The Ministry of Thin_FINALAlice and I are walking down the aisle marked Dairy. I take four small tubs of Total 0% Greek yogurt, a couple of raspberry-flavor Müller Lights. I add a four-pack of vanilla probiotic Activias, then a two-pint carton of skim milk. My sister grimaces at the red-top milk—“Skim? That stuff looks like dirty water.” I nod cheerfully, “I know, tastes like it too.” We turn the corner into the aisle marked Meat, where it’s Al’s turn to stock up: bacon, chicken, and some kind of fish.

At the checkout line, we look at our baskets: butter, bacon, and eggs in hers; muesli, pita bread, Greek yogurt in mine. I also have apples, broccoli, bananas; Al has sparkling water, salmon, avocado.

See what she’s doing, and see what I’m doing? Without even thinking about it, we both have our forbidden foods—or, if not entirely forbidden, substances we steer clear of. Al never buys coffee or wine, although she will have the occasional cappuccino or glass of wine when she’s out. I literally don’t go near butter, and I wouldn’t know how to cook any of the meat she buys. Odder than her wariness of caffeine, and my strict vegetarianism, is our avoidance of whole food groups. I don’t do fat; she doesn’t do carbs. A few decades ago these might have seemed strange rules to follow, but these days they’re pretty normal. In the twenty-first century most women police their diets in some way.

Next Week: Paul Ryan dismisses every American not currently wearing an Ellsworth Toohey hoodie.

The Jenny Craig Weight Loss Center I knew was located in one of the blank-faced strip malls that  make  up  a majority  of the  commercial architecture where I grew up. South Florida is a place where impermanence is part of the culture—the result of the collective influence of hurricanes, tourism, and retirees. This atmosphere of change persists today in storefront  plastic surgery shops, where you can buy a new shape  or a more  expressionless  face on your lunch hour.

So, I understand you’ve written a book.

I have! It’s still sort of magical and bizarre to me. Before I wrote the book, I was a blogger, and there are two really sweet things about blogging. The first is that you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, so the field is wide open for topics. The second is that blogs are by their nature a little ephemeral, so if I write something that years later I realize is absurd, odds are good that nobody else is going to find it.

I’m pro-excess, especially in the arena of vice.   I think you should, at least occasionally, eat too much, smoke too much, drink too much, cheat, carouse, fuck, gamble, sleep, travel, spend, and overexert too much.   Which is why I’m in Las Vegas this week, having done my first half-marathon (speaking of excess) here on Sunday night.  I love Las Vegas.   I love everything about it.  I’ve probably been here fifteen times in the last ten years.  I revel in the mayhem and bask in the excesses.

I took a while reviewing Diana Spechler’s new novel, Skinny because I was too busy trying to fit into itty bitty shorts at Banana Republic. I tried to do double-duty—reading some of the book while I waited in line—but it was too confusing. All those size zero mannequins that looked like Gray Lachmann, the protagonist of Skinny and her co-counselors at “fat camp” telling me to go to work out, while a new, blank document in MS Word sat on my desk at home saying feed me!

Nobody’s writing novels about fat people confronting their weight. And that’s a problem.

I started waddling down the heavily reinforced road to Fat Fiction Town when a journalist asked me about the protagonist in my debut novel, The French Revolution: a wildly overweight former pastry chef/current copyshop cashier who’s surly, stubborn, hilarious, slightly evil, and by far my favorite character.

I just found my old maternity bras in our garage.  I’d been down there before scouring for them, but between furniture, Benjamin’s old clothes, toys and books and who knows what else, it seemed they were gone for good.  Until, like a parting of the sea, Jay headed down to make a little space so we could maneuver through the chaos.  And while bringing down my suitcase after our recent babymoon trip to Hawaii, there they were, resting in perfect view, as if they were asking, “Where ya been?”

This may not seem monumental, but when you are growing a human person in your body and that said body is growing in every sort of direction on a daily basis, the bosoms need a little extra care.  It’s not just the boobies that are growing, but they are one of the first indicators of when my body is getting uncomfortable.  Well actually it’s my back that’s trying to hold them up that is feeling the pain.

I know they have an important job to do.  They are growing so that they can eventually feed our child.  I know this rationally and intellectually.  In fact, I know this about the whole experience of being pregnant.  I know that my body is growing and changing and getting bigger (even though I am eating relatively well) because it is not only housing our future child but growing and nurturing it. 

It’s beautiful actually. 

But it is hard to feel beautiful when your back hurts or your breasts are falling out on all sides or your thighs rub together chafing or when someone says in passing after seeing your belly, “No more doughnuts for you.”

It’s especially hard because not to toot my horn or anything, but I used to be rather adorable.  It’s been awhile since I have been incredibly adorable.  But I have turned a few heads in my day.  In fact, these very same breasts that are causing me such agita used to provide me with ample attention.  When I was about 22 and they were young and perky, I went to theater school.  I had this one teacher who used to say, “Lead with your tits!!”  He didn’t mean just me.  He meant everyone.  Own what you’ve got.  Enjoy it.  Make them stare.

But it is hard when they are staring and you don’t want such a constant gaze.  I don’t know why pregnancy invites people to feel comfortable to comment on your body.  And negatively at that.  I am already having a hard time of it.  I don’t need the little old lady at the bagel store asking me when I am due, and after I tell her she cocks her head funny taking in the size of my belly, and now knowing I have more than two months to go, says, “Sometimes doctors are wrong.”

So I’m big.

My husband keeps telling me he doesn’t think that I am so big.  And I actually believe him.  I believe he believes that.  This is why I married this man.  But regardless of other people’s responses, good or bad, sometimes I just feel a little displaced in my own body.  I am no longer completely in control, which I guess is a perfect allegory for motherhood.  I admit I am ready for it to be done. 

Except for one part.

I love to feel the baby move.  I love the kicks.  I love laying on our couch and Jay leans into my belly and says, ”Hi, this is your Daddy” and then my belly dances.  I love playing with Benjamin with his Elmo and Big Bird finger puppets.  He places one of them on my belly to see if the baby moves enough to knock it down.  Benjamin usually makes me laugh and the toy goes falling to the ground way before our experiment is complete.

This most likely will be my last pregnancy, so moments like those, I treasure.  But chafing thighs, not so much.

It is not just vanity, though admittedly that plays a part.  (I have been pregnant before and I know it will not just all fall off with great ease as it does for some women.)  It is about being comfortable, about having to move differently in your own body than you have always been used to.  It is a shift in how you know how to be.  That is why finding those specialty bras (and not having to buy new ones) in my garage was such a coup.

I am trying to own it, to show off my belly, to lead with my tits, as they say.  So I will hold my chin (or at this point chins) up high.  For those who want to know how much weight I’ve gained or look at me with judgment, just remember, I am a walking science experiment.  I am growing an actual person inside of me and then these ever growing bosoms will be able to feed that person.  That’s pretty cool.  So even though I haven’t actually had one doughnut through this entire pregnancy, maybe I’ll go reward myself with one now.