short story    

Autobiography of a Fat Bride

I had wanted a good boyfriend all of my life, and when I finally got one, I had no idea what to do with him.

He called when he said he would.

He held my hand when other people were watching.

He had is own car, which, coincidentally actually ran.

His ex-girlfriend lived in another state and although she was currently pregnant, it was BY ANOTHER MAN, and a demonstrated pie chart/timeline proved that my boyfriend's chromosomes could not have, in an way, been detected in a DNA paternity test.

One night, after an evening of drinking, he told me he loved me in a Denny's parking lot at 2 am, and then he bought me a Grand Slam breakfast. When he sobered up the next day, he didn't even take what he said back or ask me to pay half of the check.

What do you do with a guy like that?

I had no idea. I have to admit I was completely perplexed.

All I could do was keep waiting for the Real Boyfriend in him to come out, because I knew the craven creature had to be in there somewhere, lurking. I mean, it's inborn. This one, I figured, was the most patient and affectionate sociopath I had ever dated. On night as he slept, I hovered over the breathing patterns of my boyfriend and whispered. "I command thy demon to show himself!" but all that happened was that the poor little fellow started to drool.

I tried to ask my friends for advice, but they all looked at me as if I was crazy.

"What do you mean 'he's never made you cry?'" my friend Nikki said. "How else are you supposed to know he likes you!"

"Are you serious that he's never stood you up?" my friend Sara said. "That sounds a little... clingy if you ask me."

"I can't believe he hasn't asked you for a loan yet," my friend Kate said. "He must have another girlfriend with a better job."

"I agree, it's highly unusual," my best friend Jamie mentioned, scratching her chin. "But could it be— Nah. No. Nope. No way. I mean, I don't think so, what are the chances? Are you really, completely sure that he's not working undercover, perhaps as a religious missionary attempting to save your damned soul or a guy who's trying to sell you life insurance or a mutual fund?"

"I'm pretty sure," I disclosed.

"You know I've heard there was one out there, one left, running and living among them," she nodded. "I always took it as a tall tale, and urban legend, a archetype of mythical proportions, but maybe he is out there. I believe there were several strands of hair discovered on a bush one time, as well as a questionable poop. Apparently, he's been spotted, according to several notable anthropologists, but never identified. Based on what I've heard, from his appearance, he's indistinguishable from the rest."

"The rest of who?" I asked.

"Men," she said simply. "The rest of men. I don't want to freak you out, but I think you've found him."

"Found who?" I asked.

She smiled. "The Good Guy," she said with a wink.

I freaked out. I mean, this was pressure. If he really was a Good Guy, the weight on my shoulders was insurmountable. Because that meant I had to keep him, if I spooked him or chased him away or introduced him to any of my attractive friends, I would never find another of his kind. Therefore I was facing incredible challenges.

He was an endangered species; the only thing that could make him more valuable is if he was albino. If I had any chance of keeping the Good Guy, I was going to start wearing clean clothes. Stop eating sugar and let my face clear up. I was probably going to have to cook. I was definitely going to have to shave. It looked like I might have to compromise on occasion.

Honestly, there was no chance that a girl like me, with all of her scratches and her dents, was going to be able to hang onto a guy like that, not even if I grew hawk-like talons which might take my nails up to a week to reach their full puncture-level maturity. I was not a shiny, gleaming firm Red Delicious or a fuzzy, blushing Georgia peach. My fruit was bruised and came with its own colony of Med flies.

I embarked on the only option open to me considering the limitations of my talents and skills. Plan A involved taking him to the bar and plying him with alcohol, keeping the man as inebriated and befuddled for as long as humanly possible. By the time he sobered up, it was time to send him off to work where he would be too consumed with dehydration and alcohol poisoning to realize there was a gap between my two front teeth. Or that they were slightly bucked, despite four years of relentless lying on my behalf when documenting the usage on my headgear chart. Or that they were the color of butter. Or that I had a mole under my lip, which by the time I reached middle age would be mistaken for an M&M and by the time I had gone gray and my ass was slapping the back of my knees when I walked, would effloresce into the size of a giant gumdrop, undoubtedly knocking down my nose in the to second place in the pecking order for the largest feature of my face.

Oh yeah. I had problems, all right, and they were about to get worse.

He mentioned that he wanted me to meet his family over the Christmas holiday, and that was when I felt the possibility of the love balloon deflate. What was I going to do then? How could I possibly intoxicate all of his kin, including the children? Nyquil would probably work for any of them in the featherweight category, but for the full-size adults, I'd have to inject commercial quality heroin into the Butterball. My cover would be blown, and I would be revealed for the day-old fruit that I was. Besides, I didn't want to meet his family so soon—we had only been dating for a couple of months, and frankly, that's not even enough time for a primate to bond with its mother, let alone try to get the Catch of the Century attached to me. I had visions of myself walking through the door and meeting his mother for the first time, as she looked at me as if she just saw me slide down a brass pole wearing nothing but a string of fake pearls.

