My memory is suspect, hence this blog. (After all, we determined just yesterday that I could sit through an NCAA tournament contest, one where I was writing a feature story about the fans, and forget that it was a 1-point heartbreaker.) So to say the following memory is vivid is to say nothing, but here it is.
At one of my first mystery-writer conferences, a small one in Philadelphia, there were several female writers standing together and they were asked to describe their characters. Now, the women in this group were all quite slender, but to a woman they said: “My character is 2 inches taller than I am and 10 pounds lighter.” The question worked its way down to me: “My character is the same height as I am and probably weighs more, but has more lean body mass.”
As of yesterday, based on some mysterious voodoo with calipers, I may be able to lay claim to getting closer to Tess Monaghan’s lean body mass. (Which is to say: I have reduced my percentage of body fat by ONE percent after two years of training.) I’m proud of that, but I’m prouder that Tess is still what some folks call a strapping young woman. In the latest book, I describe her size as “usually a twelve, but had been known to flirt with a fourteen after a Goldenberg Peanut Chew fling.”*
The fact is, Tess probably weighs almost as much as two Nicole Richies (at her lowest weight). If she has an antecedent in fiction, it’s Sue “Biggie”Kunft in John Irving’s The Water Method Man. Here’s Biggie, talking about herself to her future husband, Bogus.
“‘I was always big,’ she said. ‘People were always fixing me up with giants. Basketball and football players, great big awkward sorts of boys. Like it was necessary we be matched or something. ‘Got to find someone large enough for Biggie.’ Like they were finding a MEAL for me. People always feed me too much, too . . . People just seem to think it means something if you’re big, you’re supposed to have some sort of special attraction to big things.’”
So here’s to the big girls of fiction. Anyone else have nominees for this particular Hall of Fame? (Lizzie Skurnick just lionized Marcy from The Cat Ate my Gymsuit, for example.) And, of course, there’s Cannie in Good in Bed. (Sequel coming this April! With bat mitzvahs!) Also, Sarah Bird’s heroines tend to be women with normal body types; in “The Boyfriend School,” her would-be romance writer tries to conjure up a big gal named Hattie, who wears a size 10 shoe and is “the tiniest bit broad in the beam.” (Her editor asks her to change the name to Cassie “the type who forgets to eat . . . a heroine who buzzes with life and energy. The pounds just can’t find a restful spot to stay on her boyish frame.”)
I’d also be up for hearing about some big boys, too, but none come readily to mind. Nero Wolfe?
ETA: Here’s the <a href=”http://jezebel.com/359726/the-cat-ate-my-gymsuit-a-pocket-full-of-orange-pits”_blank”> link</a> to Lizzie’s most recent column.
*The word “fling” was carefully chosen. As a recovered bulimic, Tess doesn’t binge.