumped into my workout clothes and raced down  to the Gym.

I gingerly opened that door to the class in progress, guilty and scared because my new husband had told me at several occasions that “the last thing I want in my life, is a wife who belly dances”

Why? I don’t know. I was too sacred to ask. I was a co-dependant and scared little women and pretty much followed all his (sometimes quite bizarre) rules.

But as soon as I stepped into that room, I immediately fell in love. With the music, the clothes and the challenge of it. I had done ballet as a child and some go-go dancing, but I never was any good at it. I had tried Jazz- and Modern dance but quickly given up because I was to inpatient and un-coordinated to follow the simplest choreographies.

Now this wasn’t any easier either. But something inside me, the same power and determination that had kept me from being bulimic for five months by then, made me stay inside this room. I was totally bad at it, I could not even make a turn without bumping into somebody and I was anything but graceful. I was a wooden stick figure, ungraceful and ugly. Every glance into the huge mirror reflected a stupid and ridiculous creature back to me, an untalented creep who drew undisguised contempt from the other dancers and what had to be annoyed disgust from the pretty and snake-like moving teacher.

But I stayed. I tried. And suddenly, that one step and move that looked like I could never do would never be able to conquer fell into place. I was doing it! Damn it, I did that little combination without stumbling and falling over my own feet.

I dared to take a closer look at the teacher. Something about her felt familiar. Her voice? Her dark hair with the bangs that fell over her eyes? That small, but curvy little body, clad in tights and a shimmering hip scarf?

Before I could figure it out, she walked over to me, took my hand and announced to the rest of the class: “This is Monah Li, one of my oldest and dearest friends in the world. Please welcome her. I am so happy to see you here!”

Oh my God! Now I remembered her. Eloise, the long time girlfriend of my ex husband, the father of my daughter. I had stolen him from her, just as he came out from rehab. He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, a Billy Idol, but way more attractive and hot. We fell in love immediately. The fact that he had a girlfriend, who had been standing by him through the years of his heroin addiction, was lost on me.

Now, almost 20 years later, this same women offers me, not exactly friendship, but kindness and welcomes me into her class. I start to go to every one of her classes, two times a week for two hours and slowly, but steadily, I learn the moves that save my life.

2)     In what ways has belly dance improved your life?

First of all, my back problems have completely disappeared. I became friends with some of he women in my class and I needed those friends when I finally left my husband. Going against his rules was my way of taking my life back and I started to ask myself what I wanted, not what he asked me to like.

I wanted to become good at this and I started to go to other studios. Soon, belly dance was all I did  – in regards to exercise – and every little success, every little step I mastered, made me more confident. I realized that I could learn if I put my mind to it. No more watching the clock or the treadmill read-out, hoping that the hour would be over soon. The hours I spent learning to belly dance went by way too fast.

I also watched other women with bigger bodies and I was able to see their beauty – every women of every size became beautiful once they danced.

I stopped being so paranoid about gaining weight, because I could see a different kind of beauty that did not depend on size. To my surprise, I did not gain any weight, even though I had stopped all my other exercise routines and allowed myself to eat more. I actually have a better body now, more shapely and defined than when I was slogging through boring routines.

3)     How long have you been dancing/performing/teaching?

I have been belly dancing for more than three years now and have performed in a few showcases in different dance studios and street fairs. I take classes 5 times a week, about 7 hours per week and I’m steadily learning and progressing.

One thing is sure: I have talent in many areas in my life: fashion design, writing, meeting new people and making friends , painting, even some singing and playing guitar– but dancing is not one of them. I lack the natural ability that I see in other dancers who pick up moves and steps much faster, with way more ease than I do. I have to make up what I lack in talent and natural ability by working really hard.

4)     How does belly dance make you feel?

Happy. Pretty. Accomplished and excited. It has influenced the style of clothing I design and I have new love and interest in designing. Most of all, it helps me to say abstinent from the bulimia – because I dance almost every day, I never want to be to weak or too ashamed to show up. Whenever I learn a new step, I new move, a new cill-combo; I realize I can learn in small steps and it all adds up eventually. No step is ever too small, a achievement too little to let me know, it pays to be humble and willing to admit that I don’t know something, so I can be open enough to learn it.

5)     Who is your biggest inspiration?

Mesmera, Oceana, Kat Scraba, Brandi Centeno, Jen at Dance Garden – almost every teacher inspires me.

6)     Who is your biggest supporter?

