Donna blew her nose and nodded solemnly.
I hadn't seen her in about 4 months, and when she showed up on my doorstep that evening at 10:00 pm I knew something was wrong. At first, I couldn't help but stare at her - I mean the girl had put on about 30 pounds since the last time we hung out. She was already in tears, so I kept my mouth shut about the weight gain, and let her talk.
She had just been dumped by one of the biggest, most abusive jerks to walk the planet. His name was Mark. He seemed like a real catch from the outside: 33, tall and blond with a good body and cute butt. I remembered seeing him at a party with Donna soon after they started going out. On top of the physical attributes, Mark was also the head of one of those now legendary internet start ups, and therefore loaded - his company had just gone public. No one could blame Donna for making a go of a relationship with this guy.
Of course, everyone has his peculiarities. With Mark, it was food - or more specifically a woman's appetite. He had told her on their first dinner date that he couldn't stand being with a woman who was a dainty eater. Nothing pissed him off more than taking a woman to a fine restaurant, having her order a full meal and then watching her just pick at it. He found the whole thing aggravating. It wasn't just the money, but the deceptiveness, he had told Donna. "Everyone needs to eat," he said. "Half the girls I go out with act like they don't. I mean, if you can't be honest about your eating habits or your need for food - how honest can you be in a relationship?"
Donna had then countered with "But what about society's standards that a woman must be stick thin to be beautiful. I mean, maybe these girls aren't eating. Maybe they're afraid they'll get fat."
"Nonsense," he replied. "Then either they're just too lazy to exercise or they've got an eating disorder. You can still eat normal meals and not get fat. That whole fashion magazine mentality is for shallow airheads who can't think for themselves."
Donna admitted to me that some red flags were going off in her mind at this point, but the subject was quickly dropped, and when the food came, Donna dug into her meal with gusto. She couldn't help but appreciate the approving glances she was getting from Mark as she cleaned her plate.
Despite this one weird quirk, Donna did enjoy being with Mark. He had a good sense of humor, enjoyed many of the same activities she did and - oh yeah - he bought her lots of stuff. She said that in hindsight she realized she was being a bit of a gold digger, but it seemed stupid not to make use of a good thing. However, as the relationship wore on, his issues with eating habits cropped up more and more.
Apparently, Mark had the metabolism of a 16-year-old boy. He could eat anything and everything and not gain an ounce. Donna wanted to believe his initial statement: a healthy appetite and regular exercise would keep a person slim. However, while trying to keep up with Mark's idea of a healthy appetite, Donna soon found herself struggling to get into her jeans. She stepped up her time at the gym, but there are only so many hours in a day, and it soon became a toss up between working out more, or seeing Mark. She chose Mark.
By the end of their first two months together, Donna was nearly bursting out of everything in her wardrobe. She would go out for dinner dates, stuffed into a pair of near bursting slacks, and then get chided if she didn't finish her food. Finally, after popping a button during desert, she convinced herself that she should buy some new clothes.
By the end of the third month together she had put on 15 pounds. Mark said nothing about the weight gain. Instead, it seemed as though he was suggesting more eating related activities. They went out for ice cream more often, he started bringing her candy, and they spent more time at sports bars that served buffets for Happy Hour.
Donna figured everything was fine. In fact, she began to enjoy all the eating, and when in another month she found her belly overflowing the waistband of her largest jeans she just went out to the mall and picked out another, larger wardrobe. She told me that while she was trying on size 14 jeans it occurred to her that maybe she should take a stand against Mark's bizarre notion that unless a woman stuffs herself silly, she's being dishonest and shallow. She revisited that notion just a month later when she could barely zip up the same size 14 jeans.
And then came the event that had brought Donna knocking on my door in the first place. Mark had invited Donna on a skiing trip with his brothers and their wives. Mark and Donna were to meet everyone up at the lodge, so Mark suggested she sleep over at his place the night before so they could get an early start.
Mark made a huge lasagna dinner, followed by a chocolate torte and as always, insisted she eat everything.
She was absolutely stuffed by the time dinner was over. They went into the living room, and she sat on the couch, very conscious of the way her thighs were encased like sausages in her jeans, and the way her belly was being cut in half by the constricting denim waistband. Mark came and stood over her, his eyes taking in every inch of her body. There was something tense in his gaze, an uncomfortable harshness in his eyes. The thing that still had Donna puzzled was that she could tell he was turned on. She could see the erection through his slacks.
Finally he said "Good god, look at you. You've turned into a pig. I can't believe how you've let yourself go."
Donna was too stunned to say anything. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.
