But mummy, I want Botox, too!
Hideously Skinny White Girls
It's called the cult of Ana -- just another savage, moronic icon to ensnare teenage girls
- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the world of the American teenager.
Just when you thought it really couldn't get much weirder or nastier or more loaded with twisted pathos for our youth after the bitter onslaught of Britney and Avril and the WB and all those snide GOP/BushCo homophobic antisex abstinence messages ...
Just when you thought nothing could top the rather pathetic new trend of rich 'n' unpleasant parents who buy gifts of Botox and plastic surgery for their warped lost teenagers and just after you recognize that it's all ladled over with a violence-drenched aggro-marketing media maelstrom that makes most teens feel like glittery disposable chattel ...
Just when you thought you'd seen it all, now comes the news that teenage girls are forming new, secret online clubs.
Not just any clubs, mind, but sassy nutball cultlike clubs whose leaders tell their followers what to eat and how to think and how to hide their big ugly secrets, their neurosis, their imminent damage, and they even have a unifying fashion symbol: they all wear little red wristbands to show their weird solidarity, their allegiance to a warped and unhappy goddess who goes by the name of Ana.
This is true. This is happening now. And you may, at this point, think it's all cute and good and Net-friendly and you might say, aww, how great is that, lonely lost teenage girls finding each other online and making new friends and worshipping some celebrity named Ana, sharing secrets and diet tips and advice and isn't that just the coolest thing? Isn't that just the way of young girls, socializing and sharing and emoting? Isn't that the genius of the Internet?
Why, sure it is. It's all special and warm and funky until you learn, of course, that Ana is short for -- wait for it -- anorexia.
Yessirree. This is what the girls call it. Or, rather, her. Ana is their secret best friend. Ana is their salvation. They draw pictures of her, send her their prayers, recite her creed.
These girls, they love Ana and they want to be with Ana all the time and they have bizarre little support groups who rally the sad and the faithful to love and follow Ana no matter how hungry or sick or shriveled they get (Ana mocks them if they succumb to food), and if they choose not to befriend Ana they can also take a liking to Mia (bulimia) or find a new boyfriend in a totally popular guy named Ed (eating disorder).
This is not a joke. This is not a gimmick. According to this crazily disturbing story from the Associated Press, these are indeed the nicknames girls are using on blogs and sites and chat rooms for their new friends. And Ana is their queen.
Girls have anthropomorphized anorexia. To many, she is now a real person, super-skinny wispy female perfection personified. They join Ana forums and tell each other what to eat, and how, and why and why not, and they all apparently want to be sickeningly, unhealthily, grossly skinny. Paris Hilton skinny. Nicole Richie skinny. Nasty inedible unsexy skin 'n' rags toothpick Mary-Kate Olsen skinny. Corpse skinny.
But it's more than that. It's more than just the beauty myth doing its savage work once again -- this time with the unstoppable assistance of the omnipotent Internet -- hammering girls and women with relentless images of impossible beauty.
It's more than just the usual bizarre admixture of magazine ads and media spectacle and celebrity whoredom that makes them want, at all costs, to appear completely bedraggled and curveless and perpetually expressionless and completely unsexy and looking like meth-addicted mannequins with bleached teeth and flat-ironed eyelashes and stapled stomachs and dry, brittle spines and totally cute shoes.
It is also, of course, about belonging. It's also about that savage severe teenage loneliness that makes you cling on to anything that makes you feel special or included. Do you remember that feeling? Can you recall? Can you now amplify that memory by roughly 100, slap it on a Coke marketing slogan and make it into a new lip gloss and splay it across the cover of a hundred magazines and launch it via a new viral marketing campaign across 10,000 Web sites? Because this is what we're up against.
It's a bit like cutting. Cutting is hot. Cutting is where it's at. The Ana thing is much like the stories of all the beautiful young teen girls who intentionally cut themselves with knives and razors, because, well, because it's something to do. It gets attention. Outer manifestation of inner pain.
And girls often cut themselves even if they have no real, deep-seated psychological issues or traumas, no real reason to do so other than, well, because it's the thing to do. It's popular. It gets attention. Like binge drinking and drugs and sex and Hillary Duff and listening to "OC" soundtracks on endless loop, cutting and anorexia are just what all the badass girls are into.
Or maybe it's about control. This is what some of my female friends tell me. Eating disorders are what teenage girls cling to when the world around them is chaos and their families are a mess and the messages coming at them are savage and vicious and confusing, and especially if they're the product of broken homes or physical abuse or just insane amounts of pressure, the only thing left in their lives that is even remotely within their control is their own bodies and the food they barely put into it.
It's a way to keep yourself small in the world. A way to stay childlike. To hide from reality, relationships, the repulsive and embarrassing examples they see of adulthood. It's a way to try and disappear.
But the good news is, barring any permanent damage to their organs or bones or whimpering souls, the vast majority of girls will grow out of the savage Ana/cutting self-abuse phase, just as the vast majority of teens of both genders hopefully grow out of whatever tragic/moronic/morose anxieties that wrap around them like boa constrictors during those deadly and precious years from about 13 to 18, when all is harrowing and pimpled and angst ridden and torn and before it all starts to get a tiny bit easier.
Before, that is, the time when it all starts to calm down and gel and make a tiny bit more sense, when it evolves into the more relaxed, less traumatic adult phases of, you know, obesity and sexual anxiety and alcoholism and a rabid addiction to eBay. Ahem.
What a miserable and ludicrous spectacle. And what sort of shame should we feel, ostensibly the world's most independent, free-thinking society (I know, I know), and still we can't come anywhere close to teaching women, young girls, about the true power of their bodies, their individual spirits, a sense of self-esteem and identity exclusive of that provided by media and peer pressure. Still we can't shift our perceptions of the flesh, of identity, to a healthier, more open, more grounded place devoid of shame and fear and disgust. What a thing.
And isn't it just so much fun to let yourself think we're evolving in our understanding of the human animal, improving, progressing, learning more than ever before, when in fact, despite the mad rush of technology and science and the staggering bounty we enjoy in this nation, despite the incredible beauty we are so very capable of, we often seem to be doing just the opposite. Because there's Ana, as proof, shaking her head and laughing that sickening, bony, rib-cage-rattling laugh.