Weighty Problems, Part 1

(by anonauthor02@yahoo.com, 25 January 1998)


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Weighty Problems

Part 1

"Mom, do we have anything to eat?", Lanie called out while peering into the
refrigerator.

Downstairs in the family room, Emily Worthington absorbed her daughter's
question and sighed. She had just spent over $100 yesterday at the
supermarket. Of course they had plenty to eat. But that wasn't what Lanie
had in mind. She wanted junk food. She always wanted junk food. That was
why she was about 30 pounds too heavy and never had much of a social life
other than with a few of her school friends. Emily had been getting more
and more concerned about her daughter of late. She was 15, the age when she
should have been going to dances and parties, meeting new people, having
the time of her life. But most nights she sat on the floor in front of the
TV with a bag of Fritos or some such thing. No wonder Emily was always
having to mend split seams on her clothes and alter waistlines. Right now
Lanie was trying to fill the after-school gap before dinner.

"Those apples are really good, honey," she called up the stairs. "Why not
have one of those? Or maybe have some yogurt." 

"Do we have any M&Ms?", Lanie called as she trudged down the stairs into
the family room. "I feel like something sweet."

"I bought a big bag yesterday. They were in the cupboard next to the
fridge," Emily replied.

"They're all gone. Don't we have any more?"

"How can they be all gone?"

"I dunno... I had some yesterday. But I thought there were some left. Maybe
dad had some too?"

"Your father hates M&Ms. Especially the peanut ones. Did you eat the whole
bag?"

"I dunno. There were only a few there after school when I finished the bag.
Do we have any more?"

"No, we don't. Dammit, Lanie, that was a big bag. How could you finish it
so soon?," Emily said with an edge to her voice. She instinctively reached
for her pack of B&H Menthol 100s and lit up another of the 30 cigarettes
she would smoke today, just as she had every day for the last 20 years.
Whenever she felt confrontational she would use her cigarette to accentuate
her point. Whether or not it worked she wasn't sure, but in her mind it
seemed to help. She took a hard puff and inhaled audibly, her eyes flashing
at her daughter.

"It wasn't that big," Lanie said in defence.

"It was at least a half-pound. No wonder you never get invited out. That's
probably worth another 5 pounds on your hips," Emily spat, and she saw her
daughter's face respond to the hurt. She knew she had gone too far. "Oh,
honey, I'm sorry. That was mean of me. I just wish you'd take a little more
pride in your appearance..."

Lanie cut her off, tears beginning to fill her eyes. "You meant every word
of it. I hate you!!" she cried, before spinning around and running up the
stairs. Emily heard her break into a sob before she ran down the hall and
into her room, slamming the door behind her.

Emily leaned back on the sofa and looked at the ceiling. She closed her
eyes and cursed herself for her sharp tongue. She loved her daughter but
she drove her crazy some times. Emily took a long, pensive puff on her
cigarette and inhaled automatically. She sighed as she eventually exhaled a
long stream from her mouth and nose, frustrated by her inability to get
Elaine -- she only referred to her by her full name when she was upset with
her -- to take pride in her looks. She had a lot going for her, she knew.
Her features were quite attractive -- at least when she wasn't wearing
those damn glasses she picked out last year, which Emily didn't think did
anything for her daughter's looks, but which Lanie had insisted on -- and
she had striking jet-black hair, full and thick. The hardest part was
getting her to keep it looking like anything other than a chimney-sweep
broom. Grooming had never been one of Lanie's strong points. Despite her
daughter's extra pounds, Emily thought Lanie could be a very popular girl
if only she'd give herself a chance. She was cute, well-spoken and smart.
She just seemed to love eating more than she loved herself.

Thinking about what to do next, Emily knew there was no escaping the fact
that she needed to apologize for her remark. But rather than just say she
was sorry, she knew she needed to get to the heart of things with Lanie
this time. She took one puff on her B&H, snapped the smoke deep into her
lungs, and crushed it out in the ashtray, and headed upstairs while
trailing a stream of exhaled smoke. Arriving at the door of her daughter's
room, she found it closed. She knocked softly and called, "Lanie, honey?
May I come in?"

