It went without saying, and yet, Frieda had to say it out loud to herself in the mirror one day after years of denial: “I am too fat to be a gamine.” The trope of the gamine, of course, entailing being thin, waifish, lithe. Frieda was none of those things, and never had been. Never would be. It simply wasn’t within the capacity of her bone structure. Yet she, and so many others in America, had been told for so long that: if you can dream it, you can achieve it. A fish can, in fact, learn to fly like a bird. Or some shit like that. So that’s what Frieda did. Every day—after that first time she saw a Winona Ryder movie—she vowed that she would will herself into a gamine’s husk despite being stuck in her own robust one. And sure, she knew that laying off some of her preferred foods might have helped with that goal, but honestly, who could expect her to give up her daily diet of pizza for lunch and burger for dinner? It was the small joys in life that got one through, when push came to shove. Or would she have been more adept at getting through it if she were thinner? That wasn’t for Frieda to decide, so much as society.
And whatever “they” thought was, to be sure, none of her business. The only thing that mattered was her own sense of well-applied denial. Which she seemed to put on daily in the same way she put on, say, lip balm. A red-tinted, cherry-flavored one that she felt gave her the perfect blow job lips. She was of the belief that there was definitely a certain kind of man who was aroused by that sort of thing, especially when said lips were attached to a plump girl (for yes, deep down, she knew that’s what she was—despite her repetition of the mantra, “I am a gamine, I am a gamine, I am a gamine”). For there were all manner of fetishists in this world—“chubby chasers” being just one varietal. Although catering to that set served to negate Frieda’s mindset about “willing herself” into the gamine category, she was open to doing so every now and again when she needed to make a bit of extra income. Because, if she was being candid, the easiest money in the world was sending nude photos of herself to pervs with a fat girl obsession. The drawback was having to take in these images of her corpulent body as she sent them to her paying customer du jour. It meant shattering her carefully-constructed self-delusion to really see her figure in all of its overflowing, cellulite-ridden non-glory.
Yet when she looked in the mirror instead of at photos, she could see herself as she truly was on the inside. A regular Audrey Hepburn. And, lest anyone forget, Audrey only looked like that because she was malnourished in her youth—during those formative years that occurred between the ages of nine and sixteen. No wonder her frame was so goddamn slender, she had a competitive edge over all the American girls raised on milk, butter, meat, potatoes and the like. Sure, Audrey had to suffer through anemia and jaundice thanks to that Dutch famine, but it was worth it in the end, wasn’t it? To be able to eat chocolate and other confections so freely as she did later on, knowing her frame was firmly cemented as a result of that World War II period when Hitler had it in for the Netherlands. This was the only reason Frieda prayed daily for World War III, even though she knew America would never suffer the same drastic consequences of such a catastrophic event as Europe, forever doomed to experience any conflict or food supply shortages on their soil. All while the U.S. continued to live comfortably off the fat of the world’s land.
On that front, there were many times when Frieda felt a sense of guilt about her weight, knowing that part of the reason she clung so desperately to the idea of being a gamine wasn’t just because of cultural pressure, but because she didn’t want to be another prime visual example of American excess and profligacy. Indeed, the waif trope had been born out of the much-revered French woman’s aesthetic (the word was gamin, after all). Women so generally known as they were for possessing the same urchin-like qualities of someone such as Édith Piaf, who roamed the streets performing in all her elfin glory. And there’s no doubt that seeing such a big voice come out of such a small body made her all the more impressive to those who passed her by. Everything is more impressive to people when you’re thin. The same way that it is when you’re young. The two qualities that society puts the highest premium on, especially for women.
Frieda wouldn’t learn about Piaf until after Winona opened the gateway for her gamine obsession. It was in 1994, upon watching Reality Bites, that Frieda knew exactly what she needed to transcend into in order to be that elusive thing Americans were constantly searching for: happiness. Something that only seemed to happen for attractive people, ergo slender people. Winona’s delicate, bony features—paired with the ubiquitousness of Johnny Depp’s other 90s girlfriend, Kate Moss—made Frieda start to investigate forerunning gamines as well. She found that the trend was largely established in the silent movie era by “broads” that included Mary Pickford and Clara Bow. It was likely their silence that made them as appealing as their doe-eyed looks (because, yes, “sex symbols” tend to be the most doe-eyed of all).
After her extensive studies on the archetype, Frieda started to over-pluck her eyebrows and dye her hair a darker shade of brown (even going so far as to cut it short despite how much that made her face look even more rotund). All in her unstoppable bid to better conform to that gamine aura she so desired to possess. And she really did in every way except the one that mattered most: her weight. For it’s the truth that no one is ever really looking at your face so long as they’re not initially attracted by your general physique. And, apart from the chubby chasers, no one was. Not even for all this in vogue talk of “inner beauty” and “body positivity.”
Maybe that’s why she was compelled to just do it one day, out of nowhere. But it wasn’t, really. It had been stewing in the back of her mind for some time now, and she finally decided to go through with it. It was easy, and it felt rather liberating—not painful in the slightest—as she proceeded to cut strips of her flesh off with a knife (strips that she was also planning to sell as part of one of her many body-oriented moneymaking schemes).
She watched herself in the mirror, after admitting out loud that she was too fat to be a gamine, as the pounds literally fell off. What was Antonio in The Merchant of Venice so fucking scared of? She negated her reality once more: “I’m a gamine, I’m a gamine, I’m a gamine!” And you know fucking why? Because this is America, and you can be whatever you want to be so long as you say you are that thing over and over again, and then do something about it—no matter how drastic or unhinged it might seem to inherently gamine Europeans.