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Melissa Stetten's Bratwalk

Am I An Inspiration to Dangerously Thin Girls Everywhere?

Because that would really bum me out.

Melissa Stetten

Melissa Stetten

If you've been a legit model for more than five minutes, you'll know that being cold and crying takes up an extraordinarily large amount of your time. I've got a casting in Tribeca today, and on the way to the subway I just burst into tears. I am miserable. I want to be home in my bed eating pizza. The tears freeze instantly into little mascara icicles on my face. It is very, very cold out, but to be honest I’m always fucking freezing because I’m borderline anorexic and the amount of fat insulating my body is akin to one of those weird hairless cats.

Earlier today my dermatologist pulled down the skin beneath my eyes, looked at me with a worried expression and asked me if I was anaemic. That's another thing that contributes to the infinite sadness of being a model – because your job relies on your body, things that are wrong with you don't get time to naturally fix themselves. Take a second and add up all the different ailments that you just tolerate every day, to the point that you don't really even notice them any more. Now imagine if every weird, two-day rash or occasional bout of black dog sluggishness had a name ending in "syndrome" or led you off to the pharmacist because one of the professionals that surround your life had diagnosed it as a problem. Not great, right? I mean, it's not waking up in a field hospital somewhere wondering how many limbs you've got left, but it's a ballache. And if I had balls, I'm sure they would fucking ache all the time, too.

I recently watched a documentary on Isabelle Caro, the anorexic model who died at 28 weighing 79 pounds. She looked like one of those dancing corpses from the Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. I googled the shit out of Isabelle afterwards to depress myself more, and stumbled into the dark spiral of thinspiration websites. Then something really bad happened (worse than tofu cream cheese); I came across a photo of myself on one of the forums.

There I was, pouting into my iPhone in a bikini. I'm an inspiration to girls with mental illnesses? Being a model is just my job, but if I'm hurting unstable young women by doing it, that's fucked up. Plus, like anyone with a brain, I want to be inspiring for absolutely anything other than my metabolism. I’m a lazy piece of shit, I barely work out, is this what I'm going to be remembered for? Jesus.

Back in Tribeca, I'm freezing my ass off when finally my half-numb brain musters up enough power to figure out which subway to take. While I'm waiting for the train, a cute guy sits down next to me and says something along the lines of “Cute shirt!” I look at him and immediately assume he is gay based on his hairstyle, Yves Saint Laurent wool coat and the fact that he is interested enough in a shirt to try to engage a stranger in a conversation about it. I'm bored, so I talk to him for the whole journey about how awful wearing five-inch heels is and how I miss Michigan. Then I get up, blow him an air kiss (I'm so good at those) and turn to walk off the train.

Get this, he asks for my number. The shock doesn't come solely from the fact I'd assumed he was gay, either. As much as I want to lie to you, this never happens. Ever. Think about it, what normal guy would ever want to date a model? Most of us are fucking nuts, our schedules are beyond ridiculous, and we're always naked in public. Plus, as I've just explained, we're really, really skinny. That Isabelle chick who died from malnutrition is a very extreme, rare and distressing case of anorexia, but sometimes I feel like I’m a week’s worth of food behind her. That's very far from sexy.

I give him my number, which – on the rare occasion something like this does happen – I never do either. I guess I'm just in a minor state of panic.

I hyperventilate my way over to the casting and see a line of one million girls waiting in front of me. Glamorous! Still, at least I'm inside and warm, so the hour-long wait for a runway show that will end up paying $400 isn't so terrible.   Finally I make my way to the top of the stairs, do my sassiest runway walk and pose for two photos. Oh yeah, models don't blink.

The casting agent hands me some jeans and a shirt and I walk behind a thin curtain to change, sucking in my stomach and jerking the zip halfway up. Fuck you, metalwork, I win. My back fat is hanging out so I pull the shirt down to mask it. “Hmm, a little tight,” one of the designers remarks. I smile and shrug, I'm actually kind of pleased about it.

Later that night, my agent calls to tell me I booked the show. Well how about that. I guess I was just anorexic enough for them.

Follow Melissa on Twitter: @MelissaStetten

Illustrations by Sam Taylor. Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at samtaylorillustrator.com.

Previously – I Wish Death Upon Other Models