charity dinner, with “just one cookie.” Well, two cookies.
My daughters had no interest in monitoring my eating patterns. Ditto for the dogs. It
was up to me to uphold my plan. That meant I had to become more innovative in meal
preparation, because I was dealing with a shrewd recipient who knew how to manipulate
the system. Me.
I became a regular reader of magazines devoted to recipes, like Gourmet, Bon
Appetite, Weight Watchers and the Pleasures of Cooking, scouring them for recipes that
could be adjusted to lessen or eliminate the sugar ingredient. And I bought a food
processor, a “Cuisinart” a fairly new kitchen gadget in the 1970s, to prepare vegetables in
artistic ways that stimulated the eyes of the beholders.
As I made daily attempts to focus on health and resistance to sugar, my already sweet
daughters accepted most of my kitchen creativeness. There were the so-called french fries
of oven-roasted parsnips that we called Twigs, because they tasted like what we imagined
a slender tree branch would taste. There was my famous coconut ice cream made from
dried-out sauerkraut and coconut extract, which joined the ‘never make again’ list, as did
the ‘mushroom chips,’ made with unflavored gelatin and curry, and the asparagus
pudding with chocolate extract.
Day after day, I explored untraveled avenues to strengthen my resolve.
The studio of Richard Simmons was nearby, but I limited my exercise to walking the
dogs around the block. On such walks, I would pass a women’s clothing shop and could
rarely refrain from stopping to gaze at the featured dresses and pantsuits on the super-thin
models in the windows. I knew, without entering the store, that nothing on the store’s
racks would fit me.
One day, I felt ready to go beyond window-shopping and left the dogs at home. As
soon as I opened the door, I headed directly for a rack of colorful dresses I had spied
during my former forays, purposefully avoiding the gazes of the employees. I took my
time and examined each dress in detail. Fashions changed with the season and to ensure
women bought new wardrobes with frequency. The current styles featured princess-line
waists, knee-skimming skirt lengths, cowl necks and neck scarves, all similar to the
Halston designs I’d seen worn by the three actresses on “Charlie’s Angels” during my
weeks of self-confinement.
One dress, in particular, caught my eye. It was exactly like one recently worn by
Elizabeth Taylor in gorgeous eye-popping red. She was short. So was I. The dress
emphasized her tiny waist and ample bust line, before flowing over her hips in soft-fabric
flair. How I wanted that dress!
I moved on to a rack of peasant-style blouses with flowing sleeves, and three-piece
pantsuits, some with bell-bottom trousers, which was a design disaster for short women
who weren’t genetically inclined to be reed thin. The wide pant bottoms just emphasized
the ‘you know what.’
Finally, despite my fear of being questioned by a salesclerk, I chose a pair of jeans.
They came in three sizes: small, medium and large. I surreptitiously held the size small
jeans in front of me, decided they would likely fit only one side me, draped them over my
left arm anyway and headed for the checkout counter. They would be an incentive to
persevere. Even though I wore size large pants, usually from the Lane Bryant store, I
doggedly resisted any inner voice that told me to save my money.
The too-small, super-tight, skinny-leg jeans—all the rage after the disco years of bell-
bottomed ones—hung in my closet for quite some time, but I never forgot they were there.
After several weeks of strict portion control and no in-between meal snacking, I
removed the jeans from their hanger and tried them on with high hopes. I had seen
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