My mother used to say things like, “I bet you’re never going to have to wear a girdle.” That is, she used to say them up until the summer of 1969.
That summer I was staying with my grandparents in Mobile, Alabama. I was twelve.
It was the summer of the moon walk. On July 20th, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. The night was clear, and my friend from across the street, Val, and I ran outside as if we might actually be able to see the astronauts.
It was the summer of Hurricane Camille, for which PawPaw boarded up the windows and put cots for all of us in the den. On August 18th, Camille made landfall as a Category 5 storm (one of only three in the US in the 20th c.) in Waveland, Mississippi, 98 miles west of Mobile. It was a long, scary night. After it was over, downtown Mobile was under water. So was Val’s backyard.
It was the summer of Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, and Charles Manson.
It was also the summer of a lot of TV and a lot of Lilli‘s cooking. When I got home in late August, my other grandmother, Buddy, came over to visit. When I opened the door, the first words out of her mouth were, “How much weight have you gained?”
Other than my mother’s mention of girdle, this was the first time I have any memory of being conscious of my body. I had no idea what Buddy was talking about. I weighed 95 pounds–I knew that from the doctor’s office. I let her in and went upstairs and got on the scale. I weighed 120 pounds.
What doesn’t make sense, of course, is how I wouldn’t have noticed my clothes getting tighter and needing larger sizes. And I grew 3 inches taller that summer too. In any event, from that moment forward–with the exception of the year I lived in France without a car, walking everywhere and eating whatever I wanted and coming home 3-months pregnant weighing 113 pounds–until I was 55, I read about diets, talked about diets, prepared for diets, was on a diet or off a diet. You can call it healthy eating all you want, and I did, but it was still a diet.