“A Shiner Like a Diamond” Summary
Sedaris has been living in New York for eight years when his father, Lou, calls to inform him that his sister Amy has been selected to appear in a magazine article about “interesting New York women,” exclaiming, “Put a camera in front of that girl, and she’ll shine like a diamond!” Lou is certain that this opportunity will result in Amy being overwhelmed with offers from jobs and single men.
Sedaris reflects that his father has always valued the physical beauty of his daughters, though he could seemingly care less about the appearance of his sons. Believing their looks to be their “greatest asset,” Lou keeps tabs on his daughters’ appearances and is quick to point out when they gain weight. Though these insensitive comments generally make his daughters feel insecure, Lou is convinced he is actually doing them a favor.
The only daughter who appears to be unaffected by Lou’s comments is Amy. This may be due to Amy’s fondness for transformation and impersonating others: “nothing seems to stick to her, partly because she’s so rarely herself.” At the age of ten, for example, Amy was caught stealing cash from a register, an act she performs with no hesitation or fear. Amy confidently argues that she was merely pretending to be a thief and stole because that was what a thief would do, and was therefore not truly stealing herself.
The best impression that Amy ever does is of Penny Midland, a fifty-year-old woman who works at a local art gallery frequented by their parents. Amy calls their father at his office in the voice of Penny Midland, pretending to be romantically interested in him. Their father remains a gentleman, however, and awkwardly lets down (who he believed to be) Penny Midland as gently as possible.
Amy has maintained her beauty into adulthood, which is why she continues to be their father’s favorite. Amy, however, cares little for her appearance, and for fun, often disguises herself with prosthetic humps and makeup made to look like skin diseases. One year, Amy buys a “fatty suit” and wears it home for Christmas. Lou is horrified by Amy’s new appearance, frantically...
(The entire section is 567 words.)