" Just how much weight have you gained? Twenty, thirty pounds? I guess you think you've got me now, so you can just let yourself go - turn into a blimp. Do you really think I'd take you to meet my brothers looking like that? They'd laugh at me. They've got gorgeous wives; thin, beautiful wives - and I'd show up with you. Get out."
Donna started sobbing and Mark left the room. Finally she composed herself enough to grab her things and call a cab which brought her to my place.
"It was just amazing," Donna said. "It was as if he was seeing me for the first time. I mean, we had sex all the time - so it's not like he wasn't seeing my body. I just can't believe it. I wish there was someway to get him back."
"I hope you're talking revenge and not resuming the relationship," I said.
Donna just stared at me with her big wounded eyes. I wanted to help her out. She was, after all, my best friend.
A few weeks later, at work, I came up with an idea. As a buyer for a woman's department, I get to see all kinds of manufacturer's samples. A lingerie manufacturer was pitching its latest line of body shaping apparel when the idea hit me. Body shaping apparel is the new euphemism for girdles, these days. The lingerie rep was showing me the full line - everything from a light-weight control panty to a heavy duty full body suit. Although our store doesn't really specialize in the more extreme body shaping garments, it piqued my interest. The rep claimed that they had come up with a new material that offered maximum control with maximum comfort.
"So, what exactly does that mean - maximum control?" I asked.
"Well," the rep began, "Suppose you have a figure hugging dress that fit you perfectly when you bought it. Suppose you wanted to wear it New Year's Eve, but with the holidays you've put on a few pounds . . .quite a few pounds. What maximum control means is you can put on our body suit and still look great in your form fitting dress. Not to mention, you can keep eating all the way through the stroke of midnight and still not show a single bulge or roll."
"How about, I get a free sample of the body suit, and we order the control panty and waist cincher for our stock?" I suggested.
The sales rep looked at me strangely. "You want a body suit for yourself? But you hardly need it."
"Oh, but the holidays are coming up, and I think I'll be testing the limits of your maximum control fabric in no time." I smiled, knowing the rep couldn't turn down an order.
I took the body suit home to show Donna, who had been doing her best to start dieting.
"Is that for me?" she asked with disgust.
"Nope, it's for me," I replied.
"You don't need it," she said.
"Not now, but I think I will. Donna, I'm going undercover for you."
I explained my plan to Donna, and although initially wary, just visualizing the payoff put a smile on her face.
"But I have to be there," she said.
"Of course," I replied.
Donna helped me set up the first phase of the plan - meeting Mark. She knew his hang outs, so it wasn't long before I came across him at the happy hour of his favorite sports bar. Once I spotted him, I hit the buffet, piling my plate high with buffalo wings, nachos and greasy ribs. I sat down at the bar a seat away from him and order a dark beer. He took notice of me almost right away.
"Now that's something you never see," he said in my direction.
"What?" I asked.
"A beautiful woman with a healthy appetite. It says a lot about a girl."
He moved into the empty seat next to mine. "Well, it says you think for yourself and listen to your body. It says your independent and smart."
"Wow," I giggled, "You can tell all that just by a plate of buffalo wings. That's pretty amazing." I looked deep into his blue eyes and smiled. I could tell I had him.
After several beers, a few more plates of wings, and some enjoyable conversation, Mark asked me out to dinner the next evening. I graciously accepted, and went home to tell Donna that he had taken the bait. I couldn't imagine how I was going to keep it up, though. Already I was feeling stuffed and ill from all the greasy food and beer.
I found Mark's company to be bearable enough. He did seem really hung up on the food issue. Meanwhile, I just listened, nodded, and kept eating like there was no tomorrow.
We continued to see each other, and I found myself turning to the body suit a lot sooner than I expected. Unlike his relationship with Donna, where she could recall a few months before their activities revolved entirely around food, Mark and I were eating out every night, meeting for lunch almost every day, going out for ice cream, or chowing down on popcorn and candy at the movies. I couldn't believe the man could eat so much and not gain a pound. I, on the other, was filling out at an alarming rate.
In the body suit I still looked pretty much like my old self. The maximum control material was pretty amazing, but once the suit was off, the extra 20 pounds of flab was pretty obvious. Donna , who had since lost about 10 pounds, even commented on how quickly I had blimped out. Most obvious were my hips and butt. Without the suit on I found myself knocking into things, not used to the extra width I now required. My thighs spread out every time I sat down, and my belly had just begun to touch my lap when sitting. Without the suit, none of my old clothes fit. I spent a lot of time in sweats at home.
