Weight Room Title Bar

Carol, Out Of The Closet
"As told to the Observer"

[This was the original Observer tale as written some two years ago. Except for the inflation of the current size of the Winston Industries employment figures it is essentially factual. I know because I shared it with the principals before originally submitting it. However, in light of some recent posts it seems appropriate to add it to the collection at the present time.]

That I should today, as an adult, be healthy, heavy and happy should be no surprise --- both my mother and two older sisters are happily married and they all weigh well over 200 pounds. Despite this family tendency, however, in my younger days I tried to pay the price of being slender --- until shortly after I began attending college.

This story begins with the reason why I struggled to conform to dictates that I, perhaps even then, sensed my genes were never designed for. The tale then relates the remarkable set of circumstances which ultimately, nearly a quarter century ago now, enabled me to be free. It concludes with what I hope will be a message for others in similar circumstances today.


It was the end of the summer between my freshman and college years. For the first time in ten weeks I tried putting on the slacks which had already begun to feel snug at the end of the prior semester. Tug as I would at the top of the garment, the button and its matching hole refused to come together.

I smiled in triumph. I had allowed myself to clear the first hurdle --- gaining an estimated fifteen pounds that summer while overseeing my sister's three little ones.

But still the childhood lectures of my aunt echoed in my ears --- and I hoped I could shake them.

I had been sent to live with my Aunt Harriet in the summer of 1958 when my Father went on assignment overseas. The goal was to enable me to stay in school instead of having to face education in a third world country. But my parents had no idea of what the full education my aunt had in mind included.

Aunt Harriet had once been heavy as are my mother and sisters. But she was always a spinster --- which she silently believed was due to her weight. So she lost the pounds with much effort --- and still the men did not flock around. So then she thought it was because no one looks at you after you pass a certain age, which resulted in an ascetic life style lacking in any joy when it came to matters surrounding food.

She probably didn't mean to, but her attitude on such matters rubbed off on my impressionable six year old brain. Otherwise she was kind and was always doing interesting things to keep me occupied. Others envied all the places we went and the things we did. I was the daughter she wished she could have. And so for three years I was programmed into going along with her dietary attitudes --- even though privately I sometimes dreamed of being able to eat and ice cream cone like other kids.

By Junior High, and into High School, her injunctions --- even though we were not living together --- had become ingrained as the scripts of my life. I knew that I might gain weight easily --- my aunt had told me it ran in the family. And I set my will not to let such a thing occur --- no matter what the cost!

The result was that my life become centered around books, studies, and non- food related activities. I avoided socials and dating men simply so I would not be tempted to encounter food and ingest excess calories. The word soon got around that I was a loner and bookworm who "wasn't like" most students. But, because I didn't want to hurt the feelings of my family, only a few close friends knew the real reason why.

Even with all this I was never skinny or anorexic --- but held fast at around 140 on a 5' 6" frame. And so I was able to focus on going to college and having a professional career --- something my chunkier sisters and mothers had never had. To my mind, there was a connection between the two.

Sacrificing to be a professional, this was my aunt's dream for me --- and one into which, partially at least, I had fully bought into. My attitude towards food was what I had accepted as needful to be a "worthwhile" person.

And it was with this attitude that I graduated from high school. I had just under a 4.0 average and was accepted into college on a scholar-ship. My family, the entire rotund group, were pleased. They understood and were supportive of my goal of being the one who would actually obtain a "higher education." After all, I had never tried to make them walk the road that I had chosen, and my slenderness did not offend them.

There were six of us in the dorm that first year. The two upperclass-men, Carol and Susan, were somewhat heavier than the average but not concerned about it. The two sophomores, Evelyn and Tammy, were the type of free spirits who could eat anything and not gain an ounce. And Melody. the other freshman, was a plump girl who never met a dessert she didn't thoroughly enjoy.

I sensed early on that this group was potentially dangerous. Especially when they decided that Thursday would be "ladies night out" at the local smorgasbord. So, for the entire first semester, I continued my defensive attitude of being "too busy" with studies to participate.

