I think I first heard about anorexia and bulimia when I was nine or ten, and as I got older I assumed I understood it. But ever since I closely dealt with a friend of mine freshmen year who had both, these terms have taken on a new meaning. That is why I was so caught when Bartky said that anorexia has become this generation’s hysteria. “The crystallization in a pathological mode of a widespread cultural obsession.” (pg 65)
A widespread cultural obsession almost sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But after thinking the phrase through and applying it to our society today, it’s not an exaggeration at all. Obsessed very accurately describes what my friend was (and still is) going through freshman year. Obsessed with every piece of food she ate, obsessed with how her hair and makeup look, obsessed with the scale underneath her bed, and I could see her obsession spill into other parts of her life. Once she had rewritten her class schedule on 8 or 9 different pieces of paper because she had to get the writing “perfect.”
Someone who wasn’t as close with her as I was would chalk it up to perfectionism, and simply the normal tendencies of an 18-year-old girl. But her problems go much deeper psychological than even I know, which eventually resulted in a very scary trip to the emergency room after one rough night.
So is that where our obsession with physical appearance is taking us? To hospitals? If someone asked me that before freshmen year of college I would have said people do focus too much on outer appearances, but at the end of the day they understand that’s not actually what matters in life. But today, I’m worried for the girls younger than myself, who have to grow up in a society that seems to be intensifying its need to always look perfect.