At fifteen, I weighed in around 190 pounds and was a thick chunk of girl muscle. Still plushly upholstered with baby fat, but I was as strong as a bear with a similar temper.
I fucking hated sports and the rapey testosteroids who loved them. But the new me, the me who was trying to be all right and fit in, grit my teeth and went for it. And in very little time, I found myself growing in athletic reputation. First, I was asked, nay somewhat begged, to be the varsity goalie for the girls’ soccer team. The coach so wanted my big blocky, rageaholic self in the net, he pretty much let me do whatever I wanted there.
I relished my position. I didn’t have to run with the other ponies at practice. I could just hang around in my sweats and be a menace. Another girl from the team and I would go to my house right around practice, get stoned, then go to the field. It was my first feeling of being a spoiled rock star. Very little was asked of me, but I was awesome at my job. It was the perfect outlet for my frustration to vent on other people. The coach and my teammates encouraged me to be as brutal and scary as I wanted. At games I would smoosh mud all over my face, and straight up tackle chicks. It was great.
I had also become a bit of a superstar in varsity crew as well. My giant body and black little heart made me a monster with an oar, and I was ranked in the top rungs of New England and the Eastern seaboard for my age group. The ergometer is a rowing simulator, and a measuring tool for your strength and stamina. And, though I loved my Marlboros, and cocaine was becoming a more frequent treat for me, I constantly made the ergometer my bitch.
Suddenly, my dad thought I was great. He positively glowed when the St. Mark’s athletic director announced my name at assembly, telling the crowd how I would be spending the summer, training and kicking ass for St. Mark’s at the Junior Nationals in upstate New York. There was finally something about me he understood and could be proud of. At least, for a minute.
He would come to my meets, chat with my coach, and I was suddenly awesome. His little girl, who had saddened and confounded him for so long, had grown into a giant meat triangle of broad back and shoulders, huge, shoebox thighs, and no boobs or booty to speak of. So, not only was I now an athletic asset to the school’s rep, I was so fucking unattractive that, in my dad’s mind, no boy would ever want a piece of me. I was the perfect daughter.
For those of you who don’t know about crew, allow me to inform you that, while it is the preppiest sport this side of croquet, it is one of the least attractive. Brutal, grunting, yanking, there was very little room for hotness. Field hockey girls were plucky and quick, usually superhot with wide, swinging ponytails and delicate limbs plunging out of flippy skirts and grass-stained jerseys. Soccer girls were a tad more boyish, tougher, more contact and aggression. Crew ladies are moose. Big, butch moose.
Crew, by all appearances, attracted young lesbians. Everyone’s sexuality is pretty malleable during the agony that is being a teenager. However, I can say with confidence, while I was doing the sport, there were many vagitarians in those sleek and skinny boats. I, too, like girls from time to time; I consider my sexuality as opportunistically omnivorous. If it tastes good, I’ll eat it. However, I tend to go for field hockey player types.
It was the summer I turned eighteen. I hadn’t been
accepted to any college or university, not that I tried terribly hard. I
just declared I was taking the year off. For what? Whatever. Mostly to
I took a job as a maid in a hotel. Five days a week I would work in my little gray uniform with smock pockets, shaking condoms out of bedding, vacuuming, dusting, hospital cornering, and snooping through people’s toiletries. Every afternoon I would borrow a fashion magazine from the sundries shop, then hit the hotel gym. Pumping my legs for hours on the stairmaster while staring at tiny, bird-boned models. At home, over my bed and dresser was a collage of similar images. My walls were a homage to the professionally hungry. I would stare at those pictures, willing my body to shrink around my skeleton, too.
It finally did.
In studying to be an anorexic, I noticed some of the models weren’t particularly pretty, but they were nearly void of flesh. Angular and feline, I imagined they were probably invited to parties every night and given cocaine to be kept upright. One of the big lessons I got from my schooling, at that point, was, if you were beautiful, someone would love you. It made perfect sense.
Step one: Stop eating. During that first summer out of St. Mark’s, I figured out how to stop eating by taking trucker speed and smoking Camel Lights. I could get away with one piece of dry toast and a half of a honeydew melon every day. So what if my hair was falling out? The Portuguese ladies I worked with at the hotel yelled at me over their lunches. “You too skinny, Tormenta, you gon’ get sick!” I loved it. I was so thin people were worried? Cool!
Dad was in New Hampshire all summer, again, but when he came home for his weekly check-in, I noticed him acting funny around me. He then came home a little more often. He’d make food and put it in front of me, or bring me greasy beach-vendor food from the water park and stare at me while I barely touched it.
