There’s a scene from Mean Girls (one of my favorite movies of ALL TIMES) that’s pretty poignant (no, not “You go, Glenn Coco” or, my personal favorite “You smell like a baby prostitute”).
Damien is singing at the school’s holiday pageant (not very well), but clearly giving it his all, despite being booed and heckled. Hell, he even gets sassy in the middle of the song and fights back.
While it’s clearly a very funny scene (um, hello, isn’t ALL of Mean Girls basically perfect?), there’s a certain seriousness to it.
Some may not get it.
But I do.
A few months ago, my one of my perennial favorite ladies, Jennifer Weiner, wrote an essay in Allure Magazine called “The F Word”. The dreaded word so many women beat themselves up over (and over and over again)? Fat. After past-his-prime critic Rex Reed insulted actress Melissa McCarthy by calling her “tractor-sized” and a “female hippo” last week, (and his refusal to apologize), I wanted to share J-Wein’s gem of an essay.
Jen gets it. We’re chubby soul sisters.
To summarize (but really, just go and read it for yourself—it’s worth spending a few minutes), Weiner recalls a recent conversation with her nine-year-old daughter, Lucy. Lucy is complaining about a “frenemy” (come on ladies—we all had/have them) and in explaining why she doesn’t like this girl, she says, “She’s mean, she’s bad at math, she’s terrible at kickball. And…she’s fat.”
Weiner, who calls herself “a size 16 on a good day,” then is forced to have a talk with her “blithe, leggy, honey-blonde daughter,” about using the “f word.” Weiner explains, “I’d spent the nine years since her birth getting ready for this day, the day we’d have to have the conversation about this dreaded, stinging word. I had a well-honed, consoling speech at the ready. I knew exactly what to say to the girl on the receiving end of the taunts and the teasing, but in all of my imaginings, it never once occurred to me that my daughter would be the one who used the F word. Fat.”
Weiner then recounts her own struggles (and shame) with her weight. In reading it, I saw myself. In recalling incidents from her life, I cried. I cried for Jennifer. I cried for every girl who has ever been taunted, mocked or made to feel she’s ugly, unworthy or unlovable. And I cried for myself. But, in truth, I didn’t need to read Jennifer’s accounts of her life. I’ve lived it.
I’ve struggled with my weight for nearly as long as I can remember. And, like Jennifer, I’ve never been at a point in my life when I haven’t been keenly aware of my size. A particular passage of her essay stuck with me:
There are five girls named Jennifer making their way across the Promised Land with my group that summer. “Oh, not the fat Jennifer,” I hear one of my tour mates saying matter-of-factly to another as we hang out by our kibbutz swimming pool, holding his hands out a good foot away from his hips to indicate my girth, “the other one.” So that is me: not the Jennifer who loves to read, or who listens to the Smiths and is the most sought-after babysitter in town. Not the Jennifer on the honor roll, the one who can swim a mile without stopping: the fat one.
I am incandescent with shame, knowing that fat is, by far, the worst thing you can be. Fat is lazy, fat is gross, fat is sloppy…and, worst of all, fat is forever. Michelle has a full-on Frida Kahlo moustache. Kim has terrible skin. But Michelle could wax and Kim could go on Accutane; I am going to be fat—and, hence, undesirable, unlovable, a walking joke—for the rest of my life.
It’s like Jennifer got into my brain, pulling out all of the fears, insecurities, and feelings I had supressed for most of my life. And she nailed it. I’m not Stacey with a killer sense of humor, who loves to read, and listen the Black Keys and Grace Potter and is great at her job. No, those things aren’t important. I’m Stacey—the fat one. That’s the only identifier that matters. And, for a long long LONG time, I believed that.
Jen managed to put down what every girl struggling with her weight is afraid of: I am going to be fat—and, hence, undesirable, unlovable, a walking joke—for the rest of my life.