by "The Observer"
Sylvia was sulking. Here she had starved, preened, practiced and tortured herself for an entire semester keeping her weight and hair in line for the cheerleading squad. And did her parents appreciate it?
NO! Her progress report from school showed two D's and a possible F if she didn't turn things around. So her parents had gone insane, at least in her view.
She had been told to arrive home an hour after school let out, go to bed by nine, get up early so she would be alert, and start eating breakfast so her brain would have energy to operate. The school counselor was even going to arrange for some brainy nerd to be her tutor! And, if grades didn't improve, she might even have her work permit for the job at McKinney's store yanked! If that happened, forget about the savings account for auto insurance.
The glories of the football season and the cheering crowds were past --- reality had set it. Apparently her parents just didn't realize that sitting and studying all the time would just make her nerdy and unpopular. They simply didn't appreciate the effort and agony it took to keep her figure and looks. Getting good grades, she rationalized, took too much time and effort.
Why couldn't the teachers just teach what was needed during school and forget about projects and homework?. she fumed. She had enough homework just trying to keep her figure and avoid being fat!
Then the idea came --- her mom and dad wanted her to be a scholar more than popular? OK that's counts around here I'll show them! I'll just sit, study and eat. Every pound will be their fault! And when mom has to put out money for a fat girl's wardrobe for her honor student it will show her! Then maybe I'll be appreciated more for what I have been putting myself through!"
Sylvia at 5' 6",. 120 lbs, was anything but fat as these thoughts poured through her mind. Her idea of fat was packing on about 20 lbs and getting some new outfits --- but her rage was soon to produce a quite different result.
Drying her tears, she went downstairs to the kitchen. The rest of the family was watching TV as she opened the refrigerator and took out the half gallon of vanilla pecan ice cream. It was the first ice cream she had allowed herself to eat in two years. She put about four scoops into a large bowl, poured herself a glass of milk, returned the container and the bottle to the frig and went back upstairs. No one had noticed.
She savored the ice cream and drank the milk, then went to bed dreaming of her new self-granted freedom. Her stomach was satiated with the unaccustomed snack she drifted off to sleep much more quickly than usual. It wasn't even 9:00. She had gotten to bed nearly two hours earlier than normal. Waking was easy --- she was actually alert before the alarm went off at 6:00. She came downstairs 30 minutes later just as her parents were getting ready for breakfast. Ordinarily she would have been behind schedule and too concerned about calories to have any. But having breakfast was part of the new regime, and, strangely, she actually had an appetite. She accepted her mom's offer of toast and eggs without complaint --- then, after both parent left for work, had a bowl of cold cereal as well.
Before leaving for school she glanced inside her lunch sack. There was a bologna and cheese sandwich, an apple, some celery sticks. Normal stuff --- but somehow it now looked like too little. She still had time, so she added a peanut and butter sandwich, then looked in the bread box. Her brother liked Hostess apple pies and, sure enough, her mom had a supply there. The previous day she would have mentally recoiled as she thought of the calories, but today she smiled as she took one and added it as well.
"That," she thought, "should help me become a growing girl for sure."
At lunch she began to wonder if maybe she had overdone it. She didn't really feel like having the apple pie, so saved it in her locker. But then, after school, she ate it on the way home. And raided the refrigerator for some leftovers before tackling her homework. It was boring, but somehow snacking made it more bearable.
Still half full from her afternoon nibbling Sylvia ate a normal supper at 6:30. No one so far was noticing anything, but she didn't really expect them to. Not yet. But two hours later she again slipped into the kitchen and this time finished off the vanilla pecan ice cream before retiring.
Next morning's breakfast was much the same, but then came school. During third period study hall she was called to the counseling office. There she was informed that Dwight Schneider would be her tutor. Well, it could be worse, she thought. Dwight was a certified brain and wore glasses, but at least he was big enough at 5' 11'' and around 180 lbs that no one made fun of him. In fact, he was the captain of the school debate team and vice president of the computer club.
