Starving For a Life
FX premiered an interesting sitcom featuring four compulsive eaters last week called "Starved." I laughed a little, but mostly it made me really sad...and I realized something I hadn't figured out after decades of battles with compulsive eating and bulimia: When you are addicted to something, your world gets very small. All the main characters say they want to have happy relationships, but the only thing they get close to is food.
I remember one of the first times I binged and purged. I was a sophomore in college and (believe it or not) I had learned to purge by reading an article in Glamour magazine. Because of the time it took to get rid of what I ate, I missed a concert on campus one evening -- the first time I had really not shown up for something I said I would attend. So, instead of focusing on meeting my friends at the theater or listening to a great performance, my life became about this eating obsession and it continued through much of my 20s. I became isolated, insecure, and frantic. Bulimia doesn't make you a more interesting person.
I think the 20-something years should be called the "stupid decade." I can't believe the bone-head decisions I made and the time I wasted. All the normal anxiety of life seems to be magnified because we lack the experience to be wise. Binging on something (alcohol, sex, food, gambling) is a powerful anesthetic that works (short-term) to block out the great big scary world.
On top of that, there's an element of self-involvement in addiction. It's hard to "grow up" and so much easier to stick with what you know. Since the world is "all about me" during high school and college, the addiction keeps the focus on you.
The other day I saw Oprah hammering on some woman who was struggling with her weight and I was really disappointed that Oprah seemed to have lost her compassion after struggling so hard on her own weight. So, I don't want to come off as too critical of the food addicts in "Starved," but throughout the show, I cringed at their obsession and wished they would pick up a book, go to a movie, volunteer for a good cause...do ANYTHING to get outside their own heads.
As the main character, Bobby, of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company" pines for a deep relationship in the song "Being Alive," his friends urge him to "Want something, Robert. Want SOMETHING." That's what I wish for those characters...that they want something outside of themselves...a hobby, an interest, a passion, a friend, ANYTHING but the food, the booze, the cards. Look up from the table or the bed or the floor, take in the amazing variety of the world and find SOMETHING that needs you as much as you need it. Satisfy your appetite for life with something other than the addiction.
OK, that's enough blather about friggin' TV characters. Maybe I need to replace my addiction to TV with something else.