So this one time, a boyfriend of mine (now ex) bought me a scale.
It was during the summer. It was neither expected nor requested and it was everything I would have imagined it to be had I ever imagined someone I cared about buying me a scale as a means of encouraging me to be less fat.
I had imagined vividly many other terrible, terrible things in my time as a dramatic over-thinker; the death of my entire family in various tragic circumstances, what I would wear to their funerals as I wept with grief-stricken abandon, the passion of my sorrow moving others at the service to profound heights of heartache.
I had imagined being sold to the circus as a child, running away from home and dying in a car accident, just about managing to shoot an accusatory look at my mother before I perished so she would forever have to live with the knowledge that had she only allowed me to go to see Titanic after 9 pm with my friends like proper teenagers that all this could have been avoided; I had, in short, imagined all manner of ridiculously woeful scenarios befalling me.
But here I was, 26 years old, two beers in on a sticky leather couch watching "So You Think You Can Dance" online in the height of a European summer with a sense of dread slowly growing in my stomach, confronted with a brand new scale in black and grey slate, presented to me, unironically, as a gift.
Ostensibly, boyfriend explained, it was for his use. Boyfriend was an avid fan of the gym himself and visited his gym, which was near his work, three times a week. I, it was pointed out, vsisited the gym zero times a week. I could use his pass, I was told. It was nowhere near the apartment, but I could take the bike I hated!
Side note: This was the second boyfriend to buy me a bike. Take note, all future boyfriends: I hate bikes! They are the worst. They make me sweaty and mess up my hair and I find the whole experience as a method of transport WHOLLY UNPLEASANT so we can just quit it with the bikes as gifts already. Although it has to be said: better than a scale.
So! I could use his gym pass! This was great news, as it was relayed to me. Had I not been complaining about getting out of shape? Well, here was the solution! The scale could be used to track my progress! Of fitness, obviously. But also, weight loss. That’s an important part of fitness.
I was always complaining about my weight! And I was totally right to! I probably weighed too much. And here is the VERY DEVICE with which we can check that. ISN’T THAT FANTASTIC?
I felt physically ill. I hadn’t used a scale since the year before, where similar tactics from Best Boyfriend EverTM had convinced me to slash my calorie intake by about half and whittle myself down to about 125 pounds. Which, at 5’4, by his reckoning (and mine at that point, I’d like to add) was an EXCELLENT START. An excellent start, I will repeat.
But since, you know, doing that, I had been kind of like, "Oh, cool, look what I did! I look thinner! Back to eating normally! Doop dee doo!" so it hadn’t really stuck.
I would also like to point out that boyfriend was fully and comprehensively aware of my history with disordered eating, the dangers of equating or even associating my self-worth with a number on the scale, and my general refusal to have scales in the house on account of they totally triggered really unhealthy and destructive behaviors in me. But hey-o: it’s scale o’ clock!
To prove how totally health-oriented and not weight-oriented this scale was, boyfriend pointed out that I didn’t even have to use it! Not even! They were mostly for him! But also for me if I wanted to check out how much my beer drinking had affected my hotness which was kind of important because, you know, boyfriend was going to the gym three times a week to look attractive for me, while there I was with my beer and my couch and, really, relationships go both ways when you think about it so me weighing myself might give me a wake-up call to my terrible unhealthy ways.
He then proceeded to weigh himself. I continued to watch "So You Think You Can Dance," but the switch had been flipped. All the fun had been sucked out of it. The dancers were so thin and pretty. If I were thin and fit, I would also be more attractive. And healthy, probably, I reasoned. Maybe being thin and healthy were the same thing. Maybe those fat acceptance blogs I had been reading were totally wrong.
I didn’t think they were wrong, for those girls, but maybe in my case I did have to be thin to be attractive. I frowned at the screen, lost in thought. Thoughts that were far more unhealthy and damaging than the one beer in my hand.
168, he proclaimed from across the room, sighing heavily. I hadn’t asked. Too light, he deemed himself. Too light for 5'9". More muscle needed. He determined to go to the gym more.
This speech, directed at no one in particular, was clearly for my benefit. Lead by example, he had obviously decided, was the way to go in this situation. I asked him to put the scale away somewhere I couldn’t find it. He audibly pushed it across the wooden floor under a chair. I sat, unable to focus, in a state of high anxiety until he eventually went to the bathroom. I hurled myself across the room and dragged the scale out from under the chair. I had to know.
"140?!" I wailed. It was heavier than I’d ever been. He was right, of course he was right! I had let myself get out of control! I was a monster, clearly. How had I allowed that to happen?
He emerged from the bathroom, all sympathy and open arms. He agreed, it was a terrible weight to have gotten to. But things could only improve from here. Also, he added with a chuckle, the gap between 140 and 168 was simply too small for a girl and a guy seeing each other. I mean, right? Right?! It’s ridiculous! Ain’t nothin’ sexy ‘bout that! You know what’s sexy? Smaller.
I was in a foreign country totally isolated from my family and friends, I hadn’t found a job yet, and he was my only point of contact. How could he be wrong?! He was confirming that terrible inner monologue had been battling since I was 16 and was only too delighted to be centre stage yet again and there was nobody there to tell them both to cut it the hell out, you lunatic jerk-wads. I certainly was not strong enough to do it at the time.
He assured me that everything would be OK now. I could stop worrying! Better to have caught it early on. I could still make myself an acceptable size easily! I mean, imagine if I had put on even more weight before realizing how terrible I looked?! JUST IMAGINE THAT.
After this, the best gift giving of all time ceremony, I attempted to lose weight in terribly unhealthy ways for a couple of weeks (because guess what, fat-shaming your girlfriend who isn’t even fat is a terrible motivational tool, guy), I went to the gym once, we had several arguments about how I wouldn’t go to the gym, amongst other things, and then I cut my losses and got the hell out of dodge.
I would suspect that if asked, this dude would chalk up the demise of our relationship to other factors, but for me, it was the scale that really tipped it over (sorry not sorry) into irretrievably damaged territory. The fact that he would put my physical and mental health in danger purely so he could have a girlfriend that was, to his mind, marginally more attractive was less of a warning sign than a giant red ACME hammer beating me into the dust.
After I left, I remembered other things he’d said. One humdinger was when showing him pictures of myself in college, he had commented, "Ooh, that girl is pretty. I wish I was dating that girl." And yes, he knew I was basically eating one meal a day at the time. And somehow this did not alert me to what an enormous douche-canoe this person was.
I don’t currently own a scale, nor will I again. I am also one gym-obsessed boyfriend down, which is the best thing that’s happened to me all year. This week I had pizza for breakfast! It’s not a common occurrence, but I don’t hate myself for it! IT WAS SUPER FUN AND DELICIOUS!
Please to be sharing your worst "terrible person I dated and behavior I inexplicably put up with" stories in comments.