After another month of extreme eating with Mark, the suit had become ridiculously difficult to get on and off, not to mention uncomfortable. Also uncomfortable were Mark's sexual advances. First and foremost, I didn't want to sleep with him because he was such a creep, and then of course there was the whole body suit issue. However, I seemed to pacify him by explaining that I had high morals, and women who readily slept with men had been brainwashed by all those women's magazines that dictated we all become stick thin sluts in order to keep a man. Just to keep him interested, though, I mentioned that I usually felt more comfortable becoming intimate with a man once I knew we had a strong relationship. I mentioned that meeting a man's family often made me feel the relationship had gone beyond casual.
The break I had been looking for happened on a Thursday evening during dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. I was really outdoing myself in the eating department, having taken on a basket of garlic bread, plate of fried mozzarella, house salad, cannelloni, a side of spaghetti and now tiramisu. It occurred to both of us that I had actually eaten more than Mark.
"Where do you put it all?" he asked as he stared at me from across the table. Was that lust in those baby blues?
"I don't know" I said, "I just appreciate good food. Why? Are you worried I'll get fat?"
His mouth twitched and he shifted in his chair, obviously uncomfortable.
"You know, I'm getting together with my two brothers and their wives this weekend. I'd like you to meet them. We're going up to Tahoe for skiing. Can you make it."
"I would love to go. I love skiing," I said.
"Great. Why don't you come over to my place Friday night and we can drive up together Saturday morning," he suggested.
"Oh, you know what? We have inventory at work Friday night, and that usually goes on for hours. How about if I just drive up after I've had a chance to get some sleep. Maybe we can meet for dinner."
"Sure, sounds good," he replied. "You are so amazing. Your sense of independence just knocks me out."
I smiled and finished off the tiramisu.
When I got home Donna could barely pry me out of the body suit I was so full. My belly stood out in front of me, packed solid with food. The crazy thing was, I was still hungry. I threw on a robe and went into the kitchen and opened up a bag of chips.
"Donna, we've got him," I said as I emptied the greasy contents of the bag. "He's invited me up to Tahoe to meet his brothers."
Donna smiled and clapped her hands together, then stopped. "Shoot, I wish I would have more time to lose the rest of this weight," she complained. "Nothing would be better than to have him see me thin again."
I could tell she still had feelings for him. I didn't know what to say.
"Listen, I've got to tell you that I think he's got a thing for fat girls," I said. I recounted the weird reaction I got from even mentioning the word fat over dinner.
"That makes no sense," she replied. "I was fat and he kicked me out. You don't look all that fat in the body suit and he's taking you to Tahoe."
"Maybe he's too afraid of what his brothers think, or maybe he's in denial. Maybe, he's been brainwashed."
"So if you think he's into fat girls, why do you think this is going to work.?" She asked.
I opened up a box of snack cakes and began to absent-mindedly polish them off.
"And why are you still eating?" she questioned. "If you keep up like this, you're never going to get that weight off when this is over."
"I'm still hungry," I complained. "Besides, you're losing weight - why don't you think I can."
"You're bigger than I was," she said and came over and grabbed a snack cake out of the box.
"Eating is fun," I said.
"I guess we'll be fat together," she replied and together we finished off the box.
I went into work Friday without the body suit. It was just too painful to get into. The looks from my co-workers were priceless. I wanted to be as fat as possible for Saturday, so I kept my belly stuffed all day long. Then I went home and ordered lots of take out and just watched movies. By midnight I knew I was not getting off that couch until morning.
Saturday morning I got on the scale for the first time in a few weeks. It read 162. I had gained 36 pounds in three months. On my 5'6" frame that was quite a bit. Not only had I gained all that weight, but I had done absolutely no exercise, so it was all solid flab.
I rummaged around my closet, trying to figure out what would make me look the fattest. Stretch pants were always good for showing off large thighs, wide hips, and a big butt. After that I found a tight sweater that didn't quite cover my belly and nicely accented a roll of flab caught above the waistband of my pants.
"You look so fat," Donna told me as we got into the car for the drive to Tahoe. She was definitely dressed to impress, but her skirt looked a little tight. She had binged with me on Friday night, so that probably didn't help.
We stopped for food along the way several times. I wanted to keep my belly as full and bloated as possible. By the time we got there, the waistband of my stretch pants was actually rolling down off of my distended paunch.
Donna went into the restaurant first and staked out a good seat at the bar to watch the action.
I waited a little while, and then went in to meet Mark and his brothers. I saw them right away. Mark and his brothers all looked very similar. Two thin, blond women sat with them. As I made my way to the table, I caught Mark's eye. At first he was just staring, taking me all in without realizing who I was. Then he recognized me, and I could see his face suddenly flush a bright red. He stood up quickly, as if to intercept me, but by then his one of his brothers had noticed my approach.
