Really, Janek? How on earth is Peter Pan supposed to be related to eating disorders? This had better not be a rant about Tinkerbell; that would really be scraping the bottom of the barrel…
No. Don’t worry. Just bear with me. It’s brilliant. Maybe.
Everybody on here knows the story of Peter Pan, right? Either you’ve watched the thoroughly adorable Disney film (not to mention the sequel, which in my humble opinion was absolutely fantastic), or you’ve read the unbelievable violent and dark book, or both. If you’re like me, you watched the film first at a really young age, then tracked the book down in your local library and then proceeded to have your heart and soul stomped into the ground by how not-very-cutesy that book was. Thank you Mr Barrie, for betraying my five year old self.
ANYWAY. The point that I’m trying to make, besides my literary trauma, was about the actual character of Peter Pan. This bloke was perpetually a child, although the actual age seems to be under some dispute. In any case, the book says he still had all his baby teeth, so kind of young. And he wasn’t getting any older. The Darling children arrive, hi-jinks ensue, and just about everybody watching wanted nothing more than to wind up in Never-Never-Land and be a Lost Boy (multiple gender pronouns not coming into play until 2002 – thank you Jane). Doesn’t it sound great? Never aging past about ten or so, adventures every day, nobody has responsibilities, taxes or a bedtime. But then, what is it that Peter says? “To die…would be a great adventure”. Hang on, but I thought being a child all the time would be fantastic, why isn’t he happy to never have to get a job, or do anything that isn’t just what he wants to do?
Peter realises that eternal childhood gets, as it were, old. Every child, ignoring external circumstances, does have to grow up. And that’s good. There is so much that you can’t do as a child, so much you learn through growing up: it is a waste of a life to spend it as the boy/girl/whatever you identify as, who never grew up.
Which brings me back to eating disorders. Darn, that required far too much set up. When you develop an eating disorder, it causes both a halt to physical development and more often than not, a mental regression of sorts. This is largely due to the high numbers of suffers who first fall ill at a pre-pubescent age or during puberty. Hormone production shuts down as your body uses up all its attention on keeping you conscious and keep your heart beating. For ladies, your period switches off past a certain point; you stop growing; hair growth slows or stops (up until you start growing this freaky down-stuff which is very not cool). Take me for example. I’m what I would describe as physically recovered. However, it now takes a good couple of months of not shaving my face before people less than a millimetre away from me to notice a thing, whereas pre-anorexia I was having to do it every day. It’s possible that other factors contributed to this, but I’m fairly certain that the arrested hormone production rate is directly linked to this and it’s just never fixed itself.
But while I was sick, I loved it. As far as I was concerned, if I had to shave that meant that I was growing up. I wouldn’t be taken care of, I’d have to get a job, do things that weren’t revolving around food, exercise and the abuse of both. If I grew up, then I would have to change my routine, wouldn’t be able to do the exact same things on a weekly basis. God forbid, I might actually have to get better, let go of my best friend, my killer. So I kept going, trying as hard as I could to die a child; a beautiful, tragic, thinchild. What a lovely little dream.
It was my brother, actually, who brought me around. He had moved out by this point and was not accustomed to living with me. So while the rest of my family were too scared of what I might do to not indulge my every self-destructive whim, he would have none of it. And I hated it. Well, no. The disorder hated it, but by that point I identified as the disorder, the actual person was somewhat indisposed. He was the one to tell me that I was being selfish; that I was destroying the family; that I was pathetic for allowing myself to wheedle, whine and manipulate my way to an early grave. He was harsh, perhaps unduly so, but the underlying message was virtuous. Grow up. So, kicking and screaming, that is what I ended up doing. And I have not looked back once. Because daunting as it is, as much as it causes you to be dragged out of every comfort zone you are currently in, as little as you want to relinquish that death-grip you have there on your childhood, growing up is worth it. And sure, I’m not even twenty yet; I am by no means “grown up”. But I’ve accepted that as my path, I look forward to it.
Sure, it’s nice to stay in bed all day, to have someone take care of you, to just not be able to cope with anything and not have to. It’s nice to have “It’s okay to not XYZ, I’m sick”. But not forever. That is nothing but a waste. Make something of yourself, because you can be anything and anyone, truly. Except Peter Pan. At Peter’s core is arrogance and selfishness; the archetypal child. You get to be more than him. Childhood is limiting, restrictive. Responsibilities bring opportunities, experiences, adventures.
And there is nothing to say that you can’t till watch cartoons as an adult. Well, there better not be. I will be so pissed.
Apologies for the delay. My laptop, with EVERYTHING I HAD WRITTEN died. I’m currently rewriting, but until then I thought I’d have a go at a beloved childhood character, because that is always going to be super popular…possibly.
Until next time (not so long, I promise!) – be the best that you can be and remember that my digital door is always open, I will never not want to hear from you.