June 10, 2007

“'A special treat for any occasion!'”

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I have an all-encompassing love for food as a whole, instilled at a very early age by my well-meaning mother who grew up poor and wanted her kids to have the luxury of all the wonderful things she was so deprived of as a child. What this came to mean to her, ultimately, was providing us with really bad food that she thought was incredibly delicious. We’re not talking the fruits and vegetables that would make us healthy, we’re talking the lard-laden naughty treats that would make us happy. We love you, Mom.

Thusly, and betwixt moments of swimming in a sea of Oscar Mayer and Buddig “meats” sandwiched between Miracle Whip, Wonder Bread and crushed Lay’s, I pursued chocolate and various candies with a zest and zeal not many would expect from a lazy, overweight girl who only showed any sign of life in P.E. class when the ball was thrown “to” her. It was, of course, by accident or for laughs that the ball entered my expansive sphere of existence, as running away from fast moving objects and/or falling to the ground in fear and wailing like a beast was my forte at those moments.

Every day after school, I gathered my quarters and whatever was left over from my allowance and set off for the mall. After an hour or so of working up my appetite with Galaga at the Jolly Jester, it was time for my jaunt to the SupeRx, the most wonderful place on earth. Of course it was just a small-town drugstore, but it held massive amounts of candy and that, my friends, was my reason for living.

As I browsed the gloriously endless options in the candy aisle, I would every once in a while pick up something that brought up fond memories: a king-sized Nestle Crunch, a 20-ounce bag of chocolate raisins, a ridiculously large slab of Hershey’s Special Dark. I smiled as I ran my finger across the fresh, unopened wrappers. I imagined the bliss I would experience as I pulled the paper off an 800-calorie bar of chocolate, inspecting it and crafting my plan of attack, as there was always a method to my consumption of anything. Crunch bars were particularly fun: first, munch the thick, raised edge, work your way around the letters, break off the letters, eat the letters. I sighed and shook my head in that sweet way parents do when their fantastically annoying children are being amazingly obnoxious and they think it’s really quite cute. People are so clueless.

I moved on, delving deeper into the land of my happy place. And. There. It. Was. At the end of the aisle. The mother lode. The Whitman’s Sampler. Spotting the pastel yellow and cross-stitch flower print with the swirling green script made my heart skip a beat. It had its own display, naturally, because only something so heavenly could warrant such an honor. As I read the tagline, “A special treat for any occasion!” I knew I loved the Whitman’s people, and that they loved me, too. They knew me, and they also knew that today was, in fact, a very special occasion. It was a very special occasion indeed. The occasion was that it was a Wednesday in the 10th year of my existence, I was obese, and I was hungry. Now, I’m not one to do anything half-assed if I really care about something, and I really cared about eating. So it was not the little wuss-sized box that piqued my interest; oh no, my sweet children, not at all. My eyes were set on the savior of all Samplers: the double-decker, 16-ounce, options-abound world of wonder Whitman’s Sampler. As I gazed with love at my gorgeous new friend, I realized that if the people at Whitman’s knew of my devotion, they would surely adopt me into their chocolatey coven. I would be The Chick in Charge of All Things Chocolate. Perhaps I’d be a spokesperson of sorts, offering my extensive knowledge of each chocolate in the box, citing my favorites, handing out samples, and eating them constantly. I closed my eyes and imagined the television commercial that would be an instant hit: I’m laying on a chaise lounge, preferably on my side, decked out in Gloria Vanderbilts and my favorite OP polo, with my Whitman’s box placed ever so strategically in front of my stomach to hide the fat rolls. I’d gaze into the camera, smile like Farrah Fawcett, conjure my inner Brooke Shields and say, “Nothing comes between me and my Whitman’s.” Perfect.

“Excuse me, but are you going to buy that?” I was jolted from my blissful state by the little old woman who was always there. I swear, didn’t this woman have anything better to do than bother me? I blinked a few times and stared at her name badge. “Uh, yeah.” And fuck off, JUDY. “Okay, honey, I just wanted to make sure.” I glanced at her as she said this and noticed her look at the box and smirk. I turned beet red as I looked down and realized I had crushed part of my Whitman’s in the throes of my dream-state clutch. Sweet Jesus, I have problems. I released my kung-fu grip and headed for the cashier.

I couldn’t wait to get home. If I had any athletic ability whatsoever and didn’t jiggle so much every time I upped my pace beyond an old-man shuffle, I would have run. Once home, I headed straight for my bedroom and settled in for my own version of happy hour. I got comfortable on my bed, peeled off the plastic, and opened my treasure chest of love. I picked up a caramel square, hunkered down with a book, and went far, far away. Some time later, I heard my mom’s car pull into the driveway, which was my cue to strategically hide my treats under the bed and continue reading. She always came in to check on me.

“Hey there Sunshine!” Uh-oh. My mom never spoke in exclamation points unless she was in a rage. Today she was all smiles and happiness. Something was definitely wrong, so I put my book down and waited.

“I have a surprise for you.” She waited for my response. I gave none. She continued, ”I talked to Dr. Elghammer today and it just so happens that they’re starting these new meetings every week at his office. They’re on Wednesday nights.” She kept waiting for me to respond, to ask her what all the excitement was about but I knew she was just doing the dance at this point, trying to talk me into something I just knew I’d hate, like church group. She took a deep breath, looked at me all hopeful and serious-like, and said, “It’s called Weight Watchers.”

I wanted to die. I knew she was talking about me, wanting me to go and be fat and heinous with all the other fat and heinous people. I also knew she was just trying to help her overweight daughter, but I felt completely betrayed. She was the one who started it! She was the one eating Suzy Q’s every night after dinner, serving them up to her chubby little children with a smile. She was also always rail-thin and never managed to gain a pound. Not fair, okay?! I looked her right in the eye without missing a beat and muttered, “Well, that sounds really good, Mom. I hope that works out for you.” She didn’t think that was very funny. As a consequence, I was forced to weigh myself weekly in front of a bunch of gigantic people I thought were repulsive. I was also the only one in the group who never lost a pound. My mother finally chalked it up to my “big bones” but that wasn’t it at all—only my friend Judy and I knew the reason, and we knew it very, very well. Very well, indeed.

contributed by Kim Foster

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