A Model Mother by Haley Price

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            A burgundy sun dances slowly across the horizon to the constant humming of street lights springing to life.  All the while the sun is maneuvering among an entourage of stalwart purple guardians vigorously protecting the last few moments of daylight.  A time of day for most that means the relaxing end to a stressful day, often involving dinner with ones closest family and friends.  However for Diana the dinner orchestra of pot lids embracing their stainless steel companions and the constant drum of knife blades on the cutting board is a source of great anxiety and tension.  Like most fourteen year old girls Diana has to endure a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to the feminine ideal of beauty.  A task in itself that any woman can say is a struggle at best, but for Diana it is a nightmare as she has the added pressure of being the daughter of a former fashion model.  This pressure combined with Diana’s innate teenage desire to spar with her parents has resulted in the past with some rather spirited battles between herself and her mother over how she looks, and the types of clothes she prefers to wear.

The primary source of the tension between Diana and her mother Jessica comes from her mother’s constant droning over how pretty Diana is and how she should wear more flashy clothing to show off her figure.  However it is hard for Diana to accept these comments as genuine, firstly because as a teenager is there any compliment a parent can give their child that isn’t a backhanded comment in order to get them to behave in a more idealized manner, and secondly because the woman trying tell her how beautiful she is just happens to be a blonde five foot and eleven inch natural beauty for whom time seems to have forgotten.  Unbeknown to Diana on this late August evening is that her mother knows exactly the types of pressure she is facing from her friends at school, and it is in fact the woman who Diana believes couldn’t understand her in the least that will turn out to understand her the most.

As the sun finally sets in the backdrop of their Victorian style townhouse located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Diana and her mother sit down for a late Sunday dinner of roast beef with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  The weekly family tradition of over cooked beef and generic conversation is broken today.  Not because Diana’s mothers cooking classes were suddenly paying dividends, but because the last weekend of August marked her Father Chris’s annual tech conference in Denver, Colorado; which means that the conversation tonight would Jessica’s chance to have real women’s talk with her daughter.  Tonight, because her father is not there Diana is given the privilege of sitting at the head of the glass and metallic family dining table.  Although to Diana it feel less like a privilege and more of a punishment as it forces her to participate more actively in the uncomfortable dinner conversion for fear of being will out of existed by her mother’s judgemental stare.  As uncomfortable as the daily dinner conversation made Diana feel tonight’s would be infinitely worse as tonight her mother would be confronting her with the fact that she knows Diana has an eating disorder.  It would be after this evening’s routine of food shuffling and unwanted conversation that Diana’s future health would be determined.

Quarter after nine in the evening on a cool and dry August Sunday Diana and her mother Jessica finally sit down enjoy the roast beef dinner that had been in preparation for the last 2 hours.  After taking several moments to delicately choose the smallest piece of meat with least amount of fat and getting a perfectly adequate spoonful of mixed vegetables Diana slowly wandered her way over to her father’s throne.  As she sat down and felt the cool metallic chair through her light summer clothing Diana couldn’t help but hope that her mother wasn’t in a chatty mood as she had a tendency to drone on about meaningless meetings with obnoxious clients, which is was a seemingly redundant description as Diana assumed the clientele of a Ferrari dealership would all be obnoxious corporate elites.  Tonight however Jessica’s focus of conversation would be on some of the disturbing habits of her daughter’s that she had noticed.  Behaviours that she recognised as warning signs to bulimia, an issue with which she herself was well acquainted with having made a name for herself in the modelling industry.  After having been seated for several minutes and failing to find an easy way to bring up the warning signs she had noticed Jessica finally came out and just said, “I have been really worried about you lately Diana. I’ve noticed you haven’t been sharing as much lately with me or your father, and you have been spending a lot more time alone in your room.”  Diana replied quickly in a snarky tone, “Why would that worry you? It’s the end of summer what exactly should I be doing with time?”   Jessica quickly realised that it would be more difficult than simply getting Diana to openly admit to what was bothering her lately and how it was affecting her, so she instead remembered back to when she was working through many of these issues for herself early in her modelling career at the age of sixteen and how she recorded it in her Diary.  A Diary that she kept till this day tucked away subtly into the bottom drawer of her Oak three drawer nightstand underneath a copy of the first fashion magazine she ever appeared in.  Not that anyone else would know that she appeared in this magazine as it was merely a two by two inch picture of a pair of well-groomed feet wearing a pair of out dated Velcro sandals, and sporting some out dated neon green nail polish.

