Making Zero

(content warning: depiction of eating disorders)

“Studies have proven that it takes four female cues to trump one male cue…  because male is the default in Western society… My large size, and the way that my fat lives on my body, becomes a male cue that not even my breasts and soft jawline and light voice can overwhelm in the eye of the theoretical beholder.”

(Bergman 142)

They put propaganda in the dictionary. The words “positive” and “negative” are surrogates for “good” and “bad,” they’ll have you believe. They are anything but.

Yet men create, and that’s good. All women do is take away: it’s a simple fact of life. They engrave it in the language. A binary in zeroes and ones. It’s a numbers game, and it’s addition that wins the game.

For boys. They’ll tell boys it’ll suffice to just be themselves.

As for whomever else remains, beauty is pain. Beauty is when you lose yourself.
For us it’s subtraction and division. It’s the long division of the guts of my waist over the bare bones of my hips. You want that to be closer to zero than to one. A tape measure is the line in between.

And remember remember remember that size 2 is the magic number, they made her tell me. After that, zero.

My gender is a voice with a gun to her head. “Western society” cocks the gun with one bullet in the chamber, ready to make zero.

So in pounds and kilograms I carve out a girl.

It’s the deficit they tell you to create. That’s the trick: at your most productive is the act of unmaking and you’re rewarded when it hits the floor from exhaustion.

Mother is away this weekend. Father sets the table. He clicks his tongue.

“You’re getting on nerves, boy. Stop picking at grains of rice like it’s a funeral.”

Anorexia was my gender’s first love. The bullet was her father’s dowry.

“Go on, ___. You love tempura shrimp.” He shovels some onto my plate. I haven’t eaten any tempura shrimp since I was fourteen. At least, not in front of him. “We haven’t got all day.”

I click around the shrimp with my chopsticks, picking it up a little and then letting it fall back onto my plate.

“Manners maketh man.” My father stares at me out of the corner of her eyes, without turning to face me. She’s been to the movies a little bit too much lately.

“Eat your food.”

A bullet in the chamber.