"I'm wearing purple underpants," Vonny announced. "And nothing else. And I am perfectly comfortable with myself."
"Good for you!" I stirred cake batter, cradling the phone against my shoulder. "Nothing else at all?"
"Well, okay. Purple underpants and a very light layer of foundation."
"That's okay. That's huge for you, honey. Only one makeup item? That's--"
"Fine," she interrupted grumpily. "I put a little blush over the foundation. You can't not."
"You can't not," I agreed. Jon drifted into the kitchen, and poured coffee into a travel mug.
"You'd look washed out," said Vonny.
"Unnatural." I brandished the batter-coated spoon. "We are making great strides!" I chirped into the phone. "Chin up!"
There was a long pause. "Clara," she said, in that slow, hesitating way that let me know she was about to break our agreement. "My thighs are so--"
I hung up on her.
Jon leaned across the kitchen island and swiped a dribble of pale batter from the edge of my mixing bowl. "How's the sisterhood of the traveling insecurities this morning?"
I rolled my eyes.
"Making great strides, is what I heard."
"She's lonely," I told him. "She's my best friend." Personally, I couldn't imagine sitting around in my underwear and not critiquing my thighs. But that was what we agreed on, and I was going to hold her to it.
The phone rang again, and Jon kissed me and headed out the door.
I picked up. "I have to get this cake in the oven."
"My body is not a problem," Vonny recited penitently. Then she seemed to perk up. "And it was about time for me to get dressed anyway. You have to see my new pants. They make my ass look like a--like the beautiful, valued part of me that it is," she amended on the fly.
Inside the studio, I set the cake on the little card table with the paper plates and someone's veggies and dip. I probably should have brought something healthy, too.
Vonny already had a seat, but when she caught sight of me she stood up and wiggled her butt in my direction. I gave her a thumbs-up sign.
"All right, class." Lita, our teacher, basically flowed out onto the open stage space. She was young, small, wearing all black as always. "Does anyone have any new material they'd like to share?"
Vonny bounced out of her chair. I sat down to watch.
"As you all know, Clara and I have been working on our self-esteem and body acceptance," she said. Another denizen of the back row smiled at me, and I nodded, feeling more embarrassed than gracious. “So, I'd like to share that we are making great strides. This morning I sat around practically naked and just accepted my mature body."
Lita pursed her lips. "Mmhm. That's phenomenal, Vonny. How are you going to share that with us?"
Vonny looked toward me, and I shrugged. She was the one who chose a creative expressions class, instead of regular old Weight Watchers. She told me her daughter, Olivia, said that Weight Watchers sounded too fat-shaming. "In dance," she said, locking eyes with me. "In duet--"
I shook my head fiercely.
"In solo dance," Vonny finished.
"That's fabulous," said Lita. "Do you have music?"
"No." Vonny was starting to look a bit lost. Some unfriendly person tittered in the audience.
"That's wonderful," Lita said firmly. "Some of the most profound movement is done without accompaniment. Whenever you're ready."
So Vonny danced. She did some arm movements, and then mimed looking at various body parts. She smiled widely at her arms, her legs, her hands, and down at her torso. She finished up with a butt shake that I figured was more about the pants than anything else.
A few other ladies shared monologues they'd been working on, and one brought in a poem she'd written. Then Lita had us all get up together. We flooded the stage, and she put on music and led us in a little light stretching and artistic aerobics.
After that we had our birthday celebration for Maggie, one of the other girls. A blonde I didn't know congratulated Vonny on her dance. "So freeing," she said, "to see a lady our age appreciate herself."
Vonny beamed. "I couldn't do it without my girl Clara here." She put an arm around me and tugged me in to her side. "She's just the best."
At home, I washed the kitchen floor and vacuumed the stairs and the upstairs hallway. Kevin had football practice after school, so I didn't have anything to do until dinner. I sat down to read.
"I threw up," she announced. "I ate so much at class, I was just so excited about how well my dance went. It was a triumph, don't you think? I think it was a breakthrough."
"It was lovely, Von."
"Yes. Well. Then I came home and threw up." Her voice cracked. "Do you think I'm going to get a disorder?"
I put the book aside. "I think you're lonely, with Olivia off at school."
There was a long pause. "And with Nick gone," she said. "Maybe I just need a new man. I should start looking again. This acceptance thing, this isn't going to help me find somebody. Maybe we should just go to Weight Watchers."
I sighed. "Yeah. Maybe."
"I'll find us a good group." She sounded cheerful again, purposeful. "I'll call you back."
I sat for a few moments, with the phone in one hand and the book in the other. Then I got up, put them both down, and closed the curtains in our bedroom.
I looked at my arms. I looked at my legs. I smiled at them, mimicking Vonny's performance. I wiggled out of my sweater, and dropped my pants to the floor. I went into the master bathroom, shaking my rear, and washed the makeup from my face. I left my bra and even my underpants on the bathroom floor. And in the dim, carpeted, oddly shaped open spaces of my bedroom, I started to dance.
copyright © 2014
Brynn MacNab spends most of her spare time on short fiction, although she also occasionally goes out swing dancing; you can find more of her stories at brynnmacnab.blogspot.com.