Instead of trying to win a verbal game of chess all the while preserving the fragile self-esteem of her young teenage daughter Jessica instead decided to that it would be better to let the teenage version of herself share her experience with bulimia with her daughter.  Jessica looked up and locked eyes with her hazel eyed daughter and said “I know that you think I can’t possibly understand what it means to be a teenager because it was so long ago that I was one, but I want to share with you my diary from when I was a teenager.  You can skip over the parts of it where I talk about wanting to marry Jason Priestly and focus on the last half of it.  I want you to do this as a favor to me, and if after you read it you want to talk to me about it then we can, or if you don’t want to talk about it we don’t have to do that either.”  With a confused look on her faced, as if her mother had just spoken to her in a foreign language Diana replied, “Okay I guess”.

After finishing putting away the leftovers from dinner into the fridge portion of the fridge freezer combo appliance; Jessica looked over at Diana who was putting the dishes from dinner into the dishwasher and told her where the diary could be found.  With her back still facing her mother, and in a grumpy mumble Diana replied, “Okay in your nightstand under some stuff, got it”.  Diana’s post dinner routine remained unchanged despite the conversation with her mother, as she quickly returned to her room after helping clean up the mess in the older kitchen.  Within what seemed like seconds Diana was back within the protective violet walls of her castle that were heavily decorated in movie posters, and posters of her past and present favourite musicians.  On the far corner of her dimly lit room was located her wooden desk covered and resting on top amid of a bundle of assorted old school projects and used make up was her MacBook Air.  This computer is her connection to the salvations of the outside world as well as the unrelenting criticism of her female classmates that would dare to identify themselves as friends.  The worst of these so called friends is a five foot tall chubby little blond hair and blue eyed girl named Christine who would make George Carlin look like Weird Al Yanchovich.  Christine was the epitome of class bitch and she made sure that she lived up to this reputation even during the summer break by constantly harassing Diana over the internet through Facebook and Twitter.  She would post links to online diets and exercise videos on Youtube in private messages to Diana’s all the while telling Diana that she looked good in the comments section underneath her summer photos.  Diana paused for a minute after entering her room and she looked around for something to do.  There was the t.v. in the corner, but she knew that there was nothing good on t.v. at nine forty five on a Sunday night during the summer.  Diana then looked across the room to the bookshelf beside her bed.  The bookshelf had all three of its shelves filled to the brim with books but most of them were either from her childhood, or they were her grandmother’s used crime novels and romance stories that her grandmother mistakenly thought she would want to read.  Deciding that not a single book of her more than one hundred was worth the effort of prying from the firm grasp of the book shelf she looked back to her desk in the corner and thought about going online just to see what her friends were up to.  Diana sat down on her ergonomically correct black wheelie chair and began to go through her online routine of browsing gossip magazines and checking for notifications on Facebook and Twitter.  There was no earth shattered news on the celebrity front, and it appeared that none of her friends (at least the ones she was actually interested in) had any interesting updates either.  After ten minutes of browsing through spam notifications about Facebook games and great deals on airfare Diana stumbled across a message from Christine and it read “hey ya fat bitch you want to hang out with us next weekend? we can make sure we get some candy for you”.

It was a one in a million comment that people would probably say was just a joke from Christine but to Diana it was a lot more than joke.  It was a comment that hurt her deeply and told her exactly how not only Christine, but how the other girls in Christine’s gang felt about Diana and how she looked.  Diana could feel her eyes swell up and she knew as she repeated the comment over in her head that that bitch was right she was fat, and she deserved to be made fun of she thought as she starred at herself in her full body mirror with her tear filled eyes.  It was in that moment out of the corner of her eye that she caught a glimpse of herself and her mother when she was ten years old at the county fair after her father had just won her favourite green teddy bear from a game of ring toss.  It was in this moment when her eyes locked on the face of her ten year old self that she thought back to what her mother had said at dinner, and about the diary that she assumed her mother thought contained all the secrets of the universe.

Diana took two minutes to calm down as she repeated over and over in her head “who cares what she says I hate her anyways” and wiped her teary eyes with her blue and red One Direction shirt that she had worn the day before.  Finally when she decided there was no way that her mother could possibly tell she had been upset Diana finally walked down the seemingly endless hallway, past the bathroom with its lights on and just beyond the guest room (which at this point had become a storage room for her dad’s growing collection of used broken electronics) to finally arrive at her parents room at the end of the hallway.

Jessica was sitting up waiting for her daughter to arrive as she had heard her daughter’s door click open just a moment ago.  Before Diana could even knock on the door Jessica quickly blurted out “just come in”, but Diana was already halfway in before she finished her sentence.  Diana stood shyly on one leg quickly rubbing her other foot on the back of her leg as if trying to start a fire, and quietly said “I just came to say goodnight… you know since dads not here”.  Jessica smiled in that sideways kind of smile people do when they are more glad then happy, and said “good night sweety” and handed Diana the diary before she could even ask for it.  Diana quickly replied “Oh I was just coming to say goodnight, but I guess I could take this now… anyways I’m gonna head to bed goodnight mom” and she quickly turned around and made her way back to her room.