"Hi Mark," I said, as I walked right up to him and kissed him. He stiffened.
Both of Mark's brothers looked me over with smug disapproval.
"Well," said the older brother, "We'd better make some room. Mark's new girlfriend is here."
"Yes," I said. "You had better make some room for me."
The two women at the table smiled tightly as they moved closer together.
I looked at Mark and smiled sweetly. His face was contorted with mounting anger.
"Well, aren't you going to introduce me?" I asked.
"Oh, he has no manners," said the older brother. "I'm Michael. This is my wife Jeannette."
I gave hearty handshakes to both.
"You've got a lot of power behind that grip," Michael grinned.
"More than you know," I replied with a wink. Jeannette laughed nervously.
"I'm Linda," I said to the other brother and his wife. They introduced themselves as Max and Lisa.
I sat down and opened a menu.
"Well, I am starving. Let's get some appetizers shall we?"
It was then that I noticed that Mark was still standing, shooting daggers at me with his eyes.
"Mark darling, what's wrong?" I asked.
He clamped his arm to my shoulder. "We need to talk," he replied.
"After dinner," I told him firmly. "I'm famished, and I think it would be rude to your brothers if we left the table now."
Both Max and Michael seemed thoroughly amused by the show. I glanced up towards the bars, and could see Donna sipping a drink and watching with a huge smile on her face.
"Sit down, Mark," Michael commanded. "The lady says she hungry. We wouldn't want her to waste away."
At this remark everyone at the table cracked up. I even laughed with them.
"Oh, I see," I said. "You're making a little joke at my expense. Because I'm on the heavy side and said I was hungry - and then you said you wouldn't want me wasting away. That's very clever of you."
They stopped laughing. I smiled.
"Shut up," said Mark.
"Excuse me?" I asked as I stood up to face him.
"What is this?" he asked. "What happened to you?"
"What happened to me? Exactly what you wanted to happen to me. I got fat. All that eating out, all the candy you brought me, all the times you chided me for not finishing a meal by saying I wasn't being honest with myself. Well, you know who's not honest with himself - it's you, Mark. I saw the way you watched me eat all that food Thursday night, the way you undressed me with your eyes as I walked in here today before you realized who I was. You like fat girls, Mark, and there's nothing wrong with that. Just because you have two bonehead brothers who haven't matured past ninth grade humor, that's no reason for you to deny yourself what you want. And it sure as hell is no reason for you to take it out on the women you're seeing once they become fat after trying to please you. I want you to know that you broke my friend, Donna's heart. You're a creep and you'll always be a creep until you tell your brothers to go to hell and start living your own life!"
Mark's mouth was open, but nothing was coming out. Michael and Max still seemed amused by the situation, but their wives were obviously stunned by my outburst. I hadn't realized how upset I was, and found myself shaking. Everyone seated around us was staring at me. I slowly turned and walked towards the bar, still feeling many eyes following me.
As I approached Donna, she handed me a margarita.
"You go, girl." She said. "I could hear that all the up here. Did you have that little speech all prepared, or did it just come out like that."
"I think it just came out like that," I replied.
"Let's finish our drinks and then go get something to eat," Donna said. "I'm starving."
"Me too," I replied.
We both sat down at the bar, both lost in our thoughts for a while.
"Donna, Linda" a voice said sheepishly.
We spun around in our barstools to see Mark. I tensed up.
"I think I owe you both an apology," he continued. "I'd like to make it up to you by, uh, taking you both out for dinner."
Donna and I exchanged wary glances.
"I know this seems - odd, but everything you said was true." It became obvious that this was very hard for him. I looked at Donna. She was melting from his vulnerability. Who was I to stand in the way - not to mention a free meal sounded pretty good. I really was starving. I wondered if and when I would ever get back to my old size. I wondered if it mattered. Maybe I had been in denial, too.
"Dinner, huh?" I asked. "Okay."
Donna smiled and Mark breathed a sigh of relief. He put his arms around both of us and proudly escorted us out of the restaurant. We all waved as we passed his brothers' table. The seemed embarrassed to be recognized.
We went out for one of the largest meals I had ever consumed. Donna totally went off her diet, and by the time dessert rolled around, Mark surveyed the two of us, stuffed bellies bursting out of our clothes, and he got that look in his eye - the one I had seen at the Italian restaurant.
What happened that is a whole other story. Just suffice it to say that Donna never got back on her diet, and I never needed the maximum control body suit again.