Not that I was totally unfriendly. When food was not the issue and no snacks were around I let my guard down and talked with the others about many things. They came to know that my greatest fear was of becoming heavy. This view they accepted gracefully since it was my personal thing and not a philosophy I trying to impose on them.

And so it might have gone if it were not for Dave Winston.

Dave was one of perhaps a dozen men who would occasionally come over and hang around, usually contributing a few groceries which the others would cook. He was one of the few people on campus who was as well traveled and read as myself and therefore did not as boring as most of the others. I always

enjoyed his visits --- but dreaded the thought that I might have to refuse an invitation from him if it were ever extended.

But he never did --- almost as if (which I much later learned was in-deed the case) he had been told that I didn't date and there was no point in asking.

In the second semester of my Freshman year it happened --- Dave and I wound up in the same class. Not only that, we were teamed together with four others in a combined research project taking a survey. Like it or not, we had to work together.

Because of his class status as a sophomore (the rest of us were freshmen), as well as because of his reputation as a writer for the campus paper, Dave quickly emerged as the leader. I wound up being designated as vice- coordinator. And so now we had to see each other regularly. But he never offered me so much as a soft drink --- only endless questions for me to reply to and his own ideas for me to comment on.

Gradually I began to relax. This man, I thought, is more of an intellectual nerd than me --- he doesn't have a social bone in his body. Our conversations, while initially focused on the survey we were supposed to be doing, ranged more and more into other areas.

I began helping him with comments on his columns --- even contributing ideas on occasion. And then, one evening, he casually mentioned that he had been invited out of town to interview a college trustee who was making a major contribution. He really wanted to have someone else along and thought that I would be the perfect choice. We would leave after lunch, he assured me, and be back in plenty of time for us to have our normal dinners.

It was the first time in my life I had ever let a man get close enough to me to ask for a date. And it was a non-food situation. I knew the about the person we would be interviewing, had a few questions of my own, and simply couldn't resist. But after I accepted the next three evenings were torture. Part of me wanted this to be the beginning of something personal while another warned me that it could be the end of the walls I had so long maintained.

Still, I went through with it, even taking along a camera in case we decided to take pictures. The interview went fine, but there was a problem. It had wound up taking up the better part of the afternoon and it was a two hour drive back. I had been too nervous to have lunch. I hadn't had breakfast either and was getting really hungry.

About half way on the return trip my stomach began growling. The first time Dave simply ignored it. The next he bit the bottom of his tongue, looked up at the roof of the car, and then took a deep breath.

"Carol," he said, "Do you consider me to be a gentleman?"

"I wouldn't be here if I thought otherwise," I replied.

"Then let me ask you a question. What happens if a gentleman is faced with two options, either one of which goes against his training of being a gentlemen. Which option should he take?"

It was a typical Dave Winston question --- designed to make the respondent go, seemingly of their own will, where he wanted. I knew the game well by now, having worked closely with him for three months, and played coy.

"The gentlemen would have to lay aside his training and take the option he felt was most appropriate, then have to live with the consequences."

"O. K.," he smiled. "In three months of working together I have never once so much as offered you a single bite of anything because I like you as a person and wanted to be your friend. So if that meant respecting your preferences I have done so. That's what a gentleman does.

"But, at the same time, it is also part of being a gentleman to make sure that people who are showing signs of hunger don't stay that way. Therefore, as a gentleman doing what is most appropriate, I feel duty bound to tell you that about ten miles ahead is a very nice restaurant with reasonable portions and a beautiful view of a river.

"With anyone else I would have suggested going there an hour ago --- and now, with my Adam's apple in my mouth and great fear in my heart I make the offer that I feel is appropriate to you. I sincerely promise not to tell anyone if you say "yes" and never ask again if you say "no."

Although I had half expected what was coming I was surprised at the ease with which I formed my reply. He was a friend I wanted to keep, I knew I could order whatever I wanted, was hungry anyway, and he was letting me be in control.

So I said "yes."