I think my teachers. Most of my friends. One of them, Jane Cantillon just asked me to do a little solo performance before her next show, her band “Dick and Jane Family Orchestra” (Good bluesy rock and roll) at TAIX Restaurant in Echo Park. It’s at 10.30 at night and with most people in the audience, including myself, being a little intoxicated by then, I think I can do it. I’m working with Brandi on a cute little 4.30 minutes choreography. But the best part of doing it solo is that nobody will know that I’ve messed up.

7)     In what ways has belly dance boosted your confidence?

I think I described that in detail in my answer to your  first question. Basically, the fact that I’m able to learn and get steadily better gives me confidence. And of course, dancing at parties and clubs and getting attention for dancing the way I can now, makes all this a lot more fun than it was before.

8)     How do you practice?

I go to different teachers 5 times a week and have no time to practice at home, unless of course before a performance. I do little moves in my car, like hand-rolls and hip-shimmies at read lights.

9)     What was your “Ah-Ha! I’m a belly dancer moment”?

One was when I bought the red belly dancer sandals from Mesmera and they made me look like a real belly dancer.

The other one was when I could do a shoulder shimmy for the first time. After almost a year of trying, suddenly, there it was.

10)   How does belly dancing help balance your life?

It gives me something to look forward to, especially on days where I feel like smoking cigarettes or relapsing into bulimia. It gives me much needed structure that I don’t have as self-employed artist/ businesswomen. I am not so much tempted to skip meals, because I don’t want to collapse during class, so my way of nourishing myself has greatly improved.

11) What made you want to try belly dance?

Ten years ago, when I opened my first retail store, the guy who designed and organized my fashion show at the store, hired belly dancers and drummers for life-entertainment and life music. The sow was a huge success, mostly because it was totally different than most other fashion shows. But I was so scared of my husband’s disapproval; I did not even dare to look into the possibility of doing it myself. Plus the knowledge that I was so devoid of talent when it came to dance, kept me away from it for another decade. Until that fateful day when I stepped into the class at the Y, instead of getting downstairs into the gym-torture chamber. Please refer to more on this in the first question.

11)   Where would you be without belly dance?

Without being too dramatic, I probably would still be married and be mousy, quiet and scared little women. I might be dead, because if I hade gone back to bulimia, I would have been dead in a year. Women, who suffer from this illness, usually die in their late 40ies, when their bodies just give out. At the very least, I would still be dragging my starving little body to the gym, to Pilates and onto the treadmill, counting the seconds until I could go home again.

12)   Any obstacles that you faced or still face as a belly dancer?  Please share.

My lack of talent for dance in general – it does not come naturally to me. That I started so late in life, when my body was already battered by my disease – I have full blown Ostheo Porosis – and that I have to be extra patient with myself and my progress.

13)   What advice would you give to a newbie?

Enjoy and take it easy. Belly dance is not a competitive sport. It’s okay to feel like the last person in the class to get it. Make friends with other dancers and develop a friendly, kind and helpful atmosphere. Be patient and kind to yourself and others – you will learn it, no matter how long it takes. And last, but not least: appreciate and celebrate every tiny success.

14)   What’s in your practice bag?

A few skirts and tops that are light and not too heavy (it does get very warm sometimes) to change into, since I usually come to class from work. Ratty ballet shoes. A bunch of hip scarves to loan to newbie’s who show up in sweats. A few veils to loan out. Cillls and a hairclip – my very long hair, as pretty as it looks, sometimes feels like an extra blanket of heat. Dance cards and fliers for upcoming events.

15)   What do you wish people outside of belly dance knew?

That belly dance is meant from women for women and has nothing to do with strippers, even though they use a lot of our movements just because they are sexy, looked at it in the wrong light. The moves are sexy, but because this empowers us as women to experience our selves as sensual beings, that enjoy our connection to our bodies. Belly dance is therapeutic and spiritual. It’s no coincidence that the Eating Disorder Community of therapists and doctors has started to recommend belly dance as an additional tool to healing.

16)   Anything you want to leave us with?

I said already so much, too much – please feel free to edit my ramblings and story telling.

I do credit belly dance with my new, really awesome life.


“Showroom of Perfections” Whole Foods

10 05 2011


Christmas Holidays 2004. Payne is grumpy and I ice-skate and tiptoe in wide circles around his moodiness, careful not to become the object and the cause of his anger – about what? I don’t really know. But I have mastered the art of slithering away from him and to let his bitching glide off me.

