Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 864
Louise was kissed for the first time at the age of sixteen, when a drunken young man roughly grabbed her at a barbecue. Her father, a wealthy lawyer in a small city in Louisiana, often kisses her as well, but she can see pity in his eyes along with love. The reason for Louise’s lack of affection from young men her own age and for her father’s pity is that, since she was nine years old, she has been putting on weight from overeating. Her slim and pretty mother, worried about Louise’s attractiveness to boys, feeds her dietetic lunches, but Louise later sneaks into the kitchen and makes peanut butter sandwiches to eat secretly. At school, she makes a show before her friends of refusing fattening foods, emerging from the cafeteria line with only a salad. Later, however, she sneaks sandwiches at home and buys candy bars, storing them in her bedroom closet behind stuffed animals from her earlier childhood. At the movies, she is fascinated by fat actresses, and at home, by fat friends of her mother. Like herself, she rationalizes, they are different, and she believes that she, like them, is fat because God has made her that way. However, she is curious about them. Do they try to lose weight? Do they, too, go around thinking of food all day?
At a women’s college in Massachusetts, Louise continues her old ways; however, now she does not need to hide anything from her mother. She stores candy bars in a drawer and eats whatever she wants. She senses her parents’ disappointment when she chooses an all-female school, away from boys, and at college she feels out of place, especially in gym class where she must wear shorts. She hates her body. Her only college friend is Carrie, a thin, unhappy girl with thick glasses who becomes Louise’s roommate for four years.
In the summer before her senior year, Carrie falls in love with a music student in Boston and experiences both love and sex. Concerned about Louise and wanting her to be loved the way that she feels loved, Carrie offers to help Louise lose weight. She puts her on a strict diet, does all the shopping, serves her small portions of broiled meat, fish, chicken, and lettuce in their room, and nurtures her through each day. Louise suffers enormously, starts to smoke cigarettes, and becomes irritable with Carrie, but sticks to the diet and eventually loses more than seventy pounds. When she goes home, her parents are proud of her, all of her relatives tell her she is beautiful, and for the first time since childhood Louise swims in the country club pool without embarrassment.
After graduation, Louise returns home, takes an inconsequential job just to have something to do, and starts seeing Richard, a young lawyer who has joined her father’s firm. He is the first man to kiss her since that first drunken boy. After she gives herself to him, they are married; Carrie flies down from Boston to serve as her maid of honor. With Richard, Louise now seems to have everything: a husband who loves her, a beautiful home by the lake, and vacations in Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas. While vacationing in Europe during their fifth year of marriage, Louise and Richard conceive a child.
(The entire section contains 864 words.)
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