It was a fine rustic building, probably eighty years or more old, with a fine menu and excellent service. It was the first time I had ever been in such a place. We had to wait for fifteen minutes to be seated and Dave began educating me as to the customs of such places --- I didn't know, for instance, that use of the entire salad bar preceded the main course which would be brought to the table. Or that you could take home leftovers in a doggie bag.

After perusing the menu I decided to let Dave order for me. He advised me to go easy on the salad bar to leave room for the main course. He ordered the petite portion of the filet migon for both of us, along with potatoes and vegetables. That done he tried to talk about things other than food, but I was going through too much trauma to talk about much else.

"You must wonder why this is so scary for me," I said to him.

"Reports are that you think you might gain weight easily unless you lock the refrigerator of your mind," he replied. "If that is your choice, I as a gentlemen must respect it."

I told him about my aunt and the way that I recognized her teaching made me different from other co-eds.

"I understand," he said, "Some pop-psychologists call it infantile scripting. We pick up certain concepts and ideas as children and, unless we consciously elect to change them, they govern our lives for decades to come."

"Isn't that bad?"

"Depends on the effects of the script. That is something everyone must decide for themselves."

"You don't agree with Aunt Harriet?

"I see a lot of successful women who allow themselves to date ---the two are not incompatible. And the two heaviest girls in your dorm are close to being engaged, so that's not a barrier for everyone.

"So you think I should let down the barriers more?"

"Why do you ask that question," he said, a degree of concern edging into his voice.

"I detect that you've known of my decisions for some time and have respected them --- but if you had your way you might have invited me to a place like this long ago."

"Having one's way in all things can result in losing everything. It is sometimes wiser to be satisfied with what one has that is freely given."


We have worked well together to this point, wouldn't you say? .... as to whether I would risk letting us become more involved, let me ask you, how much I would be jeopardizing what we already have?"

"I don't think I quite understand"

"Simply that I would prefer to respect your Aunt's scripts and preserve an existing friendship than to attempt to change them against your will. But, at the same time, I will confess that that I have at times wished to have been more sociable. But that in our society invariably leads to some involvement at some point with food. So, as a gentleman, I have held back."

"Sometimes it does get boring having to be so strict. But what would it do to our relationship if I let the barriers down and as a result shortly gained twenty pounds?"

"I strongly doubt such a thing would happen overnight --- you would probably just be more relaxed and have more energy. But to answer the question, I doubt if I would say a thing. Privately I might think how nice you look, but telling you so would depend on how I felt you would take it. I would not want our relationship to depend on your dress size. What might also happen, though, is that you might learn about areas of life that right now you are closed off from."

"Such as?"

"Take your dorm's Thursday ladies' nights. You think all your roommates do is go somewhere and pig out? Of course not! I've talked with them about their conversations --- they share things from a woman's view and mature in ways you can never get from books! The food is simply a vehicle for getting them in the mood to go where they need to be going."

"Do you go out to restaurants regularly?"

"Once or twice a week. Usually with another couple or two."

"Are they all as nice as this one?"

"Pretty much. This is middle of the road steak house which happens to have a good view. There are all kinds of other places --- it would take six months to go through the list at the rate of one a week."

I sensed was being led down a garden path to gourmetdom but was enjoying every minute of it. As a result I spontaneously said something that as soon as I uttered it scared me.

"If I were to tell you I needed to be educated in such matters how often would you invite me?"

Dave look startled, but didn't miss a beat.

"A minimum of once a month --- perhaps more often if you would let me. But ... right now you are being swept up in the enjoyment of a new experience. Your scripts may kick back on you if you make a commitment now --- and I really don't want to lose the friendship we have.

"For now, why don't I hold the first Saturday evening of next month (which happens to be next week I believe) open. Then, after you have had time to think about it, let me know on Monday whether you want to make a date of it."

Dave was right. After I got home that evening part of me was on cloud nine as I sense he cared about me more than he was letting on --- but meanwhile the old scripts were hitting me again and again.

I went into Carol's room and asked to talk. I told her the whole story and asked her advice.

"Dave is one of the kindest and wisest persons on campus --- and he does like you. Let your defenses down and let your body do what it wants to," was her advice.

On Monday I told him I would see him Saturday night. And then I starved myself for the rest of the week.

