Dying to Be Pretty?

"Hey, Nicole, come with us to the mall," Chelsea called to her friend as they left Fairfield High.

"We're going to window-shop for our dresses for the seniors' party at church," Kayla added.

The three teens climbed into their friend Anna's car and waited for her to get in.

"Hurry up, Anna," Chelsea called.

"You're so impatient, Chelsea," Anna responded as she got behind the steering wheel and drove away from the school parking lot.

The girls chatted about the usual topics: guys, school, guys, dresses, guys.

"I think Jaden likes you, Nicole," Kayla commented. "Maybe he'll ask you to go to the seniors' party with him."

"Be sure to act friendly to him and drop a few hints," Chelsea added, "to let him know that you're interested."

After arriving at the mall, they stopped for a quick snack and then began checking out the latest fashions in formal wear.

"Look at this turquoise gown," Anna remarked. "Nicole, this would look gorgeous on you!"

Nicole noticed the gown was a size 0. "Ma'am, do you have this in a size 2?" she asked a salesperson.

"I'm sorry. This is a designer gown. It's one of a kind. Size 0 is all we have," the woman explained. "Not many girls wear such a tiny size, so I've reduced the price by 50%."

"Try it on, Nicole, just in case it fits," Chelsea urged.

Nicole shut the dressing room door, slipped off her jeans and top, and stepped into the gown. So far so good. At least I can get into it.

She called Anna into the dressing room. "Would you please zip me up?"

"This is a great color for you, Nicole," Anna remarked. "I think I'm jealous."

Anna gently pulled the two sides of the dress closer together and started zipping it up. "Take a deep breath, Nicole," she urged.

Nicole took a breath and held it as Anna struggled with the zipper.

"There, it's zipped," Anna announced. "How does it feel? Can you breathe in it?"

"If I take shallow little breaths," Nicole replied.

"Nicole, come on out already. We want to see how the dress looks," Chelsea and Kayla called. As Nicole stepped outside the dressing room, all three girls applauded.

"You look really gorgeous!" Chelsea complimented.

"I am so jealous," Kayla remarked. "You look great, and you're wearing a size 0! I feel like a fat cow next to you. I'm embarrassed to say that I wear a size 4."

"You're not fat!" Anna chided her friend. "A size 4 is small."

"Every other girl at the party will be so envious of you," Chelsea remarked. "Jaden will go nuts when he sees you in this dress."

"Nicole, do you think this dress will feel comfortable enough to wear for several hours?" Anna asked. "Because if it's not comfortable, you won't really enjoy the party. Will you be able to sit down and eat something while you're wearing it?"

"Not much," Nicole replied. "But that's okay, because I plan to lose a few pounds."

"From where?" Anna asked. "You don't have anything extra to lose. You look good in a lot of colors, so we can always find another dress."

Nicole ignored her suggestion and paid a deposit on the dress, which meant the salesperson would hold it for her until the next day.

That evening when Nicole's parents asked about her day, she told them about the dress.

"That's wonderful, Nicole," Erin said as she hugged her daughter.

"Of course, I'll buy my favorite daughter the dress tomorrow morning," Bill commented. "So who's the lucky guy?"

"I don't know yet," Nicole replied.

"Don't worry, honey, if no one asks you, I'll take you myself!"

"Dad!"

"I'm sure someone will ask you," Erin said confidently.

The next morning, Nicole and her parents arrived at the store just as the manger was unlocking the door. When her parents saw the dress, they agreed that it was perfect for her. Nicole didn't try the dress on for her parents, and they assumed that it fit her.

Now all I have to do is lose 10 pounds. I can do that!

Nicole hung the dress at the front of her closet where she could see it each day. She skipped desserts and drank only diet soft drinks.

A week later, she weighed herself. "What? I've lost only 2 pounds!" she exclaimed in disgust. "I'll have to cut back more."

That afternoon, she got the call that she'd been hoping for.

"Hi, Nicole. This is Jaden. Would you like to go to the seniors' party at church with me in two weeks?"

"I'd love to," she replied, trying not to sound overly excited. "I'll be wearing a turquoise dress."

