Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Deck of Daughters

My mother has two interesting characteristics when it comes to the weights of her seven daughters:  she has complete myopia for any weight gain, and she has supernatural, xray vision for any type of weight loss. 

I've been both fat and thin, or rather, I've been both thin then fat, then thin, then fat, then thin.  Multiply that times ten, because this went on for twenty-five years, so I know what I'm talking about here.  When I was fat, my mother saw only the good in me, which was very, very nice.  She was complimentary, encouraging, and accepting.  Rather than see me miserable, she'd go out shopping with me for a fat wardrobe.

But if I lost a microscopic fraction of one pound, she was all over it like a wolf.  In my twenties I'd slunk in the house from my weekly torturous weigh in at Weight Watchers and I don't really think she had a spycam on my house, but let's just say that somehow the phone would ring immediately.

"How'd you do?" No beating around the bush for my mom.

"A pound, Ma.  I lost a pound."

Then I'd hear her real estate amortization calculator clicking and clacking in the background as she did the complicated math.

"If I average your gains with your losses and amortize that out over 52 weeks, by this time next year, you'll be down thirty pounds. Can you imagine?"

And I'd kind of get a little caught up in the fantasy. "Thirty pounds?"

"Just in time for the wedding!" For awhile there in the 1980s, our family seemed to be having a lot of weddings. "Maybe we should buy a dress now. Saks is having a sale. You don't want to wait till the last minute." And then, caught up in the excitement of that one pound weight loss, I'd buy a dress that never fit me, ever.

But she's not fooling me, what she really loves is thin.  Not too thin, like not anorexic. She doesn't want to worry about us dying, after all.  But to have a bevy of daughters to brag about, to brag about the size of clothes we wear, this is what really lights her fire.  Forget the personal accomplishments!  Forget the college degrees, raising our children, forget everything.  Let's get down to the important stuff:  what size are our pants?

And, of course, that's what happens to me.  I'm at our Thanksgiving Day party and I hear the yell across the room, "Linda!  What size are your pants?"

I glare at her wondering if she'd like me to take them off so she can examine the size label herself? 

But I know that to my mother, her seven daughters are like her resume - our beauty or lack thereof, or thinness, or lack thereof, are a direct reflection on her.  She wants to have a card deck of beautiful thin daughters to fan out in front of everyone she talks to to show what she made.  A full deck, a straight flush, a deck of daughters.


  1. SO much stuff in there - love it! Deck of Daughters, beautiful.

  2. Thanks, Lisa. Just trying to summarize 49 years of torture in one post...

  3. What a lovely post, Linda. I love the way in which you capture the parent-child dynamic and the imagery of the deck of cards. I wonder the extent to which your own status as a parent helps enhance your perspective on your mother. I feel like I understand my parents much more now that I am a mom myself.

  4. What a wonderful post. It reminds me of when my mother and I would attend WWatchers together. I had a wonderful time with her before and after those meetings and trying to figure out what we could indulge on after the week was over. We bonded a lot over weight. She made me realize how difficult the whole process is and how fleeting the results can be.
    We took it seriously, but then we didn't beat ourselves up over it.

  5. Thanks, Kristen. I do have a lot of sympathy for my mom! When I think of her coming out of WWII and starvation & adapting to the U.S. and its different ideals of beauty, it's kind of mind boggling!

    And Louise, thanks so much for reading. How I loved the post-weigh-in meal! Of course, mine was the entire rest of the day!

  6. Ahhh. Gave me a good laugh this morning.

  7. Thanks, MM. Mothers and food - a neverending topic.

  8. So true. She seems more excited to see me if I look like I have lost some weight. If I look the same it's never brought up. I think we should all wear spanks and just amaze her at the next gathering or if Michelle dropped a few sizes that alone would keep her happy for a few months. Heather