Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Fat Pig' ...

I went to see this Neil LaBute play Thursday night. It was a disgusting night to be out. Cold and rainy. Traffic was snarled. Hassles all around. But tickets were waiting at will call. I went with Doreen.

I made a New Year's resolution to see more live theater this year, and I am. Not as much as I'd like, but certainly more than in years past, and I'm pleased about that. The Profiles Theater is very small. I was amused, thinking that the actors could break the third and fourth walls, as there's seating on opposite sides of the acting area. It's not a stage in the traditional sense. The audiece faces each other across the central set. And if the theater seats 50 patrons, I'd be surprised. To quote Dudley Moore as "Arthur": I'm talking small.

So we arrived, despite our parking travails, and the audience was lined up, waiting to enter the theater proper. There aren't assigned seats for such a small space. It's more like going to the movies. The play is an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. And if you leave during the performance, you're not allowed back in. Translation: Go the bathroom now.

Settled in, Kleenex in hand (because Doreen and I know ourselves, and we like to be prepared in the event of any blubbering), we watched the lead actress who was on set when we filed in, standing at a table eating a slice of pizza, drinking a Coke, and reading the biography of Katherine Graham.

This went on for some time. I started to wonder if it was less of a play and more of a performance piece. Perhaps she was just going to stand there and eat and read for 100 minutes? But no. Soon, another cast member joined her - her boyfriend-to-be. Her chaacter's name is Helen. His name is Tom.

Tom works with Carter and Jeannie. Carter is a typical smarmy man. When he meets Helen, not realizing she's Tom's girl, the insults start flying out of his mouth the moment she excuses herself to the restroom. Tom, not ready to 'fess up that he's on a date (Carter thinks it's a business meeting), plays along, and feels awful for it.

Jeannie, Tom's on-again/off-again ex, is thin and pretty. And a bitch. Helen is everything Jeannie isn't, except thin.

The performances are very strong. Tom summons a great amount of emotion in the last scene.

Walking back to my car, I said, "Well, THAT wasn't much of a surprise."

"Is that how you thought it would end?" Doreen asked.

"Yup."

"Then why do we even bother?"

"Because," I said, "ostensibly, all men aren't like that."

I don't think I'm giving away a big secret to reveal that in the end, Tom breaks up with Helen because of her size. Mind you, Helen isn't grossly obese, but by today's image-obsessed standards, yes, she's fat. Even by "the average woman is a size 14" standards, she's fat. But Tom is happy when they're together. The problem is, they don't exist on a desert island, as he wishes they did. They live in the world, where fat people are judged for their size.

I'm one of those "the average woman is a size 14" women. I'm also 6'3", so a 14 is somewhat proportional for me. I'm always striving to be thinner, but I recognize that I will never be a size 6. At my height, I simply can't be. I'd look like a swizzle stick, and then there's the matter of, oh, my skeletal system. "Big boned" is a stupid euphemism, but people who are 6'3" do literally have bigger bones than people who are 5'2". So there's only so small I can ever really be.

Granted, I'm not there yet. And I look forward to the day. I saw a photo of Hilary Swank in Vanity Fair the year she was nominated (and won) for "Million Dollar Baby." She was clad in a sports bra and shorts, running on a beach. It was a motion shot, and I was taken with her fitness. I thought, "I wonder what it's like to live in a body like that." Well, there's only one way to find out.

Of course, I can't afford a personal trainer and 4-hour workouts every day, and it's too easy to succumb to fast food when I don't feel like cooking, so the road to wellness is longer for me. But I can get there. We all can. If we want to. But not everyone does. Some people are content with who they are.

I'm not one of them. I don't need to be anorexically thin, but I know I can be healthier. L.A. Dave is forever jumping on my comments when I say things about losing weight, telling me I look fine, but I don't look fine in my own eyes.

Now, I agree that our sizist society has gotten out of hand. Unexpectedly, I've gotten into watching "America's Next Top Model" this season. I'm fascinated by what these girls go through (models are actors much more than I ever considered) and the personality clashes make for good TV. But this past week, Anchal, a STUNNING Indian woman, was told my the president of Elite Model Management that she doesn't have a "runway" body. I almost threw a shoe through my television. Anchal is stunning, and has a gorgeous body, and she's thinner than 95 percent of the women in the world, but she's not thin enough? No, compared to some of the other girls on the show, who have pipe cleaners for arms, she's not. And she spends a fair amount of time on the show talking about "her size" and "her weight" and I think, "My God, what are we doing?!" We're devaluing a woman for being a size 4? Because she should be a size 0?

It's like the NutriSystem commericial with Zora Andrich: "I was a size 10, now I'm a size 4!" My mother is a size 10. She looks fabulous. She'd look sickly as a 4. What's going on?

But getting back to the conceit of the play, Tom isn't brave enough to endure the scrutiny and ridicule of his peers for dating a heavy woman. He caves into societal pressure. He feels like a heel for doing it - he admits that he's weak - but in the end, it's over.

I've been written off by men for not being thin enough, most notably Roy, who's been mentioned in this blog before. He was the one who made me wonder if men are really looking for partners or trophies. Because I'm tall, I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm kind, I'm a great cook, I have a voice that could make me a mint at phone sex, I sing, my house could be photographed for a magazine, I write, all these good things. But for some men, they're all canceled out by the fact that I don't have the body of a Victoria's Secret model.

I don't expect society to change, sad as it is to say. Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is a nice nod to "real" women, but at the end of the day, those aren't the women in the magazines. The standard of beauty in this country is absurd and grossly misshapen. And I do wonder about what we're doing to the psyches of all these young girls. My niece has been spouting for years, "Carbs are evil," which is something my sister-in-law says. My niece is 9.

I know that there are men and boys who suffer from eating disorders, too, but it is way more socially acceptable for a man to be heavy. Television is full of Jim Belushis married to Courtney Thorne-Smiths, and Kevin Jameses married to Leah Reminis. But when Leah Remini gained weight, people were buzzing. Nobody was talking about the fact that her co-star was always fat.

So television is teaching that a fat guy can get a skinny, hot chick. But have you ever seen a fat woman on TV with a hot young stud? No, you haven't. And you never will.

"Fat Pig" has been extended through December 17th (its run was originally scheduled to end tomorrow). It's the best $25 for theater you'll ever spend.

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