Fiction: “Are You EVER Going to be Thin?”

Photo of author, age 8. First Communion

Oct. 1958

Dear Little Sammy Cuddler,

Happy birthday! So you are 8 years old. Such a little lady, I hear. Buy something pretty (not candy) with the enclosed check. You’re my little cuddler, and I want you to be happy.

Are you still fat?

Your Nana told me she took you to Dr. Noonan for your check-up and he said you had to lose 10 lbs. by Xmas. Sweetheart, that’s only two and a half months away and you know how Santa don’t like to give presents to little fat girls. I’m sure he wants to bring you many pretty dresses but his elves don’t know how to make Lane Bryant sizes. Besides, how would Santa deliver all those big clothes?

Saw Hilda today. Remember her? She went on a crash diet last year and lost 50 lbs. in two months. Now she’s gained it all back and then some. So sad. You don’t want to be big like her. I hope you can lose that awful fat by Xmas.

Heard from your Daddy Platts yesterday.

Says he misses you and your mama a lot, but that for now it’s best he and baby Ruby move to Arkansas.

Your little sister will stay with Daddy’s mother and sister, at least for the next few months

Well, must run. Have a brunch date with Vesta. We’re going to the pancake place. I know how you like their Pigs-in-a-Blanket. Maybe if you’re thin next summer, you can come to California and I’ll take you there. And then we can cuddle.

Love to Nana and Pappa.

Love, Your Auntie

 

* * * * *

No, you cannot have any more popcorn. If you want anything else, there’s celery and carrots in the fridge. I sliced them just for you. If you don’t eat them, I’ll just have to throw them out, and we can’t afford to waste good food. How many times do I have to tell you Pappa don’t make much money these days? You know what Dr. Noonan says: you got to eat vegetables and lean meat and stay away from all that butter, sugar, and starch. I don’t care what Dr. Noonan weighs. He’s a man and it don’t matter what he weighs. But you’re a girl, and men, even fat ones, don’t like fat girls. And if you don’t lose all that weight, you’ll never catch a husband. And if you get too fat, you’ll get lazy. I see it already. Your room looks like a pigsty. Why, I found all those Bing candy wrappers and sunflower seed shells everywhere. Is that how you spent your birthday money?

*

Of course your Mama still loves you. Maybe the present got lost in the mail. These things happen sometimes. I just think it wouldn’t be a good idea to call her right now. Auntie says your mama’s been feeling a little punk lately and needs her rest.

Maybe at Christmas.

*

Must you kids always fight? Danny, you go sit in the swivel chair. Sammy, you wash those dishes or else. Sammy! You heard me! Danny! I’m going to send you home if you don’t stop calling your cousin names. And you, young lady, stop your whining. Danny don’t mean nothing. He’s just fooling you. You take everything so serious. And you, shut up! Sammy, get into the kitchen!

Here, I’ll dry. Oh, this towel’s soggy. Honey, hand me that one next to you. Don’t pay no mind to Danny. Boys will be boys. If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t say nothing to you. But, you know, he’s just saying what others are thinking. Just because most people don’t say nothing doesn’t mean they don’t notice. They got eyes, you know. Don’t you want to grow up and have a nice husband and family? This pot’s got goo on it; do it over. How many times do I have to tell you about your sloppy ways? I’m just trying to raise you right. Make up for what happened to your mother. And you’re just like your mama, except she wasn’t fat. And look where it got her. Time to change the rinse water. See that soap scum on the top? You don’t want to get all of us sick, do you?

Did you take your pill yet? I don’t care if it keeps you up at night. Besides, Dr. Noonan can give you a pill to make you sleep. I’ll call him today. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU TAKE THOSE PILLS. They’ll curb that monstrous appetite of yours.

*

Don’t forget to write Auntie the thank-you note. Here it is, only one month until Christmas, and you haven’t even thanked her for your birthday present yet. Whatever is going to become of you?

You have to wait 20 minutes before you can eat. Even lettuce. You have to let the pill work first so you don’t go out of control. Girl, you sure could use some self-control these days. You know, Gluttony is a mortal sin. A capital sin. The worst kind. Except for Lust, but you’re too young to know about that. You’ll go to Hell for sure if you don’t stop stuffing yourself. I just don’t know what to do about you. If you keep on going the way you’re going, they’ll need a derrick to carry you around. Tsk, tsk.

*

Take your pill; eat your lettuce; don’t wear that – it’s too tight – your belly hangs out; drink your water; no, you can’t have any pop, it’s pure sugar; don’t jiggle your butt like that; do you really think those yellow pants look good on you?; if you insist on eating Chicken Noodle soup all the time, you’ll have to learn how to light the pilot – I’m tired of washing out the coffee pot after every other meal; you know you can’t buy a boy’s bike – because the bar might hurt your bubo – I can’t tell you how, you’re too young – no, you haven’t done nothing wrong; Dr. Noonan says you can’t eat peanut butter until you lose three more pounds; don’t fight with your cousins and don’t tattle on no one – it don’t look good; always listen to the Sisters, they know what’s best for your soul; by next year, you’ll need a girdle for sure and maybe even a bra; if Father Salvatore says no more black patent leather shoes, then he must have a good reason – how would I know, you just obey and don’t ask questions; I think it’s time you stopped sleeping with your grandpa – no, you haven’t done nothing wrong, it’s just time you start staying in your own bed at night; go to Mass; go to Confession; say a rosary; say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take – there are four corners on my bed, there are four angels overhead – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, bless this bed that I lay on”; Jesus loves all the little children, even little chubby ones, but he likes the humble ones the best; yes, you are my favorite child – I always like the one I’m with the best; be careful around your cousins, especially Danny – no, you haven’t done nothing wrong – no, I can’t tell you what to watch for, you’re too young – just be careful; don’t eat chocolate, you’ll break out in pimples, maybe not right away, but when you get older; where on earth did you get that peanut butter cup?; for God’s sake, are you EVER going to be thin?

