In my experience, nothing keeps a woman more absorbed than the idea of going on a diet. I’m not sure why this is so. After all, a diet is something that deprives you of one of life’s joys: eating. Why would you do it?
“Only a man who’s never had to slip into a bikini would think like that,” said my flatmate Amanda as she began the fifteenth diet of her life. The reason: she is going away on a company retreat to some beach resort in Bintan and apparently, there are going to be group bonding activities by the pool and the office circular suggested packing swimwear.
So here’s the thing, the great divide between a man and a woman. When a man reads the word ‘swimwear’, he thinks of either a Sports Illustrated cover featuring some nubile Eastern European Amazonian model, or his ratty Speedos.
When a woman reads the word ‘swimwear’, she thinks of herself in her two-piece, feeling a bit exposed and vulnerable and insecure, and all the things that people will be saying about her behind her back.
“I need to look fabulous in my bikini in front of that fat old cow!” she said grimly, as she pulled a carrot stick out of a stacked bowl and began munching. ‘That fat old cow’ is the head of her law firm’s HR department, a harridan who’d had it in for Amanda from the day she started work. Amanda also says the woman is, when she’s not terrifying staff with headcount and budget forecasts, a triathlete who does crunches and bicep curls for fun.
“I hate her. She’s always wearing Dior. And she’s skinny. I bet you she’s also a vegetarian. Just hateful!”
“So what’s the diet?” Saffy said, sitting up on the couch with a look of interest.
“I eat what I want every other day and then fast on the other,” Amanda said, still crunching noisily while flipping the pages of the recent edition of Men’s Health for tips on how to tone arms.
Saffy looked doubtful. “That works? Where’s that diet from?”
“I made it up myself. I figured that if I don’t eat 50 per cent of the time, I will also be thinner 50 per cent of the time!”
I frowned and tried to work out the maths. Even Saffy was staring up at the ceiling trying to massage the numbers. Eventually I said, “That’s just dumb, Amanda! You don’t lose weight just by not eating every other day!”
“Tell that to the Africans!” Amanda said calmly, as she reached for another carrot stick.
Later, Saffy told me that she thought Harvard really should demand that Amanda give back her degree. “It’s a complete scandal that they even allowed her in the front door! Even I can tell this diet doesn’t make any sense.”
I nodded, pleased that for once, I had the support of one of my flatmates.
“You’re never going to lose anything with that kind of ratio!” Saffy went on, warming up to her theme. “You’d need to eat one day and fast for at least two days to lose any weight!”
I coughed into my coffee. “What?” I finally managed.
Saffy looked confused. “What?”
If you ever needed proof that diets really can make people stupid and say things that they wouldn’t normally say if they were eating properly, you just need to look at my two flatmates, Exhibits A and B.
“Why don’t you just eat sensibly and exercise a bit?” I said in what I thought was a very reasonable tone.
“Listen,” Saffy said urgently, “if losing weight was so simple, everyone would be doing it.”
Leave it to Sharyn to tell it like it is. “Wah liau,” she told Saffy. “You and Amanda, very free, is it? Got people in Africa starving and you two oh-so want to starve, is it?”
Saffy looked unrepentant. “That’s only because you wouldn’t know a bikini if it snapped you in the face, Sharyn! Anyway, you’re a mother, so you wouldn’t understand the pressures of a single woman trying to look fabulous in a male dominated cut-throat corporate world.”
Sharyn looked confused. “What are we talking about now? Who is single? You got Blad-ley, what!”
“I’m just saying,” Saffy said, completely undaunted. “You wouldn't understand.”
“Women are just so weird,” I told my friend Karl.
Karl said maybe I’d be singing a different tune if I had to fit into a bikini. To which I said that if I ever had to fit into a bikini, chances are, I would be dealing with issues much bigger than a waistline.
“Aren’t we all?” said Amanda.