My body is a cage of my own making
July 2, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

 
Thank you for posting this. I just read the memoir (Hunger) and for those who are engaged by this excerpt, the book is impossible to put down. Searing, raw, incredibly honest -- she reveals her feelings of shame in a way I don't think I've ever quite experienced in a book that is also critical and analytical about social and structural factors.
Also she has a really compelling interview on Fresh Air from a few weeks ago.
posted by flourpot at 8:29 AM on July 2, 2017 [13 favorites]


I'm about halfway through Hunger, and it is devastating (and a must-read).

As for this (which is taken from Hunger): This commentary is often couched as concern. They forget that you are a person. You are your body, nothing more, and your body should damn well become less. See: real life AND every Metafilter weight-related discussion! Sigh.
posted by TwoStride at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2017 [43 favorites]


Fresh Air interview.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:42 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Gay read and then took questions as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival last month. It was wonderful and I think CHF got a lot of new memberships that night.
posted by crush at 9:15 AM on July 2, 2017


There is always a moment when I am losing weight when I feel better in my body. I breathe easier. I feel myself getting smaller and stronger. My clothes fall over my body the way they should and then they start to get baggy. I get terrified.

I don't get terrified so much as weary.

I've been fat and I've been lean. Lean wins, easily. But fuck if it isn't hard to reach and even harder to sustain.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 AM on July 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


The thing that sticks with me the most is how little of it is really about other people's reactions to her, and how virtually every one of those instances is vastly overshadowed by how much she is punishing herself for their reactions.
posted by Etrigan at 9:47 AM on July 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


Because dealing with people is exhausting. See: the "shitshow" with Mamamia...
posted by TwoStride at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


I love Roxane Gay and everything I read that she's written only increases my love. She is a treasure.
posted by 41swans at 10:01 AM on July 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


The thing that sticks with me the most is how little of it is really about other people's reactions to her, and how virtually every one of those instances is vastly overshadowed by how much she is punishing herself for their reactions.

No, wrong, this is 100% about other people's (read: society's) reactions to her. She didn't just invent self-loathing due to obesity one day, on her own, in a vacuum. If nobody was telling her how ugly fat is (and therefore how ugly she is), how stupid fat is (and therefore how stupid she is), how easy it is not to be fat (and therefore how lazy she is for being fat), how dare she take up space, how can she stand looking like that, how how how how how--none of her self-loathing would have existed. No one is born to hate their their body, should it turn out to be overweight. That is all on other people.
posted by tzikeh at 10:25 AM on July 2, 2017 [71 favorites]


tzikeh, I have to respectfully disagree. My reading of the essay is that a significant amount of Gay's frustration with her size is innate and is not about society's reactions -- both as described and in the way she conceptualizes them. She writes that she feels physically uncomfortable and struggles to keep up with her friends or walk a mile. Here are her words:

Feeling comfortable in my body isn’t entirely about beauty standards. It’s about how I feel in my skin and bones. I am not comfortable in my body. Nearly everything physical is difficult. I have no stamina. When I walk for long periods of time, my thighs and calves ache. My feet ache. My lower back aches.

I don't read this as a concretization of emotional pain into physical pain. I read this as the physical experience Roxane Gay describes and I take her at her word.

A tremendous amount of the emotional pain she writes about is the product of society and that's shitty and fucked up. But it's a false reading of her work to say that this is "100%" about society's reactions to her.
posted by telegraph at 10:59 AM on July 2, 2017 [31 favorites]


The description of her on that stage was heartbreaking and brought me to tears.

Thanks for posting.
posted by sockermom at 11:01 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


No, wrong, this is 100% about other people's (read: society's) reactions to her.

I apologize for not spelling it out more, but yes, that's what I was getting at as well. Of course she didn't "invent self-loathing", but even in her own narrative (or at least in this excerpt of it, which I realize is not necessarily the same thing), she talks mostly about how she accommodates other people and anticipates their reactions and works around them. And of course she shouldn't have to, but I still find it striking that she does -- that a gifted writer and thinker and talked and debater who has spent years writing about these issues and thinking about them and talking about them and debating about them... even this person still spends so much of her own story on everyone else's issues with her.

