I see on the news that 34 percent of the U.S. population is obese (by which they mean “fat”).

What they don’t say is 99.9 percent of the female population thinks they look fat. The other .1 percent are still in the womb.

It don’t make no difference how skinny we actually are; we can have cheekbones sharp enough to cut with; we can fit a dog collar around our waist. “Look at that obscene bulge there at my ankle,” we say, and blame it on the bread pudding we ate at Commander’s Palace in 2003.

This is why we dress like we do. If we got to go somewhere, and we try on everything in the closet, and the only thing that don’t make us look fat is our flannel ski pajamas with the bunnies then that’s what we’ll wear to the PTA meeting. (“If I accessorize it with high heels, people will think it’s a jumpsuit.”)

This explains a lot of fashion “faux pas,” like they say.

Of course, I feel better when I stand next to my mother-in-law Ms. Larda, who got the proportions of Monkey Hill.
But I can’t stand next to her at all times, and when I’m someplace else, like trying on pants at the Walmart, I can’t help seeing the two mini-Superdomes I got stuffed back there.

This year me and Ms. Larda are both going to Celibacy Academy’s class reunions. (For some reason they always have them in January.) We are both proud Penguinettes, but I won’t stand next to her because we graduated 20 years apart. Ms. Larda’s class is having their 50th reunion, and mine is having their 30th. We will be in separate rooms.

I go on a grapefruit-and-vegetable diet beforehand, but Ms. Larda says she’s happy looking like she always looks. I got to say this for her; she’s comfortable in her own skin. And she got a lot of that to be comfortable in.

Now, with diets, I normally go berserk and wolf down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s halfway through Day Two. But this time I backed myself into a corner. I bought a outfit for the reunion that was one size too small.

On Day Three, my friend Awlette, who was in my class at Celibacy, asks me to help her assimilate the Where Y’at, Penguinette? booklets. These are booklets we give out at every reunion, which tells the life story of each Penguinette up to now in 100 words or less (for some of them, you can’t hardly list their husbands in that many words). And then there’s the Fallen Penguinettes Section at the end: the lives of Penguinette classmates whose souls are now reposing with our Lord (assuming they followed the rules the nuns taught us).

Thank God, our 30-year reunion booklet don’t list no Fallen Penguinettes. The 50-year class has a few, being as they have been around longer and had more time to get sick or stabbed or fall off a balcony or do whatever they did to kick the bucket.

Anyway, I got to do something to get my mind off this diet, so I tell Awlette OK. Which led to Ms. Larda’s untimely demise.

Awlette has all the pages for both books laid out, with the Penguinettes alphabetized by their maiden names – except for the dead ones, who go in the back of the book. We put the pages in plastic covers and staple them.

Awlette is efficiently assembling the 1981 Penguinettes, but I’m feeling a little shaky. First thing, I drop the whole stack of ’61 Penguinettes and have to re-alphabetize everybody. So Awlette makes me drink a Slim-Fast; but that did it for the diet. I go home, hit the Ben & Jerry’s, and the next day I take my dress to Ms. Larda and ask her to let out the seams.

So she does, and she says I look gorgeous, but I know how I look: Fat.

She made her own dress in white; that kind of drapey-looking style that disguises the fat rolls of largish women.

The two reunions are at the same time, but in separate dining rooms at the Academy, with fancy-schmancy caterers.

Just beforehand Ms. Larda calls and says she’s running late, hemming her dress. I myself get there just when the cocktail hour begins, and I peek in the class of 1961 room. All the ladies in there are standing around looking morose, reading their Where Y’at books. No fun to be old, I guess. I’m glad I belong in the ’81 room. We have just sat down when I see Ms. Larda flutter past our door to her room. I hope she cheers up that bunch.

Then comes a shriek from the next room that stands all our coiffed hair on end, followed by a lot of wails and folding chairs clattering. Several ladies scuttle past, heading outside, one of them working a walker faster than I have ever seen.

Sister Blessed Martyrdom stomps in our room and hisses something to Awlette, who points at me. Sister storms over. “What did you do with Larda Zyefel?” she rasps.

Well, Ms. Larda’s maiden name was Zyefel, and if you haven’t figured this out yet, when I re-alphabetized the pages, I naturally slapped her at the end – forgetting that was the section for dead Penguinettes.

That is why they were all so grim in there, because nobody had heard about her passing or gone to her funeral. So just as they were praying for the repose of her soul, in she pranced – a vision in white – and they didn’t know whether to spit or go blind. Some of them did both, I think.

Eventually everybody calmed down, some with their nitroglycerin, some with a lot of white wine.
Now, that was a reunion we’ll talk about at all the other reunions.

If I looked fat, nobody noticed.