I slowed to a stop at a red light on the way to work last week when I saw a woman start to jog across the crosswalk in front of me. I noticed her legs first, poking out like bamboo shoots from her jogging shorts. The word “anorexic” instantly popped into my head, but I held off judgment for a second because I know marathon runners can become very skinny without necessarily starving themselves. Then I scanned my eyes upward and caught a look of the woman’s shoulder blades poking out from her tank top and decided my initial leap to a conclusion landed me in exactly the right spot. As I further assessed her body, I was amazed she was able to move at all since there appeared to be very little muscle on her body.
I’ve never done charity work in Ethiopia and I didn’t liberate concentration camp survivors during World War II, so it occurred to me I had never actually seen an emaciated body on display this close up before. I couldn’t stop gawking even though I knew it was rude. I’ve seen pictures online of starving refugees and shaken my head at the latest photos of Kiera Knightly and Kate Bosworth and Callista Flockhart, jokingly thinking “They should really eat a pizza!” It somehow seemed less funny seeing a woman in the bone who was clearly emaciated. She was jogging across the street from a pizza joint, but I knew she needed more help than to take a sudden left turn and order an extra-large with the works. The saddest thing was I bet she still thought she looked fat.
But what could I do? The best thing I could do was keep my foot firmly planted on the brake. I’m sure if I were to even tap her with my front bumper I could shatter her weakened bones and even kill her malnourished body.