Writing is all about process. Nothing comes out perfectly the first time. I'm always interested to see people's first drafts compared with the final published work, so I thought I'd provide an interesting deleted scene and character from Jessie's story.
Originally, I wrote in Jonathan, Jessie's boyfriend who did not treat her well and eventually broke up with her. The breakup pushed her further into her disorder. I took the boyfriend out for several reasons.
1. People who develop an eating disorder at an early age are often more immature than others, and since Jessie's disorder started at age 11, in some ways, she is very much like an 11 year old. The idea that she would have a boyfriend from ages 13-16 did not fit with her character.
2. Sometimes people with eating disorders blame their relationship failures on their weight and appearance, as Jessie did in the original draft. This is usually a false assumption, and I did not want young women or young men feeling as if they failed when broken up with. It happens to most of us! It really isn't you most of the time!
3. I wanted to focus the book on the themes of family relationships and female friendships. Jonathan distracted from that theme. Instead, I used many of his character traits for a boyfriend of one of the other girls at the center, so the idea of mistreatment and low self-esteem in a relationship would be present, but not prominent.
The absolute worst thing to ever happen to me just happened. Jonathan, the guy I’ve been going out with forever, just dumped me. I know it’s because I’m not thin enough. I asked him straight off, “Is this because I’m ugly?”
He sighed and said, “Jessie, that’s not it. Why are you so obsessed with this stuff anyhow? You barely have time for me. I doubt you’ll even notice the difference.”
I knew he was lying. “It is,” I shouted. I’m fat and ugly and you know it!” Then I turned and ran all the way home as fast as I could. No one else will ever love me again… if he even loved me to begin with.
I remembered back to the day I asked him out. Even back then when we were just 13, he was already so cool and confident all the time, whereas I’m just a bundle of nerves. I wouldn’t have done it except my friends were teasing me about our homecoming dance and Tiffany said, “I dare you to ask Jonathan. You’ll do it if you’re not chicken.”
Just then, he walked down the hall. In my nervous excitement, I practically shouted at him, “Johnny, do you want to go to the dance with me?”
He winced slightly before looking me up and down and then nodding again. I thought my face was going to rip open I was smiling so hard.
“Sure. I’ll go,” Jonathan said calmly, “but I don’t do yelling, and I don’t do nicknames. My parents named me Jonathan not Johnny or Jon.”
It wasn’t the most romantic acceptance of a date, but when he said sure, he put his hand on my shoulder, and I could barely hear the rest my heart was thumping so hard. So I just nodded, trying not to smile too much or seem too desperate.
“We can get our own tickets and meet there.” He paused, looked down at his watch, and sighed, “Now I’m going to be late for band practice.”
He turned to go, and I couldn’t help feeling just a little disappointed. Separate tickets? Meeting there? It didn’t sound like that much fun. Some of my friends were going together, and they’d asked if I could go join them. But I wanted to ask Jonathan first so we could have three real couples instead of two couples and me—the perpetual fifth wheel. But, Jonathan set the parameters for the date so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to explain. Then, I didn’t want to push things or argue about it and then have him change his mind.
After all that anticipation, I maybe wasn’t looking forward to the date as much as I’d hoped, Jonathan turned back around and flashed me his brightest whitest smile and shouted, “Hey Jessie! What color is your dress?”
“Blue,” I called back. “Why?”
“Well, I have to get you a corsage!” he exclaimed and winked before dashing to his club meeting.
It was the wink that clinched it. Before that moment, I had a serious crush. But that wink is the moment I really fell in love. That wink told me so much… at least I read into it at the time. It told me that he liked me, that he could be more than just that cool unattainable guy, and that underneath his logical exterior, there was something fun and exciting about him. Who wouldn’t fall for a guy like that?
Since then, we go out during the year, which still means we sit together at lunch and occasionally go to the movies on weekends, even though we’re both old enough to drive.
He rarely calls me and he never tries to get together over the summer. So I guess I always knew he didn’t really like me.
I feel like garbage. I might as well eat some and feel even worse. I might as well pork out and become the fat pig everyone else knows I am.