He took me to a restaurant called The Top Floor --- located appropriately on the top of a local skyscraper. The view was spectacular, the food excellent, and there was even a band playing music --- unfortunately I didn't then know enough about dancing to get onto the floor. But I was beginning to see what I had been missing.

As we drove home I told Dave I was going to try to relax my eating habits and see how I felt with a few more pounds, which were very likely. At the same time I warned him that, based on my family history, I might become a bit of a porker. He simply chuckled and said, "that, my dear lady, is your decision. I have a hunch you will be quite happy with what really happens."

The next morning I began eating breakfast regularly --- something I had always envied others being able to do. I found I was more alert in class and not as hungry at lunchtime. But otherwise nothing seemed different. That Thursday I went out with the girls, and we had a good time.

By the end of the week the only change I noticed was that I seemed to have more energy and didn't tire so easily. After a month the scale had not budged --- even though I knew I was eating on the average 500-600 calories a day more.

"This is ridiculous," I said. "I wanted to at least gain some weight to see what it was like. How much effort does it take?"

I began allowing myself desserts at night, then an occasional snacks during the day. Added to the bi-weekly dinners with Dave and the Thursday night smorgasbords something was bound to happen I knew. An sure enough, by the second month I had gained two pounds. By the end of the semester a month later a total of five. Progress, but hardly the blimping out as I had feared!

It was at that point that I had the conversation with my sister that led to my coming with her family. She had been working part-time for a company that wanted her to go full time for the summer. She needed someone to cook and care for her family. I knew these people were not finicky eaters and volunteered for the job as a means of cultiva-ting my cooking skills. At the same time I confided in her that I didn't want any kidding if I turned into an eating machine and gained a few pounds.

She was a bit taken aback at first, for my fanaticism in the opposite direction was well known within the family. But she accepted my condition and I began my duties.

It wasn't long before I was eating in a manner which was, for me, revolutionary. Every morning I rose at 6:00 and prepared a good breakfast for the family as well as lunches for my sister and her husband. During the morning and afternoon I would share a snack with the kids if they were around --- or having something myself. Lunch was never skipped either.

Dinners were always different. My sister then, as now, has a large library of cookbooks and I tried to have a different ethnic cuisine, usually with dessert, each evening. Usually this was served family style and, like everyone else, I usually had seconds. Many evenings I also had a snack before going to bed.

With this type of round the clock munching I could soon tell from the feel of my clothes that I was finally gaining. It therefore came as no surprise to learn that I had gained fifteen pounds in ten weeks --- and had completely outgrown my slacks. To the point that I could not even fasten them!

"Now," I thought, "we will see what Dave and the girls think!"

Dave had been busy that summer out of town tending to affairs in his family's business. Back on campus, true to his word, he said nothing negative about my added inches but instead just beamed and told me I looked lovely ---and celebrated by taking us back to the steakhouse on the river. By this time my appetite had improved to the point that I didn't have to skimp on the salad bar or use a doggie bag. I even had room for mud pie for dessert. My late Aunt would have croaked to see me enjoying life!

The girls in the dormitory were anything but critical either. Sociable Melody was still there, having picked up about twenty pounds and a boyfriend who liked the change, as were the two sophomores (now juniors) who could seemingly eat anything. But joining us were two unusual individuals --- each with a weight agenda of their own.

Marilyn Forbes was 230 lbs and proud of every ounce. She had had a friend who died from what we today would call anorexia four years before. As a result she had become an activist, gaining eighty pounds in the intervening period and daring anyone to criticize her for it. At times she talked about becoming a legal advocate for people of size.

Jane Neilson was short, plump, and an excellent cook looking for a man more than a diploma. She was the one who suggested that we all rotate the job of making sure we had decent breakfasts. Now, confident of my cooking skills, I quickly assented.

With this group it was a simple matter for me to gain another twenty pounds my sophomore year. But then a crisis broke in my family.

Just before the Spring break my Father got some bad news --- after over twenty years, at age 55, he and about 100 others were being laid off due to a factory closing. It was part of the general loss of America's midwestern manufacturing base that was occurring after the oil crisis in the seventies. Dave knew I was stressed out and asked if he could come with me. I gladly accepted.

