New York City is a horrible place to be bulimic. It is like living in a mall food court, and not one of those rinky-dink mall food courts – an obnoxiously large mall food court. Think Mall of America, only instead of 500 retail shops, there are 500 food court vendors. I mean, where else can you get Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mongolian, African, and a million other delicacies all within 100 feet of your front door? For those days when 100 feet seems too far a commute? No worries. They all deliver free of charge.
The Karen Horney Clinic is located on the wealthy Upper East Side, something clearly not articulated by its interior, which consisted of walls painted a color resembling wet, dull-gray cement and a thick, rust-colored shag carpet — the kind people drop off at the Salvation Army after hours when they are too cheap to take it to the dump.
At Karen Horney, my treatment consisted of both individual and group therapy. Though not a fan of either, I prefer group therapy to individual, as I find individual therapy a little too client-focused.
It turns out as messed up as rich white girls are when it comes to body issues, they do not hold a celery stick to gay men in NYC. The crème de la crème of high homosexual society, where single-digit body fat is par for the course, “what gym do you go to?” is equivalent to saying hello, and even in the dead of winter it is better to be cold than covered up.
Not the best city for someone like me. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted nothing more than to be thin and beautiful. Not that inner beauty crap. The kind of beauty where simply walking into a room throws a hush over the crowd. The kind of beauty where it is okay to show up at parties empty-handed because your beauty is gift enough. If given the chance, I would gladly trade my intelligence and wicked sense of humor for that kind of beauty.
In this I am not alone. There are shells of gay men all over this city hastening the day where at the right angle and with the right light, they might catch a glimpse of what they looked like, back when they were beautiful.
Like Ella Peter, before his body became so riddled with AIDS and toxic medication that he has not left his apartment in weeks or eaten in days, speaking no longer worth the effort. Pine Sol no longer masking the stench of shit, vomit, sweat, and despair. What sleep that comes arrested by vivid nightmares. And trips to the bathroom now require crawling on his hands and knees.
So he sits stares and smiles at a shelf he can no longer reach. As if to say, “Those are every pair of dance shoes I have ever owned. Did I tell you about the times I danced for Kings, Queens, and heads of states? Or the time I did two sets of 32 fouettés en tournant.”
Make sure you tell them those stories. “The ones where I was beautiful.”