Pam Houston’s “The Whole Weight of Me” is part of her second short story collection, Waltzing the Cat, published in 1998. The stories in the collection focus on various adventures told from the viewpoint of one main character, Lucy O’Rourke. In her review of Waltzing the Cat, Yahlin Chang stated that the protagonist in this collection is similar to the narrator in Houston’s first, best-selling collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness (1992), except that “she’s more mature, more honest and more afraid.”
Lucy O’Rourke is a successful nature photographer. At the beginning of the story, she is on her way to Provincetown on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Her photographs have become very popular, especially on the East Coast, and are being shown at several galleries. But that is not the only reason why Lucy is traveling across the state. Because of her new fame, Lucy has been asked to teach a class in the craft and art of photography.
Lucy is traveling alone and is in between boyfriends, which means she is consciously on the lookout for someone new. She believes she now understands all the mistakes she has made in the past, and she is now hoping to find a man who will love her.
The first person Lucy meets is a woman named Margaret who is attending Lucy’s class. Lucy comments that Margaret looks so much like her, she could be a sister. Margaret is a full-bodied woman, like Lucy, who as a child was constantly pressured to lose weight. Both Lucy and Margaret have body issues. Both have had relationship problems with men. However, at the time, Margaret is happily married. Throughout the story, Margaret offers Lucy advice. This becomes especially pointed after Lucy meets Marcus Larisa, a writer. In two days, he literally sweeps Lucy off her feet.
Margaret constantly tells Lucy to go slow. If Marcus is truly in love with Lucy, he will wait. Lucy should not go to bed with him. Lucy, unfortunately, does not listen to Margaret. By the end of her teaching assignment, Lucy not only has gone to bed with Marcus, she has also accepted a ring and fallen in love. Like so many other stories Houston has written, this one does not end happily. As it turns out, Marcus is married. He and his wife are separated, but Marcus continues to harbor feelings for his wife. Lucy drives Marcus to New York, and when she leaves him, she knows she will never see him again.