She's not doing anything wrong. She needs no defense or validation from me, some stranger on the Internet. But I still find it striking (not "blameworthy" or "her fault") how much of even her writing has to deal with that.
posted by Etrigan at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I went to the grocery and I needed some wheat bran. Hard to find. I looked in the 'Natural Foods' section and it's all chips, cookies, desserts, and gluten-free stuff that may be gluten-free but is mostly carbs & sugar & fat. The snack food, cookies/crackers, and sodapop aisles are huge. The freezer section is easily 50% ice cream & pizza. It's become difficult to find plain old frozen brussels sprouts - now they come in a steam-in-the-microwave bag and cost more (I roast them), and that's if they have them at all. There's a wall-o-yogurt with no fat but full of sugar. We've reached the tipping point where over half the grocery store is probably low-nutrition food high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt. Never found the wheat bran.

Every recent suburban shopping area is not a mall where you could maybe walk from store to store; it's an area with lots of individual stores or small clusters of stores and parking lots. There are no sidewalks. People I know who live in New York City are often fit because you have to walk a lot.

I'm seriously trying to avoid sugar. Recent research really makes clear that it contributes to inflammation, and I have an inflammatory illness. But there will be a commercial for sweets or sodapop every 15 minutes, or every other page of a magazine and seeing cake will very naturally suggest to my brain that cake would be a great thing to eat as soon as possible.

An awful lot of America is specifically designed in a way that inhibits your health. You'd almost think America is designed to make you work hard at a crappy ill-paid job, and buy consumer goods as often as possible. What a horrible person you must be for being physically fat.
posted by theora55 at 11:28 AM on July 2, 2017 [53 favorites]


No, wrong, this is 100% about other people's (read: society's) reactions to her. She didn't just invent self-loathing due to obesity one day, on her own, in a vacuum. If nobody was telling her how ugly fat is (and therefore how ugly she is), how stupid fat is (and therefore how stupid she is), how easy it is not to be fat (and therefore how lazy she is for being fat), how dare she take up space, how can she stand looking like that, how how how how how--none of her self-loathing would have existed. No one is born to hate their their body, should it turn out to be overweight. That is all on other people.

While I don't disagree about this as an issue in general, it does not describe the actual story. "A cage of my own making", a phrase in the very title of the article, doesn't refer to society's reactions to her, but her reaction to society.

I see this in my own mother, whose weight problems have been consequential largely as a result of her own self regulating. There are whole areas of life she cannot enjoy because she cannot allow herself the pleasure. Because doing so would expose the world to her ugly and burdensome obesity. At least in her mind. Objectively, her weight is pretty unremarkable. The burden she faces isn't how the world treats her. It's how she treats the world. It is, like Gay, a cage of her own making, which she cannot allow herself to escape. And she's been there so long, I think it's just too familiar and comforting to leave. It's baffling and frustrating to me and my siblings.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:06 PM on July 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


This is so good right here:

Years ago, I told myself that one day I would stop feeling this quiet but abiding rage about the things I have been through at the hands of others. I would wake up and there would be no more flashbacks. That day never came, or it hasn’t come, and I am no longer waiting for it.

A different day has come, though. I flinch less and less when I am touched. I harbour less hatred toward myself. I try to forgive myself for my trespasses.


"A different day has come," yes that's it exactly. That's what it's like to let go of wanting to change the past.
posted by emjaybee at 12:21 PM on July 2, 2017 [13 favorites]


the thought processes she describes in the early stages of reconstructing her body for a purpose are highly familiar to anybody who has ever read an anorexia memoir. It isn't the same, the physical and social consequences aren't the same, and none of those are the same as each other, either. but familiar. The thinking is familiar and the reasons are familiar.

but to read this excerpt and the extremely, extremely precise origin story, and then to take that as a jumping-off point to start down whatever familiar well-trodden road about nutrition and how hard it is to eat well or how striking it is that even successful women have to write about their bodies --

--

a non-depressing thought: every woman who writes about her body or her trauma history gets some misguided sympathy for "having" to address that stuff. but you cannot be made to put that down in a book the way you can be made to endure humiliation in life. writing about it is all and only hers. her abusers are not entitled to share the credit for that decision. Roxane Gay controls her work and her work is good.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:38 PM on July 2, 2017 [22 favorites]


I've read the book.

