When we got back to The Door I was black in the face from practicing my breathing, and it was time for breakfast. I noticed they had eliminated the skim milk for our coffee, the sly creatures. Today has been watermelon day, and for breakfast we had watermelon. Everybody was fairly cheerful about this. It was a novelty, and we would only have had that half a grapefruit anyway. By lunchtime, though, after exercise and gym and spot reducing and volleyball in the pool, we were hungrier. The luncheon table, with its double row of white plates holding two sculptured, but small, pieces of red watermelon, looked handsome, but not satisfying, and by dinnertime there was an air of ill temper, almost of rebellion, abroad. Candlelight shone upon the watermelon, but it didn't do any good. We were saved by Mrs. James Garner, the wife of the actor, who chose this moment to exclaim, looking across her plate of wet black seeds, "Aren't we lucky! Just think of all the people who would love to be in our places!" It was true, and besides, tomorrow will be high-protein day and we will have steak, a thought that cheered up everybody.
Lois Garner is slender as a child, and I don't know what she's doing on the crash diet anyway. But at The Golden Door you come to grips with what ails you, and if what ails most of us happens to be fat, still there are some who suffer from thinness, and they come to meals and try to force down a bit of mashed potato with butter, or pie. It is considered good for the stout to sit by the skinny, because, it is pointed out, there will be no guarantee when we are all back on the outside that persons dining with us will never order pie. Very valuable for the overweight, a short course in watching other people eat.
After dinner they generally show movies in the lounge, mediocre to bad movies. The library is full of good books that one has been meaning to read for years, like The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Schopenhauer's Aphorisms, and in our rooms there are the Thousand Meditations, which are bits from the major religions and philosophies printed on rough, brown, spiritual-looking paper. But, stupefied with exercise and sun, I felt that I couldn't do justice to Gibbon or the Upanishads, and tonight I went to watch Return to Peyton Place.
We sprawled comfortably with our feet up and followed Carol Lynley and Tuesday Weld through a lot of stuff about rape, murder, infidelity, illegitimacy and young love—licit and illicit. And eating. The script of that movie must have been concocted with the Joy of Cooking open beside the typewriter. It wasn't fancy eating", as in
, just plain, solid long-distance eating, with a lot of scenes thrown in of the meals being prepared before the scenes in which they were eaten. Coming as it did at the end of watermelon day, it got quite trying.
"What I want," a voice said pensively out of the darkness, "is smoked salmon on thin rye bread with butter, and capers, and a tunafish sandwich on white toast with mayonnaise." Which was bad enough but, worse, a rumor went around that high-protein day was not after all going to begin with an egg for breakfast. I'm sure it can't be good for us to go to bed in this nervous and overexcited condition.
Improvement! Terrific! I have lost four pounds. I can do my deep breathing without feeling faint. I can get through the exercises and I don't crackle. My masseuse can massage me and her hands don't bounce off, the way they did Monday when I lay there rigid with tension, and the beauticians think they are winning the battle with my scalp. They were feeling doubtful about my scalp; that was tension, too. But all of us are loosening up. We're allowed to be, we're encouraged to be, we're succeeding in being, perfectly childish. I must say, it has been harder than I would have thought to be childish, I suppose because it was a long way back. But we made it, and are now capable of complete, happy, simple-minded absorption in our terrible games of volleyball and of lying in the sun without a thought cluttering up our minds. No need to sneer that our thoughts doubtless had been poor and silly ones; so much the better to be rid of them.
Apparently the men are better at this than the women. Men take over The Golden Door, beauty salons and all, for three weeks four times a year. Aldous Huxley came, and Bob Cummings, Jim Backus, Stanley Kramer, Johnny Weissmuller, Victor Buono and Sid Gillman. More than half of the men who have been here are repeaters.
Anyway it seems that they can settle down to being childish in a day and, the staff says, they adapt more gracefully to a schedule and a diet. Is this because men have been in the Army, I wonder, or arc they used to more regimentation in their work, or is it just because men are better-natured? It was the men who held initiation ceremonies to accept newcomers into what they call The Knights of the Golden Horde, and it was the men who broke into the staff refrigerator where the real food is kept, and a man who woke everybody up at 5 a.m. in the morning playing the march from The Bridge on the River Kwai over the loudspeaker system. A woman would have to stay on here several thousand dollars' worth before she achieved that state of mind. J. P. Heyes's husband, Douglas, a TV director and scriptwriter, has been here several times, and J. P. said that Dr. B. had even got Doug and Stanley Kramer discussing "What is God?," which went on for hours and is to me clear evidence of a youthful outlook. I mean it has been my experience that you have to be under 22 to stay the course on that subject.
"On the first day," J. P. says, "the men want to make sure there are enough telephone lines for all their important calls, and they say, 'Now, I can't fool around, I have to call New York.' The second day when the phone rings they're saying, 'My God, I can't answer that, I'm in the pool!' "