“If it doesn’t have your name on it, it’s not personal”- is my new mantra. But when I don’t engage and fight back, he gets even madder. He needs to unload on somebody and today, just for today, I’m not going to be his lightening rod.

Or so I wishfully think.

It’s my job to provide dinner for New Years Eve, so I go off to Whole Foods. At first, everything goes as planned: I load my cart with fish and veggies, brown rice and hummus. A few cartons with rice milk and supplements he requested.

I’m going to make this New Years Eve dinner delicious, healthy and I will be agreeable and only engage in light conversation. Right. This is 12-step speak and it never works. I mean, it works as long as I’m by myself, but as soon as we get together, I am a miserable bitch who takes everything personally.

As I prepare myself mentally for this night, my heart knows better. I hurt inside, I’m nervous and shaky and I know that my dinner will end up where it usually ends up: barely touched on his plate.

“No, no, it’s really great, I just don’t feel like eating much this days” he’ll sigh and push the plate away. I always want to stick his miserable face inside the food I prepared and force him to eat, but of course, I never do. He weighs twice as much as me and I’m not that stupid.

With this recent memory locked in my mind, I scoot over to the bakery department. Oh yeah. I wasn’t planning to, but here I am. This is what I need.

Without even bothering to use the tissue paper they provide for hygiene, I grab a few muffins. Chocolate chips, oatmeal, banana, raisin and walnut muffins, two of each. I stick them in paper bags and bite into a fluffy bran muffin. The taste and the sugar work immediately – I feel encouraged and much less worried about the night in front of me. Whole Foods bakery items are heaven. I load up on flan; organic cream pie and then I notice the “health food” cookies. They are huge and look freshly made. They are expensive and normally, that would make me at least think twice. But I have just refinanced my house – the third time in a year – and what the hell, I can afford this, no?

By the time I reach the register, I have eaten eight or maybe nine of those cookies and have about 20 more of them in my cart.

I pay for our food with Payne’s Credit Card, but I have enough morale and fear left to use my own cash for the binge food he will never see.

All the way home, I stuff myself and revel in the exquisite taste of Whole Foods bakery recipes. By the time I reach my house, I have one measly cookie left and I feel much less excited. I’m stuffed and fat. I manage to store the “normal” food for our dinner in the fridge and use one of he empty bags to vomit into it.

My plumbing has showed some signs of trouble, no doubt from overload. I can’t afford to fuck it up, not during the Holidays where its costs twice to call a plumber. But I’m creative. I can get around this issue; I’m an excellent solver of unforeseen problems – always ready to do what needs to be done.

I tie the bag in a tight knot and set it down by my door in the hallway. By then I’m hungry again, empty and a little dizzy. And I don’t want to have a bag of vomit in my trashcan, so it’s only logical to get back into my car to drive back to Whole Foods.

I plan to deposit the shame-bag outside in a trashcan and get a few crackers to calm down my upset and I imagine, horrified stomach.

The bag plops into the huge can and I wander back into the store. I get the crackers. But then – you guessed it – I’m back in the cookie-and muffins section.

“What the fuck, its New Years Eve. I deserve to eat. I’m underweight anyway. I’ll just get one more of those muffins and this time I’ll keep it inside” I think and off I am.

One muffin. Only one.

“But it’s gonna be like eight hours until I cook for Payne. I’ll be starving by then,” I argue with myself.

“Fuck it. Get what you want. The only think you’ll regret when you’re on your deathbed are the things you didn’t do”.

Yes, exactly, that’s so true. And who cares? I’m the only one who’ll know.

I load up on everything that looks good and this time I pay with Payne’s card. After all, it’s his fault that I’m so nervous.

I make it home without eating everything and settle on my comfy couch. I read the New Yorker, Harpers Bazaar and Vogue while I eat my delicious Whole Foods loot. I pace myself this time – I want to at least get to the last page of Vogue before I have to use another bag.

But then I get to an article about those bitches from Juicy Couture and my blood starts to pump. “Why them? Why do those untalented knock-off chicks with their fake hair extensions and fake lashes get Vogue attention? Why them and not me?”

I eat faster. With my sticky fingers I roam around inside the bags on my couch and – fucking fuck, they are empty!

I get rid of the contents of my bloated stomach into two bags and off I am again. Back to Whole Foods.

