Archive for the ‘Fashion Kills’ Category


May 30, 2009

(First printed in Walking Slow, Lazara Press, 1985)

Macho is in, for men.
Anorexia is in, for women.
Flatter your friends –
tell them they look anorexic
or consumptive.
Ask them if they have cancer.
Admire them for appearing near dead. 

In North America now
we don’t think much of
tall children
or short adults
but who we really hate
are people we call fat.
There are all kinds of people.
We come in many heights, weights and body builds.
You would think we would be happy
about the variations
each of which come with one set of benefits or another.
You would think, for example,
that the kind of metabolism
which allows some to gain weight
while eating little
would be cause for rejoicing.
You would think this minority
blessed with efficient metabolism,
would be a model for the rest of us.
But no, we worship gluttony.
We are to praise those who eat more
and gain less.
They are the models
while the others are
hounded into early death, if possible.
(They can’t prove heavier people die young
so it becomes a threat –
they will die young – or else.)

When my mother was a girl
during the wars and famines in Belorussia,
the model of feminine pulchritude
was fat.
To get a husband, young women
padded themselves with pillows.
Men were crazy for fat bellies and big behinds. 

In other eras, the ruling class was fat
so big was the ideal.
Now they are thin.
The ruling class eats lean meat
and salad.
On this kind of food,
phenomenally expensive,
they pig out and stay thin
in a form of conspicuous consumption.
The poor eat bread and macaroni.
The most life-sustaining foods
also naturally make people gain weight.

Centuries pass,
times change.
Women’s bodies are supposed to alter
with the whims of rulers.
Tie up feet,
cinch waists,
bloat breasts,
botox face,
paint face,
girdle body,
go half-naked and cold,
make holes in ears,
noses, or wherever they say,
for fun.
Their fun.

But there are always bad women.
We will walk down the street
We will have friends.
We will be choosy.
We persist in eating,
living, loving, laughing.
We make trouble,
we make demands.
We are so bad.
We are glad we’re bad.
We will sometimes even do things
for fun.
Our fun.

February, 1985


Copyright 2009, Helen Potrebenko. For permissions please visit