[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

There aren’t many fat people in Princeton – upscale home to Whole Foods, Whole Earth, innumerable gyms and physical trainers. You don’t see many in New York, either. People tend to walk more there. (And maybe food is more expensive.) Elsewhere in the United States, it’s often different. I was in Philadelphia last week to have some genetic testing done at the U. Penn hospital and arrived early. The waiting room had a glass wall overlooking a large atrium inside the front entrance. One expects, in a hospital, to see wheelchairs, walkers, canes. I didn’t expect to see so many still on their own two feet but visibly crippled in their slow, awkward movements by sometimes massive accumulations of fat.

Summer clothes emphasized the epidemic proportions of this affliction. It was hard to spot a man not part of the medical staff and also not preceded by a round heavy burden of solid fat beneath his clinging tee shirt. For the women — most of whom looked as if they wished they were anywhere else, but as that wasn’t possible, were at least invisible — I had particular sympathy. I remember what it was like during the couple of summers in the miserable nadir of my life when I carried nearly fifty extra pounds around with me and had to show up at work each day in business suit, blouse, and pantyhose.

I tried to make the fifty pounds less unsightly under high-priced size l6Ws from Saks. However, Saks didn’t keep my heavy upper thighs from sweating and rubbing together as I walked from the subway to the air-conditioned office. There I was able to somewhat hold my legs apart under the aproned desk. But going home, sweat and friction invariably tore holes in the pantyhose; the frayed nylon edges then rubbed the skin beneath them raw. Every step massaged salty sweat into open flesh. Once home, I would tear off my damp clothes and lie naked on the bed hating myself – with bloody inner thighs spread wide, so they might heal a little before tomorrow.

In time I managed to pull myself together, lose the extra pounds. But that Philadelphia trip brought back the memory. So many of us in America seem doomed to sink in misery under our own weight.