He had a strangely determined intensity about him as we drove to my parent's place that I had not seen before.. It was not unfriendly, but I knew he was thinking abstractly to himself, hoping to help in some way if he could --- but I didn't see how.

When we got to town he insisted that I first take him by the soon-to-be closed plant and tell me as much as I could about it. He confided that he was "new at this sort of challenge" and that it would help him comfort and aide my Dad. I had learned by now to trust him and shared all that I could for nearly an hour.

He then called my parents, told them that we had arrived, and invited them out to dinner --- food, as he said, was like electricity, always a friend when handled properly, potentially a problem if you do the wrong thing. Right now they needed every penny and two more mouths to feed was one less problem they could live without.

Before the evening was over he had my Father sharing both the pride he had had in his job and the sorrow that he felt over its loss. What seemed to bother my Dad most was how the shutdown would affect others not as well situated as he was --- our home was paid off and my siblings were already rallying to offer him support if needed.

After the meal was finished, pretty much as I had anticipated, he took full charge of the conversation as gracefully as he could.

"Carol has told me a lot about you --- and after tonight I think I believe every word of it!, Dave exclaimed. "In my opinion, sir, you are indeed a kind and caring person that is a credit to any firm. It would be easy for me to just say that its a shame you couldn't stay on where you were --- but praise and $10 buys a nice supper for a night.

"I know that I am to you a young whippersnapper with a fraction of your experience, but, if you would allow me, I would like to suggest something that might help both you and at least some of your co-workers. Could I have the name of your firm's personnel director?

Puzzled at the take charge attitude of this college kid, for that is how he must have seen him, my Father nevertheless gave him the name.

"All right," Dave said. "I can't promise where this will end up but I would like you to tell this gentlemen to expect a phone call tomorrow afternoon.

"There is a company, Ferris Associates, which does headhunting for companies that want good recruits --- not college kids, but people with enough miles on the odometer that they can solve real problems. Unlike out-placement firms their fees are paid by the hiring firms, not the ones that are being laid off.

"I know one of their key people and I think he would like to talk with you --- learn the same things you have related to me about how capable some of these

men are, then perhaps find a new job for some of them. This type of thing, of course, is best done with the consent and co-operation of your present employer --- which is why I want to you let them know tomorrow morning."

The call came through as promised and the inquiry of the Ferris Associates was passed along to those they had named, offering them a conference. My Dad agreed to be contacted and, along with a number of others, was put through a battery of tests and interviews. A number of the people involved, including my Father, were given jobs as a result.

It indebted me more to Dave in a sense, but he treated the matter as something anyone in the same situation had done. And then he left for another "special assignment" summer. For some reason he never really shared with me what it was that he did during the summer, saying just that it "would sound a lot more important than it really way."

While he was gone I did an encore at my sister's place, which resulted in another fifteen pounds by the end of the summer. This brought me within five pounds of 200 for the beginning of my Junior year. Dave (now a Senior) seemed appreciative of every ounce.

In late October I passed the 200 mark and Dave decided it was time to come clean. Up till now he had always said it was "up to me" what I weighed and left the slate blank as to his true feelings. But for Thanksgiving he invited me to travel with him to meet his family.

The weekend before we were to go meet the family he invited me out again to the restaurant by the river where it had all begun. My radar detected that something was up.

"How much do you really know about me?" he asked.

"I know you are a wonderful person with some sort of family business and a wide range of interests," I said, "Why?"

"Because this evening you are going to find out several things about me you have never known --- if any of it bothers you I hope you will give me a chance to explain and not be scared. OK?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You are right about the family business --- but the whole truth is that it is actually a cluster of several businesses with a fair number of employees. My father was killed in a plane accident several years ago and they were run by long term employees until I reached age 18. At that point I became chief trustee of the entity that controls them.

"For the past few years I have been effectively running the operation, but still using the longtermers while I get a formal education. The family members you will meet next Thursday are not poor, but their wealth is largely tied up in how well the trust does. So they may seem inordinately concerned about who I am bringing to dinner."

