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Thin and Bear It

(Published in the SA Glossy -- Student Life Magazine, December 1994)

The horror begins at breakfast. Two doorstopper slices of whole-wheat toast submerged under an avalanche of peanut butter. A nutrient-boosted glass of frothy milk. Two oily fried eggs squashed up against a seemingly insurmountable wall of haddock. A large bowl of fruit salad and muesli saturated in cream. This is the agonizing scene that lies in wait for me every morning since I embarked on my drastic diet.

This is not some loony new diet written by some has-been Hollywood actress during a drug-induced spurt on the word processor. This diet hails from a degreed and reputable dietician from Johannesburg's northern suburbs. The meals are well balanced into recommended doses of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils not unlike other mainstream diets. The only feature that sets it apart is the fact that this diet comprises six meals a day. And, oh yes, eating more than the minimum six meals is strongly encouraged. Indeed, it's looked on with admiration.

Did I mention that this is a diet to put on weight not to lose it? I do apologize sincerely if I stimulated your salivary glands unnecessarily like those of a Pavlovian canine.
But then, is it not high time that we underweight people made our plight public? Our time has come to wrench the limelight away from the podgy hands of the obese gourmands who have held the attention of the world since time immemorial. Too long, have we, the thin minority, suffered in silence under the ceaseless barrage of media attention focused sympathetically on unhappy rotundities desperate to trade in their tent frocks for g-string bikinis.

Ask yourself when last you glanced at a magazine stand and saw these headlines: "Ecstatic Weigh-More Winner of the Year - I Gained Ten Kilos in Six Months!" or "My Uphill Struggle to Get Fat" or "Human Toothpick Finds Cellulite Donor". The truth of the matter is that you have about as much chance of seeing headlines like these as you do of spotting a dodo riding a dinosaur.

We thin people are hopelessly misunderstood and discriminated against. In the eyes of our fatter beholders, we fall into one of two categories. We are either branded anorexic, bulimic or neurotic. Or all three. Or we are perceived as being the most fortunate and enviable human beings alive. "Oh, you're so lucky - I wish I could eat whatever I like and stay as thin as you!" Generally speaking, these assessments are about as accurate as predicting the next tourism boom in Yugoslavia.
Only the other day I was sitting at a Braamfontein bus stop when a rather well endowed woman (her bosom could have served quite comfortably as a chaise-longue for a Sumo wrestler) waddled over and heaved her huge mass down onto the splintered seat. She was a rather awesome sight to behold, decked out in her fluorescent-pink caftan and matching mock-Reebok boots.

She sat next to me, masticating her way through the contents of the Chicken Licken family pack not unlike a ravenous hyena at a kill. I edged slowly to the other side of the seat and tried to concentrate on the book I was reading.

After a short time I got the distinct feeling that this fluorescent barrel of a woman was starting at me. I could even smell her oily chicken breath as she craned her head towards me. My feelings were confirmed, alas, when I felt a heavy tap on my bony shoulder.

"Ag shame, lovey," she exclaimed in a distinctly Joubert Park accent, "Are you alright? You're so skinny koekie. Ja, ja, brandmaer as my oupa used to say. Ag, you're as thin as this chicken bone." She pulled out a naked bone from her carton and shook it in my face, as if to emphasize her point. "You know men don't like women who are too thin."

While this all too familiar monologue was reverberating around me, I stared back at this blubberous witch and fantasized. I imagined sticking a huge pin into her crimpalene bulk and watching her dart wildly around the bus stop like a pierced balloon, until finally she would plop to the pavement, and be transformed into a little puddle of cellulite at my feet.

She was still going on about how she used to devour three bowls of Jungle Oats for breakfast as a young girl, when I interrupted her in the most funereal tone I could muster.
"Lady," I said with downcast eyes, "I appreciate your concern, but actually…I'm dying."

That silenced her. Her rouged cheeks turned a cream-puff white, her two double chins quivered and she quickly slid (well as quickly as a women in a size 52 frock is able) to the other end of the seat.

I suppose it's quite sad really, that we skinny folk have to resort to such reprehensible behavior to justify our appearances to the chubby, interfering multitudes. I do grudgingly admit though, that I relish seeing their shocked or embarrassed reactions. Tormenting prying fatties is one of my favorite pastimes.

Being accosted by 'concerned' fat people is just one of the hardships thin people are forced to bear. There are more dangerous consequences, like being thrown up into the air by a strong Cape South-Easter on the Foreshore, or being trampled to death by zealous Afrikaans punks at a Bles Bridges concert. It has also been proved that thin people have more chance of crashing through car windscreens in head-on collisions than their heavier counterparts, and it is quicker for a rabid Rottweiler to finish off a skinny person than a plump one.

In sexual matters, the only pleasurable thing about two thin people making love is the musicality of clashing pelvic bones. The red marks bearing testimony to these passionate clashes are no picnic either!

As if encounters with human barrels are not difficult enough to deal with, thin people also have to put up with frequent public embarrassment and ridicule. One unforgettable experience occurred to me a while back while on a blind date. We walked into one of the top restaurants in Johannesburg. The maitre'd, upon showing us to our table, glanced over at me in my black velvet dress and said to my date, "Excuse me Sir, may I hang up your umbrella?"

One never gets used to the public humiliation, or for that matter the discrimination meted out against thin people. Take travel for example. Is it justifiable for me (who weighs under 40kg) and the barrel-woman (who presumably weighs in excess of 90kg) to pay the same amount for an air ticket, and be subjected to the same 20kg baggage allowance? I have argued patiently with snotty-nosed travel personnel from Johannesburg International to Heathrow to Kennedy airports that our reduced body weight be compensated by transferring the differences in our body weights to our baggage allowance.

Needless to say, my efforts have been to no avail. They have reacted to my suggestion as though I was some kind of drug smuggler or terrorist trying to distract their attention as they rummaged through my suitcase. Only a suave Israeli baggage-handler at Ben Gurion airport listened intently to my diatribe. He then thought for a minute and said in his booming voice: "If thin people like you don't like El Al policy, maybe we could arrange for our Johannesburg office to fax you all to Tel Aviv."

With all these onerous burdens, it is quite beyond me why 'overweight' people persist in their crusade to be thin.

Gloria van der Bilt might very well have been stinking rich, but she couldn't have been very intelligent. This is evidenced by her famous quote: "A woman can never be too rich or too thin." What a load of hogwash! The woman was obviously never thin enough! In any event, I must dash off now to eat my sixth meal of the day. I'm doing quite well today - it's only noon. I must also remember to find a few rocks from the garden to put in my handbag. I'm going to a movie later and if I don't have a heavy bag on my lap, the damn seat will spring up and I'll be left with my knees in my face. Such is the life of the thin….