In 1989, aged nineteen, I was sporting a tattoo openly on my wrist, which starkly declared my unrequited love for my teacher, Miss Williams. It helped me survive the pain of being torn away from her at the end of my time at school. And it lead to my meeting a young woman my own age, Alex, onto whom I redirected much of my obsessiveness.
At nineteen, I was shouting out my attraction to other women whilst, at the same time, struggling with my sexuality and with coming out as lesbian. Brought up with Christianity, I believed it was wrong to be gay and that I needed to be cultivating a heterosexual identity. This book contains detailed accounts of clueless first sexual encounters with young men, not something I have ever come across in either fiction or non-fiction.
Alex was simply beautiful. And I was getting fat. My struggle with my body image, with my self-esteem, and with my sexuality began to find expression in food. Here too the immediacy of this diary bears out all the details, this time of the slide into a bulimic lifestyle. I never acquired the skill of making myself sick, so I needed to devise other means of ridding my body of food. I have received feedback from readers regarding how much the detail in this diary has helped them in the fight for recovery from their own eating disorders. The facts on the pages are a startling mirror.
I had another obsession: writing everything down. I did this by hand in a code based on the Greek alphabet. This book is my edited diary, stripped of real life names and places and of much information unrelated to this story, crafted into a coherent whole. The project took many years to complete, yet presents itself as an actual raw, unedited, private diary that the reader happens to have stumbled upon.
I was thrilled to learn back then that I have a counterpart who lived two hundred years before me, an obsessive lesbian diarist, Anne Lister, who wrote in a secret code, based on the Greek alphabet. Anne’s diaries, deciphered and edited by Helena Whitbread, were published in 1988, just before I was living the events in this book.
This is a love story, an eating disorder memoir, and an account of the effects that homophobia can have on relationships and on individuals. In a world without homophobia, internal or external, this story would not have taken place.