"What do you want?!?" came a muffled but nonetheless sharp response.
"Please, honey, I want to talk to you," Emily replied in an apologetic
tone. "Please?"

"OK," Lanie finally answered sullenly. Emily walked in and saw her daughter
sprawled on the bed, eyes red. The look on Lanie's face told her that the
visit wasn't welcomed right now. Emily ignored it and sat down next to her
daughter. She knew there was no point in beating around the bush. 

"Honey, I'm sorry for what I said," she offered. "It was mean of me and I
should never have done it. I don't know what gets into me sometimes. I just
get a little frustrated, that's all."

"Frustrated... yeah, sure," Lanie said, still stung. "You think you get
frustrated... try being me sometimes," she said, in a slightly less icy
tone. "I can't change the way I am," she said. "I'm always gonna be a
loser."

"You cannot be serious," Emily said. "Honey, I can't believe you really
think that. Why don't you give yourself half a chance?"

"Because I'm always going to be fat and ugly," Lanie shot back, almost too
quickly. 

"Number one, you're not ugly," Emily responded. "Number two, if you're
serious, there's no reason why you can't change your weight, if you really
want to. But you'll have to make some changes if you want to look
different."

"I know, mom... no more M&Ms," Lanie replied with a "I've heard it all
before" tone in her voice. 

"It's not just that. It's everything," Emily answered. "You need to stop
using food as a pastime, honey."
"I can't help it if I'm hungry all the time," Lanie countered. "There must
be something wrong with me."

"No, honey, it's not that," Emily said. "You eat because you're bored,
because you're watching TV, because... well, because it's just become a
habit. What we need to do is change your habits so that you don't always
turn to food every time you want something to occupy yourself. Trust me, I
know about this. It's just a matter of finding other things to substitute."

"Like what?"

"There could be any number of things, I suppose. Anything that keeps you
occupied, and your mind off eating. Or things that you could do which you
couldn't do while eating too. I don't know off hand, let me think... I
suppose anything that means you need to be active, for one, so maybe some
sports, or exercise. That would be of double benefit, since you really do
need to be more active. I can change our menu around here too, and I should
do that anyway, now that I think about it. I don't care what your father
says, we need to eat better, and I think I'm going to learn how to cook
nonfat things, cut down on the fried foods and red meat, all that stuff
everyone is doing these days. We should try to think of something you could
do with your hands too... maybe painting, or some of those craft things we
were talking about a while back. As for the rest of the time, it'll just
take a little self-control on your part. There are a few things that might
help... I suppose you could chew gum instead of having candy, have some
fruit instead of junk food when you're hungry, heck, you could even start
smoking," Emily chuckled, trying to lighten up the tone of their
conversation, "anything that would be a substitute for actually eating
something. All of those things would help," Emily rambled in a
stream-of-consciousness sort of way.

"You make it sound so simple," Lanie said in a non-believing tone. "Did you
realize what you just said? That's not all going to happen overnight. And,
I can't see myself actually doing a lot of those things."

"Well, if you're going to give up before you even start, then I won't waste
my time," Emily responded. "C'mon, honey, if you're serious, I'm willing to
help," she said with a smile. 

Lanie realized her mom was being sincere, and changed her attitude finally.
She accepted her mom's offer and more importantly, her apology. With that,
the women started discussing a plan. Lanie vowed she would make an honest
attempt, and Emily began to list several action items she would handle.
Starting the next day, the whole family would eat very differently. The
exercycle and the old belt massage machine that was buried under a pile of
debris in the garage would be dug out and installed in the rec room
downstairs. The artist's palette, paints and canvases that were a Christmas
gift a year ago when Lanie was on an art kick were hauled out of storage
and set up downstairs as well. A supply of Trident gum was secured at the
market, along with carrots, celery, and all sorts of fat-free products.
They even made a schedule for Lanie and Emily to take regular walks
together every second evening.

