For Christmas, a friend presented me with a copy of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. I had read a few of his essays, particularly ones about his struggles with various compulsions, but I had not read so many about his family.
In “A Shiner Like a Diamond,” he writes about his four sisters—particularly actress Amy (a Sirens crush)—and their somewhat fractious relationship with their father. “My father has always placed a great deal of importance on his daughters’ physical beauty,” Sedaris writes. “It is, to him, their greatest asset, and he monitors their appearance like a pimp … my brother and I were allowed to grow as plump and ugly as we liked. Our bodies were viewed as mere vehicles—pasty, potbellied machines designed to transport our thoughts from one place to another. I might wander freely through the house drinking pancake batter from a plastic bucket, but the moment one of my sisters spilled out of her bikini, my father was right there to mix his metaphors. ‘Jesus, Flossie, what are we running here, a dairy farm? Look at you, you’re the size of a house.’”
Sedaris blames his father’s attitude on his age (old) and ethnic background (Greek). My friend who gave me the book is also Greek, so I asked her if her father had similar views when it came to her eating habits. “Definitely,” she said, remembering how, as a girl, her father would often remark—with disgust—that she ate “like a house on fire.” These remarks confused my friend, not only because houses do not eat anything, whether on fire or otherwise. She was far from overweight, and was heavily involved in sports at the time and needed the fuel. Sports, it must be added, that her father insisted she participate in, even though she never cared for them.