Satire

The visibility quest

LAUREN DIAMOND WAS a visibility expert. "Visibility is inversely proportional to size. The eye doesn't register objects, but the space and the movement of air between objects," Lauren informed the viewers on her weekly TV show, The Diamond Hour.

"That's why, for example, when we are at a cocktail party, or in a shopping centre, we are more likely to notice thin rather than large people. The eye is immediately attracted to the gaps rather than the fillings. We are genetically visually equipped to notice thinness. So if you want to be seen, if you want to feel your weight in this world, you have to lose it first."

Lauren had the top-rating eight o'clock evening slot that she ran with her husband, Dr Diamond. She was a dietitian/image consultant, specialising in problems related to invisibility and Dr Diamond was a "mouth architect". He had a double specialty combining dentistry and plastic surgery focusing mainly on the prominence of the oral cavity.

People from all over Australia wanted to be "the client" on The Diamond Hour. The waiting list was a year long. The applicants' sizes and ages varied across a wide range – some were children as young as six and seven. Every one of these would-be clients, including the children, suffered from problems of invisibility and they desperately wanted to come out. They needed to go public, confess their agony and most of all be captured crying on camera. This, they admitted, was the beginning of their journey out of invisibility and into reality.

Lauren took charge of the clients on the show. She measured them, calculated their ideal weights and gave them comprehensive image-building programs. She chose their make-up from the Diamond range, gave them tips about their hair, the sort of wardrobe and colours they had to invest in, strategies on how to avoid carbohydrates and, most of all, hope for a happier, more visible future.

 

VIEWERS LIVED IMPATIENTLY from week to week, eager to witness the transformation of the client on The Diamond Hour. Pearl, a 40-year-old size 14, who had not been seen in a swimsuit since she was 18, became an overnight celebrity. An ordinary housewife, she had woken up every morning feeling invisible. Even walking around her own neighbourhood had become difficult, with not one passer-by ever giving her a second look. She felt forever dismissed, discarded.

Many viewers identified with Pearl and Lauren promised them that she would cure Pearl of her invisibility and have her a size eight and on the catwalk modelling the 2003-04 Diamond swimwear collection within 12 weeks.

It took a good eight weeks for Pearl to go from a size 14 to a size 10. The ratings of The Diamond Hourdoubled. Pearl's measurements made newspaper headlines and were the subject of many talkback shows. The Diamond diet and products experienced a sales boom.

But by the end of the eighth week, Pearl's march towards the catwalk came to a sudden halt. For the following three episodes her weight and measurements failed to budge. She needed to lose a good hundred grams to be a genuine eight. She was unable to do it. The viewers were giving up. Her weight plateaued and so did the show's ratings. This was reality TV. Lauren could not get rid of Pearl by scripting an accident or a murder. However, one thing was certain, the show needed rescuing and it had to be done in the following episode.

Before the start of the show, Lauren had instructed the studio audience to show more excitement and to hold high their banners: "You can do it, Pearl", "We love you, Pearl". The orchestra's energetic tune welcomed Pearl like a star or an Olympic athlete. Lauren held Pearl's hand and paraded her around the stage. Pearl, swept by this wave of support and love, sent kisses back to the audience. Lauren then put Pearl in front of the camera. The music stopped.

"I am not going to ask Pearl what she's been up to today, the scales will tell me all." The violins played a soft low note. The drums rolled gently. Lauren ushered Pearl to the scales. Pearl hesitantly stepped onto them. The violins stopped. A faint drum roll continued. Pearl's weight appeared on a large screen in the studio and on television screens nationally. The drums stopped rolling. Pearl held her face in disgust. The cymbals gave three big clangs.

"Well?" said Lauren.

"I am a fat pig."

"Pearl tells us she's a fat pig," Lauren said to the audience.

The audience booed.

"I am a shocker. I admit it. I have failed everyone: you Lauren, the viewers, myself."

"What has Pearl been putting into her body?" Lauren asked the audience, highlighting Pearl's impending relapse into invisibility.

"Lots of rubbish, I know. I am a rubbish bin, Lauren." The audience booed more vehemently.

"Mmmm?" Lauren awaited an explanation. "Tell us more, Pearl."

"I am weak, Lauren. I'm a minus, a nothing. How can I ever respect myself?"

"Pearl is losing respect for herself. Well? Should she?" Lauren asked her audience.

A unanimous "Yes" came back.

"Harry is right, Lauren."

"He is?"

"He says I'm a fat cow. He kicks me out of bed every night." The audience mooed, holding up "Fat Cow" banners.

"Oh, my God, Lauren, I don't know what to do."

"Start by closing your mouth. Stop the rubbish going in. Seal your lips."

"You might have to stitch them up for me, Lauren."

"Pearl wants us to stitch her lips. What do we say to that?"

"Stitch her lips. Stitch her lips," the audience squealed. They stood up and clapped.

"Well, let me say I hope not. With those beautiful thick lips of yours we'd need a mighty long thread."

