Charlotte Curtis was a big girl. The whole family were big, and food played an important role in their lives. Mrs Curtis enjoyed looking after her brood, making sure there was a dinner and
pudding ready each night, and that nobody left home on wintry mornings without a cooked breakfast inside them. Weight was never discussed and Mrs Curtis looked at her family with pride.
Until she was nine Charlotte was happy, secure in being the baby of such a loving family. When the teasing began though, she became withdrawn and self-conscious about her size.
As soon as she could, Charlotte left her unhappy school days behind and began working as a machinist. Compared with the other girls she looked old fashioned in her sensible trousers and loose blouses, but she felt too fat to wear the skimpy tops and tight jeans that were so popular.
She became friendly with another machinist and had even been clubbing with her, but poor Charlotte felt out of place with her size and clothes. She confided in her new friend, Ruth, about how miserable she was and how dieting never worked. Ruth told her about a programme she’d seen about an operation known as gastric bypass, which guaranteed weight loss. Charlotte was excited and went to the library to find out what this entailed. What she read scared her, but the idea was there now, and Charlotte saw it as the solution to all her problems.
When she broached it with her parents they were horrified that their precious daughter was unhappy enough to even consider anything so radical and invasive as surgery. Platitudes like ‘puppy fat’, and ‘growing out of it’, were bandied around and so, for the time being, Charlotte gave up, but the idea never truly left her and she hoped one day it would be a reality.
Mr and Mrs Curtis, although relieved that Charlotte appeared to have given up the idea of an operation, were, nevertheless, concerned about their daughter’s unhappiness so suggested she might like to try an evening class of some kind. They sent off for a prospectus and, with some persuasion, Charlotte enrolled on a Creative Writing course. After the initial nervousness, Charlotte looked forward to Mondays. The other students were of all different ages, shapes and sizes and for the first time Charlotte felt she truly belonged. Her imagination amazed her, and with a bit of stimulation, her mind bubbled with unusual ideas for essays and poems. Now, while her machine whirred away monotonously, she lost herself in creative thoughts.
Stage II Creative Writing began the following September. There were a few familiar faces from the previous term but it was newcomers that mostly made up the numbers. Charlotte sat at the back as usual and the teacher was about to start the first lesson when one late student noisily came in. He was out of breath and apologetic as he sidled into the only available seat. Charlotte smiled cautiously at her new neighbour.
Immediately they hit it off. His name was Paul and he was in his twenties. He was not especially good looking, prematurely balding and covered in freckles, but Charlotte thought he had a lovely smile. Evening class became even more pleasurable now it wasn’t long before they were an item. Charlotte had never been so happy, they saw each other every night and by Christmas they were engaged.
The wedding, just a year later was perfect, Charlotte even managed to slim down a size or two and the unfussy ivory gown suited her perfectly.
The happy couple loved their tiny home and continued to work hard to make life as comfortable as possible for each other. They planned for when they could move to somewhere larger and have the children then both wanted.
Unfortunately, Charlotte soon gained the weight she had lost for the wedding, in fact she was even heavier, unable to resist the delicious meals she lovingly prepared for her new husband. She confided in Paul about her dream of having a gastric by-pass. Paul just laughed and said he liked her cuddly and that was all that mattered wasn’t it?
Time passed and they bought a larger home; now all they needed to complete their happiness was a baby. It just didn’t happen. They had various investigations and tests which all came back inconclusive. Charlotte wondered if her weight could be contributing to their infertility, but her desire to be a mum was so strong she slipped back to the comfort-eating days of her youth. As her weight ballooned, she thought again about the operation.
Now two years later Charlotte looked down at herself. What a sight. She had taken to wearing baggy dresses to camouflage her considerable bulges but today, was the day. Finally, after all the waiting, she knew she would soon lose some of this ugly weight. Although she was looking forward to getting it over with, she was worried about the procedure, but assurances from doctors made her confident it was perfectly safe.
‘Are you ready then darling?’ Paul shouted, ‘I’ve put the case in the car.’
Charlotte carefully waddled downstairs and they set off. The operation was scheduled for ten am the following morning and Charlotte could not wait.
It was unbelievable that this time tomorrow she would be cradling their brand new twins.
By Shirley McIntyre