"Great! Would you come with me to pick out my tux?"

"Definitely!"

When Nicole got off the phone, she danced around the room. Then she called Anna, Chelsea, and Kayla. They were thrilled to hear the good news.

Now I've got to work really hard to lose eight more pounds in two weeks!

Nicole skipped lunch every day and ate only half of her supper.

When she stepped on the scale and saw that she'd only lost three more pounds, she was disappointed.

Maybe I should just stop eating altogether!

At school, she ran into Jessica.

"I hear you're going to the seniors' party with Jaden. That's wonderful!"

"Jessica, I have a problem. The dress is a size 0, and I've lost only five pounds. I need to lose five more."

"Let me tell you what I do," Jessica replied. "Let's go in the ladies' room where we can talk privately."

"How do you stay so tiny?" Nicole asked.

"I take one of these every day," Jessica said as she handed Nicole a pill.

"What is it?" Nicole questioned.

"It kills your appetite," Jessica responded. "Don't look at me like I'm a drug pusher! This is an over-the-counter pill that you can buy at any pharmacy."

Nicole wrote down the name of the drug and stopped at a pharmacy after school.

"Who is this for?" the pharmacist asked as he rang up her purchase. "It's not for you, I hope . . . . Because this is a stimulant and it can have side effects. It can make you feel jittery, shaky, and may cause insomnia."

"It's for my mother," Nicole lied.

"Well, tell her to be very careful not to exceed the recommended dosage. If she has any side effects, she should stop taking it immediately."

"God, please forgive me for lying," she prayed as she walked home. "And please help me to lose five more pounds."

She took one of the tablets as soon as she got home.

The next few days passed in a blur. Her parents wondered why she wasn't eating supper.

"Honey, you look so tired," Erin commented. "Are you sleeping okay? Why don't you stay home from school today and rest."

"I'm fine, Mom," Nicole responded.

"I've lost five pounds!" Nicole whispered to Jessica when she saw her in English class.

"That's great! I told you they would work for you."

"I took a couple of extra pills, so I could lose the weight faster."

Right before the class ended, Mr. Celli asked Nicole to come up to the front of the class and read her report, for which he had given her an A+. When Nicole stood up she felt lightheaded, but she passed if off and walked to the front of the classroom.

After reading her report, Nicole walked toward her seat . . . but she never made it there. She woke up in the hospital.

"Young lady," the doctor addressed her, "you are a very lucky girl. Do you realize that you could have collapsed in the middle of the street and been hit by a car, or fallen down a flight of stairs? Why on earth were you taking a stimulant?"

"I was trying to lose five pounds," she mumbled.

"You are dehydrated and exhausted. Your blood chemistry is out of whack. I'll bet you feel like a nervous wreck, too. You'll be staying overnight in the hospital, so we can observe you and make certain you're okay."

"Honey, why were you taking diet pills?" her mother asked.

"Because the dress was too tight," Nicole responded. "I'm sorry to scare you, Mom. I just wanted to look pretty."

"Young lady, you do not need to lose weight," the doctor said firmly. "Have you been purging also?"

Nicole knew exactly what he meant. Several of her friends routinely binged and purged.

"No, I haven't," she whispered.

"No dress, no boy, and no party is worth this!" her mother stated.

"Mom, I promise that I'll never do anything like this again."

Later that day, the youth group leader, Shannon and his wife, Emily, visited Nicole.

"God was with you, Nicole," Emily remarked.

"I made a big mistake. I was so focused on losing weight and fitting into that dress that I didn't use good judgment. I know that I could have seriously damaged my health." Nicole paused for a moment. "I'm ashamed to say that I lied to the pharmacist. When he questioned me about the pills, I told him they were for my mother."

"When you recognize your mistakes and ask God to forgive you, He can help you not to repeat them, Nicole," Shannon replied.

"I know that He's forgiven me, and I definitely don't want to repeat my mistakes. You know, I had prayed that God would help me to lose five pounds," Nicole responded. "But He answered the most important part of my prayer."

"What do you mean?" Emily asked.

"He answered the ‘God, help me' part . . . and I'm glad that He did!"

© by Nancy A. Stevens