Spotlight Emotional Support Fantasy
This essay was written by Amanda McNeil in Chloe Caldwell’s 12-Month Essay Collection Generator
If you can ’ t make fun of your eating disorder, what ’ s the point of even having one? Amanda McNeil attempts to answer this question, and others, in her debut essay collection.
Thank You, I Still Hate Myself is a candid, darkly hilarious, and vulnerable collection that grapples with binge eating, fantasy, obsession, depression, sex, and dating. While some writers bleed on the page, McNeil sharts on it with writing that ’ s raw, surprising, a little messy, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Whether she’s working in a haunted house for six years too long, obsessing over a tinder match for three years, spending $200 a week on take out, trying to figure out what’s wrong with midwestern swinger, or getting fired after meeting Bradley Whitford, each essay in Thank You, I Still Hate Myself, invites you into her beautiful, broken brain to laugh with and at her.
The following essay, “ Emotional Support Fantasy, ” is an essay excerpted from this collection.
I could pick Kyle’s dick out of a line up, but not his face. The dick pics were always the same. A shot of him holding his hard penis up, right hand surrounding the base, boxers and pajama pants slightly pulled down. We met on Tinder in early 2017. His profile stated he was “forensic files in the streets, dateline in the sheets.” I was immediately interested.
After matching, he said, If you had a sweet van from the 70s, what would you paint on it?
Dicks, I answered.
Or like, a Lisa Frank motif.
WAIT. Or Lisa Frank and dicks.
All are good answers, he said.
Kyle lived in Chicago, but was often in Milwaukee for work. We exchanged numbers and texted until I saw my ex-boyfriend on OkCupid and threw up. I’d only been single a few months and was frequently crying over the breakup. I brushed my teeth, got in my car, and aimlessly drove around. I needed to feel like I was moving. Eventually, I drove to a grocery store parking lot to smoke cigarettes. I wasn’t ready to go back to the apartment we’d shared, but didn’t know where to go.
I texted Kyle.
Hey so i dont think im in a place to be dating, but I like talking to you. Would you be cool with just being friends?
Thats cool. I wasn’t going to send you a dick pic anyway.
He sent the first dick pic a few days later. The dick pics were always the same. A shot of him holding his hard penis up, right hand surrounding the base, boxers and pajama pants slightly pulled down. He may have switched it up once to holding his dick while standing up. Sometimes it felt like a giant disembodied penis was texting me. One that had little arms and hands, like a T-Rex. I became more interested in the backgrounds of the pictures than its erect subject. After saving the pictures, I’d zoom in to get a better look of the room, wondering if it was his apartment or a hotel room. I always hoped there would be a clue to indicate why he’d never meet me.
In exchange, I sent him the first nudes I’d sent anyone since college, back when I had to use my MacBook’s webcam. It was terrifying and thrilling. I made sure not to show my face, in case he decided to put them on the Internet. I had gained weight since the last time a new person saw me naked, and I was terrified to show my body. I made sure to navigate around my worst feature, my stomach. I found a good angle to shoot pictures of my ass, which involved holding my phone upside down and almost extending my shoulder out of its socket. I felt nervous as I took the pictures, and even more anxious when I sent them. My whole body tensed waiting for his response. Having his approval of my tits and ass was important, it meant maybe I could be single, maybe I could have sex again. Good sex for a change! Maybe I was going to be okay.
The next time he was in Milwaukee for work, we made plans to meet up at a bar, and then planned to go his hotel to have sex. We were sexting pretty regularly, but I wanted to meet in public first. The afternoon we were supposed to meet he cancelled, saying he had to unexpectedly go to Green Bay for work. I was disappointed and partially relieved; it would have been my first kind-of date and I was terrified of being rejected. However, something didn’t feel right.
Tinder updates your location whenever you are in the app to show how far your match is away from you. So, like a crazy person, I watched his Tinder. I kept opening his profile for any indication Kyle was moving away from me. According to the app, he was in Milwaukee the entire time. The next morning I texted him, You never went to Green Bay, you’re an asshole, and deleted his number. I got no response in return.
My sister told me I couldn ’ t be so confrontational. People would think I was a “crazy bitch,” but I decided I could live with that. Especially if the person who thought it was an asshole.