By now, I’m quite shaky from so much sugar, but I need more. I’m in the food trance and there is no reason and rhyme to that. Just enough to stay away from the bakery. I fill my cart with oily clams, sushi, soup and bread, cheese and a huge container with salad and make sure to get in line at another cash register. The guy is cute and flirty and even though I’m not in the mood to engage in checkout banter, I laugh when he chats with me.

“Wow. What a healthy eater you are” he looks me over “No wonder you have a body like this. I wish I could eat like you, but I just can’t, no matter how hard I try. The seductions in here – I can’t resist. Have you tried the muffins? Never mind” he laughs as he tallies up my health food fare. “Good thing you stay away from this”

I think about the three bags of vomit outside in the trashcan and blush. He is so cute; of course he thinks that he causes my red cheeks.

“Any plans for tonight?” he winks.

“Oh ya. I’m cooking for my husband” I say and give him my charming “Sorry, but I’m taken smile”

“Lucky guy” he says “Lucky guy”

“Yeah, but he’s pretty cool too” I manage to lie.

“Some guys have all the luck” he smiles with a sigh while he swipes Payne’s card.

“Happy New Year” I mumble while he stacks my purchases into another bag.

This time I don’t make it home. I shuffle the greasy oysters and the sushi into my mouth before I even get to my house.

Again, all of it ends up in the sturdy plastic Whole Foods bag, by this time; I don’t have the energy to deposit my sinful garbage anywhere else but in my neighbor’s trashcan.

I’m so tired. Exhausted and sick and so full of shame I can’t stand my own company. It is only three pm – enough time to take a nap and recover from my abuse before I have to show up at Payne’s house.

I lie down and crawl under my covers. I am shaking now. My heart beats so loudly and my brain pulses with the beginnings of a headache I know all too well.

“God. God if you are there, if you exist: I want a different life. Let me live this time without a stroke or a heart attack and I promise I’ll never do this again. I want another life than this. I really do.”

I fall asleep and when I wake up, I have just enough time to get dressed, grab the food from the fridge and drive up to Payne’s house. Happy New Year.

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.

Showroom of Perfection DAY ONE Chapter 35

22 03 2011


Aroona races in her black SUV (I never bothered to look at the make of it), honking and swerving, flying over man-sized pot holes and chasing skinny cows out of our way. She slides into the International slice of airport and screeches to a halt. As soon as I open the door of her air-conditioned monstrosity, the 120-degree heat engulfs me like a hungry mouth. We drag my suitcases to the entrance of I-Don’t now what Airline and the door swooshes shut behind us.

It is much cooler in here, of course.

“Be safe, my love”, she coos, before she turns around. I get into a line of hundreds of sweating travelers, snaking in roped up lines up to security.

“Please don’t leave yet,” I beg, terrified of spending my first minute in this country without her experienced protection.

“You’ll be fine, babe. Just drink water and relax”, she says, clearly wanting to leave.

We’ve spent 14 days together. In her SUV and in her factory. The only times I’ve been by myself were inside the hermetically sealed room of the hotel. Everything else, I experienced through the tinted windows of her car. Safe. Safe enough to take pictures of beggars and cows and rikshas and wondering people in colorful robes and saris.

We’ve been to clubs and restaurants in ice-box like malls where the electricity goes out twice an hour. I’ve learned that my blackberry is a lighting device and that the electricity always comes on again.

“Remember the big ball you will have to push uphill once you get back”, she giggles, but we both know that this is not a joke.

I stand in line in a strange country and I’m in a cold sweat panik. I will miss my flight. There is no way to get through security in less then 20 minutes. I pull out my i-pod and check for the movies I planned to watch during the 20 hour flight. My i-pod is dead. I shake it. I unplug it. Damn technology. I stuff it back into my purse.

A black eyed security guard who looks like Omar Sharif points to me. He smiles. I smile back. He points to the top of the line and winks me over. He’s going to rape me. He’s gong to throw me into a New Dheli prison and I will never see my daughter again.

But he makes his way over to me and pulls me out of the line and leads me to the security check point.

“Have a nice travel”, he grins and I’m in. I get on the flight.

The stewardess brings me a tray with food. I am hungry and I bite into the sandwich. I always liked airplane food. I eat the sandwich and open the container with the dessert. But, damn, this is the strangest sensation, I realize I’m not hungry anymore.

The dessert, some sweet Indian riceball floating in honey syrup calls out to me. But it has no power over me. What the hell is happening to me? I push it away. The stewardess comes by again and I ask her to take my tray. I lean back and drink a mini bottle of water. I am about to get up. But I don’t. I just sit there and feel the sandwich in my stomach.

