Wednesday, September 15, 2004 posted by Jen at 9/15/2004 09:35:00 AM
Happy day after publication, everyone!
And I'm sorry about getting my crabby on the other day. My nobody-respects-my-genre rant notwithstanding, the truth is, I ain’t got much to complain about. Life is good.
Life is actually terrific.
Yesterday, I had to break with my pub-day routine of stalking readers in Philadelphia bookstores to see if they’re picking up my stuff to head to New York and tape an episode of The Jane Pauley Show.
The topic? Women who’ve lost a lot of weight and still aren’t happy.
At the beginning of the process, I wasn’t sure I was going to be happy.
“So,” the producer doing the pre-interview by telephone over the weekend said, after we’d painstakingly covered the publication history and plots of my first two books, “how much would you say you weighed at your heaviest?”
Oy vey. “Not going there!” I told her, as cheerfully as I could.
“So were you overweight your whole life?”
“No, not really….”
“And you struggled with it.”
“You were unhappy.”
I told her it was more complicated than that – that yes, I’d spent most of my twenties losing and regaining the same number of pounds, that I’d despaired of my figure and had an ongoing fantasy of waking up in Angelina Jolie’s body (minus the tattoos), but that I’d also been having a pretty kicking life that featured both professional accomplishments and boyfriends, and that all of the success I’d achieved had occurred without major weight loss.
I hung up the phone feeling a little concerned about the direction the show was taking. That feeling only got worse when I arrived at the studio to get my hair and makeup done.
“I lost eighty-five pounds,” said the svelte brunette the next chair over, in a tone of evangelical fervor. “I took control of my life!”
Yikes, I thought, as my heart sank into my unreduced and stretch-marked stomach. Does that mean I’m going to come on as the woman whose life is out of control?
I started lurking in the corridors to hear more about the other guests, and finally cornered a producer to learn that I’d be coming on after I Lost Eighty-Five Pounds; a pair of sisters who’d lost lots of weight in different ways and were dealing with issues of competitiveness; a stand-up comic who lost a hundred and seventy pounds and all of her bookings; a stylist who’d give two of the women mini-makeovers, and Khalia Ali, the boxer’s daughter, an absolutely stunning full-figured woman who’d designed a line of plus-size clothing.
"Great!" I said.
“And,” the producer continued, “she just had the lap-band procedure!”
Double oy vey.
I sat in the green room with my heart in my throat, listening to Miss Eighty-Five describe the misery of her fat years. “I lost my twenties…I lost my thirties,” she said, as shots of a frowning, pale woman with multiple chins and an unfortunate hairstyle flashed behind her.
Understand, I know that there are plenty of overweight women who do feel that way – like they were invisible and miserable until they got thin, and that's when their lives really started.
Obviously, it’s not how I feel about my own life.
I worry that, especially given the proliferation of formerly fat celebrities floating in their big-girl jeans on the cover of People after their weight-loss surgery, it’s the only story being told in the media about the lives of larger women: fat = undiluted misery; skinny = long-deferred happiness; with no room for gray, or for anything in between.
And I worry that, through the sheer force of repetition, not to mention the before-and-after features on every weight-loss advertisement and fitness magazine, that that story becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy...simply because it's the only story girls and young women ever get to see.
“I lost eighty-five pounds through diet and exercise!” the woman continued. The audience whooped and cheered to shots of her waving weights in the air as she jogged on a treadmill. I cringed. Oh, God. They’re not going to cheer for me.
What if they boo?
More this afternoon, complete with my now-obligatory happy ending.
Right now the nanny's here, the baby's sleeping, and I'm treating myself to what I just bet will be the only movie I get to see for the next few months.
Fair enough, since I’ve read everything by Terry McMillan and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (DISAPPEARING ACTS is one of my favorites), and struggled through only a single Cathleen Schine book before deciding she wasn’t for me.
My one complaint: how could a reviewer named Debra Sussman Susser have failed to comment on a character named Becky Rothstein Rabinowitz? It’s only like my favorite joke in the whole book!