Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Dream of Cookie

Cookie was an obese woman with a shock of blondish hair, who lived on the block I grew up on in Brooklyn in the seventies. In my frequent recollections of her, she's always wearing a sleeveless light blue muumuu, little bulbous moles protrude from her upper chest like a string of pearls made of mini chocolate chips that glisten in her fat person sweat and always seem like they're about to melt down her chest into what I can only assume are her monstrous breasts. I think of her often, standing in the small yard in front of her house in our working middle class neighborhood. She was always hot, always sweating, and mean. Her husband was a New York City bus driver -- a slight, gray haired man, from whose lips I never once heard a single word uttered, and who I never saw dressed in anything but his bus driver uniform. Even as a child, I wondered how a man could be married to a woman of such enormity. I was too young at the time to consider the sexual consequences of such an unbalanced union. I was more concerned with the asymmetry of the fat lady and the small man. It just didn't look right. Fat people should marry other fat people, and skinny people should marry other skinny people. But then, there were no other fat people on my block, which was pretty much my world, in the seventies. 

Cookie was the first really fat person I knew, and she became the yard stick against which I measured other fat people as I was exposed to more of them. But now with obesity in America having reached epidemic proportions, I think of Cookie as more of a fat anti-semite than just a fat lady. Her blonde daughter Wendy, who was around my age and rather thin, would terrorize me with taunts of  "Mackee!" - a phrase I didn't realize until years later was short for "Maccabee." How exactly that was supposed to be insulting I'm not quite sure given that the Maccabees are considered quite heroic in Jewish lore, but even as a child, I could smell Cookie's influence. Wendy's slightly older sister, who was also thin and blonde and whose name I don't think I ever knew, had a boyfriend who tried to run me over in his blue Trans-Am, or maybe it was a Camaro. I still remember running as fast as I could across the street with sinister laughter and chides of "Run, Jew, run" barely audible over the revving sport car's engine.

I assume at some point Cookie succumbed to diabetes or heart disease, or choked on a twenty-four piece bucket of KFC, trying to devour it whole, bucket and all. I can't imagine a woman of her girth still being alive after all these years. Her daughters are likely raising the next generation of blonde Hitler youth, and probably host their retired bus driver father and his second wife, most likely a cocktail waitress he met in Atlantic City, for quiet celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Kristallnacht. But why the image of this fat lady in a muumuu keeps popping into my head is still a mystery. I think of her when I see b-roll of headless fat people walking down the street, during news stories about obesity. I think of her when I read about stories of swastikas being spray painted on synagogues. I think of her when I'm reminiscing about my old Brooklyn neighborhood. Sometimes I think of her for no reason. Oddly enough, though, I never think of her when I'm eating cookies.

Maybe I'm being too rough on Cookie. I never actually had any direct communication with her that I can remember other than a nasty bear like growl when the ball my friends and I were playing with landed in her yard. Her children's anti-semitism could have been learned from their father, or from their friends at school. I'd look her up on Facebook, or one of those sites where you can find former classmates and relatives, but I don't know her last name, or if Cookie was even her real first name.

If I had a thing for women of size, or whatever the PC term is for the plus sized of the fairer sex, I might chalk up Cookie's persistent appearances in my thoughts to unfulfilled boyhood fantasy. But sexual attraction is as much on my mind when thinking of Cookie as it probably was for her reticent bus driver husband.  I think I'm probably just yearning for a simpler time when gentleman wore hats, fat ladies wore muumuus, and Jew haters weren't afraid to get their boyfriends to try and run you over.

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