While the high visibility of my public life has not always brought me personal peace and happiness, it has lent a certain universal quality to my various metamorphoses. Because I believed that to be loved I had to be perfect, I moved "out of myself"--my body--early on and have spent much of my life searching to come home ... to be embodied. I didn't understand this until I was in my 60s and started writing this book. I have come to believe that my purpose in life may be to show--through my own story--how this "disembodiment" happens and how, by understanding it, we can change. --Jane Fonda
•THE HIDDEN DISEASE
Fonda was obsessed with being thin from girlhood and thought she had found a way to control her weight when a school friend introduced her to bulimia.
How many men obsess about being perfect? For men, generally, good enough is good enough.
Dad had decided that Peter and I should go to boarding school, as was common at the time for families who could afford it. Peter was enrolled at the Fay School in Massachusetts and I at the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y. Starting my freshman year at Emma Willard, being very thin assumed dominance over good hair in the hierarchy of what really mattered.
I remember cutting out a magazine ad that said with $2 and some box tops they would send you a special kind of gum that had tapeworm eggs in it and when you chewed it the worms would hatch and eat up all the food you consumed. It sounded like a splendid idea to me--a way to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. I sent in my $2 and the box tops, but the gum never materialized. When I told this story to a friend recently, she said, "You're a smart girl, Jane. How did you get duped into believing this and sending in the money?" Because I was 13 (hence immortal) and health wasn't a factor if it meant getting thin. I knew tapeworms weren't fatal. If it had been a bubonic virus I was sending away for, I'd have thought twice--maybe. But anything that would allow me to get thin without having to do something active seemed attractive. Mind you, I wasn't as extreme as a few other girls, who had to be hospitalized because they refused to eat, but I prided myself on being one of the thinnest in the class.
Then, in sophomore year, Carol Bentley, a wet-eyed brunette from Toledo, Ohio, entered Emma Willard and became my best friend. I remember first seeing her as I was stepping out of the dorm shower. She was naked and took my breath away. I had never seen a body like hers: fully developed breasts that stood straight out over a tiny waist, and narrow hips with long, chiseled legs. I felt certain right then that she would end up running the world and that if I hung around long enough, some of her power would rub off on me. Already I had learned to equate the perfection of a woman's body with power and success.
Perfect body notwithstanding, Carol joined me in having major body-image issues. It was she who introduced me to bingeing and purging, what we now know as bulimia. She said the idea came to her in a class on the history of the Roman Empire. She read that the Romans would gorge themselves on food during orgiastic feasts and then put their fingers down their throats to make themselves throw it all back up and start over again. The idea of being able to eat the most fattening foods and never having to pay the consequences was very appealing.