The Fat Cow Complex

Itís mid-June. I graduated a few days earlier and here I am sitting nervously on a bench outside Lane Bryant, staring at the gate Itís my first job interview ever. Iím nervous as hell. I must have dried my hands fifty times on my dress but theyíre still sticky with sweat. A woman comes to the front and opens the gate. She asks my name, I tell her. She nods, smiles, shakes my hand, introduces herself as Fran and tells me how cute I look. I beam and thank her. Iím not used to compliments. One of the questions she asks me is what my best shopping experience was like. I rack my brain. What kind of question is that? I think. Taking a deep breath I reply that it would have to be the first time I ever shopped there, at Lane Bryant. She looks at me skeptically. I explain how my mom guided me there after a long discouraging day of school clothes shopping. To pacify her, I follow and try on jeans and a t-shirt. I leave the dressing room to model for Mom and the sales lady squeals over how good I look. Iím taken aback. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know that she does this to make the sale but itís the first time Iíve ever been complimented by a salesperson. I feel welcome here. I donít get the ďYou? You think youíll be able to buy anything here?Ē look. By the end of my story Iím nearly in tears. I smile sheepishly. I get the job. As I leave, Tess, another woman who works at the store, tells me I look great. I do. I am beautiful.
Early July. Mel invites twenty of her closest friends to swim in her pool after a barbecue at the beach. Iím standing on the deck, beach towel wrapped around me. Everyone else is in the pool. Iím trying to think of the least conspicuous way to slip into the warm inviting pool. Amanda notices Iím just standing there and calls for me to join them, also calling everyone\'s attention to me. I swallow the huge lump in my throat, throw my towel over the rail and jump in the water, praying no one saw the jiggling of my thighs as I leapt. Later theyíre having chicken fights and Iím floating alone in the deep end. My only friend the pink Noodle thatís keeping me afloat. Sara pulls herself over to me. She asks if I too feel like some form of sea cow. I nod. She nods sympathetically. Saraís not fat. I maneuver the Noodle behind me and float on my back. The water distorts my image and each of my milky white legs looks the size of Sara. I close my eyes and sigh. Then there are arms underneath me. Travis, whoís six feet tall and weighs about twenty pounds has picked me up. Please God, I silently beg, Donít let him go to the shallow end. Iíll snap him like a twig. Iím a manatee and heís a guppy.
Iím at work. My current task is to rehang the intimate apparel. Iím working my way through a pile of blue lace thongs. My cheeks have been scarlet since Iíve begun. Not for myself but the women that actually wear them. I could wrap the size 28 ones around my waist a few times. I hear someone clear their throat. I look up and thereís a boy. He asks if we have a restroom. I shake my head and mumble something incoherent. He asks my name. I tell him. He introduces himself as Mark He asks when I get off. I tell him. He asks me to lunch with him. I accept. We sit in the food court and talk for hours, about everything and anything. Iíve never met anyone like him, we have the same interests, heís a huge fan of Vivaldi and thinks that Brian Setzer may be Satan incarnate. I give him my number. He promises to call. Iím radiant and happy.
Mark doesnít call. I buy a pint of Ben and Jerryís Phish Food and a magazine. By the end of