Roxanne Gay was gang-raped when she was twelve. In addition to her decision to put on enough weight to be unattractive and safer*, I'd say it made it harder for her to fight off internalizing prejudice against fat people.

And the fact that she's frequently in places where there are no chairs large enough for her isn't something in her head.

*She actually attracted quite a lot of people of varying quality, some of them pretty good. If I remember the book correctly, she wasn't assaulted again.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Hunger was devastating. It was difficult, it was so painful, and she was so honest. She has become a role model for me. I had already been thoroughly enjoying Roxane Gay's writing career, tearing through Bad Feminist (a collection of non-fiction essays) and then being delighted by her short stories in Difficult Women. Oh, so much talent in one person! And now she's blown up the memoir category, really pushing herself to write difficult truths.

I was lucky to see her last month, (and highy encourage anyone to see her in person, her Q&As are always so good) and have been listening to any radio interviews that I can get my hands on. She is so obviously smart, and an excellent role model for how to engage or not engage with people of different opinions.

She is an intersectional feminist who makes me so damn proud, and I want so much to follow her example as a thoughtful, compassionate person in a difficult world.
posted by honey badger at 1:36 PM on July 2, 2017 [14 favorites]


This American Life just had an episode with Roxane Gay (and Lindy West). As someone who's never had to struggle with my weight, I learned a lot and it increased my sense of empathy.
posted by AFABulous at 2:54 PM on July 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


She is an excellent writer and the article is very, very good. Thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2017


Great article! I've been dealing with an intense bout of depression recently and have found so much solace in reading others honest accounts of their struggles.

However, I can't quite figure out what Roxane means when mentions the paramedics arriving to help with her broken ankle:

"Many paramedics showed up and 83% of them were hot."

Is she seriously commenting on the physical attractiveness of the medical workers in the middle of an emergency situation? Or did I miss something.
posted by BlackBox at 3:26 PM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Is she seriously commenting on the physical attractiveness of the medical workers in the middle of an emergency situation? Or did I miss something.

I would guess that this reflects the phenomenon she's already described of intense self-consciousness of her body compared to others. Here you are, this "giant fat person" (external social description), being tended to by hot fit paramedic people. It's an extra layer of awkwardness. Perhaps you've felt this if you've ever been in a space primarily occupied by people wealthier/higher-ranked socially than you and needed some kind of urgent help. Or ever been in England as a non-English person and needed some kind of urgent help, which is the personal example that pops into my mind.
posted by praemunire at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2017 [26 favorites]


I loved this piece, though it made me angry and sad that she's had to struggle in this way. Thank you for posting it.

Also-- what was that cluster&*#$ with Mamamia? WTF? How could they think for even 10 seconds that it would be a good idea to expose her in that way?
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:10 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Is she seriously commenting on the physical attractiveness of the medical workers in the middle of an emergency situation? Or did I miss something.

My read of it is that our societal pre-occupation with judging others based solely on their physical appearance and making uniformity of physical appearance to a narrow set of characteristics (slim to thin, pale skin, thick and styled hair, narrow nose, larger eyes, long fingers) within pretty much all media has led to an internalization of that per-occupation which is more important than survival.

I apologized for being fat to the first responders who helped me when I ripped every muscle holding my spine to my pelvis and ended up unable to walk without a walker for about a month and a half. Despite the fact that my injury was an injury, every subsequent doctor I saw until my most recent chiropractor blamed my weight and told me (while I was leaning on a walker in a few cases!) I should exercise more. Family and friends said he had a good point and I shouldn't be angry with him because he was just "telling the truth".


Also-- what was that cluster&*#$ with Mamamia? WTF? How could they think for even 10 seconds that it would be a good idea to expose her in that way?

