Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3162
It is the day after Valentine’s Day and Marian and Peter are lying together in bed. As Peter enjoys a scotch and a cigarette, dumping his ashes in an ashtray placed on his fiancée’s bare back, Marian worries. Earlier that day her body finally rejected rice pudding, something that had been acceptable for weeks. She has tried, ever since her eating problem began, to pretend that there is nothing really wrong with her. She thought and hoped that the problem would eventually go away on its own. Now forced to confront the problem, Marian questions her own normality and fears Peter will think her a freak and postpone the wedding.
Earlier in the day, Marian had felt the need to discuss her feelings and paid an after-work visit to Clara. But instead of the comfort she had hoped to receive from her friend, the visit makes her feel envious. Marian finds Clara sitting in a playpen with her second youngest and realizes that “whatever was going to happen to [her] had already happened.” Clara had already become what she was going to be. Although Marian would not want to trade places with Clara, she would like to know what she is becoming. The thought of waking up one day and discovering that she has already changed fills her with dread. She wants to know what direction her life is taking so that she can be prepared. She finally tells Clara about her eating problem and asks if she thinks that she is normal. Clara assures Marian that she is “almost abnormally normal” and that she is probably just suffering from bridal nerves.
However, lying in bed with Peter, Marian is still not convinced. She asks Peter the same question she asked Clara and he tells her that she is “marvellously normal.” He then asks her to get him a drink and flip the record. Marian goes to the kitchen and cuts two pieces of the Valentine’s Day cake she bought for Peter. She takes a bite but is unable to eat it. She decides to give the cake to Peter as a sort of test: if he could not eat it either then she would know that she is normal. They make love and, afterwards, Peter eats the cake while Marian lies on her stomach with the ashtray on her back.
Following Peter’s request, Marian spends an afternoon at the hairdresser readying herself for a party he is hosting. Peter also hinted that Marian should buy a new dress and, dutifully, she chooses a red sequined thing that she does not really like. She is not very fond of her new coif either. Every strand of hair is glued in place and styled in a fashion to which she is not accustomed. The hairdresser’s treatment of her head leads her to compare it to a cake: it is “something to be carefully iced and ornamented.” She likens the passivity of the beautification process to that of a patient being admitted into a hospital for an operation. She feels as though she should be anaesthetized while all the necessary details are taken care of.
When all of the curlers and pins are properly fastened, Marian is led to an assembly line of hair dryers where rows of identical women sit under identical machines. She feels totally inert and wonders if this is what she is being pushed towards: a “compound of the simply vegetable and the simply mechanical.” She then resigns herself to the “necessity of endurance” and picks up a movie star magazine. The caption on the back reads: “Girls! Be Successful! If You Want to Really Go Places, Develop Your Bust. . . ”
Finally, Marian gets to see the finished product and realizes that they have manufactured something completely artificial looking. To her, the excessive styling makes her look like a call girl. The hairdresser, however, tells her that she should wear her hair like this more often. She considers asking him to comb out some of the effects but is intimidated by the...
(The entire section contains 3162 words.)
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