Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Fat" is a four-letter word (part II) .....

As I matured, I wanted to wear pantyhose, which had become increasingly popular in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  Of course, this was another item that my uncle's wife refused to buy for me.  She told me I could buy my own pantyhose with my own money.  Unfortunately, since I had no money of my own, and no realistic way of earning any, this was impossible.
Instead, she got me white bobby socks -- a style that had gone out of fashion at least a decade prior.

OK, sure -- I wear these now, but I'm old and don't care anymore.
It's very different when you're a young teenager desperately trying to fit in with your peers.

My oh-so-sophisticated classmates -- who'd earlier mocked my Girl Scout uniform and Go-Go lunch box -- again let me know that I was in violation of societal norms.  One memory is indelibly imprinted in my memory:  Popular girl Taryn sneering at me before Gym class and saying, with oh-so-false sincerity, "I like your so-oooocks."  My response?  "Thanks."  What else could I say?

Much as I hated the socks, they were all I had and I wore my few pairs on a daily basis.  Most of them saw so much use that the heels (where the sock met the back of my shoes) wore through, creating large holes.  My uncle's wife did my laundry, so I know she saw the socks' condition, but she refused to replace them during the school year.
One year, I foolishly asked for fishnet pantyhose for my birthday.  Never wavering from her philosophy of "if she wants it, she can't have it," my uncle's wife instead gave me two pair of fishnet knee socks.  Like the ugly coat of Christmas past, I haven't been able to find a picture that captures the truly awesome hideousness of these socks, but they were something like this:
Yeah, those are actual openings in the weave, not a printed design.
The top band was about 2" wide, as were the "fishnet" openings -- the material was thick stretchy something-or-other.  One pair of socks was black, the other beige.  Both were incredibly ugly, and an even worse option than the white bobby socks.
By 7th grade, the other girls were shaving their legs, so I wanted to also.  My uncle's wife presented me with the blue Lady Remington electric shaver that had belonged to my grandmother and told me to use it. 
Pretty, and pretty useless.
Unfortunately, after a few minutes of use, the razor head section would fly off, rendering the shaver unusable.  I tried to deal with it for a few weeks, but eventually gave up in frustration.  I asked for a disposable razor but, of course, that request was denied, and so I spent my high school years wearing hole-y bobby socks topped by hairy legs. 
Even though my uncle's wife continued to carp about my weight, when I look at pictures from my early high school years, I really wasn't all that heavy.  This picture was taken at my adoptive sister's wedding in 1971 (I was 14), in which I was a bridesmaid.  My dress was sewn by my uncle's wife (the last item she ever made for me), and she complained about my weight and size each time she had to measure me or fit the dress.
I'm obviously heavier than the other bridesmaid, but to hear my
uncle's wife complain about my weight, you'd think I was Shamu in drag.
In my sophomore year, my uncle's wife suggested that I start attending Weight Watchers.  I reminded her that there was a fee to join, and a weekly membership fee afterwards.  Not to worry, she said, she'd cover it.  Although she did pay the initiation fee and two or three weeks' membership, she then stopped paying and said if I wanted to continue attending, I'd have to pay for it myself.  My uncle "hired" me to mow the yard (which was a full acre) every other week for $10.  Since it cost $5/week for Weight Watchers, this covered the fee, but left me no money for anything else.  I dropped out after a couple months and a very few pounds.
The next brilliant idea from my uncle's wife was "Fat Camp," an idea I actually wasn't opposed to.
"One summer, at fat camp ..."
Using money from my college account (which was funded by the Social Security Survivor's Benefits I received after the death of my grandmother), I was sent to New York State for a month of minimal calories and maximal exercise. 
I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that there was no lock on the kitchen door AND there was a convenience store within walking distance of the camp.  Despite this, I managed to lose more than 20 pounds!  The last couple days of camp were filled with clothes swapping as campers -- full of low-calorie-fueled optimism -- passed along their now-too-large articles to other girls.  Triumphantly, I arrived home with two or three pairs of new-to-me jeans.  I also brought with me a book of recipes, general cooking suggestions, and exercise tips for maintaining and continuing the weight loss.
My uncle's wife refused to change any of her cooking habits, telling me that it was my responsibility to handle portion control and to pick and choose what was appropriate to eat. 
It's no surprise that, sadly, I outgrew the new-to-me jeans within a couple months.
For my 15th birthday, after much prodding from her daughter, my uncle's wife agreed to buy me an outfit.  I pored over the Sears catalog for days, finally settling on this:
A friend recently said this outfit was "SO Marcia Brady!"
Here you can see that I've gained quite a bit of weight. From the looks on all our faces, you can also see that this is NOT a happy family.
I wore this outfit to death, in numerous combinations.  The blouse, worn under a sweater, even showed up in my senior portrait.  The year that this picture was taken, I was a member of the school's marching band. The girls' uniform was a blazer and skirt, and we were required to wear pantyhose.  Fortunately, I had the pair that came with "the outfit" and, like my bobby socks, wore them until they had holes in them. I carefully stitched them up as best I could (I don't recall them having runs, just holes), and was mortified that, during one outdoor football game we had to climb up in the bleachers and I knew that everyone climbing up behind me had a view far enough up my skirt to see the holes and stitching.
The promise was always, "When you lose weight, I'll buy you new clothes," but there was never any moral or dietary support to help me accomplish that goal. Of course, I feel certain that even if I had been a "normal" size, my uncle's wife would have found a way to keep me looking unattractive.  After all -- she detested me, and didn't care a smidge about my emotional well-being.