Kate stood frozen in her bathroom doorway, bracing herself for the inevitable, the unavoidable, the potentially painful moment dreaded by women everywhere: the morning weigh–in. Was it just her imagination or did the scale actually seem mean
this morning, like the mechanical version of a popular yet cruel sixth–grade girl? Maybe it was the ungodly hour of the morning (four-thirty) or the fact that she hadn’t had her coffee yet (the resultant weight–reducing “release”), but she could swear that the scale had seemed friendlier yesterday.
“For the love of god,” she whispered to herself, “calm down. It is only a scale
, only a silly number.” Unfortunately, she had "only a lingerie scene" to shoot today and whatever the scale said would soon be reflected on camera and then on television screens across America for all of rerun eternity. Taking a deep breath and holding it in (in the faint hope of creating an “airier” self), Kate stepped onto the scale and watched as the small digital screen computed her weight, body fat, hydration level, and probably her credit score.
Oh shit, shit
Feeling dizzy, Kate braced herself on the edge of the sink. Her precoffee brain was having difficulty processing the information: how could she have gained
five pounds? Stepping off the scale, she said a quick prayer to the god of arbitrary–numbers–upon–which–to–base–one’s–self–esteem, removed her Cosabella thong panties (all of that lace must weigh a ton), and got back on the scale.
“How’s it looking?” Kate jumped as her husband, Hamilton, entered the bathroom—both because she was surprised to see anyone else in her bathroom at four–thirty a.m., and also because she wanted to create as much distance as possible between her body and the number shining up from the digital scale. He wasn’t fooled.
,” Hamilton groaned, somehow summoning the energy to accomplish the disappointment trifecta of head shake, eyebrow crease, and judgmental lip purse, all before his first cup of organic green tea. “How could you let this happen? You know
how important this is, Katie. You know
we need to show everyone how much better you are doing.”
“Better,“ meaning thinner
. Thinner than she had been three years ago, when her career had stalled after a promising start on a short–lived nighttime soap, when nights spent eating out with the proceeds from her first high–paying gig had added up to the Hollywood version of the freshman fifteen, complete with paparazzi shots and cruel nicknames in the tabloids. By the time Hamilton had approached her with the promise to reenergize her young career and rid her of “Katie the Cow” forever, she had been so grateful for the positive attention that she had quickly signed over the management of her career. Two months later, when the weight started to come off and the work offers began to come in, she’d happily signed over the management of the rest of her life when Hamilton surprised her with a proposal during her comeback appearance on Regis and Kelly
. Three months later, in the wedding photos published in People magazine—not the cover, but a full two–page spread, nonetheless—Kate looked stunning in her (size 4!) Vera Wang gown, her curly brown hair streaked with copper highlights and painstakingly straightened as per Hamilton’s detailed instructions. He wanted to model Kate’s wedding–day look after Jennifer Aniston’s ethereal beauty on the day she married Brad Pitt, even going so far as to hire Jennifer’s hair and makeup team. The team had done their best, working their magic for four exhausting hours, but no amount of hair product or bronzer could change the freckled, fresh–faced, undeniably Irish Kate into a Greek goddess. Hamilton almost succeeded in covering his disappointment when she walked down the aisle, but Kate saw the flash of disillusionment in his eyes and silently vowed to do whatever it took to guarantee that Hamilton never again regretted his investment in what he lovingly referred to as his “chubby little has–been.”
This morning, his tone made clear she had failed them both.
Kate hurried to wrap a towel around her traitorous body, feeling very small and hugely fat at the same time. “I know this looks bad,” she stammered. “But, I mean, it’s just five pounds. I mean, seriously, we’re probably the only ones who will even notice…right?” She didn’t believe the words as she said them, and she could tell by her husband’s irritated sigh and the oh–so–subtle shake of his handsome head that he didn’t believe them either.
“Sure, Katie,” he said sarcastically. “I am sure no one will notice…just like they didn’t notice before. I mean, who looks at actresses’ bodies?" He turned to go but stopped at the door. When he spoke again, his voice was tinged with sadness. “I just don’t understand, Katie. I really thought you understood how important this was…for both of us. But I guess all of the work I’ve put into rebuilding your career just doesn’t mean that much to you.” With that, he walked out of the room, leaving Kate alone with her shame.
