Sharon, an educated and professionally successful woman, stood five foot five and weighed as much as a Seahawk lineman. Despite her many professional accomplishments, Sharon’s self-image resembled 1946 Hiroshima. Sharon despaired. Her doctor advised: exercise, reduce portions, eat foods higher in water volume, lower in fat content, maybe an antidepressant. But Sharon’s primary problem was not obesity. She was starving relationally. Sharon was an intimacy anorexic. Sharon refused to date or relate. She abstained from her loving family. Sharon practiced unhappiness, and had a knack for it. Hating herself, Sharon insisted all others should hate her also. People who valued Sharon were, in her view, profoundly mistaken.
Aristotle (Athenian, 4th century B.C.) insisted: “Man is a social being, and designed by nature to live with others; accordingly the happy man must have society, for he has everything that is naturally good” (Nichomachean Ethics, Book IX, §ix). Cicero (Roman, 1st century B.C.) went further: “The effect of friendship is to make, as it were, one soul out of many” (De Amicitia, §xxv). A human alone is a jagged fragment of his or her real self. Sharon was alone.
With considerable persistence, friendship grew. Our hope and esteem infected Sharon. She concluded she might be able to lose a little weight. Haltingly, she reduced her size and confronted self-loathing. Sharon struggled through the protein diet, then transitioned to Weight Watchers. She lost about half her body weight, and has heeded all her physician’s advice. Sharon still wars with both weight gain and her emotions. But she now trains herself in the skills of well-being. Aristotle urged that “Happiness is a form of activity” (id.). All must learn the art of felicity. Sharon is getting the knack of it, with some trepidation.
Sharon had professional photos taken recently. Her eyes twinkled. She thinks, but cannot yet voice, that she may be lovable. She may date. She may become a mother. She may be beautiful.
To us, she has always been so.