This really happened. Please tell your children that skinny does not taste good.
I was on the bus on my way home when a young skinny hipster took the seat next to me. He was cute, but really skinny. He was texting on a phone that was better than mine. Constantly. And he kept chewing on his finger nails, but not in an obvious sort of manner. With quick movements, he would bring up his loosely clenched fist and bit at his thumb and fingers with an upward swipe that made it look like he was just wiping the moisture from his lips.
I saw the nail biting as an opportunity to make him uncomfortable, so I asked, are you chewing your nails.
Excuse me, he said.
Are you biting your nails? If you’re biting your nails could you stop? I don’t really like it when people bite their nails.
Typically, a rude interruption like this makes the other person uncomfortable. Which is why I do things like this. However, this hipster returned to texting and chewing his nails. As if he deliberately didn't care that I wanted to make him uncomfortable.
I waited a moment thinking that he was just too nervous to be nervous, but he persisted so I escalated my assault. I know a friend who chews her nails like that and because she won’t stop she has warts on her feet and rashes on her thighs.
The hipster stopped texting, and I thought I had frightened him enough that he might get off the bus or at least change seats. But he just sat there staring forward.
I don’t eat.
Excuse me, I said. Your nails? You don’t eat your nails?
I don’t eat anything, he said.
I was quiet for a moment. He was skinny. Really skinny.
He had said it a third time and at this point I was uncomfortable. I tried not to show it and we kept our eyes forward and talked to the sides of each other.
How old are you, I asked?
When did you start?
I don’t know why. I had always struggled. You know. I was always uncomfortable, you know, in my own skin. One day I read a quote from Kate Moss.
Yes. Do you know who she is.
She is my idol. My inspiration. She once said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, and when I read that, I finally knew what was going on. What I wanted. Whenever I got hungry. I would text myself pictures of Kate Moss. I would text my phone that I wasn’t hungry. That skinny tasted better. I’d put my phone down and go into another room. Drink a bunch of water and when I went back and grabbed my phone I would have a bunch of texts from Kate Moss telling me that skinny tastes better than anything else I could eat.
Silence. I was so afraid to say anything. I know it sounds silly, but the air around us felt fragile. Neither one of us moved or spoke for several stops. He didn’t text, and I didn’t blink.
I don’t know how, maybe I was afraid he was about to get off the bus for his stop, but I asked him why he texted himself. You know, where'd he learn that.
He said that his father was an executive at IBM and had four cell phones when he was young. His father would text each phone so he wouldn’t forget meetings or golf games or such.
His stop came, and he got off. We didn't say anything to each other. He just got off the bus.
A few stops later, so did I.
PostScript: Writing to yourself as a strategy for behavior/emotion modification is a well documented useful and effective skill.
For example, if you are mad at someone, you can write a letter to them. Mail the letter, however, to yourself and when it arrives, read it as if you are the person you are mad at.
Then write a letter back to yourself as if you are the person who has offended you.
Pretending to be the person you are mad at, write about how sorry they are and take the blame for what they have done. Write about how they hope that you are well and then end with a nice note about how they hope your family is well too.
When you receive that letter, read it as if the person you are mad at has pacified your anger.
After a week or two, if you are still thinking mean thoughts about them, just repeat the process till you’re done hating them.