Originally published in January 2008…
She had always been slightly envious of other girls. It started with doll clothes in third grade. MaryLou’s doll had high-heels and a bikini swimsuit. Hers did not. This competitive nature continued, with more serious manifestations, into high school. At the elegant Pierrepont High, she longed for Ginger’s blue eyes and Margaret Gullen’s knees. The fancy girl’s high school required dark blue knee socks with the dark blue uniform. Margaret’s knees, or so it appeared to her, were dimpled in all the right places — whereas hers appeared to her to be knobby, almost swollen. As for Ginger, once you stared into her blue eyes you never looked down. For Ginger, knees were irrelevant.
As she grew into adulthood, she did so with jealously nipping at her heels — always wanting something or someone she didn’t have. Disposing of husbands, estranging children, she was never satisfied. She wanted her best friend Lucille’s husband, and when he left Lucille, she got him for a night — and she couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Yes, he could certainly get it up, but it wouldn’t go down. She was exhausted. She never told Lucille. And then she wanted Aretha’s job — but Aretha got fired and soon after the company she worked for went bankrupt and went under. Then she wanted Peggy’s family fortune, but Peggy’s father disowned his daughter when she took a Latino lover and produced a dark-skinned heir to the DuPont fortune.
And so her longing to be somewhere or someone else faded. She began to look to herself for the answers, to create the illusion that she was perfect — -a canvas on which to paint the perfect other her. She was the first to the bar, with tummy-tuck, face-lift, brow-lifts, thigh-lipo, lip plumping, veneers, upper-arm slimming, and cheek implants. Whatever was offered, no matter how extreme, it was necessary to be a new her. Her breasts were done and then re-done. Her nipples thrice until perfect and even her knees were dimpled, though she had trouble bending ever since, but, as she often said, “To whom do I have to curtsy anyway?”
Then it happened. The day she completely lost it all. All that struggle to be something other. It was July 17, 2007 at 2:27 p.m. at Barneys. You might wish to note that. Third floor. Designer jeans. The saleslady was Pluckett. She had used her before. This is what transpired: she was looking in the three-way mirror, clearly squeezing into size 8 jeans that she believed were mis-marked. Pluckett agreed readily, “They were cut small — lots of Japanese shoppers, the Yen being so strong.” Pluckett apologized for the tight fit and brought forth another rack of size 8’s. Some French, some English, and even a solo-pair made in the US — imagine that?
“They were all to be 8’s,” she said to Pluckett. She wanted them that way. And that size only.
Ironically, she had just returned from a corporate meeting where she had stood up (not easily, knees and all) and was applauded for her department’s double-digit grosses. That was fine. She took the applause for herself. But she refused, even though knowing the bloom was off her rose (she admitted to 49), to personally enter that category — for she was a size 8, a single digit and that was that. Pluckett pushed and she pulled. She squeezed and Pluckett zipped. She even caught some stomach skin, (imagine that after a tummy-tuck) right near her belly button that instantly formed a blood blister. Her obsession with figure 8 was becoming dangerous. She was skating on thin ice. She sobbed into Pluckett’s arms, her blue contacts red-rimmed, her eyes full of tears, “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t make it.”
“Let me bring in the ten’s,” said Pluckett gently to her client who was hyperventilating and gasping from stress and surrender.
So, on that fateful day, July 17, 2007 at 2:27 p.m. she succumbed to a double-digit. Not without hesitation she announced to the three of her in the mirror’s reflection that she had entered a new category. She began to lecture her selves. “I do not want Ginger’s eyes; I do not want Margaret’s knees; I do not want Lucille’s ex-husband; I do not want Aretha’s career; I do not want Peggy’s fortune; and, I do not want to be an 8. I am a 10. I am a 10,” she said with a tear-drenched smile. “But 10 is what 8 used to be, right Pluckett?”
And Pluckett agreed.