Dieting Dames

Damon Runyon

We read a piece in a magazine which said that the ladies of the United States are spending $25,000,000 a year on reducing.

We consider this a most alarming revelation. It discloses a situation that is a dire economic threat to the nation. In our opinion it calls for Congressional action. By making reducing a penal offense, Congress could not only save the $25,000,000 that is spent annually in the absorption of lard, but could add double that amount to various fields of industrial endeavor.

Let us take carpentry for example. If the ladies were compelled to permit nature to take its course in expansion, the employment of skilled artisans and the sale of lumber, nails, etc., would be vastly increased on the one item of theatre and grandstand seats, not to mention dining room chairs and loveseats for the home. The bodies of automobiles would have to be enlarged, thus adding to the use of materials in the automobile industry. All this new business would naturally percolate down to the mills and the foundries and to the forests where the lumber grows.

Or we might consider the garment trade. But for this reducing stuff, the ladies would require more goods in their dresses and other apparel, and consequently more workmanship. Girdles would have to be larger.

The fur industry and consequently the lowly trappers of the Far North woods would benefit by the abatement of reducing. Where now a mouse’s skin suffices to cover some of the attenuated ladies you see around these days, it would take a couple of moose hides to shield every fair form from the inclemencies of the weather under a non-reducing regime. Grocers and bakers and dairymen and traders in all foodstuffs would enjoy unprecedented prosperity because the ladies would be eating up to the full measure of their normal craving, which is terrific.

Restaurant owners would thrive. The doctors would flourish. The ladies would be devoting the time they now waste on reducing to increasing the population. We think this is quite important to the Democratic Party. It is a well-known fact that Democratic ladies go in for reducing to a greater extent than the Republican ladies and here we find a threat to the Democratic majority. We consider it partly treason for the Democratic ladies to be shedding suet at the cost of neglecting the vote of the future.

Of course, this whole business of reducing traces to error on the part of the ladies with reference to the fancy of the gentlemen. The ladies think the gentlemen prefer them thin. It is a curious fallacy that has existed in the minds of the ladies for years. They almost kill themselves sloughing blubber thinking to enhance their appearance in the eyes of the gentlemen, whereas the gentlemen like them looking better nourished.

When a gentleman goes home at night worn out from his day’s work, it is no pleasure for him to see in the doorway a veritable apparition, reminding him of the sharp edges of human existence. What he wants to see is something that fills the doorway from jamb to jamb with a softness suggesting comfort and repose. And let us tell you something else: A gentleman finds no tranquillity in the uneasy flittings about the house of a shadowy remnant of reducing. He much prefers the solidity of an unreduced presence that in the still watches of the night makes itself known by those stertorous inhalations and exhalations of peaceful slumber that prove it is not a ghost.

We might here paraphrase Shakespeare:

I like them not the lean and hungry ladies,

Give me the fat dames who sleep o’ nights

But if you ask us why the gentlemen do not state their preferences and thus end the reducing, we must say that there are enough things already to argue about with the ladies. Let us not dig up any new subjects.

Now we do not say that a lady should not go on a diet, if she feels so disposed. No, we do not say that. If a lady thinks that by refraining from food in its more solid and nutritious forms, she can shake off those bulges that some deem inimical to pleasing proportions and to the wearing of the new narrow line dress, it is all right.

But we do say that when she goes on a diet, the lady should not make the process disturbing to mankind. She should not permit it to interfere with the happiness of husbands and waiters. She should omit gestures, such as the one reflecting horror when the man starts to place a little dab of butter on her plate. We hold that there is no sense in dramatizing this situation. Her slight wave of the index linger, and a gently whispered “No butter, please,” will accomplish the same purpose as a full arm sweep and an elocutionary “ class="allsmallcaps">no! no! take it away!” The exclamation points suggest that she has caught the poor waiter red-handed in some sneaky enterprise, whereas in buttering the client he is merely performing his appointed duty.

The attitude of a lady on a diet toward a well-meaning waiter is generally most deplorable. The waiter approaches her all aglow with cheerfulness and the menu in hand, and she responds to his pleasant greetings with a distinct chill. She almost knocks the proffered card out of his duke. When in accordance with the functions of his office he politely offers suggestions of healthful fodder, her replies are impatient, sharp and frequently unkind.

But never mind about the waiters. It is the husbands we are really thinking of. The husbands get a raw deal from the ladies on a diet. The husbands are gradually forced into a disinterest in food that is bad for a nation that is trying to build up its manpower. It is no good for restaurant owners, meat packers, vegetable growers or fish peddlers either.

We took two ladies to dinner the other evening. Both were on a diet. One had a cup of soup, the other a spot of salad. That was all. Offhand you might say this was a pretty good break for us, considering it from an economic standpoint. Their restraint in the matter of food naturally cut down the overhead. But the smallest possible check could not have compensated us for the mental discomfort involved in dining with two ladies on a diet.

You see, we are a good man up there at the manger. A sound, two-listed eater. Our favorite orchestration is the munch-munch of jaws. But sitting there between those two ladies on a diet, and us happy as a clam in anticipation of the impending sport, we soon became aware of a heavy pall over the situation. It began when the waiter brought on our soup, a thick creamy bisque of cauliflower that gave off a most delicious aroma.

Up to that moment the ladies had been chatting with reasonable cheerfulness about their respective diets, and the short-comings of mutual friends. We had offered no comment on their restricted fodder.

Our motto is live and let live. But as we tested the acoustics of the soup, we could not help remarking that it was beautiful. Well, it was.

Then our gaze travelling across a laden spoon to the opposite side of the table caught an ominous glint in the orbs of one of the ladies on a diet. We do not say there was murder in her eyes. It was more like simple assault and battery. The other lady on a diet sat there in a silence that was positively accusing.

Unaware of any guilt, we spoke highly of a nice little broiled trout that followed the soup. But by the time the fried chicken, Florida style, came on, with corn fritters and cream gravy, and a few other little odds and ends, we were having a dreadful time maintaining a conversation. Those two ladies on a diet just sat and glared at us, and we felt they were thinking, “Pig,” and “How disgusting,” and it made us mighty self-conscious. It was then we realized the deleterious effect on mankind of the practice of the ladies going on diets.

The gloom hurt our appetite. We were just barely able to wade on through a wedge of peach pie with a gob of ice cream on top of it, and a few cups of coffee (with cream and sugar). We were downright unhappy when we left the place with those two silent ladies, and our state of mind was not enhanced when one of them said (with a knife in her voice):

“You did that on purpose!”