The Words That Must Not Be Named

Today I am writing the-words-that-must-not-be-named. I've been avoiding them since March 1st. Each day, as I sat down to write, these words crept up behind me, laid their bitter-cold fingers on my shoulder, and whispered, "Write me."

I shrugged my shoulder away, shook my head, and drummed my fingernails on the desk until the words would shrink away, giving space for new words to rise up and be heard.

But the words are angry, and refuse to be ignored any longer.

There are a few reasons I have avoided these words.
  1. It's a long story. No, I don't quite think you understand. This story spans years. Decades, even. We're looking at a trilogy here, perhaps a whole series, devoted to these words.
  2. They aren't pretty. They're sort of like this guy that lives in the second story apartment across the street from me. He spends most of his time with all the blinds wide open, lounging around his house in nothing but boxers. My husband and I call him "naked guy" even though he isn't actually naked. He is, however, quite alarming. You can't help but glance his way whenever you go outside, wondering "Is naked guy out tonight?" You don't want to see him, but you sort of do, too.
  3. I'm ashamed. These words embarrass me. They make me feel whiney and insignificant. I don't want to share them with you, I don't want to talk about them myself. I'd rather just let them hide out in the closet and gather dust.
So there you have it. The Writing Block Trifecta: too long, too ugly, too shameful.

And still... and still, these words refuse to go away. The sad fact is, I think about them every day. I know that many times good writing comes from the things we fear sharing, because if we look deep into the darkest cave of our fear, we see truth. I guess it's sort of like the hibernating bear. We all know it's out there, and we prefer to leave it sleeping -- less danger that way.

Regardless, these words won't wait even one more day.


Growing up, I never really had a bad body image. Maybe I was too consumed with finding the right make-up to cover that big wormish scar that spread across my face like the equator. Maybe it was a complete lack of self-awareness. I'm not sure why, but I was very happy being 5'10 and 160 pounds. I liked my curves. I never worried about food or it's effect on my status as a wanna-be fashionista.

Even when my parents sent me to modeling school (just don't ask), and the girls there told me I'd need to lose about 30 pounds to look just perfect for our graduation fashion show, I didn't think much of it. It didn't occur to me that the other girls were feather-light in comparison. Not sure what all the fuss was about, I went home, stopped eating, and waited to get smaller. Sure, there were smarter ways to lose weight, but my 13-year-old self seemed to think this was the best way to handle the situation. If I needed to be thinner, fine. I just didn't know why it was necessary. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking it was a dumb thing to do, but not feeling bad about my body.

A week later, my parents realized I wasn't eating. In true parentesque fashion, they demanded I eat or I couldn't go to the fashion show. I really missed food, so I obliged with a delicious white bread and bologna sandwich. I can still remember how happy I felt biting into that sandwich. Dieting was for the birds. 

And I stayed right at 160 all through high school, right up until February of my senior year, when a nasty jaw surgery forced me into a liquid diet for three months.

Dude. Three whole months! This is a quick, albeit unhealthy and sort of depressing, weight loss strategy. I lost 30 pounds by having nothing but mashed potatoes, soup, and other strange foods my father put through the food processor because he felt bad for me. 

130 was a whole new number. I had never been 130. I had never seen my body at 130. This, I thought, looking in the mirror, this is what they meant by perfect. I had hipbones! And quite frankly, my little 17-year-old body was rocking the bikini. My body, which had never even registered on the radar as worth noticing, finally had my attention. 

Teenage me was fascinated to realize the completely unexpected side effect of this transformation.

Boys. Started. Noticing. Me.

Being the girl that grows up with the nickname Scarface, one tends not to have a lot of attention from the opposite sex. One tends to learn not to expect it.

You know that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and everything goes from shades of grey to color?

It was pretty much like that. I was definitely not in Kansas anymore.

I would like to go back and tell 17-year-old me that I was much better off without the attention of those boys -- boys who had been around before I dropped 30 pounds -- boys that were only interested in the new skinny version of the same person standing before them.

But 17-year-old me was stubborn and angry and fiercely wanted to be independent.

She wouldn't have listened.

What a difference 30 pounds can make. What a wild and wacky road I've been on since I first discovered the delight in the curve of a hipbone.

...and what terrible words are still yet to come.


  1. I appreciate your courage in sharing your story. I hope in telling it that you gain peace once the words are free.

  2. What courage. Yes those words that are so hard to write. Ive been there with words of mine own, and i know there are more within me. But with those words come healing. May you find healing through your written words.

  3. More girls need to hear these words. And I hope it brings you comfort to get them out there, too.

  4. You are far more brave than I am. I admire you. I have a lot of stories to tell but this forum scares me for writing/sharing them. I think it's really cool that you are typing these words that are waiting to come out. I thought this image was so interesting and effective, "You know that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and everything goes from shades of grey to color?"

  5. I think I recognize those whispery voices. They are never easy to silence.

  6. Courageous. It takes a lot to share really important stories--especially when we feel they are "too long, too ugly, too shameful". But Maria is right...these things need to be shared. Plus, it will help you heal and feel better about yourself. 17 is a lifetime ago....

  7. Thank you for reminding me how powerful it is to name things and claim them and then see them for what they are rather than we've let them grow into unchecked in the dark. Your writing has strength and power. I look forward to reading more of your story. You're not alone.

  8. One of the things I've noticed as I've been cruising from blog to blog during this challenge is how much a piece written from the heart speaks to the reader. When you write about what you truly care about, or what you really need to say, the reader can't help but notice. Your piece caught my attention. This is a difficult topic, but one that many understand --- and many need to hear. Sometimes our stories set us free --- and sometimes they help to set others free.

    I've been rereading Donald Murray's "Crafting a Life in Essay, Story, Poem," Kim Stafford's "The Muses Among Us" and Anne Lamott's "bird by bird". They all really say the same thing, tell the hard stories. Tell the stories that matter. "Effective writing comes when we confront our subject with honest, finding true - and unexpected - moments of honesty." Donald Murray.

    Keep writing.

  9. Thank you all for the encouraging and insightful comments! There is definitely something to be said for honest words shared between writer and reader. This story has many parts, and my goal is to write more at least once each week until the story finds it's way to the end. Or, at the very least, to the present. :)