Thank you for telling us so much about Karen Carpenter during the past year (PEOPLE, Feb. 21 and Nov. 21). I was only 12 when I received my first Carpenters' album, but her voice had great meaning for me even then. Her death left me wondering how I would ever listen to that music again, but the appeal of her voice is so great that I have found myself playing the albums even more frequently and listening in a more responsive, thoughtful way. I, too, share the sense of loss felt by her family. Her art, which we fans treasure, will live on.
Your article on Karen Carpenter should call attention to the fact that weight gain alone does not constitute recovery from anorexia nervosa. Karen's needle-pointed statement "You win—I gain" showed that her therapist was in control, not Karen. "I win—I gain" would have been the real triumph. Thousands of young women abuse laxatives as a means of weight loss, thinking that severe purging reduces intestinal absorption of ingested calories. In a July 1983 article in Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. George Bo-Linn et al. showed that weight lost from large doses of laxatives is the result of fluid and electrolyte loss in the diarrhea and not caloric loss. After taking 50 laxative tablets, one of his patients decreased her absorption by only 188 calories. On the average, calorie absorption was only decreased by 12 percent. The life-threatening side effects of water and potassium loss that result from laxative abuse make this a particularly inefficient and dangerous means of weight control.
Lisa Ridgeway, M.D.
David Herzog, M.D.
Eating Disorders Clinic
Mass. General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
I am outraged by your sudden lack of humanity. Less than 20 pages away from the Karen Carpenter story, you ran a shocking picture of runway model Gloria Burgess. Did you glance at that picture before you published it? Did you notice the fingers barely masking bone, the frail wrists, the appalling shoulders protruding from an emaciated torso? How could you possibly applaud this 5'10", 114-pound woman as "lanky" and an "ethereal creature" in the same breath that you lamented Karen Carpenter's "brave battle" against anorexia nervosa? It is precisely this crowning of painfully thin models as beautiful achievers that leads anorexics to believe that they are following society's guidelines for attractiveness. Be assured that anorexics will shun your portrait of Carpenter and cling to the reported success of Burgess.
I know it had to be hard for Richard Carpenter to talk about his sister's death. I want him to know how much I appreciate his courage. I was also anorectic, but it was such a shock to me when Karen died that I decided she should not die for nothing. That night I vowed I was going to start eating once more. Nine months later, I have gained 40 pounds, which makes me 5'6" and 125 pounds, and I know I will never starve myself again. I am sure that there are others like myself who liked Karen so much that they, too, were helped.
I don't see what the big deal is about Mariel Hemingway's breast implants. She's a big girl, perfectly able to make her own decisions. She didn't ask our opinion, did she? It is hardly surprising she didn't want to talk about the surgery. She probably didn't want the whole country to know about it. It is her life and her body—or is there no personal life for a star?
I want to share a little irony in regard to the story of Mariel's augmentation. After seeing the glorious bodies in Personal Best, I was inspired to mend my ways and, returning to the activity of my youth, took up running, pumping iron, aerobics and racquetball with a passion. To my dismay, I had filled out considerably in my mid-20s and found that my 38s were a bust, athletically. Undaunted, I too went under the knife—for a reduction and a set of sporty 34s. There must be an unwritten law that, for a woman, the perfect body is always someone else's.
The Day After
Score another one for Russia. Shame on ABC for scaring the wits out of the American people and, especially, out of our children. We can all use our imaginations to conjure up the results of a nuclear attack, but haven't we remained safe from that threat for almost 40 years simply by being strong rather than weak?
D. Patricia Berman
The bubble has burst! Given enough time, even Ms. Gloria Steinem has succumbed to the exploiting lens of a camera and posed for a leggy nude shot in a bubble bath. I thought that the feminist movement vehemently opposed the viewing of women as sex objects. Gloria Steinem is not only all wet, she is all washed up. Her credibility has gone right down the drain.
Madalyn M. Schwartz
Gloria Steinem responds: "I allowed Marianne Barcellona, an excellent feminist photographer, to take that very decent shot because (a) it made sense in the context of the story and PEOPLE agreed not to sell it elsewhere; (b) a hot bath is the way I relax; (c) she promised (and kept her promise) that it would expose less than the average tennis outfit; and (d) I don't play tennis. It's important to understand that feminism finds absolutely no shame in women's bodies—only in the powerlessness that often allows them to be used against our will."
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