It wants to come out. My body is not used to keeping food inside. I feel dizzy and nauseous. I get up and make my way to the bathroom. I sit down and pee. I wash my hands and return to my seat. That sandwich stays inside me. My stomach revolts and cramps. I lean back and close my eyes. I fall asleep.

When we get to Chicago, I am hungry again. It’s been 16 hours since the sandwich. I buy another one and a container with yoghurt to calm my belly. I eat it and get on the plane to LA.

By the time I get there, I feel so sick that throwing up seems the only way to feel normal again. I lean against the door of the bathroom stall and force myself to breathe slowly and even and I calm down enough to get my lagguage and make it to the limousine (courtesy of my “husband”) that is waiting for me.

Back home, in my shitty South Pasadena rental with the cottage cheese ceilings and the nasty white carpet floor, I unpack and call Philippe. I take a shower.





Philippe and William yell at each other when I unlock the door to our design-loft. They stop only long enough to watch me dragging in the suitcases from the lobby, then they go right back to their fight. William is drunk.

I hang my samples on the grid and William smiles. He touches my face and drooles “That’s my girl. That’s what we needed. I love you”

Philippe pushes William into the wall and wrinkles his nose.

“That’s it?” he asks, “That’s all you have to show for? This is very disappointing”. He digs in his nose and pulls out a brown bugger and flips it in the direction of the floor, but it gets stuck on his grimy orthopedically correct office chair.

William takes another swig from his kosher wine bottle and sobs: “See what you have done to me? To my family? To Philippe? You have ruined our lives.”

I am used to those scenes and until now, I would go downstairs, stuff my face with 7/11 muffins and Mars bars, throw it all up and deal with it. But now? No way.

“You know what?” I say calmly “I don’t want to work with you anymore. You owe me a lot of money that I’ll never see. So I’m gonna take those samples and that’s just it”

“Don’t you dare to leave us” William shouts. “Don’t you dare walk out with this stuff. It’s not yours. We paid for your trip”

“Don’t worry, William, she’s not gonna leave. She loves us. We are family, aren’t we, Monah? We are family!” Philippe smiles at me “This stuff is good, real good, let me take it over to the showroom right now.”

“No” I say as I take my Indian creations off the hangers and fold them into a neat pile. There is a black Barney’s bag on my desk, almost large enough to fit everything into it.

“I am done with you. You can take me to court if you think you have a chance. Good by”

As soon as I’m I my car, I start to shake. I can’t believe I’ve grown a spine. I pull out of the garage and drive home.

Showroom of Perfection SUCK ME Chapter 11

10 03 2011


Suck me             

After my second assignment for the LA Weekly, about the pitfalls and triumphs of being a fashion designer in LA, I get hired to write an expose about all the doctors that advertise in the LA-Weekly, offering cheap lipo suction and more.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to send you to those sleaze-doctors and ask for lipo suction, I mean you can’t weigh more than 95 pounds, do you?” My editor suggests during our four hour lunches, we indulge in every other week or so.

“Yes, that would be pretty weird, if they agreed to do it”, I laugh. “But I don’t think it’s gonna work out, I mean, look at me. That would be really crazy”

“That’s the point,” she says. “But promise me one thing. Seriously. Get a bone density test. Please!”

“Okay, sure, no problem”, I lie. I’m already excited about my new assignment and I’ll say anything to get her worried eyes off me. I’m fine. I’m skinny. And this is all I have.

The next day, I start me job. Surprisingly, I get an appointment for the same day! Off I am, to Beverly Hills, a little superior and convinced that I will have to use at least some of my imagination, I mean lies to be exact, to get this story going. I mean, who would offer to suck my ghostlike skeleton body? No way.

The first appointment is easy. I expect to be thrown out in less than a minute.

I’m wrapped into a cheap paper gown and pore, just short of enraptured, over the “Before and after” photos at the “Beverly Hills Surgery Center”.

My 11-year-old daughter is a healthy 130 pounds. I am a successful fashion designer and I just bought my second house. I weigh 95 pounds, but honestly, in my mind, I’m a fat pig in a city of hungry ghosts.

And here I am.

