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Tai Grauman and “Her Name Was Mary”

Her Campus UBC was asked to give ​Tai Grauman, director and playwright of the upcoming Her Name Was Mary, an opportunity to share the meaning and inspiration behind the play. This is her story.

My best friend began dieting when we were 10; she had gotten the parasite before I had. She would continuously go on all fruit or vegetables diets, while upping her crunches count by 100 a day. Of course at the age of 10, 11 and 12 I thought she was ridiculous. Either that, or I thought it was a phase and it would pass. She would run around the playground filled with pride that her stomach was aching from the 360 crunches she had done the night before. She would bring apples to school instead of a sandwich, she would list who was “hot” or “not”. She fought with her naturally pinwheel-curled hair every morning to try and make it straight as a board, because that was the “style”.  We talked so much about how we looked that before I knew it, I was also striving towards 360 crunches a night, and began to watch what I was eating very carefully. Abnormally carefully.

By the time we were 13, we both had eating disorders; we were both abnormally thin. I would eat once a day before 7am, and then would not eat again until the next day before 7am. I was angry all the time, I hardly spoke to my parents for a year. I thought I was worshipped for this extreme weight loss. I remember bumping into a desk and having a bruise so black and blue it looked like someone had hit me with a baseball bat. I remember finding clumps of hair everywhere, and losing even more with a simple brush of a comb. I remember my first boyfriend, whom I wasn’t even able to hold a conversation with because I was so insecure, and I wanted to please him so badly.  I remember doing situps endlessly, and countless sleepless nights spent examining my day and wondering how I would lose even more weight. We were unsustainably thin. We thought we were happy. We thought we were strong. I remember people complimenting me on my thinness and my thirteen year old self replying “Thank you,” with a smile. Being told I was thin and pretty was the only thing I was striving for at that moment. My best friend and I shared all our feelings and thoughts; we cared about each other more than we cared about ourselves at this point. Days continued to pass, and we continued to strive for what we thought was perfection

When we were 15, Faith weighed 62 pounds. Sick would have been a complete understatement. She was on a waiting list for a rehab facility and she was sitting around, waiting. She would go to the hospital, where they would talk to her. She quit going to school. I remember her telling me that she couldn’t sleep because her bones physically crunched together due to her lack of body, her lack of self. Talking to her was like trying to communicate with a shell. She wasn’t ever present in her body, and her personality came in glimpses, as did the corner of her smile. It broke my heart, and I woke up in a panic every morning because I knew that she could not stand to lose more weight. I didn’t know what was coming. I was slowly moving towards the idea of gaining weight, and I wanted her to follow my example. Gaining weight was painful, but the fact that Faith was knocking on death’s door was even more excruciating.  

We lost her on April 9th, 2011 at around 2pm.  

I did not want to move on to the next chapter of my life without giving or receiving some sort of justice for her tragedy. As I was a passionate actress, I decided to try my hand at playwriting. As I put all my anger towards her eating disorder into my writing, I began to realize that my own eating disorder had actually became a person in my life. My eating disorder had told me what to wear, and how to dress. It was originally a carnival, then a voice, then a cloaked figure, and then finally it became beautiful Mr and Miss ED. I performed my play twice in high school, and both time I received praise, but also many heartbreaking stories. My first year out of high school, I entered the play into a one act festival in Edmonton, and once again the responses to it broke my heart. It was there that an adjudicator told me she thought it would be a good idea to take it to high schools. We won that festival, and so they brought us to a provincial festival. My girls and I brought the play to the festival and performed it, and were once again met with many heartbreaking stories. After the awards night, a man with white hair came to me. He was crying.  He told me his daughter had died from her eating disorder as well. It was then that I knew I could not let go of the play. People needed to know about my best friend, and his daughter. This made me realize that Faith was enough; that there is not a girl in the world who deserves to experience an eating disorder.  

The reason I wrote the play had always been to make a difference, but looking back, I am not sure if I understood what “making a difference” meant at 17. When the UBC Players Club presented me with the idea of doing a reading, I immediately said yes. This time, I am doing the play as I intended when I wrote it. It is about the story, the cause and the fight. We are using art as a form of unveiling, which in itself is phenomenal.  

On the 24th of March at 6:30pm, we are staging Her Name Was Mary at Dorothy Somerset Studios.  Afterwards, we are having a talkback with myself and my co-director Soo Min Park.  We also have representatives from The Looking Glass Foundation and Project True on the panel, followed by a reception afterwards. I encourage everyone to come and ask about eating disorders, talk about them, or even just listen.

Photo credit: Soo Min Park

Admission will be by donation, and you can check out the facebook event page here

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