I am waiting for my wife to get ready. We are going out to dinner. She is in the bathroom. I see her in front of a mirror, pinching her belly. She asks if I think she is fat.
“No,” I say.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I feel fat.”
“How about now?”
“What about from this angle?”
“From this side?”
“What about when I turn around?”
“How about when I hike up one leg, spin in circles, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance?”
“Do you REALLY mean it?”
“If you were any skinnier you’d have to stand up five times just to make a shadow. Now can we please go to dinner?”
“But I feel fat.”
My whole life has been spent in the company of women. When my father died, he left me in a house of estrogen. There, I learned something about the opposite gender.
Namely, women often think they are fat. And they are always wrong about this, no matter what their size.
It isn’t their fault. Every printed advertisement and commercial tells them to feel this way. But it wasn’t always like this.
Things were different seventy-five years ago. Back then, nobody went around saying Marilyn Monroe looked like a North Atlantic whale, or told Doris Day she needed to go paleo.
People weren’t this obsessed with being skinny. Consequently, American families ate more bacon, and butter. And you know what they say: “The family that eats bacon and butter together, stays together.”
But things have changed. Famous women from bygone eras would be called “large” or “fluffy” in today’s world.
Marilyn Monroe, for instance, would be considered a Clydesdale. Barbara Eden, a Holstein. Ginger and Mary Ann wouldn’t have a chance with their muffin-tops. Daisy Duke would be playing the part of Boss Hogg.
Last week, I got a letter from a reader named Myra, who is nineteen. Myra feels overweight, and has felt this way since middle school. She has been on a diet for six months but it’s not working.
So she went to the doctor. He did what all doctors do. He ran tests and blood work. This led to more tests, more blood work, then an MRI just to be sure. And a consult with a high-priced specialist, a visit to a dermatologist, an herbologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, and an Episcopal priest.
And do you know what? The doc concluded that Myra was in perfect health. In his own words: “You’re a little on the skinny side, Myra.”
How can a girl who is skinny by medical standards believe she is fat? How, I ask?
But like I said, it’s not your fault, Myra. We are all in the same boat. We live in a world that tells us we’re ugly, fat, boring, and we need better insurance.
We live in a civilization where people drive thirty minutes to the gym to walk on a treadmill. A world where underwear models are selling everything from iced tea to pop music.
And when these commercial actors take off their shirts, you can see veins running up their abdomens. Veins, for crying out loud.
The Half Naked Plastic Bodies are on every magazine rack, clothing store ad, every newsfeed, in inboxes, junk mail, and even on beer commercials.
I’m not kidding. I was watching a beer commercial the other day that showed four or five young women on the beach, carrying a cooler.
There was a young man who was shirtless and looked like Sylvester Stalone on diuretics. Another girl was wearing a bikini so small it wouldn’t have fit on a linguini fork.
This gal was so skinny, that—to quote my mother—she would’ve had to run around in the shower just to get wet.
Well, not that anyone asked me, but I don’t believe in phony TV-people. I believe in real women. Like the women who raised me. The ones who are brave enough to be themselves. And I believe in what they taught me.
I believe in eating good food, and fresh okra, summer tomatoes, biscuits, butter, and bacon. Certainly, I believe in health, but also in good food, and in living a rich life.
I believe in loving what is in the mirror. I believe in keeping the television off. I believe in long walks. Love letters. Girl Scout cookies. And flowers. And I don’t believe true love has anything to do with abs, thighs, or butts.
I believe in parking beside a pond when the lightning bugs are out. I believe in holding hands with someone you love. Someone who knows a thing or two about life, loss, sorrow, triumph, and the magic of fried chicken.
I do not believe in Beer-Commercial Guy, or Beer-Commercial Bimbo. I believe a woman is magnificent because of what lies within her. I believe in heart. In gumption. Bravery. Kindness. Self-worth. I believe in Myra. In my wife.
And whoever you are, reading this, I believe in you, too.
You do not look fat.