Beautiful, in Every Single Way

Name your “problem area”: Maybe it’s your thighs. Or your upper arms. Or your posterior. Most of us have a body part that bedevils us. Author Elizabeth Berg owns up to the war she’s long fought against her belly and shares how, at long last, she forged a truce.

Photo by Emily Wilson/Beam Camp

My friend Jessica says that her earliest memory hearkens back to when she was a baby. She recalls watching the sun coming through the slats in her crib, striping her mattress with light. She recalls, too, the lift and fall of the curtain in front of her bedroom window, and the small rustling sound it made. My childhood recollections do not go back so far, and if they did, I’m afraid they would not be nearly so lyrical. I’d probably picture an infant with a furrowed brow, worrying that her diaper was giving her a muffin top.

For my entire life, I have hated my midsection. It was always too big for the rest of me. Sure, my arms and legs were long and thin enough. But, then, right smack in the middle of my body was my excessively large blubber belly.

Let me enter into evidence the following: As a 19-year-old college student, I once sat at a kitchen table with three of my friends—all of whom were complaining about their belly fat. I said mine was the worst. When they doubted me, I informed them that I could make a large serving spoon disappear into the folds of my fat. When they doubted me once again, I said, “OK, watch this,” and I showed them, whereupon they agreed mine was indeed the worst. They proposed a toast to me, and we drank more scotch. Which, now that I think of it, probably did not do much for getting rid of my pooch.

A history of my belly: When I was around eight years old, I begged my mother for a yellow dress I had seen in the Sears catalog. It was bright yellow and had many, many ruffles, and the little girl who modeled it looked scrumptious. I showed it to my mother and told her, “That one, that one. I want that one. Can I have that one?” I believe my mother tried to gently dissuade me from my choice, but I remained firmly fixed on the image of the child with the curly black hair wearing that lovely lemon-colored confection.

My mother did order the dress for me, and on the day it arrived, I put it on, tied the wide ribbon sash around my waist, and then eagerly regarded myself. The model in the catalog had looked like a dream. I, on the other hand, resembled the Queen Mary, festooned with streamers. I took it off and never wore it again.

When I was in my 20s, I was involved in a serious romance. One day the man in question wanted to take a bath with me. Swell idea, thought I, and we climbed into the tub together.