            When it is my turn to consult with Doctor Oskar, a big-boned man in light green scrubs, he first points to a photograph behind his desk. It’s of a group of Laker Girls. He proudly explains how he has “done them all.”  The girls look alarmingly boring with their same-sized breasts and store-bought lips. He hands me his book of frenzied “thank you” letters and “before and after” photographs. The letters hum with gratitude: “Hello from Hawaii, thanks to your boobies I enjoyed my vacation” and “I love my new thighs, I named them after you.” I think about naming my thighs, and settle on Freud and Jung.

            After I tell the doctor that I want liposuction, he leans back and cracks his knuckles. He sits silent for a second and then asks: “How long have you been thinking about this?”

“Forever”, I lie. “Every time after I eat”, would be closer to the truth.

           I have to push my T-shirt up and he fondles the imaginary roll of “fat” edging over my waistband. He walks to the other end of the room to fill up his Styrofoam cup with scorched-smelling coffee and looks at my stomach again.

 “I definitely could improve this, specially here in the back,” he pinches my skin, “probably with micro-liposuction. That’s a very easy procedure and since you’re not overweight, we’ll give you 10% off.”

Ha! What a deal. Since, as the good bulimic I am and lately, also quite anorexic, I’ve done pretty much all of the surgeon’s work already.

He stands up and sticks his hand out.

“Ms. Li, our coordinator Bill will be with you in a second to set up the details for your operation. A pleasure to meet you!”  He rushes out.

            While I wait for Bill, I picture the doctor lying on the couch in his office, masturbating to the image of him getting fondled by the Laker Girls. I also think about my boyfriend and hopefully soon-to-be-husband, the celebrity- junkie- writer. Women throw themselves at him.  They call him “Junkie Jesus” and “ the Patron-saint of Dirty Girls”. As always, I wonder what he is doing right now.  That hamster treadmill inside my brain never slows. I wonder when it will finally snap.

      Bill has the air of a former weightlifter gone to flab. He wants to sign me up right away. For only $5000 I can be sucked to perfect flatness next Monday – if I put down a third of the cash right now and order my “pressure garment” no later than today.

 “Actually,” Bill suggests, “Order two garments. Because of the leakage. You wanna be able to change it when you need to!”

            Leakage? That startles at first, but then I think, “What’s a little leaking? The road to perfection is bound to have a few puddles.”

 $5000 to be sore, swollen and packed like a Jimmy Dean link into a stained pressure garment in the screaming heat of an L.A. summer to reach a perfected version of myself. How bad can it be?

            I come from a family of doctors and pharmacists and I even dropped out of med school, just there long enough say that I went. Plastic surgery fascinates me because it’s like designing a dress: remove a piece here, add something there and change a few details until it’s perfect. Many years ago my mother decided that I’d “never get a husband with this nose” and dragged me off to get my oversized potato-shaped nose minimized. It worked. I mean, I’m almost married now. To a cheating and violent poser, but, hey, he has power, money and prestige. My family expects no less and I comply.

            My next stop is at the “New Me Institute”. The ad is from the LA Weekly, a garish full-page model that looks like the kind you get when you can’t afford the real deal. She is, no other way to say it, a beast, with darkly outlined rubber lips and breasts up somewhere by her throat, showing it all off in a porn-style string bikini.

Doctor Shola, a squat guy in a too large white coat, enters the exam room where I’ve waited for 20 minutes, glances at the clipboard and asks:

“Lipo? Lift your shirt up and pull your pants down,” and suddenly, before I can pull back, he pats my face, gently stroking a strand of hair off my forehead. “I can make you beautiful,” he says and turns to his assistant who looks like an older version of the slightly mauled girl in the ad.

“She’ll need six areas. Write it down and have her sign it.” Then, trying to touch my face again – this time I’m prepared and jerk back – he smiles and utters perhaps the most terrifying words I have ever heard: “I’ll be your doctor for life. Let me make you as beautiful as God wants you to be” 

          I force what I hope is a smile on the face he wants to re-arrange. “You’ll be so much happier with yourself, I promise,” he says. And that’s that. Coat flying behind him, he rushes out the door.  The assistant, with her absurdly nice demeanor now steps in as my new best friend in the battle against the accumulated mass of imperfections that is my self.

“I’ll give you a special price. Because you are the ideal patient, not overweight with just a little to correct. I wish all our patients were like you. There is an opening – someone cancelled for Monday at 7.30 a.m. Usually we have a waiting list of at least a year, but you are lucky. Is this going to be cash or credit card?”  I promise that I’ll check my calendar. Passing through the waiting room I see young and pretty women, chugging from their plastic water bottles.

