by Janine Gray
“Ellen, come on. Aren’t you ready yet, hon. We need to leave.”
“I just need a few more minutes, I’m not sure I like my shirt, Paul, I’ll be right out, I promise,” Ellen hollered out of the bedroom as she stared into the mirror and tugged at her sleeves. Pull your sleeves down to cover your upper arms. You don’t want those doughy rolls showing. Stand up tall and blouse out your shirt to hide your stomach. That’s about as good as you can get it fatso. One last look and she knew the outfit would have to work. Nothing else would look better so this would have to be okay. One last look in the mirror. You could be pretty if you weren’t so big, if your stomach rolls didn’t hang. Why don’t you just lose weight?
As Ellen walked down the hall she heard Paul let out a low whistle, “You look great, babe.”
Smiling weakly at him she replied, “Thanks, but you’re biased, you love me and want to get lucky when we get back home.” I don’t know how he can’t be disgusted when he looks at me. “Sorry I took so long, I just couldn’t find anything comfortable. Can we make it an early night?” No one will look too closely at you if you don’t call attention to yourself.
“We could sit near the back and slip out.” That way I won’t be on display for everyone to see my fat ass walking across the dance floor.
As they drove across town to Legends, Ellen thought about Mandy and asked Paul if he knew her plans for the evening. She couldn’t remember what her daughter had told her about going out to the swim pool party. She found out that Mandy had just run out to the store for some food and was coming back home. He had given permission for her to ask Kendra over, but wasn’t sure what had been decided. He had no idea there was a pool party because Mandy hadn’t said anything. Like most dads he didn’t think it was a big deal, he just believed she must not have wanted to go to a swim party. Ellen thought there might be more to the decision and decided she’d find time to bring it up later tonight or tomorrow. Those discussions were always so hard– what was the right way to bring up the topic, what were the right things to say. She said a little prayer that the Holy Spirit give her the words and then decided to quit worrying about Mandy.
Once they found their seats the opening talks were starting and then it was time to go through the buffet line. Carefully choosing food Ellen wished she were at home where she wouldn’t worry about people looking at her size and judging what she had on her plate. She was hungry, but didn’t want to have people giving that knowing look when they saw her plate so she just got a small portion of lasagna, skipped the bread, and loaded up on salad. Paul came back to the table and asked, “Do you want some wine?”
Smiling at Paul, Ellen said, “Yes, is it open bar?”
“No, I just thought I’d go buy drinks, since we’re out for once.”
“Well, in that case, since you’re driving, buy a bottle instead of by the glass. It ends up being cheaper that way since we’ll want more than one glass. I know I should have red, but I’m in the mood for prosecco, can we have that?” I will only have a glass and a half. That won’t be too many calories and Paul can drink the rest. I know alcohol puts it on the hips as Mom always points out, but it is yummy. I just have to be careful then I can really start dieting tomorrow. I really cut down my portions when I got dinner that means I’m doing better. No one looks at how many calories are in the wine you drink, they won’t think I deserve to be a fatty just for enjoying some wine when I’m out.
“Prosecco it is for my lovely wife!” Paul said walking toward the bar with a mission. He returned to the table with a double shot of Balvenie in his hand happily informing, “The staff will bring the wine set-up over right away. I got over there, saw the Balvenie, and decided I just wanted scotch tonight, so you get the prosecco for yourself.”
Ellen was glad they had come out. A couple glasses of wine relieved much of the tension going out on public display caused. She thought about the calories on the first glass, but relaxed and happy by glass three, the negative voices quieted down. As she finished the bottle with her fourth glass she enjoyed her piece of white cake and half of Paul’s chocolate cake. They both knew she was happier in her body once she got the negative voices to quiet down.
The next morning Ellen felt fine. Drink like a fat girl much? It just didn’t seem fair, she had thin friends that could drink and never gain weight. Maybe they didn’t drink and eat two pieces of cake, dear. She remembered she wanted to find time to talk to Mandy today. First, coffee. Next, ask Mandy to lunch for girl talk.
Once Mandy and she got to the table at Panera with their lunch, Ellen said, “Dad said you just went to the store and stayed home last night, I thought you were going to the swim party. Why didn’t you go?”
Mandy blinked slowly and frowned slightly before answering, “I just didn’t want to go, that’s all. All the kids just walk around in their swimsuits even when they’re out of the pool and dancing”
“Oh, okay. Did Kendra come over then, I went straight to bed so I wasn’t sure if she stayed over.”
“No, she wanted to go to the party. She looks so great in her suit; I’d want to go too if I looked like her. She said the party was great. Dillon was there too, I can’t imagine him seeing me hanging around in my suit. I need to get a new one– mine doesn’t fit right and it shows my stomach and my butt doesn’t look good.”
She sounds like me. I sound like my mother. She looks so good. As good as I did at sixteen– 100 pounds ago. Mom always worried with me so much, checking how my clothes fit, pulling my sleeves and straps around telling me how my chunkiness needed to be covered up. Do I say this to Mandy? This has to stop. “Mandy, honey, you look good. Does anyone else tell you that you don’t look good? Do I say stuff?”
“Not too much. You just try to let me know how I can look better sometimes.”
“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. I’m doing what Grandma did to me! I never wanted to do that. I still have the scars from hearing about my body when I was your age. And, the thing is, I looked good, but I couldn’t see it. I only know it now when I look back at photos. You look good baby,” Ellen said from her heart as tears started to spill from her eyes. She never wanted to cause the same scars her mother had caused.
“Mom, it’s okay. You’re only trying to help. I know you love me.”
“No, it is not okay. I am making a promise right now. I am learning to love myself– all 240 pounds of me. Your dad loves me just how I am. If stopping the negative voices in my head helps me lose weight fine, and if not, fine. That’s not what it’s about. I just will not beat myself up and I will not pick on you about your appearance anymore either.”
“Okay, how are you going to do that, Mom?” Mandy asked skeptically.
“I need help. You promise to stop me when you hear it or see it. I promise I will call you on it too. Talking negatively doesn’t help. Look at me I’ve gained over a hundred pounds talking to myself about how bad I look and how I have to lose weight.”