Out of Habit, I Start Apologizing

Houston, Pam

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Jan-29-1997


Part of Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul, Houston's essay is a cynical, self-deprecating, painfully honest, and wryly humorous observation of contemporary American women's obsession with their bodies, most notably thinness. Musing on her own lifelong fixation with weighing less, she admits that "for a good part of my life I would have quite literally given anything to be thin . . . a finger, three toes, the sight in one eye." Her essay is a collection of snapshots in her life, moments that bring into focus her displeasure with her body shape and size: walking down Fifth Avenue sizing up other women's bodies; the dinner habits of her family of origin that prohibited bread, dessert, or seconds; her husband's (thin) women employees who eyeball her body; her ongoing relationship with mirrors.


This essay is a marvelous addition to any discussion of the female body. I have used it in conjunction with coming-of-age narratives because of its ability to add to our understanding of women's problematic relationship with their bodies over the lifespan. I also show the documentary "Killing Her Softly" and its follow up, "Still Killing Her Softly," both about the insidious influence of advertising on women's and girls' unreasonable, and often unhealthy relationship to their bodies.

Primary Source

Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul



Place Published

New York




Patricia Foster