This story starts when I was a teenager, maybe about fifteen years old. At the time, I was very religious. As a member of the group that my family was part of, we would have an Easter Vigil on the Saturday night and Sunday morning of Easter. This was a six or seven-hour-long Mass that went on all night.
From the Friday evening until the community breakfast after the vigil on Sunday, you would fast from all food (unless you were sick or a child).
Part of the Vigil Mass involved members of the congregation standing up and introducing each of the nine readings, so we would meet during the day on Saturday in smaller groups and prepare these introductions, by reading the readings for that night and speaking about what they meant to us.
On the Saturday afternoon of this teenage Easter, I was at this preparation meeting, and I’d been doing my fasting. I wasn’t feeling great. The other people at the meeting told me my face was looking blue. The woman of the house where we were meeting told me that I shouldn’t be fasting if I was feeling sick.
So she fried me four rashers of bacon. I ate them.
The problem, however, wasn’t that I had been fasting. It was that I had forgotten to drink any water, or anything else. Almost as soon as I had eaten the rashers, I turned green instead of blue. My body couldn’t cope with them. I vomited. When I got home, I threw up again, and I went to bed.
I wanted to go to the Vigil that night, but my parents insisted I shouldn’t. I stayed in bed.
I remember feeling ripped off. I wasn’t going to get to experience the Resurrection that year.
Last Saturday wasn’t all that different from that Easter in the 1990s.
I arrived in Cork late on Saturday, feeling very stressed. I got to my parents’ house and was told that their internet wasn’t working. I felt very cut off all of a sudden.
My family went to the Vigil and I stayed at home alone.
And I ate and I ate.
And I spent most of that Easter night in my parents’ badly-heated house throwing up because of the volume of food I had eaten that day.
I remember standing over the toilet, wiping vomit from my mouth, saying to myself “Well, this is rock bottom, Connor.”
So, after rock bottom comes the climb up. And the climb wasn’t that hard. My family all seemed happy to see me. And my nieces and nephews were as adorable as always.
I kind of told my mother that I’m doing a fourth year in my PhD. My parents drove me to the train station to catch the train back to Dublin on Tuesday and my mother asked me what I was planning to do next September, meaning to ask what jobs I had applied for. I said, “Well, I don’t really need to rush because my supervisor has said he’d extend my scholarship to another year.” (This is a big fat lie. I probably will get funding of some sort, but I’m fairly desperately applying for funding from every possible source at the moment.) Before any more could be said, my dad was pulling the car up outside the train station and it was time for goodbyes. I am a coward, but I’m getting there.
And in the last few days, I’ve gradually felt better and better.
Yesterday, I spent a lot of the day giggling for no reason other than that I was feeling good. And I felt taller. I know that makes no sense, but occasionally when I’m feeling very content, I feel as if I’m at least an inch taller.
I felt so good that I declared to one of my colleagues that I was going to “fix Connor” that night. He thought that the task of fixing Connor might take more than a night, but I felt confident I could do it.
And I must have done well last night, because when I walked into college this morning I didn’t fast-forward a single song. A man must be incredibly content to be able to listen to his music on shuffle for a whole hour and not to have to fast-forward anything.
So, what did I do last night?
A New Start: Food
Overeaters Anonymous isn’t for me. Part of it is the religion. The entire concept involves admitting that you will never be able to control yourself around food and handing over to God. The format of the meetings is almost precisely the same as the Bible reading meetings I used to go to every Wednesday night as a teenager, except that instead of the Bible, it’s the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, which is about alcoholism. In America. In the 1940s. Bonkers.
And I don’t want to be like the people there who are “in recovery”. Sure, I want to be thin, but those people are phoning their sponsors and reading out their eating plan for the following day to them every day for forty years. They believe they will never have control over food. They’re all mousy and servile, and even though they were generous and kind to me, I don’t want to be like them.
One of them spoke about how he/she doesn’t celebrate birthdays any more, because birthdays are all about pride, and pride is sinful. Goddammit, I might want to give up bread, but I don’t want to give up birthdays. Or pride. After that meeting, I came home and watched three episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, just to rebalance myself.
So, on the suggestion of one of my internet buddies, I bought a hypnosis programme for healthy eating. I started using it last night, and already I feel better. I sat down for every meal I ate today. I didn’t overeat. And food didn’t stress me out. For the first time in about fifteen years, I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. And it was fine. Absolutely fine.
I’m going to win this fight. And I’m going to do it without Jesus.
A New Start: PhD
Most of the Assistant Wardens here in Hall would consider themselves PhD students who happen to be Assistant Wardens too. I consider myself an Assistant Warden who happens to be doing a PhD.
I prioritise almost everything ahead of my PhD, and I somehow have got out of having a formal meeting with my supervisor so far this year, even though my desk is outside his door and I speak to him more or less every day.
Last night, before being hypnotised, I wrote out an agenda for the rest of my research, with what I’ll be doing, month by month, until I submit my thesis in September 2014. I wrote out all my deadlines, internal and external. I also wrote out everything I’ve achieved so far. And I bullet-pointed various bits of information about my health, my finances and my work outside college that I thought he should know about. I don’t know if I have ever been quite so proud of a document.
And I went and met my supervisor and I didn’t get tongue-tied and I said all of the things on the document, while he read along. It was a little weird, but it was the first time ever that I’ve said everything that I wanted to say to him in a meeting.
I’m going to finish this stupid PhD eventually and you’re all going to have to call me Doctor Connor.
A New Start: My face
Nothing says seventeen-year-old girl making a new start like a new haircut.
I grew a goatee beard in 2004, after watching an episode of What Not To Wear, where they said that a goatee adds definition to the face of a chubby man. The plan was to keep the beard until I was thin. It’s always been a temporary feature to me.
And last night, after making my PhD-list-of-fantasticness, I shaved off my beard.
Oh my God, does it itch! And yes, my double chin is way more obvious, but it makes me look twenty-five again. And I shouldn’t be afraid of my face.
A New Start: My down-belowsies
No one should be as expert in penises as gay men. We should know everything there is to know about willies.
However, I got an Irish education, and so learned nothing about a penis other than that it gets you into trouble.
And so, I spent much of my twenties thinking I was circumcised. Nothing on my willy moved, nothing could be described as a foreskin.
It took me until I was about 28 to realise that in fact, I had a foreskin but it was incapable of retracting.
I have a faulty penis.
I finally worked up the courage to have a doctor look at it last year. He LITERALLY gasped at how tight it was (how tight my foreskin was, you disgusting people) and he recommended circumcision.
And in the last year, I haven’t had the balls (lol) to do anything about it, but now I’ve made an appointment with the doctor and I’m going to get the chop.
Nothing says a New Connor like a New Little Connor (or Davy as I used to call him/it).
After the chop, I’m going to have a Bar-Mitzvah. It’s going to be epic. You’re all invited.
I love new starts!