The doctor says the scale can’t be right because it says I weigh a hundred and seventy pounds. “But you’re so thin!” she says. She has me step back into the hallway with the scale and stand on it again, then again. She recalibrates it, slides the units around, and then back in the exam room she Googles my BMI, possibly without realizing I’m watching her type my BMI into Google. I half-expect her to add “normal?”
When it all checks out, she still acts confused. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be confused too, so I do a little eyebrow-shrugging. In truth, I don’t know, one seventy, sure! I haven’t been to the doctor in at least five years, and I don’t think they even weighed me last time. The last weight I remember was one thirty-five or one forty, but that was back when I was training for a marathon and taking it all seriously; definitely I could be more than that now. I am undecided about my own thinness, but whatever I am, I feel comfortable with it most days, and feel no need to decide.
“Well, you’re tall,” says the doctor, “you are very tall.” The computer isn’t working because they just had a system update and she’s had me repeat my height for her a few times, and she has me say it a couple more times, to the point that I actually do get confused. Each time she asks, I say, “Like five-nine or five-ten,” because the last time I got it measured, it was exactly five-nine-and-a-half, but saying the inches with the halves makes me feel too much like a kid. I want to come across as casual about my body, about the way that I am in general.
My callous secret: on the inside, I want to feel so secure about myself that it’s almost twisted. So self-certain that you can’t even tell what I’m thinking from a foot away, looking right in my eyes, because I don’t care if you can tell and the not-caring simply scrambles the signal beyond comprehension. I wanna know about myself the way murky water knows about itself. I’ve had friends who want to see me as young and stupid; friends who want to see me as mature and worldly; friends who want to see me as fit and accomplished; friends who want to see me as less than them. I’ve been all these friends to myself too. Whoever I’m hanging out with, that’s who I am to myself. If I simply must respond to the way other people think of me— if there is no other way around it as a human— I want my response to be sure, yeah. Whatever you need.
The doctor puts five-ten. She feels bad for being taken aback before; she really is a very nice doctor. She tells me, “I mean, you’re thin— you’re, like, a slender, fit young woman,” in kind of a worried voice, and I’m like nice, good, as she types things into the weird new computer system, and then a minute later she breaks the doctor’s-office silence again by turning to me and finally saying, “I just don’t want you to like, leave here and go home with an eating disorder. Like, please keep eating all your food. Please don’t stop eating food.”
And I’m like, “I know! Don’t worry!”
She says “please” several times and I laugh all nicely: she’s a nice doctor and I’m a nice patient. Because I want to come back here a year from now, or two years from now, strong and well fed. I want to be un-stressed and relatively un-depressed, and I want all the things a healthy body should want: regular periods, a steady and rhythmic heartbeat, good dreams. I will not die and I will not waste away; if I did, it would just make her too unhappy.
Is this the amount I’m supposed to care— to stake my life on the shining eyes of an apologetic stranger? Is this right? I think this is the most arrogant I’ve ever been.