After arriving back in her room Diana flopped onto her bed and laid there on the covers just looking at the cover of the Diary trying to decide if getting to know her teenage mother was really worth the risk.  After about thirty minutes mulling over that decision and starring at the blue light emanating from her phone charger she decided it couldn’t possibly be worse than just lying there doing nothing.  Diana opened the diary and skimmed through the pages at a pace that most people reserve for the magazines in a doctor’s office.  That is until she came across an entry titled the worst day ever, and it was dated October twenty first nineteen eighty eight.  At this point Diana stopped just aimlessly flipping through the old yellow pages of the fabric bound diary and she actually began to read.  The diary read:

“Today was horrible, me and Tessa were about to go on our typical lunch when Jeff came in and told us that Jeanie had died of complications from an eating disorder.  It doesn’t make any sense Jeanie seemed completely fine she ate like the rest of us and she looked amazing.  She was always the most popular of the girls that worked for the magazine and she had been there the longest.  She taught us all what we knew about modelling and she was just booked to do a national commercial on tv and now shes just dead.  It just doesn’t make sense she must have had some rare disease or illness.”

Diana was surprised by what she was reading.  She wondered how her mother could be so naïve and not understand what an eating disorder was.  Diana knew that everyone nowadays knows what an eating disorder is.  This entry had been enough to peak her interest though and he flipped a couple of more pages past some entries about boys and amazing movies and came across an entry titled sick of it all.  Diana continued to read this entry cautiously, she followed along each line as if reading to fast would make the words disappear.  As she read the entry she saw how her mother began to grow tired of the modelling industry.  She read as her mother talked about just wanting to be able to enjoy eating food again, and about not having to watch her friends get sick or addicted to drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the pressures of the industry.  Most of all her mother was sick of watching her friends die well before there time.

Diana stopped reading before finishing all of the gruesome details for the entry on January third nineteen ninety.  At this point she thought she had better just stop for tonight and take a break or there is no way that she would be able to get any sleep without having nightmares of skinny zombie models.  However it was this exact fear of not being able to sleep that caused Diana to toss and turn under her satin sheets.  No matter what angle she faced, or no matter how hard she closed her eyes sleep would continue to elude her.  Laying there with eyes too tired to keep open but sore from being forced closed for the past two hours Diana wondered why her mother would want her to read that horror story that was her diary.

Lying in bed unable to sleep and tired of trying to force it Diana decided that there was only one way to solve the problem and be able to sleep again and that was to finish reading the diary and not be haunted by thoughts of what could be waiting to be read in further pages.  Diana rolled over in bed flicked on the light on her nightstand and picked up the book that she had tossed on the carpet beside her bed.  She decided to skip ahead to the last entry and see what her mother’s life was like during the last time she wrote in the diary.  The last entry was surprisingly short and simply read:

“Today was amazing it was my third date Jeff and he took me to this amazing bistro, I know its crazy to think this already but I think he might be the one, and he says he says he would totally be the first customer when I open my own business.”

Diana laid there in bed completely stunned at how much of a one eighty her mother had pulled between the last two entries that she had read.  She thought to herself what the hell her mother’s point could have been in making her read the diary.  Completely confused and dumbfounded Diana laid there in bed with a new found solace that her mother’s diary had ended on happier terms then it began, but she still struggled to understand the point of it.  The next morning, after a short and not at all restful night’s sleep Diana came into the kitchen to see her mother sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a coffee.  Before even saying good morning, or thinking about getting something to eat Diana glared at her mother and in a loud voice said, “What the hell was the point of your diary! It was so f’ed up, and then it just ends!”  In a completely calm manner Jessica set down her spoon and looked lovingly up and Diana and said “The point is that I noticed how you weren’t really eating lately and you were spending a lot of time looking at yourself in the mirror like it was a different person looking back.  I know how it feels to be a teenage girl and I know how it feels to have people tell you that you aren’t pretty or that you aren’t thin enough, but I wanted you to know that even if you go down the wrong path like I did that you can get help and there will always be people that will love you and support you.  It might not seem like it now, but the mountains it feels like you’re climbing right now will be mole hills in just a few short years and there will be someone at the end who will love you for who you are.”  Diana didn’t know it at the time as she felt like her mother had just been watching too many made for t.v. movies on the Hallmark channel, but in her final year of high school she met a new student named Todd who transferred from Spain and would turn out to be her soul mate.

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