My Grandmother's Dress


Friday, April 11, 2008

Growing up, Elna Baker was obsessed with one thing: a dress from her grandmother’s closet. Between body issues, her religion, and trying on new identities, the dress became an oddly powerful talisman. (Special thanks to The Moth.)

    Music Playlist
  1. First Youth
    Artist: Ennio Morricone
    Album: Cinema Paradiso Original Soundtrack Recording
    Label: Drg
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Harlem Nocturne
    Artist: Sam Taylor & His All Star Jazz
    Album: Tease!: The Beat of Burlesque
    Label: Verve
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Basmo's No. 2
    Artist: Basmo & Me
    Album: German Techno Classics
    Label: Zyx Records
    Purchase: Amazon


Elna Baker

Comments [35]

Fran from Alaska

Your writing is amazing! I would love to be able to write, but I guess I'm just a very appreciative reader. That's okay, I am what I am. You are very insightful, and your story made me feel such a range of emotions. I would love to hear more. When you write a book, I'm buying it!

Aug. 05 2009 06:27 PM
Kristen from Centerville, UT

Yeah, I think people are missing the point to some extent...I think one of Elna's main statements is what an immature and superficial move it was to go for the most attractive guy on the scene just because she could.

Part of her transformation was learning to love herself in whatever form, part was losing weight, and I think when she goes out with Greg or whomever then rejects him shows that the transformation is still taking place - that we are all transforming, and that act doesn't really have an end.

I may be wrong, but I imagine that after her failed fantasy date, she avoids focusing on just appearances.

Jun. 04 2009 05:54 PM
Dennis Morgan from Morristown, New Jersey

I loved this story! It was funny, clever, great music
accompaniment, and, best of all, it has a real message to
deliver about life itself and how we can be deluded by
superficiality. I have played this for many other people
over the last year.


Jan. 06 2009 03:57 PM
Emru from Montreal

I'm surprised that people are criticizing Elna's latching on to the popular guy. She said up front that this was her fantasy. That she chose to try to complete the fantasy when given the opportunity isn't that much different from what the rest of us would do.

Jun. 12 2008 10:29 PM
gerry horan from DC

The mantra that she repeated "I am what I am", which brought her to a place where the weight came off seemingly effortlessly -- this for me was the most memorable and powerful part of this well spoken story.

May. 25 2008 10:43 PM
jared from slc

cute story - loved it

Apr. 24 2008 10:03 PM
Michael Bailey from Provo, UT

To begin with, I found the story very enjoyable. I have already repeated to a number of people the part about how she lost weight only after she learned to love herself for who she was. That is such an important lesson to learn. Guilt and self-loathing is rarely a strong motivator.

Unfortunately, the second half of the story seemed to betray the message of the first half. I was saddened that her immediate thought was to bag the hottest guy she could find. She didn't seem to be too concerned with finding someone who showed this same sort of love for her that she had worked hard to develop for herself. True, eventually there is a small element of redemption when she rejects the guy. But it was only after he claimed to hate fat people. There was plenty of reason to walk away before that point.

Ultimately, the story saddened me greatly. Being Mormon and a member of a singles ward, I am constantly presented with this culture of women's worth being determined by their ability to attract us males. It made me sad to hear it articulated so clearly. Elna, if you're reading this, I hope you find someone wonderful who loves you rather than someone you were able to catch in your net.

Apr. 22 2008 01:41 PM
Lynn from New Jersey

I loved your story! I have never come to this website before, but had to see a picture of The Dress!

Apr. 21 2008 08:18 AM
Charlotte from Oregon

What an incredible story! It touched me on so many different levels, especially since I'm struggling with my own weight loss--hearing how accepting yourself helped you acheive your goals was truly gratifying. I laughed, I teared up at times...beautiful.

