Monday, June 20, 2005


There is good news for Americans who carry a little meat on their bones. Actually, that meat is more fat than lean, but the pundits are now telling us that it is okay to be a little bit plump. Not obese, because that is still a killer, but a little lard around the middle or padding around the hips is not going to send you to an early grave, after all!

Actually, pleasingly plump people are outliving their skinny minny opposites, those folks with narrow behinds, no spare tires, and heads that are bigger than their shoulders. "Popsicle sticks", they are called in Hollywood, where the actresses eat a carrot stick and a blob of Jello daily to keep themselves pencil-slim. This lifestyle is invented by men, I am certain, who have decided that fat actresses are not romantic leads. These are the same men who shave off hips and waistlines in the Slicks, where the fashion models look like beanpoles, slim to begin with and made even slimmer by the retouchers.

This announcement is good news, because Americans are probably the world's worst dieters. We keep looking for a diet that gives us enormous portions, with all of the fat and sugar we desire, yet still causes the fat to melt away. And we are inundated with new diets and happily try them all. We have cut out all fats, and we have cut out all carbs. We have existed on grapefruit. We have swallowed all manner of shakes and mixtures. We have visited gyms and jogged down sidewalks. We have joined all manner of weight loss clubs, because misery loves company. And despite a few success stories, we remain fat.

Dieters know all of the tricks of looking thinner, because the magazines are filled with these helpful details. We know that we shouldn't wear big, baggy t-shirts that look as though they are tents from a desert and Osama bin Laden might crawl from beneath them. Instead, we are told to dress neatly, in plain colors, avoiding flashy prints, with touches of color at the neckline, to draw the eye of the observer upward.....perhaps a flashing neon light might do the trick.

We are told to wear horizontal rather than vertical stripes and to avoid belts of a different hue than our outfits, lest we look like a very large gift wrapped in ribbon. We know all of this, but persist in overlarge, comfortable clothing, so easy to hide behind. And in this modern world, it is difficult to be fashionable though fat. The lowcut jeans, the high cut t-shirt, the Bikini, the skimpy evening gown...all of this is usually missing from a fat girl's wardrobe...and this can lead to moments of despair.

All this brings to mind an object that turned my younger years into sheer misery, all because I wanted to shave an inch or two from my body. With all of my young heart, I wanted to be slim and willowy, and I cursed the fate that left me with a more generous supply of body fat. So, while out shopping one day, I ran into the Playtex Living Girdle.

It was said to be slimming and comfortable, guaranteed to shave inches from your hips and thighs. Just the thing I needed, I decided, as I plunked down my money on the counter and proudly carried away my new possession, unaware that I was carrying the most diabolic and evil object ever invented, undoubtedly the brainchild of some brutal mass killer in search of innocent victims who just happened to get a part-time job at the Playtex Co.

To don the girdle, one had to make sure the flesh was perfectly dry. Any amount of moisture and the girdle refused to budge. It was made of soft rubber, and studded with little holes, like pores in the skin, to allow air to reach the blubber it packed in. It would rest at ankle-level and you would wonder how in God's name could this narrow excuse for a big rubber band be coaxed up over your hips.

The answer was talcum powder. One had to generously powder the legs, thighs, stomach, hips and buttocks. Only then could the girdle be coaxed into place, slowly, inch by inch, until it finally slid over the talcumed surface to grip your hips and thighs. Once resting on your tummy, it enveloped your lower body in a warm, viselike hug. And once you put on your clothing and posed in front of a mirror, white as a ghost with talcum dust, you were convinced you did look much slimmer. It was a little difficult to breathe, but then this was a minor flaw compared to the flat stomach and cinched-in hips the mirror was reflecting.

The problem was, after wearing the Playtex Living Girdle for an hour or two, you began to sweat, and the perspiration, mixed with the talcum power, turned into salt-like granules. The suffering began, but you convinced yourself that it is necessary to put up with this in order to be beautiful, so you ignored the chafing of your flesh.

All was fine, until you had to visit the bathroom. Then, it was a matter of digging your fingers into your skin and clawing at the top of the girdle. It did not give up its perch easily, resisting all force, until you finally lowered this rubber torture chamber, taking the flesh with it as it came down, the granules of talcum raking your raw and bleeding flesh.

Then, you had to go through immense suffering and pain as you pulled the girdle back up. Your skin screamed for mercy as the relentless rubber once again confined it, and the talcum granules bit into what remained of your mangled flesh. You had no choice but to endure the pain until you reached your home, where taking off the girdle was akin to submitting to the whims of a sadist.

Determined to look thin, even if I could not BE thin, I wore this monstrosity for a long time, until my bleeding body rebelled so painfully, I had to give it up. And I remember this girdle when I read of girls with anorexia or bulimia, as an example of the lengths the young will go to attain the ideal physical size.

In today's world, the confinement of a girdle is a thing of the past, and even dieters do not rely on compressing the fat in order to look thinner. I don't think it fooled anyone anyway, and the discomfort outweighed the benefits. However, if you are a dieter and you are feeling sorry for yourself, eating your minute number of calories and dreading your Power Walk, just bear in mind that at least your flesh is not being eaten away by thousands of talcum powder granules held fast by a tubular torture chamber made of rubber.

I know the answer to successful dieting. I just don't know the answer to making us do it. It's a lifestyle change that takes us down a dangerous path because, remember, there is a McDonald's on every corner, temptation down every alley. Most of us are Yo Yo's. We can do it, but darned if we can sustain it. And we may as well admit that we will never be Popsicles, no matter how we try. But, by all accounts, we can outlive them...and when it is an All-Plump Society, we can finally toss out the diets and enjoy our Golden years beneath those Golden Arches, chugging down all those calories in happy abandon.