Dwight made a point of meeting here in the school cafeteria at noon. At first she was a little self-conscious about the size of the expanded lunch she was packing away, but Dwight seemed not to notice. He seemed more interested in getting to know about her, her interests, and the problems she had been having with her classes. Nervously she ate everything while she responded to his questions --- then agreed that they would get together at 4:30 that afternoon.
He arrived on time, books in hand. She apologized for not having anything but Hostess apple pies and milk to offer, but he accepted graciously before getting down to work. She felt him to be all business and wished he would loosen up --- but he seemed indifferent to her feelings. Still, by the time her parents arrived home she had to admit she was answering confidently questions that the day before she would have only been guessing at.
"You have a smart daughter," he beamed to her mom, "with a little focus and effort I'm sure we can turn things around by finals. It's going to be fun, and I'm thankful to be a part of it."
"Fun?," Sylvia thought. "Sentenced to study like a bookworm? You've got to be kidding!"
Sylvia's mother invited Dwight to stay for supper. He was soon into a conversation with her father that was over her head, but her dad seemed impressed that the young man could keep up with him without stumbling. "You have a fine family," he said to her as he departed, "its a pleasure to know them."
And that night Sylvia raided the refrigerator again. This time it was chocolate chip ice cream since the vanilla pecan was gone. "We'll see how Dwight likes a plump student," she thought. "Maybe then he'll also learn where all study and no partying gets someone."
She didn't see Dwight the next day, but when he turned up at her house at 4:30 he surprised her --- bringing half a dozen donuts for them to share. "Hope you don't mind, but you folks were so generous yesterday," he remarked. And then it was down to studying, and again he had dinner with the family. This time it seemed as though he was making an effort to go slower in his conversation, trying to draw Sylvia in. But she felt dumb and shy; internally she was mad at herself for not being able to keep up. And that night, even though her mom had served cake for dessert, she had some more ice cream.
Dwight had apparently picked up on her feelings of being left behind at dinner. The next day, after helping Sylvia finish the last of the cake, he confirmed that they were on track with what was needed Friday's exam, then switched the subject.
"How would you like an extra credit assignment --- with a movie of your choice as the incentive," he said.
"What?" she replied.
"Study and learning isn't all there is to being a teenager," he replied. "Getting good grades for school is just a requirement to get into college. Then comes the rest of our life. But being able to communicate with your parents is handy too. If you can talk with them you can talk with anybody. But I notice that some of your parent's conversation goes over your head and turns you off."
"Makes me feel dumb, you mean."
"Feel, maybe, but you are anything but dumb. You have picked up everything you needed for class in three days just by focusing and concentrating. Now, I am willing to bet that if I were to talk to you about some subjects and you interrupted me with questions every time you didn't understand something, you could learn current affairs just as easily. Your dad would be impressed."
"Impressing my Father? After the riot act he and Mom have read to me? That would be the day!"
"It could be done in as little as two weeks - trust me."
"And for doing that you would treat me to a movie?"
"Yes, and maybe something to eat afterwards --- if you don't mind, that is."
"Sounds like a backdoor way of getting a date with your pupil, teacher."
"Guilty before the bar, your honor."
"OK, you're on --- start talking."
And within an hour Sylvia was a pop authority on the current goings on in Washington --- and with Dwight's help contributed to the dialogue at dinner. Her mom served a special pie for dessert. Usually Sylvia would have passed it by, but this evening she somehow got the impression that Dwight was silently smiling as she enjoyed her piece.
Friday Sylvia got an A on both her tests --- for the first time that school year. After work at McKinney's on the weekend she and one of her co-workers indulged themselves with a couple eclairs. "I could get to liking eating this way, she thought." That evening she even had seconds at supper --- and, of course, the ice cream before going to bed.
Monday was Dwight's computer club day, so Sylvia was home alone. Somehow, without his presence and energy, studying was boring again. But Tuesday through Thursday were a repeat of the prior week. Each day the two teens would share a snack, study until supper, then share a meal with her family. And each night she would have some ice cream. The conversations around the table became more and more interesting as Dwight deftly guided them down channels they had discussed only hours before. And she became used to sharing in dessert with the family just so things would run a little later.
