Have just enjoyed a walk through the woods followed by a pub lunch. I people-watched – as writers are prone to do, and could have assigned the attributes of a pig to the amount of diners returning from the carvery with plates piled ridiculously high who then proceeded to shovel the food down themselves as if it was going out of fashion.
One man, who it appeared wore a cart-horse collar around his middle and an inflatable dingy down the back of his trousers, was forking whole slices of beef into a gaping maw that must surely have learnt how to dislocate itself, and with barely a chew the gravy-coated beef slipped down like oysters. He reminded me of a story I wrote a few years ago…
The Diet String
I’m Marlene from Moffat and I’m a wee bit mortified. Dear Oprah has only gone and promised to kiss my string before I go. It’s wrapped round my little finger and has been bleached, but I’m sure she’d vomit if she knew the truth.
“Tell us your secret, Marlene.”
I won’t tell my secret. Not to anyone. Ever. “It’s all down to my lucky string.” I’m Weight Watcher’s Worldwide slimmer of the century. The ladies in our group like to touch the string. Alison was the first to kiss it and I felt so guilty that I took it off later and dropped it in the bin. Though it was soon back by popular demand. The Sun’s exclusive included a life-size picture of the string so readers could cut it out and do God knows what with it.
Oprah reads from a card and the audience gasp and coo at the lashings of food I used to consume. Screens behind us are showing my old daily intake – which fills a bath. Yes, shocking, I know. Mother always said I must be feeding tapeworms.
“You lost over three hundred pounds,” says Oprah. An image of the enormous me appears on the screens. “Honey, you are one awesome lady.”
If she knew the truth, she wouldn’t be calling me no lady.
“So tell us,” she says.
Inside me there’s a little voice trying to blurt it all out and I know I’m at the edge and I begin: “Well, I was sitting on the toilet one day…” and that bit was true but I cut the voice off “…and something suddenly changed in me, like . . . like a switch. I knew right then I had to change my ways, and change I did. Right there and then.” All lies.
“And the string?” Oprah points to my finger.
“Spotted it as I was sitting there, on the toilet.” (Lie.) “It was in a knot on the shelf.” (Another lie, it was in many knots.) “I’d read a story once, about a piece of string tied into knots for good luck, and before I knew it the string was wrapped round my finger.”
“So you simply focused on the string to help you lose weight?”
“Yes. My lucky charm.”
Sometimes I wish I could tell the truth. But I can’t. I’d feel such shame. Mother tried to shame me once. That was two years ago when I was thirty stone. “Sorry, our Marl,” she’d said. Dad’s video camera was plugged into the TV. She pressed a button and there was the family sitting eating dinner the previous day. She’d had the thing stuck on the sideboard, recording. I was the only one with her head bent over their plate, shovelling the food in, then going back for more. We had beef that day, too.
“So you had an epiphany on the jon,” Oprah chuckles.
I laugh and wiggle my finger.
Anyway, back to the string. It was a beef dinner. My plate loaded as usual with thick beef slices and lashings of gravy. Then came seconds, and thirds. Eating as quickly as I did saw me finish around the same time as the others, so I didn’t think it looked so bad. But the following day would be my downfall – or my saving.
I used to toilet five times a day (what goes in must come out), and it was on my fifth visit that things became scary. I thought I was finished and went to – you know – clean up, but I felt something through the tissue paper – something dangling. I dropped the paper and pulled my hand clear. Mother’s voice in my head was warning of tapeworms and how I’d probably a whole army living in my gut. The sunshine coming through the bathroom window was making me sweat. I wanted to scream, to get out of there, but of course I could not move from the toilet seat with that – that thing dangling.
A few streets away an ice cream van played the theme from Batman. A fat bee bumped off the window and all the time I sweated and sweated and feared for the worst. I knew I would have to go and pull out whatever it was. When I was little I remember screaming for my mother because I couldn’t poo. She came and rubbed the base of my back and soon I was screaming again as the giant poo came out. I couldn’t look my mother in the eye for days. But right now I consider shouting for her once more. I picture her pulling out fifty feet of tapeworm and feel physically sick. I shoo the image away and listen to the Batman tune as the ice cream van grows nearer.
I spot my eyelash curlers on the shelf and I’m wondering if they would be good enough to grip a tapeworm and remove it from its home when something truly awful happens…I feel a slight sensation. The thing has slid back inside. I’m sure I can feel it wriggling. I start to sob and promise God I will never eat again if only he would vanish this horrible thing. I realise I must try and eject it. I squeeze and feel its head pop back out. I reel off a wad of paper and go for it. I have its head in my grasp, can feel it through the wadding. It offers no resistance. I tighten my grip and begin to pull. Something sticks then gives, sticks then gives, sticks then gives – then it’s free. My heart is beating fast. Sweat streams down my face. I have to look.
Seeing the string dangling from the wad of tissue is confusing, but I soon realise what it is. Soon realise that I’d swallowed a slice of beef with its string still attached. I could have flushed myself away with the shame and vowed right then to be a glutton no more.
Oprah takes my hand and kisses my ring of string to loud whoops from the audience.
She leaves behind a trace of lipstick.
Let me know if you try the diet string, or if you’ve had any scary toilet experiences…