Authors: Erma Bombeck
One of these frails nailed me in the supermarket the other day and charged, “Why don’t you ever write about thin girls who are just as miserable being thin as fat people are being overweight?”
“Look, thermometer hips,” I said, looking around nervously, “if the girls in TOPS see me talking to you I’ll be dropped from their (excuse the expression) rolls. You’re a no no.”
“But why?” she whined. “How can we have peace in the world when fatties and thinnies can’t communicate?”
I looked up tiredly. “What do you want from me?”
“Tell me how you put on weight,” she said.
“This is ridiculous,” I sighed. “I don’t know how I do it. All I know is I gain weight when I have to eat my
own words. I gain weight when I chew on a pencil. I added five pounds in the labor room.”
“You must have some tips you can pass on to thin girls on how to gain weight.”
“All right, here is the B
1. Go on a diet. There is no better way to gain weight than to call up everyone you know and tell them you are going to lose fifteen pounds by the time the pool opens on Memorial Day. You can sometimes add as much as two pounds a week.
2. Agree to go to your class reunion. As if on cue, your waistbands will grow tighter, your chins will cascade down your chest and you’ll grow shoulders like Joan Crawford.
3. Read a cookbook before retiring. Rich recipes at bedtime are hard to digest and tend to turn to fat. They also tend to get you up in the middle of the night to fry doughnuts and make malts.
4. Sit next to stout people. Overweights are contagious. They always carry food on their body and have an overwhelming urge to share it. I have gained more weight in exercise classes, health spas, and centers than anywhere else.
5. Drastic measures: Get pregnant. Suffer a hangover (at least your head gets fat). Look into the new fat transplants. I have this chubby friend who is such a willing donor … in fact, I’ll even throw in my Debbie Drake record.
In trying to rationalize my flab the other day it occurred to me that the high cost of dieting is keeping me portly.
Think about it. Did you ever see a fat Ford sister? Or an obese Rockefeller socialite? Or a tubby in the White
House? Face it. The good life begets a slender figure. The truth is they can well afford the dietary food products, the fresh fruits out of season, the imported fresh fish and the lean steaks.
They can absorb the cost of new wardrobes and extensive alterations to the old ones. But mostly, they can go the health and spa routes which cost anywhere from $2 to $1,500 a pound.
Actually, I have seen only one plush spa in my life. It was the Elizabeth Arden spa in Phoenix. A friend of mine was spending a week there and called me and said, “We’d like to have you for lunch.”
“You are desperate for roughage, aren’t you?” I said.
“I mean we’d like to have you as a guest,” she said.
It’s a beautiful, incredible place. To begin with, it is lousy with mirrors. (I had the good sense to take all mine down when I passed a mirror one day, sucked in my stomach, and nothing moved.)
All the dietees wear white terry-cloth robes and scuffs and wonderful smelling cream on their faces. They are massaged, pampered, exercised, sunned, and rested on a schedule that is carried around in their white terry-cloth pockets.
The lunch was simple. Cottage cheese, fresh fruit, and Ry-Krisp.
“I wish I could afford not to eat like this,” I said sadly, “but I come from a home where gravy is a beverage.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said my friend. “You could duplicate the spa in your own home … schedule and all.”
At home, I slipped into my chenille duster with the button over the stomach missing and consulted my schedule in the pocket. At 8
, I ate the leftovers from breakfast. At 9
., I sat on the washer during spin which did wonders for my hips but dissolved my breakfast. At 10, I chinned myself fifty times on the guard rail of the
bunk beds. At 11
, I jogged to the garbage can, followed by luncheon at noon (cottage cheese) and beauty treatment at 12:30. (I rubbed hand cream on my elbows.)
I lasted until 1
. By this time my bathrobe was hot and the cottage cheese had worn off. Then I saw it. A half of an Oreo cookie in the carpet. I leaned over and popped it into my mouth and smiled my fat little smile. Money may make you thin, but you cannot buy ecstasy.