    A block away, I meet Doctor Petrowsky, a tall, burly man in gray scrubs with a grimy-looking mask hanging off to the side of his neck. His face looks sweaty and tired, but he carries with him a cloud of energy when he bursts inside the narrow examination room.

After a cordial greeting he hands me a thick folder with “Before and After” pictures and leaves me alone with them.

     Most of the photos include faces lacking clarity, in part because the light is so obscure, but also because their expressions are a little nonsensical, pre-op drugged probably. After I have thrown my clothes in a heap on the chair and changed into a paper garment, Dr. Takowsky returns and looks at me, taking in my whole body with his surgeon’s eyes.

“ Honey! You need a lot of work.  Your waistline, your abdomen for sure, and see, here! Here on your inner thighs, here can you see?” he explains, excited and almost convincing. But I can’t really see it. “ What? You can’t see the fat on top of your inner thighs, all the way down to your knees?” He sighs. “This needs to go. Turn around,” he commands.

My paper coat crackles. “Oh, and here we will have to do a fat graft to fill out your trocanter, you’re down to the bone here.  You don’t eat much, do you? But I can fill that out.”

“What is a trocanter?” I ask.

“It’s your hip bone, feel, here.” He leads my hand to the spot between my hipbone and thigh.

“There is an indentation that is very unattractive. I need to graft your fat onto here, to make you more rounded. Believe me. It’s a much sexier look”

         Incidentally, this is the other question I’ve been burning to ask: What do they do with the fat? I mean, is there a black market for cellulite?  Maybe they sell those troughs of yellow fat to the penis implant doctor down the hall. Or do they turn it into small movie stars?

            “I’m so glad you asked. “ he beams, “Because I developed an amazing way to use the fat. Let me get you my special labia book.”

            An assistant cracks the door open and whispers: “Doctor, the lady who just got the Botox collapsed. “

 “Oh her, she just got up too fast.” He says, not concerned at all.

“ What if she dies?” the girl sounds nervous. The doctor slips out discreetly.

            I’m still only half dressed, when he storms back in.

“You’ve got to look at this book! What I’m about to show you is easily the most, the absolute most important and powerful procedure any woman can and should have done. I developed it, kind of by accident, but let me tell you, once the first girl called me afterwards, I knew I was on to something!”

            He starts off by reading gushing ‘Thank You’ notes to me: “The best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” “Really hot,” “Way more sensation,” “My boyfriend almost cried,” and “He looooves it” – the same idiotic letter over and over.

            And what he shows me blows me away. Naively, I hadn’t expected to see “Before and after” photos of women’s sex-organs.  The “Befores” have all sorts of different looks: lots of flesh, little flesh, loose skin flaps, the occasional gaunt and collapsed looking vagina. The “Afters” all look the same: swollen mounds of protruding flesh and puffed-up, over-inflated tire-lip labias.

            “This one married a millionaire three weeks after and so did she,” narrates Dr. Takowsky.  “And here’s my friend’s wife, and here’s another doctor’s wife. Oh, look at this! Isn’t the difference amazing?” 

            It is. Amazing. I’ve never thought about myself that way before. No one I’ve gone to bed with has ever been gung ho and then glimpsed me with my panties off and said “Sorry, baby, but I’m strictly a Puffy Labes-man.” I can almost see the Details article now, companion to their “Biggest Dicks in Hollywood” story: “Which Starlets Have The Fattest Fuck-Flaps!”

            I excuse myself to the bathroom and check. It’s all there. Not like those puffed-up camel toes, ready to burst, but really, that’s the one area I’ve never felt bad about. Until now.

            The doctor waits for me. But suddenly, when I look at those vagina pictures, I see something else that gives me the creeps: The women in the photographs are unconscious, still under anesthesia. They are smeared with iodine and badly bruised. The most jarring view is the blood under their asses on the operating table. It’s like a cross between a Debbie Does Dallas and CSI.

            “I could charge $5000 for this, that’s how effective this is. But I’ll do it for $1000; if you get all the other stuff done we’ve talked about – $3000 for the lipo, $1000 for the fat-graft on your skinny hips and $1000 for the labia plumping. And I promise, I’ll set you up with my friend, a doctor, when you’re done.” Terrific – He’s more than a doctor; he’s also a pimp!

         But as he has grown more and more animated, I start to like the guy.  Of all the doctors I have seen, this one has passion. Why not let myself be transformed into a power-pussied, tiny-waisted, round-hipped vision of perfection?

