Eat And Grow Thin - Rather Personal
( Originally Published 1914 )
THE worst of being fat is that it makes one ridiculous. The witty man, declared I am thinking of course of Mr. Gilbert K. Chesterton to walk the world in a suit of tallow, tries to fend off the laughter of others by laughing first at himself. It is heroic and pathetic. Mr. Chesterton (wearing a bracelet for a ring) is a subject for tears, not laughter jest he never so waggishly! No; the fat man may clown and slap himself and wag a droll forefinger, but he is not merry at all; and if one should sink a shaft down to his heart or drive a tunnel through to it one would discover that it is a sad heart, black with melancholy. Down there, deep under the billowy surface of the man, all is gloom. He knows he is ridiculous. Because when he sits down on a bent pin he never knows its there only hears of it casually from the valet who brushes his trousers the next day rude little boys think he has no feeling. But almost always he is a man of fine and tender feelings; only they are covered up.
He falls in love. (It is a destiny like being born with the sun in Aquarius; always the fat man falls in love.) And this is his bitterest tragedy. He cannot kneel at Beauty's feet without a derrick to let him down ; and a man who goes a-wooing with a derrick looks like a fool. He cannot clasp the dear girl to his heart for fear of smothering her.
What can the poor man do'?
Fierce burn the fires of love within him and the fiercer they burn the faster flees the terrified girl-for he looks like a vat f boiling oil; and that is a fearsome thing to fall into. So, wrapped in tallow, the poor lover goes his sebaceous way wearing his maid-en aunt's bracelet for a ring.
Love is not for him!
For him there is only the "window of a low room opening on the street," where he may sit and jeer at himself to keep his friends from jeering.
A tragedy in suet.
Have I spoken feelingly of that man who wears the ring whereof you know'?
I lay down my pen and cross the floor and look into the tall mirror; I am confronted by the reflection of a slight man, slim-waisted, with narrow, beautiful legs and I admire his lean gracility; and then I think of Edward in the historic Broadway window of Mr. Chesterton in Battersea; and I say to the image in the mirror: "Even such as they you might have been had it not been for the Mahdah menus!''
For I narrate this tabula of myself.
I, too, might have been like Mr. Chesterton without the wit, but with the shame of fatness on me and diamond buttons in my shirt. Too long I had lived in the restaurants of the world fed too full of Paris (guided by the wonderful table book of Rowland Strong), of Vienna, of Rome. The gracilities, whereof there has been sufficient mention, were slipping away from me, hiding themselves in festoons and furbelows of fat. For months, for a year, I knew it not. One never does know that one is getting fat. One knows that other people are getting fat that they are fat. But oneself'? Never! One's tailor is a liar and his tape-measure a fraud. One's shirt-maker is in the conspiracy. Then at last there comes a day the unavoidable day
Do you remember the unhappy swallow who discovered (with horror) that he did not make a summer?
It is that way. One day (with horror) you discover you are fat. You see it in your mirror. More tragically you may see it in a woman's eyes. Then of two things, one : Either you sink, cowardly, in the sea of tallow and your life as a man is over; or, you "take advice."
Frankly I am one of those who took advice. That is why I was asked to write a preface to this book which might have been called "The Fat Per-son's Vade Mecum"; after all, perhaps "Eat and Grow Thin" is better; for, if you follow this method, you may eat, eat of flavorsome dishes in a word, you may dine and eating you will grow thin.
And stay thin.
As the book speaks up for itself I do not see what need there is for a preface at all. But Mahdah was not of that opinion; said she: "A book without a preface is as inconvénant as a man without a collar on." Wherefore I button on this collar (a detachable collar, fortunately and you can take it off if you wish) and tie round it a mauve necktie.