“I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. I had no idea.”
These are phrases often spoken after the fact, looking back with 20 /20 hindsight. These are the heart wrenching phrases, hand wringing phrases, and the verbal symptoms of a bad case of The Should Haves.
Feb 26, 2012, is the first day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. For those of us struggling with an eating disorder, or treating clients with an E.D. or who have a family member or close friend/colleague with an E.D. the truth is that EVERY week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. (E.D.A.W.). In fact, EVERY DAY is E.D.A.D. and EVERY MINUTE is E.D.A.M. (Not to be confused with the cheese).
But WE are not the intended audience for NEDAW. The purpose of declaring a week for awareness is to increase the awareness of those who may not be as intimate with the details, repercussions, and scope of this extremely debilitating disorder and to hopefully raise money along with awareness for treatment and proactive interventions. The theme this year is, Everybody knows Somebody, which tacitly implies that we may not know that we know somebody, so let’s learn more about E.D. so we can recognize that somebody in our lives and help them.
“I had no idea. I never expected this. You like me?”
These are phrases often spoken after receiving an Oscar from The Academy.
February 26, 2012, also happens to be the Academy Awards (A.A.) or as Bob Hope used to say,
“Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it’s known at my house, Pass-over.”
All self-deprecating Jewish Humor Jokes That I Totally Love aside, the irony that the Academy Awards show is being aired on the first day of NEDAW is not lost on me…the Mayor of Dr. Deah’s Hollywood. While it may seem like old news by now, some of my readers may remember last year’s Tasty Morsels blog, Friendly Fire, which discussed Portia Di Rossi’s E. D. and the deleterious effects that the pressures of Hollywood have on an actor’s body image.
More recently, those of us who watched the Grammy Awards (G.A.) will remember the derisive comments by Karl Lagerfeld about Adele’s body even though the singer walked away with an armful of the coveted gramophone statues. More importantly, I hope we remember her fantastic response to Lagerfeld, chastising him for focusing on something that she didn’t consider a problem, and was irrelevant in re: to her music. It is difficult to ignore the fact that so much of the pre and post Grammy hoopla focuses more on the musician’s body (especially the women) and their fashion choices than on their talents. Hearing performers like Adele and Kelly Clarkson reject the industry’s paradigm is a relief and hopefully other talented performers will follow suit.
Another beacon of hope that emerged during the Grammy frenzy, if you can call someone coming out as Bulimic a beacon of hope, was Lady Gaga’s announcement that she struggled with an Eating Disorder in her teenage years and continues to struggle with body image issues. She is quoted in an article in Jezebel,
“It (the purging) made my voice bad, so I had to stop,” she said. “The acid on your vocal cords — it’s very bad. But for those of you who don’t sing, you maybe don’t have that excuse until it’s too late. It’s very dangerous.”
“Weight is still a struggle,” she said. “Every video I’m in, every magazine cover, they stretch you. — They make you perfect. It’s not real life … I’m gonna say this about girls: The dieting wars have got to stop. Everyone just knock it off. Because at the end of the day, it’s affecting kids your age. And it’s making girls sick.”
Why didn’t they run that clip over and over and over on the red carpet??? And now with one week to go until the Big Cheese (no still not Edam) of award ceremonies hits our living rooms, I urge all of you to hold on to your Jan Wahl Hats because, “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!” The Grammys were just an “amuse bouche” compared to the Main Course Super Size Portion of Insanity served up by the Academy Awards and the emphasis they place on form over film. It is time to steel ourselves and get ready for the onslaught of media mania that will sadly plant seeds of discontent in many a viewer about their own body as commentators dissect each star who walks the carpet under the search lights.
But wait…let’s do a fade out…
Fade in…We find ourselves in Dr. Deah’s Hollywood. A saner place where we can take a moment and capitalize on the perfect timing of the confluence of NEADW and The AA by introducing you to a film that fits the bill for raising the awareness of E.D.’s and satisfies the requirement of Good Cinema.
“I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. I had no idea.”
These are phrases spoken frequently during the new documentary, Someday Melissa. This documentary, proficiently crafted by a talented filmmaker, Jeffrey Cobelli, underscores how easy it is for loving involved families to miss the warning signs of Bulimia. Melissa is presented as a bright, creative, and sassy girl whose self-esteem became completely hinged to her body and her quest for perfection. Her friends, family members, and clinicians speak frankly about their Should Haves and the impact of Melissa’s death on those who loved her, is apparent. Also apparent was the connection the audience felt with Melissa as we watched her pass through her developmental stages of latency and adolescence. By allowing the audience to read Melissa’s journals and view the videos she made, we experienced from her point of view, the heart breaking, and I don’t use that phrase lightly, highs and lows that are typical of the up and down course that those suffering from Eating Disorders frequently follow. (It is why, by the way, our theater piece Leftovers is subtitled, The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater). At the end of the film, the audience also grieved the loss of such a lovely, young, promising, and spirited girl.
In the discussion that followed the screening, it was clear that many of us were convinced that early intervention is essential, and long term treatment based on meaningful treatment goals NOT lab results is vital for recovery. We learned that there is no quick fix for this diagnosis and the statistics of mortality rates that are presented in the film will shock most people into taking the problem of insurance companies discharging patients prematurely much more seriously. But despite the sadness and heaviness of the material, the audience appeared to leave the theater energized and determined to tell the world how imperative it is to educate people about Eating Disorders. I know I left the theater hoping that Someday Melissa could find its way into Junior High School and High School Health Classes and PTA meetings, especially in Middle to Upper Middle Class affluent Caucasian communities, where Melissa’s story is replicated over and over and The Should Haves is an epidemic in its own right.
Similar to two other films that I have written about, Miss Representation and America the Beautiful 2, Someday Melissa also draws a direct line from the pressures of The Media and Hollywood to the onset of body dissatisfaction and subsequent Eating Disorders. If ever there was a cause that the Academy should take under its wing, it is this one. Can you imagine the impact if each actor who receives an Oscar this year, stepped up to the podium and said something to increase Eating Disorder Awareness? Remember the coverage that anti-war statements received when they were voiced at the Oscars? What if each winner admonished the media for writing headlines such as, “Academy Award Nominee Still Hasn’t Lost Her Baby Fat” or, “Oscar winner looked frightfully thin in her Michael Kors.”
In that case the winner would be…