"Thanks for telling me now," I said nervously. "I hope they like fat girls."

"You will find that to be the least of worries, believe me!," he replied.

"I just hope that you don't get upset if some of them ask a lot of questions. I have no doubts as to your ability to give the right answers. Frankly, I am more concerned about your reaction to them than them to you."

"What do you mean?"

"I think it was the Great Gatsby or someone like that who said, 'the rich are not like other people.' Its not really true, but they do have other concerns. And sometimes those who have not 'to the manor been born' have a hard time understanding the perspective of those who are."

"I don't quite understand"

"Think about the articles you have seen me write for the college paper --- along with the projects we have worked on together. Do you see a theme?"

"A lot of Horatio Alger success stuff --- is that what you mean?"

"Yes, just as you have been trying to go beyond the station where you were born because your Aunt gave you the motivation to do it. Your grades have been right up there with the best and you know you can do anything you want. Many people think they can't do things and so they never try."

"What does that have to do with being of the manor born?"

"People of wealth are no different than those who are not --- some feel guilty because they know they inherited most of it and don't have a clue of how to do it themselves so they spend all their time being defensive. We are all responsible to use what we have been given at any level, but some lack the understanding or courage to do it.

"Others know exactly what they are doing and surround themselves with others of the same view. That is why we have worked so well together these past two years. We actually are very much alike in that regard."

"And your relatives?"

"Some are achievers, others are holders. The first will want to know how much and what you want to do, the others will be evaluating whether or not you will disrupt their little worlds."

"And where do you fit?"

"Hopefully as an achiever --- so far profits are up and we've been able to share the results with the employees (by bonuses), the community (with grants), the stockholders (with better dividends), and our customers (by researching things that they will enjoy).

"All the while the owner goes off to school so that he can do things even more effectively when he becomes the official boss. I know that after graduation my perspective is going to be in need of an ongoing reality check. Which is why I wanted to talk to you tonight. I have something very special to ask."

"Which is?"

"I do not want to go down for a family thanksgiving celebration, knowing that those there will be speculating on whether or not I am considering you as a partner for life without having first discussed it with you. Now, I hope you will not be surprised at what I am about to say next ---"

He removed his glasses, his eyes were glistening, and he spoke with as much tenderness and emotion as he could muster in public,

"I love you Carol, and would like to be able to announce to anyone who cares to speculate about our future that we have already decided the matter."

And with that he handed me a small box with a gorgeous ring.

"You needn't give me an answer now, " he said, "but I would be honored if next week you would come to Thanksgiving dinner with a view to giving me a reply after you have seen what Winston Industries is all about."

I was speechless, as you might imagine. I had indeed been wishing that he would be more personal in our relationship. The proposal was, well, formal rather than romantic. But the sincerity behind the words was genuine. I wondered how long he had been planning the moment.

Without saying another word he gently took me over to the dance floor where a quartet was playing. Over the previous two years I had learned to dance and my feet moved automatically as my head continued to spin.

After I climbed down off of cloud nine I began doing some hasty checking into what he had modestly called the "Business." It turned out to be a cluster of five companies with roots that went back a hundred years. Dave's Father had revamped things in the sixties and seventies, including a little enterprise called Ferris Associates, before being killed in a plane crash when Dave was fourteen. All of a sudden it became apparent what had happened with my Father and his friends. I decided not to tell Dave what I had discovered --- I knew he had tried to keep it confidential.

I also discovered that he had been modest about his own degree of involvement. At age 18 Dave had indeed become co-trustee with his mother of the trust that owned a majority of the stock in the parent company and assumed the title of Chairman of the Board. But he was not just a figurehead.

He had left the management in place but had a reputation of routinely subjected them to the kind of ongoing questioning and probing that was his trademark in college. He always couched his queries as one who wanted to learn, then encouraged them to try new approaches and ventures. It was a loose reins approach which had resulted in a fair number of innovations succeeding while making some of the older family members who were minority stockholders nervous. You must remember that this was the seventies, with high inflation and constant energy concerns. Innovative thinking was at a premium. Now I understood why he felt such a need to know about everything.

