A lifelong Midwesterner, Lisa Rieck grew up in Michigan, spent the last nine years in the Chicago suburbs, and recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin. She works at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where she spends her days writing, editing, managing the blog: www.InterVarsity.org/blog, and making lists on Post-It notes. Outside work you can find her shopping at farmers’ markets, reading good books, or having thought-provoking conversations with friends (and keeping warm) over steaming-hot beverages.
Before and during college, when I thought ahead to the possibilities life in my twenties might hold, “develop an eating disorder” was not on the list. I had emerged from high school with a very normal relationship to food and exercise, and that trend continued in college.
But once I graduated from college, the pressures of proving myself at a new job, moving away from the community I’d grown up in, developing new friendships from scratch, and navigating changing family relationships, on top of my already sky-high perfectionism, became too much. Without even realizing it, I began to use food and exercise to help me cope with my overwhelming (at least to me) life—to give me a sense of control in the midst of what seemed to me to be chaos and unknowns, and to provide a standard by which I could measure how I was doing at adulthood and work and life.
The small changes in eating and exercising started to add up and become more regular. Avoiding food—and therefore social events that involved food—started to dictate my decisions. The number on the old, beat-up scale in the restroom at my workplace became my measure for how I should feel about myself, and how much I could eat. I became withdrawn and secretive.
After a couple years, I finally had to face the fact that I was anorexic. And terrified. I had no idea how to escape it.
Six weeks ago, I packed up my belongings and moved from the western Chicago suburbs, where I’d been living for over nine years, to Madison, Wisconsin, in order to start a new job. In the way of furniture, I had a bed, a dresser, a bookcase, and two free chairs.
At thirty-two years of age, I became the sole owner of my first couch.
I also needed dishes and silverware. Thankfully, through the generosity of family members who’ve bought or given me various kitchen items, I was given enough for six people. Once I get a kitchen table, I’ll be set.
And yet, something in me keeps feeling embarrassed that I didn’t (and still don’t) have all the seemingly essential household items that make it onto every wedding registry: a mixer, rugs, a cool lamp, matching mixing bowls, luxuriously thick towels, etc., etc., etc.
The move has also left me wondering why, when two people’s salaries are getting combined into one at their marriage, their friends and family buy them lots of gifts, but when single people move, they—on their single-income paychecks—are responsible to buy everything they might need, except for perhaps a token candle purchased as a house-warming gift.
It all makes me want to raise the question a single friend asked me once: Can I register for my birthday?
Somehow, marriage has become the main rite of passage into adulthood, the rite of passage we throw all our time, energy, and money into. No other celebratory event in American culture compares to the scale of weddings. Don’t get me wrong—marriage is definitely worth celebrating; I think watching couples declare their love and commitment to each other above all others is a sacred event.
But where does that leave those of us who aren’t married?
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