I don’t like returning to Los Angeles; the city reeks of rhinoplasty and trauma. But I needed to see my therapist and also get my hair dyed.
I landed on a Thursday and headed straight to Beverly Hills, proudly sporting Lulu Lemon and shoes way too practical to be cool.
I thought I fit in; blonde hair and Lulu Lemon are a Beverly Hills prerequisite. But now I’m a Brooklyn girl, I’ve bypassed bulimia. You don’t fit in with hot girls when nothing but leggings fit you anymore.
“Danielle, you’ve gotten fat.”
Hips don’t lie, least of all in leggings, and neither do childhood best friends, apparently.
“Actually Beth, I’m curvy.”
(Just kidding. I didn’t say that. I cried and deleted my Twitter.)
Whatever the term, I hated myself. My greatest fear was true: my scale wasn’t lying. I did look bloated. And since I’m a woman, I’m the worst, because the worst thing a woman can be is fat.
Weight is my friend group’s favorite topic, after themselves and the 405. They’re not bad people, just raging narcissists: they’ve bred egos more inflated than silicone breasts – and to think we’ve all gotten breast reductions.
I’ve been trained to hate my body. I first saw a plastic surgeon when I was sixteen: His name was Dr. Poletz. He seemed very sad and smelled like soup. I’m still offended that a man so ugly thought that I was imperfect.
According to Dr. Poletz, I needed a nose job and implants in my cheeks and chin. I decided against it and instead and went to Uruguay where I finally fit in: the land of voluptuous women and exotic men who love them.
At nineteen, already underweight by twenty pounds, I got a breast reduction. My boyfriend had just dumped me so, heartbroken, I turned to my friends. They suggested liposuction: Beth’s dad is a world-renowned surgeon. I politely declined.
The offer is still on the table, though, and probably always will be.
“Starting tonight, eat half. And download the calorie counter app.”
Beth’s intervention was shocking. It’s usually Sasha who administers emotional abuse, while Beth (a fellow Mexican) berates me for disrespecting jalapeños. But Sasha was packing for Puerto Vallarta — Beth’s opportunity too good to be true. With Sasha’s mind on Mexico Beth could – for the first time ever — beat her best frenemy to the punch. And that she did. Right in the love handles.
Beth was right, I had gained weight. It’s been a rough winter and I really like cheese. But I thought I looked okay, and so did my boyfriend. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters. He’s the one who has to deal with my jiggly fleshy frame. But this was Los Angeles: where fat people go to die.
I had gained a whopping five pounds — or ten, depending on how much I ate that day.
This was unacceptable; she had to intervene, unlike when I lost fifty, or was addicted to cocaine.
Five pounds and ‘people were worried.’ ‘People were talking.’ But they didn’t talk then; a silent eight years of Bulimia, two a slave to Cocaine, four at the hands of an abusive partner, eight as a victim who said nothing at all.
Now that I’m healthy, drug-free and happy, have gotten my Masters, anxiety-free, now that I live with a boyfriend who loves me, eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. Now there’s a problem: I’ve gone up a pant size.
Alert the media! Danielle is wearing mom jeans!
Yeah, right. Those don’t fit me anymore.
I had forgotten how to diet so I googled ‘healthy food.’
Covered in stress sweat and so hungry I could kill, I reluctantly ate kale and made my boyfriend order pizza. He’s on a diet, too: exclusively bread and cheese. (I eat vicariously through him.)
It felt like Mercury had been in retrograde since I was born. I was a hopeless fat lard, a corpulent waste of space, a swollen Sporty Spice who could not pull off her Nikes. I hadn’t felt this betrayed, or alone, in years: Not since sobbing in handicapped stalls in the seventh grade, or the traumatic twenty-one-day juice cleanse of 2013.
Or the week prior, in which I genuinely compared my relationship with men to my relationship with gluten — and my therapist called it a breakthrough.
My phone rang. It was Beth — she wanted me to come visit her mother. And since I’m a masochist, I agreed to go see her.
Beth’s mother Carolina is a a self-made business-lady-powerhouse with skin thicker than a rhinoceros. She’s a social media mogul, gym enthusiast, and despite being 40+ years my senior, has a better body than I do.
She lives in Beverly Hills where everyone is old and entitled and thinks that they don’t smell their age. But Chanel No. 5 can’t hide the odor of the elderly — ancient skin flaps are pungent no matter the net worth.
Her friends were just leaving; they were over for tea. I knew the type: once pretty women, now closeted republicans.
The women were identical, yet none were related. They don’t share DNA, just Dr. Richberg: a plastic surgeon who seemingly specializes in making women look like Afghan Hounds.
“We were celebrating Gerty’s birthday.”
I wondered how old Gerty was – it could have been twenty or sixty. There are only two ages in LA: Kylie Jenner and my grandmother.
Gerty got in her Prius and reversed down the one-way driveway. Maybe she’s trying to turn back time.
“Come upstairs. My manicurist is here.”
We follow Carolina to her room, passing her framed photo with Hillary Clinton and assemblage of full-length mirrors. Their presence triggers my body dysmorphia – the mirrors now those of a fun house. With each reflection, my face grows, and I slowly morph into my father.
By the time we reach her personal spa, I’m three feet tall, weigh four hundred pounds, and bear a shocking resemblance to George Castanza.
I’m jealous of Beth’s mom, but not because she’s wealthy. She’s miserable. Money can’t buy happiness – or validation from your father – but it can buy personal manicurists, and that’s just not fair. I hate nail salons. I’m convinced that manicurists can hear my thoughts.
“So,” Carolina interjects. “Did I tell you I saw a hypnotist, and now I hate bacon?”