I have always admired women who can wear a one-size swimsuit. That is, either a size 12, a 14, or a 16. I wear all three sizes at the same time.
In the modern-day vernacular, I can’t seem to get it all together. My friends tell me exercise is the secret. It’s not how much weight you carry, it is how it is packaged and distributed.
I stood in front of the mirror the other morning and assessed myself. Imagine if you will the state of Texas. I look terrific at Amarillo, but by the time I hit Dallas and Fort Worth, I begin to blouse, and don’t really thin out again until Corpus Christi. (But after Houston, who hangs on to see Corpus Christi?)
I’ve exercised. I really have. Once I signed up for a course at the neighborhood YWCA. The classes were held in a church and because of the popularity of the class, we were put in the church proper. One afternoon the minister visited and paused long enough to see me in a pair of pedal pushers trying to touch my nose to my bent knee which was resting on a pew and said, “You are desecrating the altar.” I transferred to cake-decorating class and licked my way to six additional pounds.
For a while I used to eat my dessert at breakfast while watching a Swedish girl on television. She held me spellbound by winding her leg around her neck. I watched and listened to her for over a year and one day I wheezed, strained and gasped and finally got one of my ankles hooked over the other. I quit before I really hurt myself.
The idea of going to a spa really intrigued me. I thought how great it would be to splash around in the water and steam your pores and ride a bicycle to nowhere, but going to a spa is like having a cleaning lady. You can’t go to a spa looking like you need to go to a spa any more than you can have a cleaning woman walk into a house that needs cleaning. Somehow, I just couldn’t get myself in shape for a towel.
For the last year, I have watched my husband faithfully execute his Air Force exercises (which could account for the decline in enlistments). If there is anything in this world more boring than a man who exercises regularly, I have not met it.
“You should join me,” he keeps insisting. “A few pushups; a little jogging. It’s good for the old body.”
“Then why aren’t your knees straight when you bend over to touch your toes?”
“I suppose you could do it better?”
“Sure, by letting my fingernails grow fourteen inches.”
He’s not fooling around with some amateur.
All I said was my face was beginning to look more like John Wayne’s every day of my life.
Then my neighbor said she had this book on body and facial exercises that you can do while you do your housework.
And the next thing you know, I got a box of homemade cookies from my bread man’s wife. I don’t understand it.
I guess it started the first day I began to exercise. I was on the phone, talking to my neighbor with my knees partially bent, my legs apart and as I talked, I slapped my thighs together. When the bread man walked by the window, I waved. He waved feebly, put a package of brown ’n serve rolls on the milk box and left.
Later that week in front of the picture window, I rolled my head slowly five times from left to right, then five times right to left. In between I would shake my head from side to side going faster and faster until everything was a blur. I thought I saw my bread man running toward his truck.
For my neckline, I was instructed to stick my tongue out as far as I could and try to curl the tip. As I did so, I noticed my bread man looking back at me with both his fingers in his ears and his tongue extended. He looked ridiculous.
The following week I worked on my chin, by throwing my head back and biting into an imaginary apple with my lower lip protruding. I could really feel the chin and neck muscles pull and tried to tell my bread man so, but he stood at his truck, folded a coffee cake like a newspaper, and literally threw it into the bushes. That was strange.
I didn’t see him again for a week. By this time, I had worked up to the face lift exercise. As I did the breakfast dishes, I winked with my left eye and at the same time lifted the side of my mouth. As I winked and smiled, winked and smiled, I looked up to see the bread man staring at me.
That was the last time I saw him.
His wife called and thanked me tearfully for being the single guiding force that cured her husband’s drinking
problem. That same afternoon, I found a box of cookies in my mailbox from her.
Yesterday, my neighbor came over with a new guide to beauty. She said for tired brains, just sit in a chair with arms loose at your sides and pretend you’re floating on a white cloud in the blue sky.
Like I told her, “With crazy people running around like my bread man, I’m afraid to close my eyes.”