That weekend Dwight took her to a show after she was through at McKinneys, followed by pizza afterwards. She had five pieces and he had six. The five remaining ones she took home, supposedly for her brothers. They each did, in fact, get one --- but she enjoyed the remaining three. Then, curious about what all her eating of the previous week had done she got on a scale --- it hadn't budged!
"Fine," she thought, "Here I am, trying to gain weight, and it turns out I'm one of those people who can't gain! Oh well, its been fun eating for a change. Even if I don't get fat I might as well enjoy myself." And that night she had some more ice cream.
This pattern persisted for another several weeks. Sometimes Dwight would bring pastries or eclairs, other times she would furnish snacks from the pantry. Each morning she would add a little to breakfast and supplement her lunch sack. And each night she would have some ice cream before retiring. If her mother was noticing the disappearance of food she said nothing, or attributed it to her brothers and their friends.
Finally Sylvia began noticing her clothes getting tighter. By now she had almost forgotten why she was gaining, she was simply enjoying a new life style. And the results were beginning to show. At the end of ten weeks she got on the scales again --- this time she was twelve pounds heavier.
Finally grades came out and Dwight's prediction came true. With the improved report card her parents relaxed the rigid rules and Sylvia was allowed to attend a party being thrown by some of her cheerleader friends. They were glad she could come again, and not that surprised when she showed up with Dwight. Everyone knew what he had been doing.
Jeanne Ramstead, however, was a might jealous, and couldn't resist taking a dig at Sylvia's new weight. "All that studying is giving you a tad of a wide load, isn't it," she taunted.
For the first time Sylvia saw anger in Dwight's eyes. "That's about as stupid a stereotype I have heard all year!" he snapped.
"Maybe you haven't noticed, being around her all the time --- but she HAS been gaining weight!"
"Perhaps, maybe you are just jealous because she is getting more attractive and self confident."
"I think getting fat is the pits!"
"And I think you are just envious that she has some things you haven't --- starting with class!"
Whether he was also referring to her lack of a boyfriend or lack of a bosom he did not say, but Sylvia was surprised at his outburst. She had forgotten, if she even knew, that his ability to make a sharp and quick comeback was why he was the captain of the debating team.
On the way home she remarked, "Jeanne was right, you know, I have gained weight while studying so much."
"Yes, probably because you dropped out of cheerleader starvation 101, " he said. "I have been under the impression you have rather enjoyed it. Am I wrong?"
"Not really --- but what do you think?"
"Personally? I think you have been becoming more classically lovely and attractive by the day. But then, I am biased towards ladies whose rib cages don't show."
"You like heavy women?"
"Within reason. I 've always been attracted to them, and in my estimation you are a long way from having to worry about your weight. Hope you feel the same way, but that is your business, not mine."
"Wow! I set out to gain weight to make my parents feel bad and wind up with a boy friend who likes the results! Now what do I do?"
"You were trying to spite your parents?"
"Well, that's when it started --- lately I've just been enjoying the food and company I think."
"You want to know what I think?"
"I think you should decide what you are comfortable with, forgive your parents for only being concerned about you in a way parents are famous for, then act accordingly."
"Hmmm --- can we talk about other things over a sundae somewhere?"
"You've got it," he said smiling.
After the conversation Sylvia did think --- and decided that gaining for revenge really was kind of silly. But so was her former attitude about herself. After all, she did enjoy being a cheerleader and she wasn't even now the heaviest one. Nor would it be the end of the world if she was. She was through with the thinness is everything approach! What she would do was exercise to stay firm, moderate her food intake to what she felt like eating, and just enjoy life with Dwight, her family, and friends. So she stopped augmenting her breakfasts and lunches --- and changed her bed time snacks to things like cottage cheese.
As a result of this discussion with herself her gain slowed, but did not cease. Sylvia's parents, of course, eventually noticed her new roundness --- especially as she grew to first a size 12 and then a 16 by her freshman year in college. But they also noted that Dwight had awakened her mind and she obviously didn't care, so they wisely decided their daughter's weight shouldn't be a topic food dinner conversation. Which is why Dwight, now their son-in-law, and his close to 200 pound bride still enjoy conversations at her parent's house.