She looked at the image in the bathroom mirror and watched dispassionately as a tear rolled down her cheek. She never looked quite real to herself. She often felt, when she saw her reflection, as if she were watching an actress in a movie. Today’s movie was about a weak girl who couldn’t control her appetite—a bad girl whose hunger was bigger than she was, bigger than the whole world.
The most frustrating part was that she had almost made it. She’d been good all week, sticking to Hamilton’s “approved–food list”: egg whites, chicken, low–sodium turkey breast. She had been losing weight, too, watching the numbers on the scale go down as her hip and cheekbones became more pronounced and, unfortunately, her mind became more and more preoccupied with food. She had tried to distract herself from both her hunger and her nervousness about being nearly naked on camera by watching television, but the commercials seemed designed to sabotage her diet with endless pictures of slim, happy, gorgeous women eating big, messy burgers while they laughed and fell in love with equally gorgeous, equally gluttonous guys. Fearing that hunger combined with the power of suggestion would propel her to the nearest drive–through, she forced her ravenous attention away from the television screen. Standing up, she gripped the edge of the couch to compensate for the dizziness that lately accompanied her every sudden move and made her way to the walk–in pantry. She was searching through Hamilton’s impressive (girly?) supply of herbal teas that he swore were “just as satisfying as a snack” when her eye landed on a jar of honey–roasted peanuts, half hidden behind the fat–free mayonnaise.
Honey–roasted peanuts: sweet, salty, and creamy, all in one miraculous package. Kate found herself standing frozen, transfixed before the holy grail of caloric density. What harm could one or two peanuts do? In fact, she told herself, her metabolism was probably slowing down, starved as she was for fat and sugar calories. Two or three peanuts could be just what her body needed to kick it into calorie–burning overdrive. Feeling almost righteous, she reached for the jar and twisted off the lid, the pop and hiss of the vacuum seal releasing the familiar heavenly scent. She inhaled deeply and shook out three peanuts, closed the jar, and took her tiny bounty back to her spot on the couch in front of the television. She ate the nuts painstakingly slowly, enjoying each one as if it were the richest, most extraordinary piece of Godiva chocolate. See? she thought as she finished the last one. No harm done
She was right, too. There had been no harm done by the first tiny handful of peanuts. But who had ever been able to stop at three honey–roasted peanuts? Just three more can
, she told herself as she made her way back to the pantry, repeating the ritual of opening the jar, carefully shaking out three peanuts, and padding back to the couch.
And so the evening went, nut by nut, until Kate was shocked to find herself shaking out a handful of salt, sugar, and peanut dust. Hyperventilating from shame and the fear of being discovered, Kate hid the empty jar at the bottom of the recycling bin and went upstairs to brush the incriminating scent off her teeth and hide her disloyal body under Hamilton’s bazillion–thread–count duvet. She clenched her eyes shut, trying to will herself to sleep before her husband came home from his business dinner, knowing that if he looked her in the eyes he would see her transgression immediately. He prided himself on his ability to “see right through her.” When they first met, it had felt so much like love, like she was finally being “seen” by someone. His attention to her food, her clothes, and her career had felt so safe. When had it begun to feel so suffocating? When I started hiding things from him
, she told herself, remembering what Hamilton’s therapist, Penelope, had said when she complained about his control issues.
“It sounds to me like he is just trying to help you, Kate,” the pink–clad, perfectly coiffed Penelope had said. “I wish I had someone who paid as much attention to me as Hamilton does to you. I mean, that is what you are saying, isn’t it? That your husband pays too much
attention to you?”
Kate had felt stupid—not to mention outnumbered—sitting in the corner of the therapist’s extraordinarily feminine chintz couch and looking across at Hamilton and Penelope, who were both somehow perfectly color–coordinated with the beautifully decorated room, looking at her with expressions of pity mixed with indulgence as if she were a rather slow, rather spoiled child. Kate always felt like an interloper at these sessions, rather than a primary element in the marriage therapy process. She often got the sense that she was an intruder, interjecting herself inappropriately into her husband’s primary intimate relationship: the one he had with Penelope. When she finally worked up the courage to bring these feelings into therapy—naively believing that she was following Penelope’s directions to be as authentic as possible—she was met with matching sighs and a tag–team lecture from Penelope and Hamilton about how she was “projecting her own insecurity …” (Penelope) “We are in no way judging you…” (Hamilton) “It’s just that introspection is so new and foreign to you…” (Penelope) “…that, of course, you are going to get…” (Hamilton) “…confused.” The last word was said by both of them at the exact same time, eliciting identical giggles and smug smiles, which did absolutely nothing to alleviate Kate’s feelings of alienation. She wanted to tell them how separate and alone their pathetic attempt to reassure her had made her feel, but, sadly, she had been too insecure.
