Lily: Yes, it’s me.
Frazer: I can hear you but I can’t see you.
Lily: My webcam’s not working properly, so when I use Skype, I’m able to view the caller but he or she may only hear my voice.
Frazer: O.K., this’ll do. I’m phoning to check whether you’ll be joining us in February. Most people from our George Clayburn High School senior class of 1967 are dead keen to meet up and swap notes. After 47 years it’s taken some effort to track everyone down. Amy Hutton’s agreed to be host. If you decide to join us, I’ll email you the directions.
Lily: That’s good. But I don’t know whether I can go. It’ll mean a lot of travelling and …
Frazer: Aren’t you interested? Several people have said they’d like to meet you again, especially after seeing the picture we used on the reunion Facebook page.
Lily: Yeah. I – er – well, I wish you hadn’t used it, Frazer. How the hell you found it – who gave it to you – beats me. It’s very aggravating.
Lily: Not me! I was the tubby, tatty stump, dumped for compare and contrast between two long-stemmed, flowering beauties. Rosie and Beth were both stunningly pretty; smiles on legs. I was just the fall-guy for all the fatty jokes. Even the visiting French teacher, Mme DuPont remarked that every time she saw me I had become grosse et grasse – fatter and fatter.
Frazer: I remember you as quiet and reserved. We never saw you in the Plough and Harrow on Friday night or at the The Two Whispers nightclub which opened on Fresh Fields Road. What happened?
Lily: I’ll tell you, although it’s not the sort of thing that ‘nice’ girls once ever discussed with boys. I became enormously fat after being prescribed a contraceptive pill to regulate bad periods. The treatment was unsuccessful, leaving me obese with a massive bosom and an even larger butt. I also developed a lump under one arm which my mother soothingly dubbed ‘your third breast’.
I was in a terrible mess, made worse by knowing that when you boys leered at me, it was not with desire but disgust. Don’t pretend you don’t remember, Frazer. Certainly, seeing that goddamn awful photo brought it all back to me.
Frazer: Y’know I’m a doctor? I also offer counselling, Lily. Would you like to talk?
Lily: I don’t want or need your help. But I must say that because of a thousand insensitive people like my elder sister, who somehow saw my appearance as an embarrassing affront to her, I became anorexic – bulimic – long before bulimia was generally known, let alone fully understood. I didn’t realise I was ill. I decided simply that I’d somehow become the most repellent slug ever to crawl the earth. Even my dreams were invaded with images too nasty to describe now, forty-odd years later.
So I tried the local Slim’n’Trim group, where Amy – yes, the same ‘Amy’ - had gone to shed a little weight before a holiday with Rosie and Beth. But I’d barely arrived at my first meeting when I heard her snigger with other club members about my size and saw the organiser and her assistant exchange shuddering glances when I was introduced. People didn’t bother to hide their scorn. As they didn’t care, why should I? So I didn’t attend again and the pounds continued to pile on. This is how the fabulous summer of ‘67 became my private season of self-flagellating, self-harming, self-hate.
Frazer: Lily, I’m really sorry you’ve suffered but …
Lily: Hang on. There’s more. My mother took me to see a specialist about my ever-expanding size. But the doctor did not help. Instead he fondled my breasts in a pseudo exam while Mum watched placidly, making no effort to stop him short. Later, as I got re-dressed, I heard him say, “half the women in the country would die to have breasts like your daughter!” Still Mum did nothing, said nothing, merely commenting later, “I didn’t like any of that”.
Frazer: What a horrible experience! Today that would almost certainly be viewed as calculated abuse. But you can’t blame us, your classmates, for what happened there.
Lily: You’re right. But I remember one other incident that occurred before most students left town to start their adult lives. I fell victim to a vicious hoax. Amy told me you wanted to take me out and that I should meet you at the Plough the following Friday night. Common sense told me I was being fooled. But curiosity pulled me along, the engorged Miss Piggy being trotted gamely on a lead towards her public destruction.
I’ll never forget the guffaw of derision that rang out as the crowd saw me waddle in, then register Amy and you smooching at the bar. But no matter. I must thank you both very much indeed.
Lily: The incident taught me a priceless life lesson. No, two: First, I grasped the close, cruel link between “slaughter” and “laughter”. Second, I've never trusted anyone again. By the way, Frazer, I understand that Amy married a butcher. So please tell her, whatever she serves at the party, it won’t be bits of me.
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 03 December 2013)