And I now knew something about myself. Three years previous I had come out of the closet as a person of size --- now I was going to be coming of age, if I chose to.

We talked a lot the next week. Then I went to Thanksgiving dinner. There I found out why Dave wasn't concerned about people seeing me as a "fat girl." Most of the ladies there were as heavy or more so than myself so it became an immediate non-issue.

As Dave had encouraged me, I took the initiative of being friendly. Not only did I not evade questions, I tried to drawing others out rather than waiting to be asked about myself. By the end of the day I felt as though I was among friends.

After dinner, which should better have been called a feast, Dave asked me what I thought. I told him he had been right --- these people were human beings with concerns just like anyone else. Their's just happen to be different.

"Does that mean I get to make an announcement?"

"Yes, " I said. "Do you want to put the ring on in front of everyone?"

And that is what we did.

It is now twenty-five years and four kids into this Cinderella story. To date three of them have turned out to be people of size as well, and they have never been criticized in our household once on that account. My own weight stabilized at around 260 and Dave (a true FA if there ever was one) lets me know how attractive I am to him everyday and I return the same. Everyone knows how much we care for one another --- and that is as it should be.

We have taught our kids to expect some people to be rude --- and to treat them unexpectedly. Instead of being insulted about their weight they will say something like, "you'd enjoy being heavy too if your mom could cook like mine!" or "too bad you don't have as good a meals at your house as I do." Then they invite them over to prove the point. Most critics are too embarrassed to accept an invitation from someone they have been insulting, but it puts a stop to the problem.

At the same time we have taught them to be leaders in whatever they attempt. One is musically gifted and also into computers, another may wind up being a lawyer, another a teacher. The fourth may possibly join Dave in the business someday. None of them, given the attitudes they have towards themselves, will be held back because of their size.

Why do I bother to tell this tale at this time?

Because some FA's on this website and elsewhere are frustrated at their inability to find a fat girl to love. I think it is in part because they are focused overmuch on that factor alone.

Today I know that Dave suspected from the beginning, from what he had been told and his family experience, that I would blossom in size if given the chance. But he never pushed me in that direction. Instead he first built a solid foundation of common interests and respect before even daring to buy me dinner. And, although we feed each other moderately in bed (it is an erotic bonding experience which we learned long before we heard about others doing it) and always enjoy good food, he has never tried to "make" me gain anything.

Some women on this site I feel are too conscious of size as well. A young lady who signed herself Christine spoke of the need for everyone to read the works of Laura Schlesinger and others ---to take it slow and really get to know another person before going to bed with someone. At least two years before making a commitment is a good idea. Dave and I were both of the old school, reserving sex until marriage, and our kids have been raised the same way. We have no regrets.

This insistence that we be treated as humans first doesn't mean that we have to forget that we are also people of size. It is, as Dave points out, impossible for larger people not to be noticed so we need to be sure we are worth noticing. We dress well, act with energy, and try to be leaders or active followers in everything we do --- whether in business, family, church or community.

Nor should we forget that not every heavier person is as happy and liberated as ourselves. We have quietly supported aspects of the size acceptance movement (although neither of us are NAAFA members) and indeed employ a disproportionate number of heavier workers among our now 1,100 member labor force. But the point has always been that people have merit apart from their size --- not that heavier people should be given preference.

So, my advice to men who want a plumper as a partner for life?

Be reasonable in your expectations, learn how to first love and care in areas beyond just weight, expect to make a lifetime commitment no matter what, build your bond on a basis besides pounds, and you will have as fine a relationship as we have been blessed with.

And to the women who want to be respected and loved --- which is only a natural desire?

Expect that a man should both be able to support a family and give himself thereto ---know his standards, his habits, his preferences, and be sure you are in harmony with them. See if he can help you improve --- and is able to be helped by you in return. This is what marriage is all about.

Do these things and you will likely have a worthwhile long-term relationship. I have had the chance to walk the walk for a quarter century and now have the right to talk the talk.

And, oh yes, the sex is great as well!