He wants you to stay fat so nobody will want you.
Sometime later, I was doing some day-drinking on a Sunday.
Raff was working and we were going to hit the Limelight later on. But day-drinking can ruin your night, and this day was going that way fast. I had made a quickie friend, one of those drug-fueled friendships that happen over bottles and lines, needles and pills. Chemical camaraderie that feels so real and life-affirming while you’re getting completely fucked up, but fade as fast as a cherry high. She was painfully thin, a stick bug in a tank top. She had hair like Chrissie Hynde and a laugh like Danny DeVito, and at one point, I think, I told her I loved her.
She tearfully told me about something bad that had happened to her, and I wept right back at her pretending to understand. She kept buying drinks and I kept drinking them.
The sun was still high in the sky when she clinked her glass against the fourth or fifth shot of Jack she had bought me. I downed it. She had also bought smokes and a slice of pizza. She was my soul mate.
I managed to say, “I gotta stop drinking, I’m going out tonight and I’m already fuckin’ wasted!”
“Me, too! I’m going out later, too!” She blew smoke at me. “We should go to my place and take a nap.”
“I would totally die for you. Let’s go.”
Somewhere in our zigzagging, drunken singing, arms slung over each other’s shoulders path to her place, I heard her say something about lines.
Fuck, yeah. That’ll be great! It’ll take the drunk down a peg, and it means she has blow and will all night. My new best friend rules! I’ll never do coke again, later.
Though my memory of her apartment is fuzzy at best, it stood out to me right away that the chick must have dough, or she was fucking someone rich. The apartment was pretty decent-sized and had real furniture in it. No milk crates with tapestries draped over them, no futon on the floor or mish-mash, thrown-away dressers. Nicer still was the familiar chop-scrape sound of razor to mirror.
“Help yourself, I gotta pee.” She gestured to a powder-smeared rectangular mirror that sat on a low shelf. There was a decent heap of powder scraped out of a magazine-folded envelope, but only a tiny couple of lines set up for me. I took the razor and scraped the two lines to make one bigger and made a matching line next to it.
I put the straw in my nose and quick snorted the first line up one side and went to do the other when a searing pain torched through my face. “OOOOW!” My hands slapped to my face. I was instantly tearing, drooling, and a sick funky flavor soured the back of my mouth. My friend was out of the bathroom. “Wha’ the fuck kinna coke izzat? It fuckin’ hurts!”
“It’s not coke . . . it’s dope.” Looking down, “Whoa. You did a lot.”
Dope??? I was already drunk and now I’ve horked up a junkie-sized line of smack? I am fucked. Maybe she’ll have actual coke to keep my heart beating; maybe she can take me to the hospital, or just hold me while I fucking die?!
She floated to the front door and opened it. “You better go,” she said flatly.
The drive to San Francisco took three days, during which I made a mental list of priorities.
Stop eating again. Get laid. Find an agent. One was easy enough, as I had no money or job prospects. Two was also pretty easy, as a new girl in town is almost as hot as one that’s moving away. The third one was tricky, though; in my estimation, the only pretty I was, was pretty chubby. So I’d stop eating, get a job, find someone to screw, then find an agent.
I got dropped off on Dolores Street and met my new roommates—a couple of trust-fund fashion brats from New York who would screw all day, hide out in their darkened bedroom, and go, almost daily, to Western Union to pick up scads of cash wired to them from one or both of their parents.
Right around the time I started looking for a new place to live, I had fucked, roughly, twelve guys in a little over a month and took a meeting with the agent in town who had the biggest ad in the yellow pages.
“Well, you’re pretty,” he said after looking at my headshots and résumé.
On the wall of his small Market Street office were headshots of, supposedly, his clients. One I thought looked like a guy from a Fritos ad. “I mean, you have a very pretty face.”
Slumping in my chair, trying to look hungry, I sucked in my gut and bit the insides of my cheeks to fake some bone structure. “See, the thing is, you’re kind of big.”
“I lose weight really fast, I just had to gain some weight, recently, because my doctor told me, well, I was, you know, anorexic,” I said, a little too loud.
“We don’t want you unhealthy, Storm.” The “we” he was referring to, I assumed, were all the pretty people in the headshots. “And, besides, it’s not your weight I’m referring to. You are bigger than most male actors. Do you think Tom Cruise wants to get up on an apple crate to kiss you?”
Excerpted from Crazy Enough, a memoir by Storm Large. Copyright 2012 by Storm Large. Published by Free Press.