Who finally lost the weight for what 1 think is for good talk about her in the language of “before” and “after,” as if she had lived two lives: a fat life first, and now a second, much more enjoyable one, in the thin body we all assume makes everything OK. I find this alternately perplexing and infuriating. Alison’s weight was and remains so far down on my list of how I would describe her that it would come after “master Othello player,” “makes her own fruit-infused vodkas,” and “has an uncanny ability to find a parking spot in any city in the country.” Perhaps this is hard to believe considering the enormous role Alison’s weight has played in my life and in our relationship. But before she is fat or thin she is my sister, and if she had no arms and legs or went crazy or tattooed her face like a Maori warrior, that would still trump it all.
Growing up, I was often asked why Alison didn’t just go on a diet. Although I certainly suggested dieting to Alison, and offered plenty of “constructive criticism” when she was on one, I instantly bristled and snapped when people asked me this question. Of course Alison went on diets; how could she not? Starting at about the age of thirteen, she went on plenty, some traditional, others more obscure, all doomed to ultimate failure, as most diets seem to be. Throughout her teenage years, in fact, she was at least theoretically on one more often than not. Although I was certainly aware she was devoting a lot of time and energy to what she was eating, I was a teenager, too. and the picayune details of my own existence precalculus, lacrosse tryouts, finding the perfect scrap of material with which to patch my jeans consumed so much of my own energy that there was not much left over for empathy.
Most of the time when Alison wolfed down food I made little comments or gave disapproving looks from across the table. I knew full well that a constant influx of pointed stares and caloric statistics was not going to make Alison stop eating. I knew this for a number of reasons, primarily that when I saw someone else do it, I felt rage and disgust how dare that idiot judge my sister or even dare to imagine he or she could do better in her place. I also saw that being judged or disapproved of made Alison justifiably angry and defensive, as it would any thinking person with a sensitive bone in her body. Sometimes, when a waiter expressed barely detectable surprise at her order, or when a salesgirl eyed her skeptically as she browsed through clothes that upfront .
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