When I was a teenager growing up on the Unto These Hills Actors Compound, our choreographer, no lover of the ladies, used to say of a woman he considered particularly ugly, “She uses Pretty Feet on her face.” Pretty Feet and Pretty Hands target rough skin and have been manufactured by a company called B.F. Ascher & Company for going onto sixty years – which, given the fact that I am 62, is about right. This same choreographer used to refer to such women as, “Dog’s Lunches.” As someone who dishes out her dogs’ lunch every day, I can say with confidence that this is not a compliment.
Between the ages of about eleven and thirteen, I metamorphosed from a sturdy little girl into what the Sears Catalog described as, “chunky.” Like “A dog’s lunch”, not a compliment. Boys in my same predicament were hailed as, ”husky,” which implied a certain hardiness on their part. The same thing cannot be said for “chunky.”
Overcome by social angst and propelled by my mother’s own deep anxiety about her weight, I went on a diet at age 14 and lost thirty pounds. I’ve spent the last fifty years struggling to keep those pounds off. It is a battle I have won thus far – more or less — but at the expense of great gobbets of my soul: one of those Pyrrhic victories that you win, all the while you are losing the war. The character of Glen in my brother Peter Hardy’s wonderful play Glen and Sally at the Palace remembers his own sister as being shackled to her scale:
Sally, you’re just like my sister. She used to go running around the house screaming “I lost a pound! I lost a pound!” Then a couple of days later she’d be moaning “I gained a pound, what am I going to do?” It never seemed to occur to her she was staying in the same place.
It’s sobering to be reduced to a caricature and have to concede that, yeah, that pretty much summed it up — for the entirety of my misspent youth and all too many of the years that followed. If staying thin was an art, I would deserve a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sadly, it is not.
Of course, all things are relative.
“Pretty feet,” when applied to dogs, is a glorious thing. Our beloved golden retriever Buddy used to tuck his muzzle between beautifully trimmed paws to achieve an effect that was nothing short of winsome. “Pretty feet!” I would cry out and the whole family would come running to snap photos and gush, “How adorable!” Also, judging by the enthusiasm with which my dogs greet their lunch, whether such a lunch is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your species. (Mind you, I suspect that all dogs like everybody’s lunch.)
Last night, as I was ransacking the bathroom for some kind of unscented lotion to put on a chapped bit of skin around my nose, my eyes snagged upon a bottle of the Pretty Feet lotion I rub into my craggy old heels every morning. The very thing! I thought, squirting a little onto my finger and rubbing it around my nose.
Then I realized what I had done: I had used Pretty Feet on my face.
Clearly the jig is up.