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August 12, 2005
So carefully her mother shops with her, thinking long and hard before picking up something and saying "Hey, how about this?" She doesn't go into the dressing room with her; this young woman whose diaper she used to change six times a day doesn't want even her mother to see her undressed.

It breaks her mother's heart to see her look sidelong at the models in the posters, wearing the very clothes hanging on the rack she is walking past. They are slim as snakes, all of them, and seem so very happy - they laugh uproariously together at something off camera, something we cannot see, something that must be really, really funny. It is obvious that they have been best friends for years, all of them, beautiful thin girls whose progress through their teens has been a seamless triumph of popularity and beauty and success, girls most likely to be most likely forever.

Only one of the seven items she carried into the cubicle fit. "Okay. Well, that's one. I really like you in pink." And she finds a few other things, but doesn't head for the cubicles again. Instead, she slips them on over her clothes in the aisle. "I'm not going back into that dressing room," she says, "I'll go crazy."

"Well, you got some good stuff", her mother says as they walk to the car, and her daughter nods in a way not unfriendly and asks if they might stop somewhere for lunch. Her mother agrees readily and thinks that the shopping trip was certainly not as bad as it could have been. She herself feels her heart in her throat when she enters a store, even all these years after her own girlhood, remembers not being the right shape, the right height, remembers just being all wrong, somehow, everything about her wrong. How thin and beautiful everyone else was, how hulking she always felt looking in the three-way mirror, how she hated having her skinny mother looking in it with her, hated knowing that her mother was choosing her kind words so carefully, searching for encouragement to offer in the face of what was clearly a lost cause.

They settle on a Thai place, enter in and sit down in the cool darkness. The waitress brings water and they order. He daughter always has mee krob. She herself wonders what she can order that will be legal. Legal as in not against the law. Legal as in not sinful, not bad, not wrong, not something she will like enough to stuff herself with. She orders a clear soup.

Her daughter seems okay, though. She talks about her plans for the evening and about Tiger Woods and why people play golf. She tells her that she once knew someone who had played Arthur Ashe when they were both young, had thought sure he'd beat the socks off the skinny black kid and had learned otherwise by the end of the match. People gain control of more and more as they grow up, create and shape themselves as they come to understand that they can, that they are the primary shapers of themselves, that their impact on themselves will be more lasting than that of their parents or their friends or anyone else.

That the beginning is not the end.
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