Saturday, October 1, 2011

Diets and Barbie

I grew up with a mother who was constantly on one sort of diet or another. The Grapefruit Diet, the Drinking Mans Diet, The Egg Diet, Weight Watchers and Weigh Less...
She did them all.

Now in her seventies, she is finally perfectly slender, and will be for ever more. One diabetes scare did that.
Scare tactics, it seems, work.
I remember my mother having two wardrobes. A fat wardrobe, and a thin one. She yo-yoed between the two. Or she did, until Prudence. Prudence was our maid when I was in my teens. My mother managed, rather miraculously, to remain in a thin phase during her tenure with us.
Prudence was not, you might say, thin.
She was also, to put it mildly, a superlative cook.
Food in our house underwent a transformation under Prudence's reign. We had eaten  vaguely grey cuisine before her.  The live- in lady who raised me cooked for us during that time. Her name was Sarah and she came from a different culture, one devoid of spice, colour or flavour.
We knew no better. What she cooked, we ate.
Prudence changed all that .

She also changed my mother's wardrobe, by removing the fat range of clothing all together. We found the evidence in the postbox. There was a wad of photographs of Prudence waiting with the mail one day. Pictures of Prudence modeling my mothers fat summer selection, albeit with the ensembles looking somewhat tighter all round. It seems the maid next door had second thoughts about sharing the spoils of my mothers dieting, and she gave the game away

Prudence was duly fired. I regretted the change that brought to our menu. More than that, I regretted, bitterly, the discovery that Prudence had also liberated all my collection of Barbies from the suitcases they were stored in, recently relocated, to the top of my cupboard.

I adored Barbie. For years and years Barbie and her collection of friends and outfits were the only desire of my heart. They were all I ever wanted for birthday presents, Christmas presents, and any other monies gathered in between.
Long before 'Friends' was ever a hit TV show, Barbie and her buddies lived out their perfect world in their special suitcase , carefully packed and stored, as a child, beneath my bed.

My sister was my favourite Barbie playmate. Only she had the same ideas for  the complicated sagas, romances, tragedys, soap operas and thrillers  we wrote for them.
These adventures would drag out, day after day for the entire six week Summer Holiday. They were played out in Roller Skate Sports Cars, and Biscuit Tin Boats, all around and in the swimming pool in the yard.
I think I played my last game when I was thirteen, although I would not admit that for years.

So Fat Brown Prudence stole  Skinny Blonde Barbie, and Perfect White Woman Barbie ended up in some Port Elizabeth township, in  the Seventies

I'm not sure what that says really, but I myself have disproved many of the anti - Barbie theories.
I have never aspired to be a kind of Barbie, with a body shape that some say is not humanly possible. I grew into a very tall, long limbed, long haired, bespeckled adolescent, whose favourite attire was straight jeans, veldskoens and cheese cloth tops. I have never owned a pair of stilettos in my life, or worn anything even close to the colour Barbie Pink.
So much for that then.

And then I hit the forties.
Suddenly the kilograms that I had previously effortlessly shed, stubbornly  refused to shift.
I find myself having to diet.
There has been no health scare yet, for me, but there might be
So, with Spring in the air, I phoned my mother for a few dieting tips. She was happily eager to give them to me. I think, in a way, she had been waiting for the moment.
Nature over nurture every time.

I need to set a goal for myself.
An After model, to go with the present Before one.
Somewhere between Prudence and Barbie -  like a real South African.

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