 

* * * * *

Hollywood, California

Oct. 1962

Dear Little Skinny Cuddler,

I guess you’re not so little anymore. 12 already.

I hear you’re thin again. I’m so proud of you! Now you can buy some pretty skinny dresses with the enclosed check.

I’m looking forward to your visit next summer. We’ll go to Farmer’s Market for Enchiladas and Humphrey’s Bakery for a fancy cake. Remember how much you liked Farmer’s Market? Now that you’re thin, we can enjoy nice restaurants, not that awful diet food you had to eat for three months. So don’t get fat in the next nine months. I know you can keep the weight off because your Nana says the thyroid and diet pills are working just fine. Sorry to hear about Dr. Noonan. Your Nana said it was a heart attack but I hear your new doctor is young & cute.

Watch out! (ha, ha).

Your boyfriend Kevin sounds like a very nice boy.

Does he know you like him?

Saw your mother the other day. She came out from the valley for a visit and we went to lunch at the Hungry Tiger. She eats like a bird! She’s got a new boyfriend, wonder if she’ll marry this one. Sounds nice enough, though. His name is Johnny Lawrence. Sells used cars and plays horn in a jazz band where your mama used to work.

She invited me to the club on Fri. nite, but I already have a date with Rob and Randy – they’re kind of swishy, I know, but they’ve got a beautiful new home in Beverly Hills. They asked about you.

Your mama looked real good, good color, and says she’s not drinking anymore. Still smokes like a stack, though. She asked about you and wonders why you don’t answer her letters. Said she was going to send you a nice birthday present.

Did she?

I haven’t heard from Dean Platts, not since his mother died and his sister Vivian took in Ruby permanently. Don’t know why he and Vivian don’t answer my letters. Maybe they moved and didn’t receive my letters. I’m sure when the time is right, Nana will take you to Arkansas to see little Ruby.

Thank you for the pretty drawing. Kind of funny, though, with all those blue squares and triangles. Maybe you should take some art lessons to improve your technique.

Had Vesta, Dame, Hilda, and Jack over for dinner last week. Poor Hilda. She must weigh over 300 lbs. now. I grilled a thick juicy steak and tossed a nice big salad with homemade ranch dressing and baked some gigantic Idahos in the oven. Served with sour cream and chives. For dessert, we had New York style cheesecake with cherries. They all loved it! Got so many compliments. Wish you could have been here to enjoy it.

Donald and I are going to Vegas in two weeks. You remember Donald, don’t you? I borrowed his Cadillac one time when you were 4 and you peed all over the front seat. I was absolutely mortified! It’s a wonder he still speaks to me. You know, you never do get rid of that smell. Anyway, Donald owns part of a casino in Carson City and has to settle some business there.

So he invited me along and we’ll hit some of the big casinos and shows in Vegas. Will send you a pretty card.

Tell me what you’d like to do next summer so I can plan our itinerary. I’m planning a 6 week cruise to Australia in August and September so plan to come in June. Would you like to see the La Brea Tar Pits and Forest Lawn? I know you’ll want to go to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. I look forward to cuddling with my skinny little cuddler. Love to Nana and Pappa.

Love, Your Auntie

 

* * * * *

Honey, I just don’t think that’s the right dress for you. You can’t wear such a bright red to school, the nuns would absolutely die. It’s cut too skimpy, and you’re only 12. You’ll have boys all over you. No, you haven’t done nothing wrong, it’s just that dresses cut like this one attract certain boys, and you don’t want to put yourself in a predicament. I think it means “situation.” No, I can’t tell you anymore – you’re too young. How about this nice linen navy? Oh, hell, we’ll look at dresses later. Let’s go over to lingerie, your bra is cutting into your midriff.

Let’s see...36-B, 36-C, 38-A, 38-B – ah, here we are, 38-C. It is not too big. You have to buy bras that hook on the first clasp so you don’t outgrow them right away. How many times do I have to tell you that?

For God’s sake, can’t we ever go shopping without all this hassle? I’m all in. Let’s go for a snack.

*

Are you absolutely sure you want those fries? Why not just a loose meat sandwich and a root beer float? I hate all that old fried stuff. Oh, okay. You’re keeping the weight off pretty good, so I guess it’s okay, just this once. I’ll just have a root beer and a loose meat with a dill slice.

I have to talk to you anyway without your Pappa around. No, you haven’t done nothing wrong, I just want to talk girl stuff with you. Soon, you’re going to be a woman, and you have to know some things, you know, about menstruation.... How did you know about that, anyway? Humph, I never did like that Charlene friend of yours anyway.

Pass the ketchup.

Bought a kit for you. Comes with a booklet, a special belt, and, you know, pads. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Just read the instructions.

Where on earth did you ever hear about tampons? Under no circumstances are you to use tampons. Because they’ll hurt your bubo, and I can’t tell you why. You’re still too young. Just do as I say.

Don’t gobble your food like a pig and do you really need that big glob of ketchup on your plate?

 

______________________________

From: Are You EVER Going to be Thin? (and other stories), Copyright © 1994 – present, by Jennifer Semple Siegel. This story may not be reposted or reprinted without the express permission of the author.

Short story collection available on Amazon 

 A slightly different version of this story appeared in Sleeping with Dionysus: Women, Ecstasy and Addiction, edited by Kay Marie Porterfield. Freedom (CA): The Crossing Press, 1994. 20-25.

______________________________

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