Apr. 19 2008 04:21 PM
anthony pierulla from san antonio texas

I agree w/poster 4. The story is electric how often can a bard make you laugh and cry within the same heartbeat. And best of all surprise you w/the ending. Kudos

Apr. 17 2008 11:23 AM
lucy peterson-watkins from utah

Your Grandmother is my dear aunt Helen and your mom is my cousin. I loved your story you are blessed with talent. Lucy

Apr. 15 2008 06:05 PM
kn from los angeles

what a beautiful story!

elna told it with such humor, dignity and insight.

this story wasn't about being fat, or having lost weight and being gorgeous, or getting the gorgeous guy. it was about acceptance of oneself. it was in those final moments when she got the gorgeous guy and realized that he was, indeed, not so attractive on the inside.

her mantra: "i am what i am" is perfect. i will be going back to this story often.

Apr. 15 2008 02:06 AM

The story inspired many mixed feelings in me about our definition of beauty. Traveling the world has shown me that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and preferences vary greatly from culture to culture.

I'm surprised the Moroccans didn't appreciate Elna's body. The Arab/Muslim world is a place where larger women are admired as much, if not more, than skinny women.

Sadly, this is more-encompassing idea of beauty is disappearing as US media and beauty standards invade all corners of the world.

Apr. 14 2008 05:48 PM
Hammad from Washington, DC

That this segment received so many more comments than the rest of the show points to how conflicted and obsessed we as humans and as a society are with body image.

Looking beyond the fact that she was fat and may or may not have lost weight for herself or for others, this story celebrates women who are independent and strong enough to stay single. This story, like Elna's others, shows that she's a girl/woman who knows herself, knows what she wants, and knows what she's not willing to compromise. That's enough to prove this is not a slip back into the 50's.

Apr. 14 2008 02:06 PM
Amber from Seattle

Well written and lovely entertainment but certainly not powerful...
This story lacked any critical message. I heard I felt ugly and inadequate as a child, when I lost weight I no longer felt ugly, Mormons are normal, and this is my story.

Apr. 13 2008 10:57 PM
Sam Lee from Seattle

That's a powerful and lovely story!

Apr. 13 2008 10:47 PM
Andrew Dafski from Troy Michigan

I loved your story ! Thanks Ms. Elna Baker and looking forward to hearing your stories on studio360!

Apr. 13 2008 10:21 PM
Connor Walsh from Wellington, New Zealand

What a fabulous work! It had me captivated. Well done.

Apr. 13 2008 07:47 PM
bonnie jo from detroit, michigan

I am a new to hearing about Elna and visiting her website. I truely related to her being the big girl with the pretty sister, then losing the weight, and being in her grandmothers dress. I started crying on my way home. I really enjoyed your writing and am glad that we have broadcasts like this. I am 30 and see no way that this is a new low for Studio 360 or bringing us back "down" to the 50's. If it wasn't for the 50's we wouldn't have a show as such now. Also being only second generation in the USA, being brought up very old world to where you don't talk about emotions as Elna writes about, its very liberating to hear. Thank you, so much!

Apr. 13 2008 03:32 PM

Enjoyed the story, but am wondering if perhaps Elna was displaying the same sort of bigotry that she hated so much when she set her sights on the most attractive guy at the singles meet. She obviously didn't think much of his intelligence or personality, so was interested in him solely for his good looks.

I thought the lesson of being fat was that there is more to someone than a pretty face.

She was surprised when he was superficial? Maybe they belong together after all.

Apr. 13 2008 01:30 PM
Jill from Massillon, Ohio

It's interesting how differently different people view the same story. Weight loss needs to be for one's self. Not for anyone else. Elna learned something valuable from her life as an obese person. She learned to rely upon herself, her own gifts, her own intelligence. For young women who have never struggled with their weight, it can be easy to neglect one's own interests and slide by, counting upon looks to attract the opposite sex, sublimating one's own desires into the desired person's. Her dabbling with those "attract a man" books only reinforced the hollowness of a man snagged that way.

Apr. 13 2008 10:57 AM
ilene from cleveland, ohio

You had me captivated by your wonderful story. I couldn't leave the room till I heard the end. Thank you for sharing your story with such sincerity and humor and congratulations on accomplishing your goal of losing all that weight.

Apr. 13 2008 10:55 AM
Akshay from San Jose, CA

It is admirable how Ms. Baker articulated a subject/story this profound so simply.

Great Story and Neat Narration!