Fat people aren't people who deserve privacy so long as their bodies so visibly offend health and fiscal responsibility. If we (the media) continue to focus on how horrible and punishing it is to be fat, then fewer people might be fat (ironically, anxiety and stress increase cortisone which may contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight).
posted by Deoridhe at 4:19 PM on July 2, 2017 [14 favorites]


I haven't read the full book yet - I have it on hold but think I will just buy my own copy anyway, based on this excerpt. Because reading this made me feel like I was not entirely alone, though ironically by the end of it (with her anecdote about being surrounded by all the people who love her) I felt even more alone again. I too am usually the fattest person in the room (on the plane, in the meeting, at the doctor's, on the train, etc etc) and though she's got a couple of inches on me, I also will never, ever be a small person. Ever. I joke that I am a midget giant - too small to be a proper giant, too big to be a human. But that joke conceals so much pain.

It's odd, even while part of me rejoices to have found someone like me, who understands the unrelenting shame and self-loathing that comes with being fat, I also envy her. Not just because of the aforementioned loving family which I definitely do not have, though that is part of it, but oddly also because she has a reason for her fatness. It is not that I envy her having been raped, but that she has a reason for her fatness that she can point to and that it is a significant reason, it is a reason that (ha) carries some weight to it, that is a little bit of a defence. What can I say? My parents weren't sufficiently affectionate? It doesn't seem reason enough. So I blame myself more and berate myself more and can never forgive myself.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:42 PM on July 2, 2017 [20 favorites]


I'm fat. I'm otherwise small: I look up to talk to everybody but kids. And now I'm old. I also had bad things happen to me when I was young. In my 30's I recognized that although I tried to do things to lose weight, in my heart I wanted to be heavy in order to be safe. I thought of it as "nobody can pick me up and move me and do things to me if I'm dense enough, heavy enough."

Seats that don't fit. Clothes that don't fit. So very, very many suggestions about ways I could be different/better. Gay's descriptions broke my heart. I can only hope for her what happened to me. I got older, and one day I looked up and I wasn't so aware of being fat. Seriously, instead I was noticing how very many other people in the room were so stupid. I was never the stupidest person in the room. And oddly enough, that led me to compassion -- on my good days -- and feeling comfortable being fat. I still can't find clothes, or fit in chairs, but fuck it, I don't actually care that much. I tell people I'm with to slow down. I say I can't clamber up, bring me something to step on. I use the handicapped stall all the time.

I look at those people who can't see me, who can see only "fat." What tiny worlds they live in, never able to see value, only surfaces. Standing knee deep in the river and dying of thirst.
posted by kestralwing at 5:37 PM on July 2, 2017 [32 favorites]


The thing that kills me about stories like hers are that the actions of boys brought her to wrap this wall around herself, and forever after boys and later men will judge her for those very walls that they supplied the bricks and mortar for.

We break people in so many ways. How desperately and angrily we seek to put away from ourselves the things that remind us the most of our own shame.
posted by vignettist at 6:57 PM on July 2, 2017 [16 favorites]


Given that Roxane Gay is bi, I don't think there is an especial sadness to the fact that (some) men/boys will judge her for being fat. It's not like it dooms her to being alone and partnerless. Quite apart from the fact that other women are often the harshest critics of fat women, policing the boundaries of what is an acceptable form of womanhood.

The thing that kills me about stories like hers (like mine) is that apparently you are only worthy of basic respect and dignity as long as you don't weigh "too much", and that people are such judgemental arseholes.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:14 PM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


This piece (and Hunger itself) is an excellent companion to her interview on the TAL episode linked above. I think the episode is worth listening to whether you read the book or not, just because of the three different perspectives it poses on being fat and it shapes your and society's thoughts about yourself.

Gay is not a popular figure in the HAES movement. She is emphatically not comfortable with her weight or size and identifies its roots as a direct result of sexual assault. And there are HAES activists who have serious problems with that especially since she's such a prominent feminist writer. It's a weird dynamic, when you get to that place where you want everyone to accept their own bodies and feel their own way about it, but for one group the very acceptance is so counterculture that someone's lack of acceptance can feel like an attack. Like, there's this gray space when you're trying to fight for bodily autonomy with respect to how others police your body's appearance. On one side, there's asserting the right of everyone to feel good and beautiful even if their body is outside social norms. But the flip side of telling people to not police other people's bodies is allowing for the fact that somebody may not be OK with their own body and you can't just force them to think a different way. I don't know if the community has figured that space out yet.