            When the receptionist leans towards me with her paperwork for my operation, her blouse falls open and reveals tanned, round and firm breasts – the fruits of working here. I crane my neck to see what she writes on the page in front of her and for one terrifying and happy moment, I see myself walking out with a prescription for Vicodin. That’s just what I need, a plumped-up pussy and a Vicodin habit. Heaven on earth! But she grabs it and stacks it away with my unpaid pay-slip.

            “You’ll get all this once we receive your payment of at least one third of the amount and set your date for the operation” She smiles.

            Almost out he door, the doc calls me back: “Its not easy to perform good lipo suction. It’s hard, physical work. Here, feel my arm!” The arm he sticks into my face is almost twice as big as his other one. It feels like rock, strong and steely. He truly wants us all to resemble perfect little Barbie-dolls and he has the arm to prove it.

       I imagine just for a moment what a woman in Nigeria would think about getting the fat sucked out of her thighs? Ironically, so many enlightened Americans have second thoughts about cliterectomies, foot binding and any rituals of a sexual nature. But they think nothing of having a hollow-wand device, called a canula, inserted in their skin through incisions – a painful blood-ritual some of us Western females put ourselves through and pay thousands of dollars for it. This almost makes sticking plates in your lip or stretching your neck with silver rings to giraffe-like dimensions look like getting your ears pierced.

            At 4 am, I shoot up from a fitful sleep. How can I get my hands on five grand? I want Dr. Takowsky to sculpt me into perfection – so I’ll never feel lonely, ashamed, loath full and stupid again.  My new fantastic looks will heal my soul and stop my husband from cheating. A bargain at 5000 $!

I have yet to establish a college-fund for my daughter. But once I’m beautiful, this will all take care of itself.

       My next consultation is with Assistant Professor Doctor George Rudtkin from the Cosmetic Surgery Department at UCLA.

As I slip out of my clothes, with the professor perched on his stool, crotch-height before me, I want to run. I paid my way through art-school as a nude painter-model. But somehow, even though I’m in my underwear, I feel more naked in front of those doctors than when a whole class of students looked at me.

            The Professor picks his way carefully along my stomach, my thighs and my back.

            “I don’t think that you would see any improvement from lipo-suction. There really isn’t any fat here,” he finally speaks with a quiet confidence. “And your thighs are very nicely shaped – I wouldn’t change them at all.  Have you considered seeing a therapist?” He asks with concern in his fatherly voice. For a choking second, a thought cuts the air off to my anorexic, in need of help self.  Then, my breath returns.  And with it, sanity.  I am, as I mentioned, barely a Size Zero when retaining water.

The obvious finally occurs to me:

 I suffer from perfectionism; lethal insecurity and the mistaken believe that I’ll love myself the moment I wake up from surgery. Or that surrendering to this bizarre kind of medicine will turn me into a person who isn’t frightened to go to the dentist, to fail with my career, to lose my husband or of wearing the wrong thing. And that maybe, just maybe, I can stop throwing up after every meal and starve for days. That kind of suffering can only be cured by something else.

But what that could be, I don’t know yet.

As it turns out, the LA-Weekly does not run the story. I get paid, very well indeed, but not published. There is too much revenue in those ads. They can’t afford to jeopardize this and who knows, one or two of those doctors will sue, so no.

“Did you get your bone density test?” My editor, who has become the mother I never had, asks during our next lunch.

“ I have” I say meekly.

“And?” she waits.

“Well, the doctor who performed it, was joking with me at first. He said, they don’t usually get such young women to test, but then once the machine was rolling, he got very serious. “I’ve never seen a young and shapely women like you with such disastrous results”. Then he left the room and came back with a more senior doc and they repeated the test. Even worse.

“Young lady, you have full blown osteo porosis. Full blown. Look at this!” He showed me a read out that clearly showed the state of my bones. They want me to go on one of those fucking meds that can destroy your jawbone. No way”

“Are you sure you don’t want to take those meds?” My editor asks, now really concerned.

“No. I’m just gonna gain some weight and I’ll be fine” I say as I tuck into my rice. “Lets talk about our next story instead! What if I go to sweatshops, pretending I’m a poor Russian girl without papers, of course, looking for work? I could hide my hair in a scarf and stay a few days and write about it. That would be a story they can’t decline!”

“Great idea?” my new mom agrees. “Send me an outline and I submit it”

This time, I wait until I’m home to purge all the deliciously fatty and salty food. I’m on to my next story.












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