A few weeks later, while on a call from work, I got a text from him. He said he still wanted to “bend me over a desk.”
Sooo wtf really happened? I asked.
Food poisoning from sushi
Why couldn’t you just say that?
Because it’s embarrassing I kinda crapped my pants. When you shit your pants you panic
As someone who has often claimed diarrhea to get out of something, I was skeptical. Diarrhea or shitting yourself is the perfect excuse to get out of anything. If you tell someone you have an upset stomach, they usually assume you have the shits and don’t ask any more questions. It’s an experience almost everyone has had, so they know how bad it can be, yet usually doesn’t last too long, so you can be out and about tomorrow without suspicion. And people usually assume if you have the balls to say you have the Hershey squirts, you have to be telling the truth.
So, if he was lying, I liked his style. It was another thing we had in common!
We never met in Milwaukee. He’d text me the afternoon he was in town, asking me to meet at his hotel that night. I was never ready, mentally or emotionally. I always planned to lose weight by the time we met. I was heavier than I’d ever been when we started talking and I was terrified of rejection, of being repulsive to someone. I was sure I’d never recover if he rejected me. I told my friend, Elle, that I was worried I was too fat to fuck.
“There’s no such thing as too fat to fuck, all women are inherently beautiful, some people just have different tastes!” she said.
The last-minute I’m in town messages didn’t feel good either. I hated feeling like an afterthought, or a last minute whim. I wanted to be a priority. I was tired of being texted late a night for phone sex and nudes. I liked him, and I wanted more, at least the chance for more. After several drafts to work up the courage, I asked him if we were ever going to go on a real date, and if not, I didn’t want to talk anymore. Being used as an electronic booty call felt like shit.
I’m not sure. I’m not sure what’s happening with my job now.
I never responded. It seemed like a bullshit response.
A few months later, I found out on Instagram that Kyle had moved to Oakland for work. I sent him a message and apologized for being a “crazy cunt” and cutting off contact. I still wasn’t comfortable asking for anything, of having boundaries and expectations of people.
We didn’t talk for a while. I went on countless dates with guys from Tinder, OkCupid, and Bumble. I had sex for the first time since my breakup, but I hadn’t connected with anyone the way I thought I could with Kyle. The sex was never as good as I thought it’d be with Kyle; none of the guys inspired the kind of lusty obsession I had for him.
Two weeks before I left for a vacation to San Francisco, Kyle messaged me on Instagram. He told me he still thought about me, how he wanted to take a business trip to Milwaukee and see me. I let him know I would be in the Bay area in two weeks, and made plans to meet.
The plans were cancelled the day after I arrived. Kyle had to work in another city.
I was relieved like I was the other times we had cancelled on one another. I was terrified to meet him. Scared he wouldn’t like me, wouldn’t like my body. That I’d be rejected. I always told myself I’d lose a bunch of weight before we met. I’d diet, do low carb, and then my eating disorder would take over and I’d go through periods of binging. I never lost as much weight as I’d planned, and then the anxiety would takeover. I had lost twenty pounds before my trip, but it still wasn’t enough. Ideally I would have lost about fifteen more to feel comfortable, and more after that to feel really good.
I fantasized about what my body would look like once I’d lost the weight about as often as I fantasized about Kyle. Often, I fantasized about both at the same time. I imagined the outfits I would wear, usually something sexy but casual, like a low cut T-shirt dress, which would highlight my newly slimmed waist. In these fantasies I looked like an Instagram model: thin, but fat in all the right parts, like my butt and boobs. I would have even settled for my body just thirty pounds ago. Whenever I imagined us together, or myself at any point in the future, I pictured myself as thin with a cool-girl wardrobe stocked with casual vintage finds I’d just throw on, someone who knew how to eat, someone with an apartment that someone could visit at anytime, an apartment that I wouldn’t always need at least twenty-four hours notice to clean before someone came over.
It was easier to never meet than it was to risk losing the idea of him or rejection. Especially when I hadn’t yet achieved the kind of body I thought was finally worth loving.
I didn’t worry I wouldn’t like him. That I could reject or not like him, or anyone for that matter, hadn’t occurred to me yet.