Dr Diamond had increased Pearl's lips in the first episode from a size two to a size six. He had also lengthened her upper and lower teeth by one millimetre to give her more visibility. He had put them in braces to adjust her bite and give it more power.

Dr Diamond's approach to mouth architecture was simple.

"Man, and consequently society, in its maturing and evolution has gone from the Oral to the Anal to the Genital Stage. Today we're back in the Oral Stage. Being the ultimate consumers, our sense of wellbeing and satisfaction are directly connected to the oral cavity. Therefore, the physical and psychological demands placed on that structure are enormous. Studies show that the gaze after the initial eye contact goes towards the breasts and from there to the lips and teeth and it remains there. Big white teeth and large lips act as a visual magnet. They are essential for a healthy self-esteem. However, this is not the whole story. The reasons we are aroused by or attracted to certain physical features are purely evolutionary. With the ever-diminishing natural resources, particularly dietary protein, big lips and a powerful bite have become a sign of affluence or access to a high-protein or meat diet. Big lips, wide teeth insure the survival of the fittest, or survival of the strongest biter, hence an element of beauty."

"Absolutely, and I wish Pearl would use her beautiful lips and teeth and forget about those horrible fat-promoting carbs," Lauren interjected.

"That's right. The situation as we stand is meat, meat and more meat – meat of any sort. We have to think of ourselves as hunters again, with the solid oral structure of carnivorous dinosaurs."

 

THE DIAMONDS HAD encouraged viewers to englare their lips and teeth as part of the holistic approach to weight loss and visibility. But for Pearl, those recalcitrant last grams needed an extra push.

"We won't look at desperate measures now," said Lauren, trying to remain reasonable, "we'll leave lip-stitching to the people behind bars."

"Stitch her lips, stitch them up," called the audience.

"Well, Pearl, this is how desperate the people feel about you."

"I'm desperate, too. You have no idea how desperate I am. I want to be thin now. I want to be beautiful, looked at. I never want to wait hours at the counter before I am served. I never want to walk in the street unnoticed. I want to be real. I want to get into your summer collection. I want it so much, more than anything in the world." Pearl went down on her knees holding Lauren's hand.

The show's producers were inundated by calls from viewers. Some wanted to offer their sympathy, encourage Pearl and share their own experiences with her. Others demanded Lauren dump her. Pearl was just a wimp. She should be starved, have her fridge locked up and, yes, her lips should be stitched.

"We understand your concern, but please don't call us, our lines are jammed," Lauren begged the viewers. "You can write to us by logging on to our site www.visibilityquest/diamond.image/archi.au. Those who want Pearl's lips stitched should tick "The Willing" box. Those who want Pearl to remain in her predicament should tick "No". You will know how the vote went in the next episode of The Diamond Hour."

The show had reached its emotional peak. Lauren's voice became the voice of reason; it echoed the serenity of a priest's administering the final rites.

"We have to start at the beginning." Lauren helped Pearl to her feet and handed her a box of tissues.

The audience calmed right down.

"OK, I'm listening." Pearl's voice was fragile, jittery.

"We start from the start looking towards and focusing on our target. At the beginning, was a beautiful shell. Remember that shell, Pearl? It was pristine, pure. It housed a beautiful little pearl. That pearl is your spirit."

"Yes, I remember."

"As we walk in this journey, we burden the shell with all sorts of clutter, carbs mainly, fats and more carbs."

"You're absolutely right. It's the carbs. I crave them; I'm addicted to them. You know what I am Lauren. Let me say it again loud and clear so the people who care about me can hear it: I am a carboholic."

"As we know, and as I have explained previously on this show, carbs are the drugs of the new millennium," said Lauren.

Pearl and Lauren recited the mantra together: "One mouthful is one too many. One hundred mouthfuls are not enough. One day at a time."

The audience applauded.

"Bread is my downfall. You can see it in my thighs. All that is bread, all those lunchtime sandwiches. It's my mother's fault. Her love killed me."

"Mothers do kill. They smother sometimes. We have to break the cycle. We cannot remain victims of our upbringing."

"I know, I need to be strong, I need to be seen as strong. As you said, that's my problem, Lauren, I have to work on my reality, my image, what people see, or perhaps fail to see, the real me, the discarded, invisible me, that's my ... "

"When you truly love your body, the shell that houses that beautiful pearl, you get nourished and in turn you nourish the people around you and that's when they feel your power. We all want that. But we have to start by taking control of what goes into our mouths. Every one of us needs to be released from extra flesh, clutter. Release the real you, Pearl, the beautiful you. Become visible."

The audience gave Lauren a standing ovation. Some were crying. Others were hugging each other.

"What would you like to do now, Pearl? What would you like to do about the clutter, those bad, dirty, stubborn last few grams?" The drums rolled gently as the audience waited for Pearl's answer.

"Yes."

"What, Pearl?"

"Yes, I do."

"What?"

"What the people want me to do."

"What's that, Pearl?"

"Stitch them up. Stitch my lips, Lauren. Seal them. That's the only way. Free me, cleanse me, make it worthwhile for people to look at me. Make me pristine, pure, get me into your summer collection."

