With news of the passing of Dixie Carter, I had a hankering to watch some scenes from “Designing Women”, the show in which she co-starred back in the 1980s. I always enjoyed her rants as Julia Sugarbaker, but it was the ensemble cast that drew me to the show. There was something about each of the characters that represented a part of me, which was a large part of the show’s popularity, I think.
My favorite character on that show was Suzanne Sugarbaker, as played by Delta Burke. If you never watched the show, Suzanne was a former beauty queen who was a vain and self-centered, but endearing all the same. Especially after Delta Burke’s well-publicized weight gain. That was the first time I remember an actress’s weight problems being discussed so publicly. (Wouldn’t that be awful?) As a “big girl”, my heart went out to Delta Burke, but her performance in the show grew stronger from it. The episode “They Shoot Fat People, Don’t They?”, in which Suzanne attends her high school reunion and overhears people snarking about her size and then wins the award for “Most Changed”, is one of the best episodes of the series.
I searched for a clip of that episode online, but no luck. I did find a text version of Suzanne’s acceptance speech, upon winning the award:
I guess maybe I deserve this award for the Person-Most-Changed, but (pause) not for the reason you think. Last night I got my feelings hurt because I came to this reunion thinking I was beautiful and what I find out was that I’m fat (pause) at least you think I am. But that isn’t the biggest change in me. The biggest change is that the old Suzanne wouldn’t have shown up here tonight. She would’ve just gotten thin before the next reunion and then she would have gotten even. But I’m a little older and I hope a little wiser than that person used to be.
A lot of things have happened to me. A lot of things have happened to all of us. Sandy Smothers was killed the night before we graduated. Diane Mitchell’s got two sets of twins and Gayland Chadwick’s working in the White House. We had a lot of dreams together and there’s no point in pretending some of mine came true and some didn’t.
I met a little boy from Africa tonight whose family died of starvation and I realized that I spent the whole day at home worrying about the fact that I had too much to eat. I’m not sure the old Suzanne would have appreciated the absurdity of that but this one does.
Some of you men wanted to know about my bra size, but I’d rather talk about my heart because (pause) it’s a little bigger than it used to be. The old Suzanne wouldn’t have forgiven you for the things that you said, but this one will. Because when I look around this room tonight, I don’t see receding hairlines and the beginnings of pot-bellies and crow’s feet. I just see all the beautiful faces of old girlfriends and sweet young boys who used to stand on my front porch and try to kiss me goodnight. And you can remember me any way you’d like, but that’s how I’ll always remember you.
And so I thank you for giving me this award for the Person-Most-Changed, however you intended it. I’m gonna treasure it because #1. I love trophies and #2. I earned it. Thank you.
If you weren’t a fan of the show, or weren’t around for it, that speech may not resonate so much. For me, it says a whole lot about self-acceptance, self-love, and personal discovery, not to mention the ability to see the best in others. Suzanne grew up that night, but not too much.
While I didn’t find the episode I wanted, I did find a couple of scenes which find Suzanne dieting. And not too well.
I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of a few of those thoughts, too.
So much for 80s nostalgia.Fortunately, we’ve moved past the rice cake dieting days (or I hope all of us have!) and know a lot more about health, fitness, and what constitutes true beauty in a person.
Were you a fan of “Designing Women”? Did you have a favorite character? Okay, then, have you ever eaten a rice cake? With jelly? (Note: I used to heat them in the microwave and spread them with peanut butter. I dare anyone to top that! :))