The Big Pants (part six)
She had come to Toby Messerman thinking that a thirty-six-year-old fat woman, who had never had a job outside her husband’s studio, needed to get sleek. Not that Jackie wasn’t encouraged seeing people of size sass back…but she thought in real life the competition wouldn’t bear it. Brendan as sole authority on her skills, her only reference, might tell a caller (insert chuckle, faintly incredulous), “Sure, why not give her a try?”
Or dig a little deeper, pull out that plum of damning faint praise: “It’s not that she doesn’t work hard. She just needs more experience.”
She needed to make contacts of her own.
But poking her nose in other people’s business had taught Jackie that with few exceptions (and Belinda notably hadn’t warmed up to her), they were all…not poor, but struggling. Most had scrounged to pay for their stay. It seemed unlikely to her now the Messermans would, out of pity, discount the fee, return part in cash…although this would come in almost heartbreakingly handy. She had used three cards to pay for this week, months ago a done deal, and too bad for Brendan…
But too bad for Jackie, of course. He would gain from this sneaking of hers, in haggling delays, point-outable faults in her character.
So how long did it really take to lose sixty pounds, her settle-for-it, size ten ambition? But eighty, getting down to a six? A six, good God, she could hardly picture herself…
Gerda said be slow, concentrate on habits, not calories; on the life you lead, not the clothes you wear. “Because the only way evolution understands fat, is as a mechanism to perpetuate survival. You have so many more of these cells in your body than a slim person, and the cells, by design, hormonally control your behavior. And so you see, to win, you have to starve them without their suspecting.”
The Messermans were good, but to carry on with their program…
Maybe it wouldn’t be possible. Jackie wasn’t in charge of her life right now. She had begged a spare bedroom from her sister, who resented (and the conversation needn’t take place, Jen had a way already with everyday remarks: “Jackie, I hate to bother you when you’re watching TV; Jackie…oh, well, I guess we can keep the door shut if you’re not making your bed…”) that rent could be only a promise.
She had to find a job. Her scheme, her justification for Jen, had depended on her meeting people, gaining their empathy, having a common experience to override the lack of positive reviews, simply making herself liked by…
By the celebrities she’d fantasized about.
Tom seemed to like her. But Tom lived at his parents’ house in Pasadena. He said he was a debt collector. He told her he wanted to get out of it.
Well, he had got her agreeing with him on Doug’s black shirt and navy tie combo. If women liked that hipster/gangster thing, Tom would add his boss’s style points to his thin-guy list. But he hadn’t believed in it.
“Another thing I don’t believe…”
He saw Jackie wander off, before he was done talking. Down in the valley some co-op, in conjunction with the Messerman compound, farmed rows of shining greenery in cages; that radio-free veg the Messermans sold to their clients, along with the online courses. A flag flew next to a pole barn, in and out of which workers in black tees wheeled carts loaded with crates of produce. The flag had a tree of life design, tangled roots and branches forming continent-shaped gaps, the globular whole flanked by the letters EF.
Cool, Tom thought. He thought also that there was—he itched to get to his phone—something about that EF. Something he’d heard…a little negative.
The other thing he didn’t believe (the point lingered, so he finished the conversation with himself) was that, once at home, he would stick for even a day with the Messerman Method. The website’s promise tantalized—you could eat more, they said, not less. There was a secret to weight loss that had nothing to do with counting calories.
He didn’t know if being thin could be so rewarding you’d just maybe buy yourself a new shirt, stop for a sip at a water bar, check your reflection along the way… Find all that worthwhile, fair compensation, while you starved to death. But he knew that to be miserable and still fat was the dealbreaker. It had been with every diet Tom had tried so far.
He did not feel unconvinced of the Messermans’ rightness; he no longer suspected the Method too good to be true. Yes, he could swallow it, hook, line, and sinker, now…
Now they’d gone all in, weaned from their first two days’ “transitional” meals. He believed it with a wholehearted lack of commitment. He was not going to get up four hours before he needed to start work. He was not going to eat a 1200 calorie breakfast of nothing but raw fruits and vegetables (easier going, if, like the Messermans, you spent most of your day outdoors). He was not going to do this again, to the tune of 800 calories, at lunchtime, end with a protein smoothie and a piece of chicken, or a boiled egg, rigorously fast afterwards from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
He was going to get himself, tomorrow, a cheeseburger, some curly fries, maybe a milkshake. And coffee.
Jake and Paul were walking Perry down by the chicken house. Putting it like that was probably uncharitable. Jackie, Tom thought, would call me on it. She thinks I’m the obnoxious guy.
Well, I am…
I always end up being. Why is that? No, I’m jealous… Jealous of Perry, who’s ten times worse off than me.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)