Mrs. Brown’s grade four class turned out to be a stellar year of achievement for me. One of the cutest boys in class, Jason Nevil, asked me to go steady with him while we were in the cloakroom getting ready for recess one day to which I replied, “Um, I have to ask my mom”. Smooth, yes? Of course my mom said no (rightly so, given I was all of 10 years old), so Jason then moved on to Kate Williams who was more than happy to skip the lame parental consent line and say yes on the spot. I’ll always hold onto the fact that I was Jason’s first choice that school year….sigh.
This was also the year I received my first detention. As a class we were supposed to be following along with Mrs. Brown as she read aloud to us from our novel, at the ready to take over for her when she called on one of us. Being the studious and extremely well-behaved child I was at that age, I hovered over the correct page and paragraph waiting eagerly to be called upon. Unfortunately for me, the student who sat directly in front of me wasn’t quite as organized- she stealthily turned herself around in her desk and whispered to me, “What page are we on?”. The exact moment I opened my mouth with the intention of helping her out, Mrs. Brown chose to look up from her reading and as luck would have she ended up looking directly at me. For a pre-teen girl who absolutely prided herself on rule following, Mrs. Brown telling me, in her firmest primary school teacher tone, that I would stay after school in detention as punishment for disrupting class was DEVASTATING. Immediately my face flushed with heat. I could feel my breathing become shallow and quick, my racing heart telling me in no uncertain terms that there was something very wrong. As I sat immersed in the details of what had just happened I completely forgot about reading aloud and a thousand thoughts raced through my head. I needed to tell Mrs. Brown that it was all a mistake! Surely she would understand my story and withdraw the sanction. I was not a delinquent! She definitely needed to know that. Would this end up on my permanent school record? Was it the beginning of a string of incidents where I would be wrongfully incriminated? And how was I supposed to let my mother know that I was going to be late? Oh, man mom is going to be so pissed. How is this happening to me????????
The thing I wanted most in that moment was to travel through time and keep myself staring dutifully at the page in my novel (well that or slide under my desk, through a me-sized hole in the floor to the playground below).
Fast forward about 20 years later and my body is experiencing the very same reaction. Instant heat, shallow breathing, heart racing and the added cognitive awareness of what I was feeling; the emotions of shame and fear. The major difference this time around was that I actually had done something wrong. In fact, I had just been caught shoplifting in a grocery store by undercover security.
“What happened to the good girl, rule follower?”, you may be asking. Did grade 4 detention set me off on a path of self destruction? Well no, not exactly. I was able to recover pretty fully from my short after school incarceration and also get through the remainder of my schooling with a squeaky clean record. My "arrest" at the age of 20 had nothing to do with a desire to be a badass or break the law, it was simply an extension of the addictive behaviours I had been exhibiting since my body dysmorphia moved into full swing the previous Summer. Here’s what I attempted to steal;
A bag of chocolate rosebuds from the bulk section. Estimated cost; under 5 dollars.
My student loan had dried up that semester , I wasn’t due to be paid from my part time job for several days and I had no credit whatsoever at that age. I was completely broke and I was needing to binge. It was a craving so powerful that it took me out of my room at the University residence in the late evening and saw me walk 30 minutes to the store in the dark and attempt to leave with a bag of shitty chocolate that I couldn’t pay for.
Sitting in one of the back rooms of the family owned store immediately after security apprehended me, my body was awash in the physiologic memories of Mrs. Brown’s detention. I felt 10 years old again and desperate to make this right somehow. The young security guy sat across from me as we waited for the police to show up. The police! He seemed to expect some level of defence for my behaviour or possibly a tearful plea, I’m sure having had many a thief sit across from him in the same manner before. I do remember being a bit tearful as we sat there and whether these words came out as a defence of my behaviour or not, in that moment something deep within me came through and uttered the truth.
“I have an eating disorder”.
I’m quite certain that was the first time I had said anything at all like that out loud. And as I described a bit of what had driven me here to steal this bag of chocolate, the security guy seemed sympathetic. “ We still have to wait for the police to arrive, Miss, but I suspect given the low cost of what you stole, no charges will be pressed. You’ll likely get off with a warning”
Lori Race is a healer, health clinic owner and writer with a passionate message to share from her past as a fitness instructor suffering from compulsive exercise disorder.