By Laura Black

The girl pictured in the magazine caught my attention. She was about my age, ten, and fat — fatter than me. Her stomach protruded out from the gap between the top of her stretchy, turquoise pants and the bottom of her matching paisley top. Dimples pocked her arms and legs. Her pimpled face was swollen, she had extra chins. Her hair was disheveled and she looked down, away from the camera. Above her picture it said, “Before.”

On the opposite side of the two-page spread, the same girl looked like she had emerged from a time machine. She was thin with bobbed hair and no blemishes. She wore a purple shift with a white peter-pan collar and cuffs. She stared directly into the camera with a full-faced smile. This caption read, “After.”

I wanted to be an “After.”

I showed the advertisement to my parents. It was for a children’s weight loss camp. It proclaimed, “You Too Can Lose Up to 50 Pounds this Summer.”

“Can I go?”

They jumped at the opportunity.

It was the “Father Knows Best” era. Men were breadwinners, women homemakers. Like E=mc2, the equation was uncontroverted: beautiful (thin) women married successful (rich) men, and vice versa. At 4’6 and 120 pounds — I was a budding spinster.

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