This is part of a news article Parker Rabinowitz, the outwardly perfect, honor roll, athletic, hopefully Princeton-bound senior, who is the protagonist of Robin Friedman's novel NOTHING thinks about writing for the new teen section of a local newspaper. But it is less about trees than it is about himself. Because Parker is bulimic, suffering under the weight of parental expectations, the pressures he puts on himself and his inability to separate himself and his own needs and desires from his parent's expectations.
That line really hit me when I read it, because when I was actively bulimic, I wrote several poems with a very similar theme - if I can dig them up I'm going to send them to Robin - where I'm inside crumbling and wondering why no one can see that, feeling like tiny chunks of myself are falling off each and every day yet everyone acts as if I'm just the same and tell me how well I'm coping. That dissonance between the outer facade and the inner reality comes across very effectively in NOTHING - as does Parker's longing to tell someone about his problem, his feeling of isolation and loneliness, yet his inability to cross over the wall of his own "perfect", coping facade to admit vulnerability.
Yes. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. I remember when I finally did "fall unexpectedly during a storm" and was in the hospital" and I said to one of the doctors, "I feel like I'm screaming for help and no-one is listening."
He said, "Have you ever tried just asking for help?"
It's been a long learning process, and even now I have to fight my perfectionist streak and my feeling that it's "weak" to ask for help. But I've become much better at it. And it's certainly a much healthier option than standing in front of a toilet and sticking your finger down your throat, right?
Robin also portrays the family dynamics effectively. Sure the media plays a role in our desire to be thinner and thinner, but eating disorders are as much about control as they are about looks - and much of the background for the control issues derives from the family of origin.
Brava to Robin for writing this important and powerful book. I'm so glad that there is a well-written book with a male protagonist with an eating disorder, because the incidence of eating disorders (and generally disordered eating which isn't clinically an eating disorder) amongst males is on the rise.
And I have an extra thank you to Robin because this book was originally called PURGE. When Robin and her publishers changed the title to NOTHING, I wrote and asked if we could take the title PURGE and they said yes!
So DOUBLE thanks to Robin, for writing such a sensitive and on-target book that I'm sure will reach and help many, many teens and also for finally giving me a title for my book!