We have virtually erased bad breath in this country, stamped out dandruff, and done away with burning, itchy feet, but we have been unable to conquer one of society’s most dreaded diseases: Creeping Underwear.
Everyone talks about Creeping Underwear, but no one does anything about it. Technical research has put powdered orange juice on the moon, yet on earth we are still plagued with pantyhose that won’t stay up, slips that won’t stay down and girdles that should contain a
WARNING, WEAR AT YOUR OWN RISK
To suggest that Creeping Underwear changes a person’s personality is the understatement of this decade. The other night I went to a movie, a fully confident, well-adjusted, stable, human being.
Two hours later, I was a totally different person. My slip had crept to my waistline to form a solid innertube which added about fifteen pounds to my form.
My girdle, in a series of slow maneuvers, had reached several plateaus during the evening. First, it slid to my waist. Upon finding this area was already occupied by a slip, it moved upward, cutting my chest in half and gradually moved upward to where it pinched my neck and caused my head to grow two inches taller.
The pantyhose were quite another story. They kept
sliding down until I realized halfway through the movie that I was sitting on the label in the waistband and that if I dared stand up the crotch would bind my ankles together.
I tried to adjust these garments in a way so as not to call attention, but every time I bent my elbow, two straps slid onto my shoulder and bound my arms like a strait jacket.
My husband was the first to notice the change in my personality. “What are you doing sitting under the seat in a fetal position?” he asked. “Are you trying to tell me you do not like the movie?”
“I am suffering from Creeping Underwear,” I whispered.
“You should have taken a couple of aspirin before you left the house,” he snarled. “Now, get up here and sit up straight in your seat.”
He didn’t understand. They rarely do. Nearly 98.2 per cent of all the victims of Creeping Underwear are women. As I sat there I looked under the seat next to me and saw another woman in a similar position. “What are you doing down here?” I asked.
“I crossed my leg and was all but flogged to death by a loose supporter,” she sighed.
“Do you think they’ll ever find a cure?” I asked hopelessly.
“I hope so,” she said. “Your tongue is beginning to swell.”
This generation must be doing something right. I read in the paper last week where a girdle factory shut down from lack of sales.
I regard the obituary of a girdle factory with mixed emotion. It’s like having your mother-in-law move out because
you have snakes in your basement. There is something good to be said for girdles. Maybe I’ll remember what it is.
The problem with girdles is that they are designed under the law of redistribution. They really don’t contain the flab; they merely reappropriate it. For example, when I put on a girdle, three things happen immediately: my stomach goes flat, my chin doubles and my knees inflate. So I always say, “What does it profiteth a woman to have a flat stomach if her teeth become loose?”
I have had some miserable experiences with girdles. One was with a miracle garment that I bought while carrying one of the children. It was expensive and rather complicated and came with some rather explicit instructions.
It read, “Welcome to the Constrictor 747. The Constrictor 747 is mechanically engineered to take inches off your waist and hips. When laced and hooked properly it will perform for 18 hours without adjustment. Before wearing, please familiarize yourself with the two pressure exits located over each kidney. In the unlikely event oxygen is required, the stays will open and automatically eject an oxygen mask. Please extinguish all fire material and place the mask over your face and mouth and breathe normally.”
The Constrictor 747 was a great disappointment to me. I was wearing it one afternoon when a friend saw me and asked, “When is your baby due?”
“I had it two years ago,” I said, and went home to give the Constrictor 747 a decent burial.
After that, I stuck with a little cheapie … a model called the Little Nothing Tourniquet. It was reinforced over the tummy, the hips, the rib cage, the legs, the seat, and sometimes the ankle. But it did the job. You may have seen it. When I started wearing shorter skirts, everybody saw it. It cut me just above the knees. One day
my daughter said, “Gee, Mom, haven’t you heard? This is the era where you let it all hang out.”
And that, my friend, is what is closing girdle factories.
I have no idea of the circumference of my legs. I only know they are bigger than a water glass, smaller than a furnace duct, and impossible to fit into the knee-length boots.