Apr. 13 2008 02:11 AM
david mccullough from Seaview Road, near Cazadero, California

Aloha Elna and company . . . alone on this star filled night at my fire on my family ranch I listened to your story. Thanks for touching us with your life from bringing some tears to me and at times, making me wish I could have been the one to have fallen in love with you and you, me. Yet I too am guilty of the prejudices explored in the story. I struggle with them as an emergency room nurse, as a non-Mormon, as a man. I found your story dreadfully romantic, sad, hopeful, beautiful, heroic, funny as hell and oh so touching. For some reason, this story and music hit a vulnerable spot in my intellect and heart this night . . . so when I return to the hinterlands of city life, the electronic bustle and beating of our EKG driven machines . . . I'll remember sitting by the fire, looking at 'our' stars and how you managed to touch my heart and share a bit of your life with so many of us. Thanks for that gift of laughter, tinged with pain and joy. I hope you and yours are well in that distant country of NYC! Aloha, david

Apr. 13 2008 01:01 AM
Stafford from Queens, NY

While I loved this story, the lessons, the sharp critique of vacuous men, the insight into the stunning normalcy of the LDS (even in NYC) and the Ms. Baker's evolution, I've got to say that I am sad that the residue of "normative" oppression wasn't addressed more directly. I guess you can't have it all. I loved the story.

Apr. 12 2008 10:18 PM
Daniel from Long Branch, New Jersey

Great story! Wonderful moral to it too.

Apr. 12 2008 05:56 PM
Beth from Memphis

Studio 360 has reached a new low. This story is indicative of this entire show devoted to what it means to be a girl. The obviousness of the insights in this story are worthy of a storybook targeted at toddlers. I am sure there are girls out there who are involved in issues other than personal beauty and the aggrandizement of mediocrity (Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton) and the quest for vacuous toys which cater to the empty consumerism of American society (American Girl). Surely there are young women who are accomplishing something with their lives.
Thank you for another chapter in the story of our depressing slide back toward the 50's when women were easily marginalized and dismissed.

Apr. 12 2008 02:23 PM
swiss from Washington DC

I'm totally in the minority here...nice enough story, but reject a guy because he says he's uncomfortable about fat people. A lot of people are. Fat is different than being handicapped, or an ethnic or religious difference. As Elna points out, she was obese and lost 80 pounds. That's a good thing. A great thing, in fact. But I think there's confusion about being loyal to who she was as an obese 230 pound girl...vs having compassion for herself at an earlier, dysfunctional part of her life when she was grossly overweight. The majority of people find fatness unpleasant. It may be comforting to think that all those people are stupid, wrong, superficial, and mean, and that the world should change their view of fatness. But doesn't it make more sense for fat people to try to lose weight and once healthy and trim realize they no longer have to protect that wounded part of themselves that got fat? and instead accept that now they are going to attract people who would not have been interested in them when they were fat? cuz that's the way it is. It's not like saying someone should get plastic surgery. It's simply more attractive when someone is *trying* not to be "beautiful," per se, but to become who they potentially can be...and that usually wouldn't include being obese, would it? Still, an intersting story in the mind of a formerly obese person ambivalent about being more in alignment with what's considered acceptable, appealing, and attractive.

Apr. 12 2008 01:51 PM
janice warner from Bronx, New York

I sent this segment to my daughter for the young girls she works with. I also sent it to the counselor of the Middle School where I teach.I know we'll both have our kids listen.
Thank you!

Apr. 12 2008 11:03 AM
tania from New York City

You made me cry, lauch and then cry again. Congratulations and thank you so so much. You're fantastic!

Apr. 12 2008 10:46 AM
Justin from Brooklyn, NY

Very much enjoyed the story.

Apr. 12 2008 10:44 AM
Joan from Connecticut

This is a wonderful story (my only complaint is that I want a better picture of "the sacred dress".)

Apr. 12 2008 09:28 AM
Blanche from Texas

I loved it!
Dating in New York is the worst.

Apr. 11 2008 05:25 PM
maria from nyc

i love this story, as i love all your stories. funny, heart-breaking, and best of all: real.

Apr. 11 2008 10:27 AM
Leslie from Missouri

I love that dress!! Thank God you stood up for yourself Elna.

Apr. 10 2008 10:03 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.