But after a few weeks, the novelty had started to wear off for Lanie.
Actually she found the change in meals not to be much of a problem, though
she still craved the burgers and fries that were a staple of her diet
previously. Her jaw hurt from chewing so much gum, and the sugar-free
candies her mom had bought were a poor substitute for her M&Ms. She tried
her hand at painting, and appropriately enough, her first portrait was a
picture of a McDonald's burger platter. She had dreaded the exercise
routine when she first started based upon Emily's previous experience and
her warning that the exercycle was a torture machine. Lanie remembered back
to when they first bought it and Emily's attempts to use the thing. She
used to watch TV in the family room while her mom huffed and puffed and
sweated next to her on the cycle. After about 15 or 20 minutes Emily would
surrender and collapse next to her on the sofa, gasping for breath. After a
short time the machine got less and less use until it was finally banished
to the garage. Lanie didn't find it hard at all, surprisingly, but the
exercise program was a bore, and she found using the belt massager almost
embarrassing, even though her mom seemed to always like that better. While
her clothes seemed a little looser, and the scale indicated that she was
indeed a few pounds lighter, her progress was frustratingly slow.

One weekend day the two of them were at home alone. Lanie's dad, Joey, was
a bricklayer by trade and often worked extra time on weekends on
residential projects to earn extra money, and today was one of those days.
It was a cool, dampish day and all either one of them wanted to do was stay
indoors. Lanie was bored, despite all of the things that Emily had devised
to keep her occupied, and she felt like munching on something other than
apples or carrot sticks. She asked, "Mom, don't we have *anything* I can
have to eat other than this stuff?," peering into the refrigerator. "I'm
going crazy and I'm starving!"

"I'm afraid not, honey," Emily replied. "We don't even have any bad stuff
in the house anymore. Your dad took the last of those cookies you've been
sneaking with him when he left this morning," she said as Lanie blushed
slightly at being caught. They were really bought for her father's lunch
box but she had been stealing a couple now and then when she had a
junk-food crisis. "Can't you wait until dinner?," she asked as she lit one
of her B&H Menthols.

"God, mom, I can't wait that long," Lanie said. "There must be something
other than this," she said, pouring herself another glass of Diet Pepsi.
She looked at Emily pulling a deep drag off her B&H and inhaling. She
remembered their conversation some time back and suddenly it just came out.
"Can I smoke?," she blurted. "Let me have a cigarette."

"What? Don't be ridiculous," Emily responded quickly. "Since when do you
smoke?"

"I don't," Lanie replied. "But you said I could. And I want you to teach
me."

"I never said you could. Where did you get that idea?"

"You said I could smoke when we had that talk when all of this weight stuff
started. You said it would keep me from eating. And if I don't do something
I'm going to run out to McDonald's and have a hot fudge sundae and a Big
Mac before dinner," Lanie threatened. C'mon, mom, at least it'll give me
something to do. Show me?"   

Emily thought back and vaguely remembered her foolishly mentioning the
subject. "I wasn't serious when I said that," she countered. "I don't want
you smoking. It's bad for you."

"Well, it doesn't seem to have stopped you or daddy," Lanie shot back,
gesturing at the cigarette in her mother's left hand. "So you aren't going
to let me?"

"No."

"Fine. I'll be back about 4:00 then," she said, heading for the hall
closet.

"Where are you going?"

"Like I said, I'm going to get something to eat", Lanie said defiantly,
lacing up a shoe. "Want anything?"

"Lanie, c'mon. Don't be foolish," Emily countered.

"It's either that or I go nuts," her daughter shot back determinedly as she
wrapped a scarf around her neck.

Emily was annoyed by Lanie's stubbornness at giving her a
take-it-or-leave-it choice. She thought briefly about her options as she
watched her lace her other shoe and selected a jacket from the closet.
Lanie was pulling on a wool hat when Emily made her decision. "Take off the
hat," Emily said. 

"Does that mean...?"

"Yes, dammit. Come in here and sit down."

Lanie discarded the hat and jacket and followed Emily into the living room.
She was satisfied at having won her point, and only now did she realize her
mom was serious about this. She started to feel a little nervous at the
prospect of actually smoking. Little did she realize that she was far
calmer than Emily was at this point.


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