Dear stickfigures

We are alike.

I first should explain how I came to discover your existence. It was randomness at its most random. For our April Fool’s edition, I decided to transform this site into a LiveJournal. I guess I should also explain that where I come from, we don’t believe much in LiveJournals. We barely believe in blogs. This is because I’m old — well, I’m only 23, but the people who taught me how words should be used were old. We believe in editors — this piece itself is edited, each word scrutinized for spelling, grammar, appropriateness — and we believe in keeping some secrets to ourselves. We call it dignity, but I’m beginning to think it’s fear.

So to imitate, I needed a model. I went to livejournal.com and clicked the Random Users link a bunch of times, trying to get a feel for the territory — to find the little nuances that say “this is a LiveJournal” to someone. I went through a bunch, and then found one that had colors close to the Crunchable ones. Hey, I thought to myself, I can probably use this as a starting point.

This was your LiveJournal.

Right-click. Save Page As. Throw it into Bluefish and start figuring out what all these tables do. Ah. Okay. This is the top header. Okay. Let’s change the color. What color is ghostwhite exactly? I always forget. Hmm. Got it. F12. So far, so good. This looks like the beginning of an entry. Select the text and delete. Type in something else. Reload. Also good. Let’s add another entry; select some text …

Wait …

This isn’t right.

well today all i had to eat /drink was 4 litres of water…mmmm..i took one dexatrim result and 2 extreme leans…then i went to the gym for 2 hours after school..then went to the park with bean where we ran 3 miles and walked about 2…then i came home and did a ten minute boot camp tape and a ten minute kickboxing tape…now i’m off to do my crunches…I FEEL ALIVE!!!

Read further.

still same weight and height as yesterday

idk i feel depressed still. i need some sort of weight loss pill thats gonna work. does ne one have ne ideas for me?

And more.

well i was sick all weekend…so i stayed home..which meant there was no way of getting out of eating..of course i did take about 25 lax yesterday…so i don’t feel THAT suicidal about it…but anyways..today i felt a little bit better so i ran 5 miles outside..it was fun actually..i’ll do that some more…and i did some aerobics when i got back..woo!…well i HAVE to eat dinner..but then i start up again tomorrow..since i have been so sick though i think i’m gonna restrict myself to 300 cals a day…just enough so that my vitamins don’t make me puke and my immune system gets a little better…hope everyone else had a better weekend than i did :(

This is how found you, stickfigures. This is how I started to read your stories. That’s the other big difference between us. I have a compulsive need to make stories that end, write essays that come to a conclusion, fill every paragraph with foreshadowing of what’s to come and echoes of what’s past. I do it first of all because I was taught to tell stories that way, to make it so that the first sentence and the last are bound together. But also because I want to make sense out of life, to make it feel ordered and magnificent.

You just tell the story, and maybe it’s better that way.

You call starving yourself Ana, and throwing up after eating too much Mia. I picture Ana and Mia as spirits, same as Echo and Daphne. They don’t talk much and they tie their hair back in tight bobs. Boys stare at them but they ignore it. Always together, always staring at the things that lie behind store windows. Don’t even touch the glass, Ana tells her quiet sister. Don’t let yourself feel a thing and we’ll be able to reach the end of the world together unharmed. We’ll be so thin we’ll become gazelles. We’ll run forever even as the sun lies dead.

(But no one will be there to see us when we are perfect, Mia almost says — no one will be there when the world ends but us. But instead of speaking, she just looks again at the glass unicorn just about to leap into the air. Two hooves hovering above the ground, two still stuck.)

You call your time with Ana and Mia a lifestyle, not a disease. You know something that nutritionists, parents, even people who have left anorexia and bulimia behind don’t. You set goal weights for yourself that grow lower and lower, deeper and deeper, further and further away from the self that walks around the earth each day. Numbers fascinate you. Body mass index tells you what you’re like inside. The media is your accomplice. It gives you pictures to attach to the numbers. You call these pictures thinspiration. You tell yourself that you want to have arms, abs, legs like them — but really you don’t just want to be like them. You want to be them. You don’t really like being you.

You know you’re starving yourself and that it hurts your body, but somehow you can’t bring yourself to stop. You don’t write much about what it feels like to throw up an entire meal while worrying you will be discovered. You don’t talk about how hunger feels. Instead, your messages are written the same way news anchors in New York talk about wars halfway around the world. There are secrets you keep and there are some things you feel proud of. But when you look in the mirror, you don’t often smile at the person who’s been following you around all these years.

You’re not really that different from anyone else.

When I was in middle school, I hated my hair. First off, I had way too much of it. It was thick and unruly, and it just kept growing. I brushed it every morning with earnestness and a small can of hair spray my mother got from who-knows-where, but it never got into the same kind of shapes everyone else’s did. Where other kids’ hair was straight and well-managed, mine just stuck out everywhere.

The problem was that I saw it every time I looked in the mirror. I became obsessed with the back-right corner of my hair, where its part ended and who-knows-what began. If only I had normal hair, things would go so much better for me. I would have better friends. I could talk to girls. I would feel like I was growing up instead of being an overgrown fifth-grader. It was the kind of lie a middle-schooler would fall for only if he didn’t think about it that much.

The hair spray sort of tided me over for a while. When I looked in the mirror each morning after brushing my hair, I could feel at least moderately alright with myself. I would check it secretly in the middle of classes, feeling with my hand to see if my hair had begun to stick up again, to forget what I had told it to do that morning. The hair spray made my hair feel dry, mossy — dead. Sometimes it worked. Those were good days. Sometimes it didn’t and I wished I could run out of school and back home.

But the real problems had not been solved. Life wasn’t any different. I was still freaked out about it. Eventually the situation got to the point where my mother took me into our downstairs bathroom and gave me a quick tutorial on how to trim my hair.

She explained how to hold the scissors and how to cut. After I made a few successful trims, she gave me some more general advice on what to do, and then left me to my own devices for a few minutes — she had to get something from the kitchen.

I wonder: if you could snip away at your skin, to remove everything you could ever want, when would you stop? What part of you is essential? What part of you, if you lost it, would mean you had lost part of yourself? Do you picture yourself as becoming something more than Gisèle Bündchen or Kate Moss, more than human? Crystalline? Blue? Invisible? Would you ever stop at all?

When my mother returned, she found that her son had cut himself a bald spot. Back of the head, right-hand side.

It is a testament to her parenting skills that I kept going to school. She parted my hair the other way — “changing your part will make you look more sophisticated,” I remember her telling me as she brushed my hair feverishly — and when people noticed anyway, I told them someone had pulled a prank on me while I was asleep. In a weird sort of way, it was the truth.

I wanted to tell you this story because I’ve thought for a long while about what I could possibly tell you. That’s the weird thing about the Internet — it glues all these people together that wouldn’t ever be able to say a thing to each other. But what do we have to say to each other now? That’s the challenge.

I guess all I want to tell you is that we’re all haunted by our flaws. We are lonelyboys and brokenhearts, forgottendreams and leftbehinds. We are obsessedwithexes and lostlimbs. We are cantspeaktostrangers and neverloved. And we are stickfigures, too.

But we are also kind-hearted, open-minded, self-sacrificing, brave. It is harder to remember this. It is hard to look in the mirror and see yourself as you are: some good, some bad. Some of it you can see. Other parts are invisible.

All of it is you. All of it.

Article © 2003 by Chris Klimas