The audience clapped. They held up the "Stitch her lips" banners in support of Pearl, making her feel more determined than ever.

"Are you sure?" asked Lauren. "This procedure is used as a last resort. This is a drastic measure you're asking for."

"I am exercising my free will, Lauren. I am the only one responsible for this decision. I want Dr Diamond to stitch my lips. I trust him, I believe in him. He's done a good job on my lips and teeth but it wasn't enough. I want that clean line you talk about when your models go on the catwalk, I want him to help me get there, I'll be real then, I'll be loved." Lauren gave Pearl a hug.

"We'll take a commercial break and bring Dr Diamond on the show next. Please stay with us." Lauren stood in her clingy white dress, thin, toned, a cellulite-free age-free creature, with the strongest brightest smile ever seen.

 

"PEARL HAS WHAT we call in invisibility terms: refractory weight," Dr Diamond said expertly. "In her case it is major, well, 100 grams. She has opted for lip-stitching. As far as I am concerned this is legitimate. Pearl is a free, mature individual and we live in the free world."

The audience applauded to the rhythm of "Oi, oi, oi".

"We live in a country where we have the right and freedom to say what we want and we're lucky because we have the opportunities to get what we want. We have to preserve these freedoms and rights as they are intrinsic to the fabric of our society. I am fairly pragmatic about lip-stitching. If this means achieving clean lines for Pearl, improving her visibility and self-esteem, then so be it."

"Thank you," said Pearl, taking Dr Diamond's hand and putting it against her face. "I would like to be pragmatic too, and have my lips stitched now, with everyone here to support me. The sooner I reach my goal the better."

"I'm afraid I would tend to agree with you, Pearl, and from what I can see so would our viewers." Loud applause came back from the audience.

"Let's get things rolling then."

The drums rolled. The audience roared, partly with excitement, partly with disbelief as two Diamond supermodels wheeled the stitching trolley on stage, placing it in front of Dr Diamond. They kissed him, dressed him in a surgical gown and mask, and wished Pearl luck.

"I'd like to clarify a couple of issues first. Because Pearl has undergone extensive oral reconstructions in the past, she would have very few nerve endings left intact," Dr Diamond reassured the audience as he put on his gloves. "She would have by now a healthy, fuzzy, warm numbness around her lips and gums, a bonus from her previous surgery that will minimise the need for future anaesthesia. I could, of course, give you an injection, Pearl, if you are really worried. The alternative is to scream and the whole thing will be over before you know it."

"I'll opt for the scream, Doc," Pearl said bravely. "It's worth it. There is so much to scream about. But I know I'm in the best hands, and you beautiful people out there, you have been the best family in the world, I could not ask for more."

"Is there anything else you wish to say before the stitch goes in?" asked Dr Diamond as he reached for the needle and waited for Pearl to have her last say.

"I really just want to thank you all for being there for me. Sorry, I can't stop crying. I know that in the long run it'll all be worth it, for my visibility especially. But even if nothing happens, I have at least experienced love like never before from the Diamond team and you, the viewers, who have stuck by me all along. I think I know now what it feels like to be looked at, for one's life to be witnessed. I just want to tell you all that I am no longer afraid, even if I were to die now from the operation, but I hope not for your sake, Doctor. Thank you, thank y..."

 

DR DIAMOND LOOKED at Lauren. Time was running out. "Squeeze my hand," Lauren said as Dr Diamond grabbed Pearl's lips with his forceps. "Think of the future, of the outcome; don't think about the pain, that summer collection is just a stitch away." The needle pierced Pearl's lips. She wanted to scream, she could only produce a weak moan. She squeezed her eyes and Lauren's hand, raising it up in the air. The audience raised their hands in sympathy, breaking spontaneously into a Mexican wave.

"Look at all that love you're getting from those wonderful people out there," Lauren wiped Pearl's tears. "How's that for a quick pain-free procedure? I'd have it any day if you asked me," Lauren said as Dr Diamond trimmed the final knot. "Please give a special applause to the wonderful Dr Diamond – mouth architect, oral designer, creative surgeon and husband extraordinaire." Lauren gave her husband a passionate embrace centre stage.

"It's that time again, but don't forget to tune in next week when we'll have Pearl's stitches removed, providing the scales approve, of course." Lauren looked at her husband and together they waved to their audience "Stay beautiful everybody."

Four supermodels from the House of Diamond walked over to Pearl applauding her. They held her hands to comfort her and covered her wounds with Diamond biodynamic regenerating concealer crème. Pawpaw and stem cells extract, ($75.95 incl packaging and postage).

The orchestra played a triumphant life-affirming heavenly tune. On the walls were projected enlarged photographs of emaciated love-me-but-don't-feed-me hermaphrodite supermodels from the house of Gianni, Giorgio, Yves and Diamond. To a standing ovation, Pearl and the supermodels walked lightly across the stage. They exited slowly, looking like creatures that were ready to join the afterworld, a clean line, free of flesh, visible at last.

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