“He’s right, you know,” she said now to her reflection, as more tears threatened to spill out of her brimming eyes. “Insecure and weak and
self–destructive, and now it’s too damn late to fix it.”
“Katie–Cow,” called Hamilton from the bedroom, maybe even convincing himself that he was joking. “Isn’t it time for you to get going? You don’t want to make it worse by being late, do you?”
“No—I mean, yes, it is time for me to get going,” said Kate, wiping her eyes as she reached out to turn on the shower. “You’re right. I don’t want to be late.” I don’t want to go
, she thought as the tears forced their way back to the surface. But what she wanted had ceased to matter so long ago.
Twenty minutes later, driving her BMW M5 along the traffic–free Sunset Boulevard (one of the few benefits of a six a.m. call time), Kate strained to see the road through the frozen eye mask that Hamilton had forced on her so that her eyes “wouldn’t be as swollen as her stomach.” When her cell phone rang, filling the car with the theme song from Jaws
, Kate answered with a forcedly cheerful “Hi, Mom.”
“How did you know it was me?” asked her forever-caller-ID-mystified mother.
“Just psychic, I guess.” And who else is going to call me at five
“Well, anyhoo,” said her mother, charging ahead in her coffee–induced morning list–making mode, “today is your great uncle Bert’s birthday and I know it would mean a lot to him to hear from you.”
“Uncle Bert? Do I have an Uncle Bert?”
“Of course you do, honey. He is Aunt Mary’s new husband. You met him at their wedding.”
“I didn’t go to Aunt Mary’s last wedding, Mom. I was working. Remember?”
“Well, be that as it may, it would be nice of you to call him and wish him a happy birthday.”
“But, Mom,” said Kate, wishing she had heeded her ring tone’s warning, “I don’t know him. Won’t it be weird for him to get a call from a stranger?”
“You’re not a stranger, you’re family,” said her mother. “And he’s a big fan of your show.”
Ah, the show. So it’s not a call from his loving–although–unknown–niece Katie he is waiting for, but a special birthday greeting from Kate Keyes–Morgan, television star and pawn in her mother’s bid for most loved and admired member of the large and Generations
–obsessed McMannus/Keyes clan.
“Well, Mom, I’m driving right now, so I can’t really write down a phone number. And I’ve got a pretty big day at work today, so why don’t you just pass on my birthday wishes for me?”
“I’m sure you have three minutes for a phone call, Katie. I’ll leave the number on your home phone and you can call in for it when you get a break.” Damn
. “So tell me, what ‘big’ thing is going on at work today?”
Going against years of experience and her inner voice that was screaming, “Danger, Will Robinson!
” at great volume in her aching head, Kate decided to try for a little bit of unconditional motherly love and support. “Well, Mom, I have a lingerie scene today and I just don’t feel great about my body. I know it’s silly—I mean, I hope it’s silly—but you know a few pounds of bloat can make you feel huge, even though you know no one else will even notice and you are just making yourself crazy for absolutely no reason,” Kate said, talking faster and faster to cover the silence on the other end of the line. Interrupt me, Mom. Tell me I am beautiful the way I am, at any weight, at any size
“What does Hamilton think?”
“What?” asked Kate, aghast but not totally surprised.
“What does Hamilton think? Does he think you are too heavy for your scene?” Oh, that
, thought Kate. I forgot that the unconditional love and devotion are reserved for men
“Well,” she stammered, “he isn’t thrilled, but you know what a perfectionist he is. I mean, he won’t be happy until—”
“Until you achieve your true potential,” interrupted her mother.
"I was going to say 'until I am a size zero.' "From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Outside In by Courtney Thorne-Smith. Copyright © 2007 by Courtney Thorne-Smith. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.