From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

Who’s That Calling My Name?

Go home and tell your daughters they’re beautiful!

Stokely Carmichael

My real name is Vici, pronounced Veeshee. But most people call me Vicki or Vic.

In my younger days, when I wasn’t as bright as I knew I should have been, I was in a relationship with a real fool, and everyone knew it but me. This guy was so beautiful, prettier than handsome, kind of like Prince. He had long eyelashes, smooth tan skin and a rock-hard body. He was yummy and he knew it; he was also cruel and he knew that, too.

But I was in love despite his shortcomings, and I was going to be the one woman who would change him into the loving, kind man I desperately wanted him to be. He had his own ideas, one of which was to change me into a Halle Berry look-alike. We all know the only sistah who looks like Halle Berry is Halle Berry. But I gladly obliged because after my miraculous transformation, he was really going to love me.

“Vic, you got potential, you can look like a movie star, all you have to do is . . . ,” he began to convince me.

My mind told me to run for my life, but I loved him so I stayed with him.

He wanted me to lose about thirty pounds from my 150-pound, five-foot-five-inches frame, tone up my flabby midsection and get rid of my unsightly cellulite by starving myself and working out seven days a week.

Armed with prescription diet pills given to me by a quack doctor, a no-carb, high-protein diet, six days of hard cardio and four days of strength training, I was well on my way. The only thing that kept me from passing out was my fantasy of him being swept away by my beauty and grace after I lost the weight. I imagined the look on his face as he would take me in his arms and declare his everlasting love. All I had to do is get through about thirty step classes and fifty pounds of grilled chicken.

I lost seventeen pounds and I looked great.

“Damn, baby, you got it going on. All you gotta do is lose fifteen more pounds, and you’ll be a knockout. I can’t wait to show you off,” he said.

The fact that I was hungry didn’t matter because my man was looking at me like he never looked at me before. I had given up all my favorite foods, including bacon cheeseburgers from my favorite fast-food restaurant.

But one day when he wasn’t around I figured I could spare one nine-hundred-calorie meal. I decided to indulge my taste buds and just work it off with an extra workout. I went to the fast-food restaurant and ordered a bacon cheeseburger combo. It was hot and juicy; the melted cheese stuck to my fingers and the smell of onions overwhelming my breath—and the hot crispy fries were delicious! It was so good, I wanted to call on Jesus!

After I ate the burger I cried at the table. I tried to hide my tears from a group of elderly people drinking coffee across from me. If I gained another ounce my man wouldn’t want me, so I rushed to the bathroom and did what I had accused only white girls of doing: I stuck my fingers down my throat and gagged, but nothing came up. So many thoughts ran through my mind. Black girls shouldn’t be bulimic. I’m supposed to have a round, full figure.

Once again, I plunged my fingers down my throat; it was painful. It was really irritating me that I wasn’t being successful, but on the third attempt I finally released the contents of my belly. It was disgusting. I had a terrible headache from the gagging, my throat was burning from the stomach acid, I began to tear from the strain, and I peed on myself, not to mention the bad breath. Why would anyone do something like this?

When I saw my boyfriend that night, I told him that I had made myself throw up, hoping that it would play on his sympathy. Instead of loving me and telling me that I was okay being a size nine, he congratulated me on making a wise choice.

“Better in the toilet than on your thighs,” he said. But the worst part was, I was happy he was finally pleased with me, so the bingeing and purging continued for the next few months.

I always had a good relationship with the Lord. I was cool with Him and He was cool with me. But during this time I didn’t pray much because I didn’t need Him all up in my business and dropping hints about the low-down-dirty-no-good-dog I had on my hands. In other words, I was running away from the truth.

Now, I knew deep down inside that I was destroying myself and that I probably wouldn’t get the guy anyway. But see, growing up I was never the pretty girl. I was the dork with glasses, and at last a beautiful man was interested in me and I didn’t care at what price. So the Lord could do all the whispering in my ear he wanted; I wasn’t listening because I needed to win this time.

One night at the neighborhood café, he said matter-of-factly, “I met this girl. She’s awesome, and she’s beautiful and she’s thin. . . .”

His cruelty felt like a dull knife gnawing a wound into my soul. I held my peace. Never let them see you cry; never let them know they got to you, the words of my sister’s advice echoed in my mind.

The next day, numbed by stupidity and pain and tight exercise shorts, I went to the gym to get in an extra workout; it was supposed to be my day off, but I wasn’t going to lose to the skinny girls.

While on the treadmill, I heard someone call me by my real name. “Vici.”

“Vici!” I heard the voice a second time. I looked all around but didn’t see anyone even vaguely familiar.

“Vici, leave it alone and give it to Me!”

It was the voice of God. Instantly I could feel my anxiety, my sadness and problems release from my body as if someone had pulled a plug from a drain. I realized I hadn’t been listening to the still voice of God for the two years I was with my boyfriend. I had pushed God aside. Now He came to my rescue to give me my life back and to claim me once again. I knew it was God who spoke to me that day because he called me by my name, he didn’t say “Vic” or “Vicki,” he said “Vici.” He spoke truth and reminded me who I really am and who I always should be: myself.

One year later, I met the man who would become my husband. He loves every ounce of my 156-pound, five-foot-five-inches frame. And we have eaten plenty of bacon cheeseburgers with our two children during our twelve-year marriage.

Vici Howard-Prayitno

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