The Woman I Always Wanted to Be—And It’s Not Charlize Theron

“This is a process, not a product,” the affable sixty-something speaker tells his rapt audience. “Progress, not perfection, is my mantra.”

Sounds like a twelve-step-program meeting, but Dave (not his real name) is actually addressing a bunch of us at a Fat Losers meeting (not its real name). Today’s topic is setting realistic weight-loss goals.

Yeah, I’m down with that. Slow and steady wins the race. A pound or two a week—at that rate, I should be at my goal weight by 2020, but, hey, it’s progress, right?

Perfection is overrated, I tell myself. I look around at all the other Fat Losers in the room and note the variety of body shapes and varying levels of fitness. We’re now writing down our goals for the summer. Mine is about eating healthier, increasing my exercise. Stuff to make me feel better.

And I am already feeling better about myself. I’m taking control, letting go of unrealistic expectations and cultural stereotypes of female perfection. I’m energized, encouraged, hopeful . . .

Then I notice the oversized poster on the wall to my right. A Scandinavian Amazon with a bleached-teeth smile gazes smugly down at me. She is tall, thin, blond, and young. Four out of four things that I am not. Three of four things most of my friends are not. Her name is Angela, and in large capital letters she proclaims: “NOW I’M THE PERSON I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE.”

Whaaa?

Let’s back up a minute here. Dave’s just been telling us to forget about product and perfection, but Angela here has a different story. If I stick with Fat Losers and do what they tell me, I can shed not only my old weight but my old self as well! I can become a whole new person! Maybe they’ll let me be Charlize Theron. My husband would like that.

Twenty minutes later I’m contemplating me in Charlize Theron’s body as I leave the Fat Losers meeting and head to the Pretty and Chunky (not its real name) swimsuit store nearby. I didn’t plan it this way, it just worked out that I would be trying on swimsuits right after standing on a scale and seeing the results of a week’s worth of stress-related bingeing on cheese, chocolate, and pasta. I’ve been dreading this day for months, but my old suit has been repaired and stretched out so many times it’s threatening to disintegrate the next time I in step into the pool.

I discover I’ve had to go up a size in swimsuits.

“This brand runs small,” the petite salesgirl says apologetically. What would she know about plus sizes? My neighbor’s Border collie weighs more than her.

No three-way mirrors in the dressing rooms, which is probably a good idea in a store called Pretty and Chunky. I’m craning my neck, trying to see my backside. Just as well I can’t see the whole thing full on. I wish I could hire someone to try on swimsuits for me. Maybe Charlize Theron. My husband would like that.

I think of Angela, lucky girl, who’s become the person she always wanted to be. I’d settle for just having the ass I used to have.

I decide to buy the smaller suit. I know I’ll be able to fit into it soon enough. After all, it’s about progress, not perfection.

Dave told me so.