by deeyOni (Dione Green)
Imagine you are Ella. At 15, you are an intelligent, sensitive young woman surrounded by a strong network of friends… but every time you look in the mirror all you can see is a fat monster. The support from your female friends and the one boy who appears to like you never seem enough to counteract the snide remarks from your glamorous stepmother and shallow stepsisters, the inattention of your father or the cruel taunts of boys in passing cars. You’ve tried to lose weight, you’ve followed every fad diet you’ve ever heard about; but when you’re hungry all you can think about is food, and when you give in to temptation and eat the foods you crave all you can do is hate yourself for being so pathetic and weak.
Ella finds a seemingly perfect solution in bulimia, as it allows her first to fulfill her cravings for junk food, and then to purge, leaving her feeling ‘lighter, emptier: calm’. But like all quick fixes, she gradually discovers that there is a down side. Ella becomes addicted to the act of purging itself, to the ‘high’ she begins to feel as people notice her weight loss and especially when the cool guy at school (who never spoke to her when she was ‘fat’) begins chatting her up.
Melaina Faranda has described Ella’s physical and mental deterioration as bulimia takes control of her life so vividly that I was quite astonished to discover she has never been bulimic herself (see Interview). However, like almost every other woman I have ever met, she knows what it is like to be a young girl suffering from low self esteem due to the unrealistic ideal our society has defined as ‘beautiful’.
Ella’s teacher sums it up perfectly when she says to Ella towards the end of the book: “It’s the cruelest irony, isn’t it? All the things and people we want to make ourselves perfect for somehow end up being totally worked out of the equation. I thought when I was perfect I would be worthy of love and success and if I were thin it would fix everything… The most difficult thing for me was learning to accept that I was ill and that the voice inside that was controlling me, telling me how fat and unworthy and disgusting I was, was wrong… I had to learn not to listen and to counter it with healthy messages, even when it was screaming in my ear. I had to give up my own ideas about what was right and wrong, what would bring me happiness and salvation, and risk trusting the judgment of the people trying to help me recover.”
As stepmother to a 15-year-old girl I think I know quite a few Ellas; in fact, I’m pretty sure I used to be her myself. Though my bulimia was never as extreme, I went through most of my teens and twenties thinking I was fat and ugly and it is only now that I’ve passed the big three-oh that I can look back and realize how wrong I was. If only I had read ‘Princess’ as a teenager, I might have come to that realization a lot sooner and saved myself from years of pain, anguish and dangerous dieting techniques.
You almost certainly know an Ella too, even if she’s doesn’t actually have an eating disorder. If you do, buy her this book. You don’t have to say why - aside from the educational value, Princess is a marvelously fun read for any young girl interested in magic and white witchcraft (and who isn’t at that age?). Or read it yourself! Even at 30 I still found myself completely absorbed in the world of The Circle, and I can’t wait to read the next exciting sequel - The Circle: Greenheart.
The Circle: Princess is the third book in the Circle series following The Circle: Gift and The Circle: Dreamer. First published by Random House Australia in 2004.
Other related articles:
Big Girl's Don't Lie - Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas faked bulimia to cover her addiction to narcotics.
Bulimia - The hidden dangers!
yOni now blogging at cliterallyspeaking.blogspot.com