My sister P has an unrelenting drive to pursue perfection.
In the 70′s she started working as a file clerk. She worked and worked, harder and harder until she was Vice President of one of the biggest banks in the world. All without a college education. I remember as a child, she'd get up at a ridiculous time every morning to iron her clothes so she was perfect for her day. On the weekends, she would wash and detail her car so it was perfect, too. She was meticulous about everything she was involved with.
When someone gave her a gift she liked or someone did something well she exclaimed in a high pitch voice, “PERFECT!!!” I gave up on her level of perfect a long time ago, knowing I was never as driven as either of my sisters to keep up appearances.
She was nicknamed after Olive Oyl, the character in the Popeye cartoons who was tall and slim with dark hair just like hers. My sister and I always struggled with our weight as children and adults but not P. She vowed as a junior high school student she would never be fat and she never was.
When P discovered she had cancer she fought extremely hard. When she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma 20 years ago, the survival rate was much lower. Her treatments were hard but she kept her spirits up. After her bone marrow transplant she got out of the hospital faster than anyone else had before. Year after year passed and P remained cancer-free against all odds.
Yesterday, my sister K and I drove 3.5 hours each way to see P. It was a tough visit. She's not breathing on her own, has 5 tubes down her throat, has had a heart attack, and her kidneys are working at 25%. She is being kept alive on machines because of an infection anyone normally could get at home. Part of this is because she had a bone marrow transplant and will forever have a compromised immune system.
After talking to P’s doctors we also discovered she partially did this to herself.
P didn’t eat enough and when she did eat she didn’t eat healthy foods. I can remember for years now if she ate a normal meal she would be in the bathroom with diarrhea or throwing up.
We found out yesterday along with all the medical issues P is facing she is suffering from long-term malnutrition. This is a woman who has money. She can afford to eat but she chose not to. We know now she didn’t eat enough for a long time. In her search for her version of perfection she is fighting for her life and on life support with an infection that you or I would be in bed with mildly inconvenienced.
She always had Cosmo or Glamor magazines in her home and strove never to be bigger than a size 6. She was forever losing just 8 more pounds.
I hope all the women I know read this and take it to heart. P will always suffer the effects of her long-term malnutrition. It is not too late for your daughters, it is not too late for anyone reading this who struggles as P does with food. It sickens me that my sister who I love so dearly is malnourished.
I have no words for the anger I feel about this. I have always hated the unreal images of women and the shapes I will never be, but this event takes my anger to a whole new level. If women as a whole don’t buy into the magazine image of a woman then the image of the size 0 woman as perfection will have to change.
Let that start here.