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Chapter One: BREAKFAST

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's also the most difficult meal to skip, particularly if you wake up having eaten very little the night before. Here's a quick and easy recipe to start the day off right.

Easy Chocolate-Vanilla Fiber Bowl

• 1/2 cup high-fiber cereal (60 calories)
• 1 packet diet instant Swiss Miss hot chocolate (20 calories)
• 3 tablespoons fat-free vanilla yogurt or vanilla soy milk (30-40 calories)

Combine cereal and yogurt or soy milk in small bowl. Sprinkle with hot chocolate mix and stir. If desired, garnish with 1 packet Sweet'N Low (add 5 calories), or drizzle lightly with fat-free, sugar-free chocolate sauce (10 calories). If still hungry, supplement with coffee, water, or diet soda until full. Wait for bowel movement before leaving house (approx. ten minutes).

It wasn't long before I was on a first-name basis with most of the third-floor staff at the University Health Center: Desmond, the Jamaican security guard; Santos, the friendly maintenance guy; the ray of sunshine that was Danita, the part-time receptionist, a stickler for rules who felt little compunction about openly displaying her contempt for the over-privileged college kids who thronged her lobby, seeking to correct the mistakes of an ill-considered weekend.

"Where your I.D. at?" she would bellow at an unfortunate student.

"Um . . . I don't have it."

"Well, go get it and come back."

"I can't. I think I lost it."

"You ain't got no I.D.?"


"Well, I need your I.D. card to enter you in the system. How I'm supposed to enter you in the system if you ain't got no I.D. number?"

"I can tell you my I.D. number, I just don't have the card."

Danita raked the girl up and down with disdainful eyes. "What you here for?"

"I need the morning-after pill."

"The morning . . . after . . . pill." Danita repeated the phrase as though it were a concept so foreign each word required its own separate thought.
"So why don't just get some McDonald's?" she said. "Just go get you a Big Mac or something."
"The morning-after pill," she said again, this time loudly enough that the rest of us waiting in the lobby could look up from our eight-month-old copies of Time and turn our gaze to the wanton that dared brazenly to stand among us.

But Danita could be caring and sympathetic when the occasion called for it. For example, as I waited in the lobby one day, she said to me: "You too skinny. What's wrong with you? You got cancer or something?"

"No," I said. "I have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa."

"Anorex-a. That be that thing where you can't eat?"

"That's right."

"So why you don't just get some McDonald's? Just go get you a Big Mac or something."

"I can't," I said. "It's a very serious psychological problem."

Danita threw her head back and laughed. "Problem? Girl, you come back when you got five kids and they go and shut the power off, then we talk problems. 'Til then, baby, you ain't got no motherfucking problems."

I loved Danita. But I was glad it was not she who was at the desk that afternoon when I came in, but Gladys, a small, stout woman who lived with her elderly mother in the Bronx and was fond of wearing accessories specific to whatever holiday or season was closest at hand, a predilection that, in my opinion, showed a willingness to make the best of things.

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