I have realised there is a strange connection between a holiday with an anorexic daughter against the backdrop of the Olympics. We’re not big sports fans, in fact we planned this holiday to escape Olympicsmania. But every excursion, especially to eat, involves televisions showing sports while L attempts to eat.
Yesterday I drove her and a friend’s daughter, R, out to hunt for an open supermarket. None were found, so before heading home for a late lunch, we stopped for a drink, in a bar that sold smoothies. L has become used to smoothies. Blended juice drinks are a common snack. We ordered and alarm bells rang when we could only choose one fruit as a flavour. The waitress went to prepare them behind the bar. Into the blender went strawberries, L’s choice. Then milk. This was in fact a milkshake. L looked distressed. Oh, milkshakes, I said. R brightened – she loves milkshakes. Behind my shoulder the smoothie drama unfolded. Thick cream was added, then sugar. Ice cream may have gone in but by this time I was chattering wildly trying to distract L, who was watching every move. I wondered if an impromptu song and dance routine might be too much.
The drinks came over. They were the most wonderful over the top, trying too hard drinks in the world. Large chunks of fruit and cocktail umbrellas adorned the huge glasses. Swirls of melted chocolate.decorated the inside of each drink. It was as if someone had spent real time deciding the perfect drink to terrify an anorexic. R and I exclaimed. L just stared. I was terrified for her, but I also wanted to giggle. In a hysterical slightly unhinged way.
On a screen in the corner, Andy Murray began his match against Federer. At table 3, L began her smoothie. It didn’t start well. L stuck her straw in and licked the end. My drink was delicious and I wanted to gulp it down, but tried to go really slowly. I touched L’s arm and told her she needed to finish it all. I felt cruel. I hadn’t warned her. But giving in to those rules means.letting Ed win. So she sipped. And sipped. R looked nervously at both of us. Eating out with anorexic friends isn’t much fun. L carried on sipping. She was white and tearful. I didn’t give in and for me that was a challenge too. This.was.L’s.worst.nightmare in a glass. But she kept on sipping and the glass emptied. As Murray scored point after point against Federer. L.drank her smoothie. She even dipped.her finger in the glass.to.try the chocolate.
When it was empty, I dropped.my.usual.calm. I told her she.was a total f***ing hero. I don’t normally swear out loud to L. My eyes were full of tears, as were L’s. We made.R laugh, who must have been wondering what on earth was going on. I paid for the drinks. 5 euros.each. An absolute bargain.
On the drive back to.the house up.the mountain, I.wondered about lunch. It seemed cruel to.mention it. But once inside, L set about making her usual lunch. She seemed defeated, while I wanted to grab her and dance about the kitchen. Afterwards she lay down for a rest, exhausted. Later, she told me.she was really glad.she had drunk it. And that it was delicious.
Those.who think our daughters and sons with eating disorders need to “just eat” have no idea of their heroic struggles. Those of us who do cheer them on and each success makes us want to weep with pride. Take that, Ed, we are winning and your days with L are numbered.