The essays in this relatively short (but not too short) book cover a range of topics, from living with a female body, period shame, abortion, a multitude of essays covering her experiences across all parts of her life as a fat person, dealing with online trolls, sexism, rape jokes in comedy, the death of a parent, and learning how to be in an adult relationship. But she approaches all of these topics from a standpoint of personal experience, not from some theoretical pulpit on high. She is funny and relatable, even compassionate, when she’s not being skewering (sometimes she is both at the same time).
There were only a couple of essays in the book that didn’t work completely for me, and one was simply because it nearly gave me an anxiety attack, and had nothing to do with her writing ability. While I was listening, I wanted to quote the whole thing. Every once in a while I would just stop the audiobook and go, YES. And then hit play again immediately. (I need a hard copy so I can have the words physically in front of my face.) I would definitely listen to it again, probably even soon.
There were a couple of standout essays in here, and I’d heard versions of a couple of them before on episodes of This American Life, specifically “Hello, I am Fat” and the one where she talks to one of her meanest trolls. But her essay on rape jokes in comedy was probably my favorite because it packed the biggest punch. But really, the whole book is worthwhile.
Here are some quotes (mostly) out of context that I bookmarked on Audible.
Talking about getting her period for the first time:
“If Google had existed when I was eleven, my search history would have looked something like this:
How much comes out?
How many cups come out?
How to stop period
Cancel your period
People with no period
Spells to delay period
Magic to stop period
New Roald Dahl books
Free Roald Dahl books for kids
“The most significant source of my adolescent period anxiety was the fact that in America in 2016, and far more so in 1993, acknowledging the completely normal and mundane function of most uteruses is still taboo.”
Talking about how useless and harmful it is to shame fat people into being skinny:
“If anti-fat crusaders really want what they claim to want–for fat people to be healthy–they should be on the front lines of size acceptance and fat empowerment. There’s hard science to back this up. Shame contributes measurably to weight gain, not weight loss. Loving yourself is not antithetical to health; it is intrinsic to health. You can’t take good care of a thing you hate.”
On the time a troll registered an account under the name “LindyWestLicksMyAsshole”, and her workplace refused to take it down because it didn’t violate their terms of service by being “gendered”:
“It is gendered, though. Of course it’s gendered. It’s sexualizing me for the purpose of making me uncomfortable, of reminding my audience and colleagues and detractors that I’m a sex thing first and a human being second. That my ideas are secondary to my body. Sure, if you strip away cultural context entirely, you could construe ‘LindyWestLicksMyAsshole’ as having nothing to do with gender, but that’s willful dishonesty.”
On flying as a fat person, and what she knows people think of her:
“This is the subtext of my life: You’re bigger than I’d like you to be. I dread being near you. Your body itself is a breach of etiquette. You are clearly a fucking fool who thinks that cheesecake is a vegetable. I know that you will fart on me. Nobody wants to sit next to a fat person on a plane. Don’t think we don’t know.”
When an acquaintance brought his troll-like behavior into the real world, concerning a disagreement over rape jokes in comedy. This one works much better in full context, but I’m including it anyway, mostly as a note to myself:
“Dave brought a knife and a gun to a comedy show. Because of a disagreement about whether or not comedy clubs are safe for women. Because the way people talk on stage has no bearing on how they behave in real life.”
On her troll, and trolls in general:
“If what he said is true, that he just needed to find some meaning in his life, then what a heartbreaking diagnosis for all of the people who are still at it. I can’t give purpose and fulfillment to millions of anonymous strangers, but I can remember not to lose sight of their humanity the way that they lost sight of mine. Humans can be reached.”
And just because I thought it was funny:
“Whale is the weakest insult ever, by the way. ‘Oh, I have a giant brain and rule the sea with my majesty? What have you accomplished lately, Steve?'”