Being home for the holiday, I ran into a friend from high school who is attending university at the other major school in my state. We were the 'smart girls' of our class and were in gifted and scholar's bowl together. We kept in touch occasionally via email, and I saw her at the grocery store. We were both helping our mothers with Thanksgiving shopping.

I barely recognized her.

She had a little problem. She was always shrinking. She started out chunky. Then in grade 9 she lost 30 pounds and looked great. Later in grade 11, she gained 10 pounds or so and was worried that she'd be fat again, and that's when it started. She lost 10 pounds, that was cool for a while, then she lost 10 more. After that I stopped keeping track, because she never talked about it. But she kept getting thinner. Senior year of high school, everyone talked about her being anorexic.

She was unpacking her lunch in class and another mutual friend and I joked, "Geez, you're having two rice cakes for lunch today? You must be hungry!" We all laughed, but this was not an exaggeration. At that point, we realized that there was a problem, but there was nothing that we could do about that. Humor seemed better for the situation than scolding.

What makes this worse is that this girl's dad is a doctor. My family doctor as a matter of fact. He has to have seen this stuff millions of times, but can't see it in his own daughter.

Actually, that's not true. Her parents wanted to send her to counseling once, but she threatened to run away. They relented, for if she ran away, her GPA might suffer and she wouldn't be valedictorian. Yeah, that's a valid thing, forget your daughter's mental health, what's really important is that she have the highest GPA in the class.

And she did it too, she graduated high school with a 4.0. (My 3.97 was second highest.) And her parents not only rewarded this acheivement with their admiration, but with a sweet little car as well. Of course, they expected the perfection she acheived in high school to continue in college, so the heat was still on.

And today I saw her, having not seen her for months. I barely recognized her, but I did and talked to her for a while. The waistband on her jeans was around the circumference of one of my thighs, maybe less, and her legs looked like popsicle sticks inside jeans. She had had a naturally round face before, but her cheeks were hollow, drastically so. She had wrinkles around her mouth at age 19, and her hair looked as though a good portion of it had fallen out. I thought that she couldn't get much skinnier than she had been in high school, but I guess I was mistaken. Now she looks a mere rice cake away from the hospital.

I said nothing however, we talked about school and how stressful it is. I figured that the grocery store was not the place for the "Hey, I haven't seen you in months and you look like hell, is something wrong?" conversation, so I just left it at that. I actually don't know what to do. I have struggled in the past (and sometimes the present) with such things, though never to such an extent, so I want to do something. But what can I say that hasn't been said before? Do I think that I can just run up, say the perfect thing, and she's start eating again? It doesn't work that way. All I can do is hope that she gets help before she kills herself.

And I'll take my body with all its voluptuous curves, lean muscles, and flabby parts that I struggle with and loathe every day over what my friend has turned into. I've been known to adopt the occasional perfectionistic tendancy myself, but if the pursuit of absolute perfection leads to this, no thanks.

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