So I was forced to stop getting my boyfriend drunk, which was probably a good thing, I figured, since sobriety may have given him the opportunity to learn my last name. I started trying to prepare myself for the family introduction, telling myself "How bad could it be? There's bound to be an introduction in the history of the world that had more horrific consequences, President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, Elton John and Bernie Taupin? Rush Limbaugh and a microphone?" I had miles to go before I reached that level of disaster, and time had come to call in my reinforcement talents now that I could no longer turn my boyfriend into a blithering alcoholic. Aside from getting a bartender's attention quickly and ordering drinks at the bar, I only had one talent left: frying cutlets.

Certainly, in some areas of the world, frying cutlets is a menial task, but in the land of the Italian-American-Catholic hierarchy, cutlet frying could easily take the place of beauty and could even forgive a sin as ugly as infertility, especially in a marriage-aged woman with an above average number of moles. Now, in this specific culture, frying a perfect cutlet, comparatively speaking, is equal to the ability of a woman of Germanic stock to plow a field by herself without even assistance from livestock, an English woman for keeping most of her teeth a variation of the color "pale", or the duty of a Mormon woman to pop out a baby every birthing season for a decade straight without missing even one year.

And it just so happens, I can fry a mean cutlet.

I'm sure it was no mistake, either. I'm nearly positive that when I was five and the baby freckle under my lip began to assert itself as a growth, my mother gasped, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, when the time comes to marry her off, that thing will be the size of a brown Volkswagen. Egg, breadcrumbs, frying pan, Laurie! Egg, breadcrumbs, frying pan, pay attention!" If there had been a fry-off, I would have won it hands down before I even realized this was my only chance at love, but due to the fact that my parents had uprooted my sisters and me from our native Brooklyn to the desolate shit hole known as Phoenix, Arizona, my title as the Cutlet Queen tragically went uncrowned. There was no way my gift could be appreciated, let alone recognized in a land that called a dinner roll a "bagel." In hindsight, our neighbors were nice to us simply because they were afraid my Italian New Yorker father would, at any minute, start shaking down the block for protection money or insist on selling them fur coats in 118 degree weather that he said fell off a truck (though in Arizona, you'd say, "fell offer this here waggin"). After all, they believed we must have been related to the Gambino crime family because our last names ended with the very same letter. Arizona was new territory to New York Italians, evidenced when, on our first day in our new desert home, the unafraid and impeccably tanned leader of the Welcome Wagon ladies brought over a pan of lasagna made of cottage cheese, Ragu and Velveeta. My mother promptly responded by running out to the front yard, waving her arms and screaming, trying frantically to flag down the disappearing Mayflower moving truck as it turned the corner and was gone forever.

But it was now apparent to me that my cutlet prowess had not been in vain; now was my time to shine in order to keep my boyfriend hooked. I pounded, I floured, I dipped. I fried. And I fried. And I fried. Veal cutlets. Beef cutlets. Chicken cutlets. If I could hit it with a hammer and it stayed still long enough for me to submerge it in an egg wash then bathe it in breadcrumbs, it became a cutlet. Soon, I didn't own a single piece of clothing that didn't bear the scars of an exploding oil bubble, my skin was covered with tiny red oil burns that looked disturbingly like the pox, and everything I owned became laminated with a thin, grimy sheen.

And my poor boyfriend, who had been raised on a steady diet of pressed meats and Dinty Moore stew, didn't have the first inclination of how to handle it.

"Wow, I never knew you could do this," he said the first time that I placed a pan of chicken parmesan in front of him, as he looked at me with a smile that said he thought I was a goddess. "I didn't know you could cook! You can cook! You never told me you could cook! I haven't had a home-cooked meal since the last time my mom made....toast....for our chopped ham sandwiches! This is incredible! Wow! You can cook!"

And then he gobbled the whole pan of chicken parmesan down like he was a hominid who didn't know if he would survive long enough for a next meal. It was simply beautiful. I had laid the cutlet trap, and the Good Guy had fallen head first into it.

When I felt that I had securely gotten him hooked on cutlets, that he was now a junkie with a hunger that no other woman could fix or satisfy, I stood above him as he ravaged a casserole dish of Veal Piccata.

"Look at this!" I yelled, pointing to my lip. "Look at this mole! Some day, especially if I'm exposed to enough radiation, this thing will be mammoth enough in size to require its own pillow at night! Do you understand that?"

"That's a mole?" he said, barely looking up. "I thought that was just a permanent smudge because you eat so much chocolate. I'm glad to know it's not a food particle, that's a relief!"

Then he wolfed down another piece of veal as a caper rolled from his chin.

I had dared the demon to show itself, and it had.

It just turned out that it was me.

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Copyright © 2002 by Laurie Notaro.