Given that Roxane Gay is bi, I don't think there is an especial sadness to the fact that (some) men/boys will judge her for being fat. It's not like it dooms her to being alone and partnerless. Quite apart from the fact that other women are often the harshest critics of fat women, policing the boundaries of what is an acceptable form of womanhood.

I think you're missing the point here. We live in a patriarchial society, and what is and isn't considered beautiful has historically been determined by men. The willingness of women to serve the cause of the body police is separate from this fact. I think most women will tell you that if they're confronted directly about the appearance of their own bodies or a perfect stranger acts like their bodies are offensive, it's more likely for a man to do the harassing than a woman.

Also, the idea that the terrible part of the rape and her reaction to it and the subsequent judgement of society is that she might end up partnerless is really weird.
posted by schroedinger at 7:41 PM on July 2, 2017 [17 favorites]


Also, the idea that the terrible part of the rape and her reaction to it and the subsequent judgement of society is that she might end up partnerless is really weird.

Yeah, I thought so too. Hence my comment.

As a fat person with no small amount of experience of being harassed, shamed and made to feel like less-than-a-person because of my size, I can tell you that women absolutely harass and shame me. I don't think I have actually attempted to quantify them all (how many insults exactly came from men and how many from women? how much did they hurt? if there were more from men but they hurt less than those from women does that matter?) but I don't have an impression that I receive more censure from men than from women. And I absolutely understand that we live in a patriarchal society. But I don't understand why that makes the negative judgement of boys and men to be so much more tragic.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:32 PM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think most women will tell you that if they're confronted directly about the appearance of their own bodies or a perfect stranger acts like their bodies are offensive, it's more likely for a man to do the harassing than a woman.

I'm not sure that's true; I just think women tend to police those we know, while men are more likely to make broad statements publicly. By far the individual who has given me the most negative feedback about my weight is my mother, usually in a "I'm concerned about your health" manner. For the last five years or so she's been terrified I have diabetes and am going to lose my feet despite the fact I've told her more than once I don't have diabetes (and her relief is always very exaggerated - as if it was so unexpected and relieving) and despite the fact I've told her that this sort of concern trolling actively makes it harder for me to take care of my body.

I'm fat. I don't have diabetes. I don't have heart disease. I don't have high cholesterol. I don't have high blood pressure. All of the issues I've had at the doctors' have been deficiencies (specifically being anemic and a severe vitamin D deficiency). Guarantee most people would think I had all of those illnesses and was a drain on society based on looking at me, but shockingly - and despite how poorly I treat it - my body is still chugging along doing it's thing.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:47 PM on July 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


Gay is not a popular figure in the HAES movement.

Understandable, given that she considers her size to be inherently unhealthy.

But maybe being heavy enough to break her own ankle just by standing on it means she has a point.

As a lifelong member of the target-of-fat-shaming-bullies club, I'm clearly not going to be one who argues that fat shaming is acceptable either from external bullies or internal; and the HAES idea that one should look after one's health by responding to how it actually is, as opposed to how it might possibly me given one's most obvious risk factor, is completely sound and well worth supporting.

But when somebody comes along whose bodymass is literally more than their skeleton can bear, responding to them with "accept yourself as you are or you're letting down the team" is completely fucking unhelpful. I've been there. I know that.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 PM on July 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


We live in a patriarchial society, and what is and isn't considered beautiful has historically been determined by men. The willingness of women to serve the cause of the body police is separate from this fact. I think most women will tell you that if they're confronted directly about the appearance of their own bodies or a perfect stranger acts like their bodies are offensive, it's more likely for a man to do the harassing than a woman.

As a fat man who has experienced a more than adequate lifelong sampling of shaming and bullying, I would argue that the concept of patriarchy is more useful for understanding the stereotypically gendered modes in which negative body judgements are expressed than with ascribing a clearly gendered source to the judgements themselves.

There seems to be pretty good agreement across the gender spectrum about the beauty order to rank faces and bodies in; it doesn't seem to depend much on the genders of either rankers or rankees. I'm not at all convinced that sheeting home the blame for the idea that fat=ugly to the patriarchy actually helps understand it much. I'm far more inclined to blame the marketing industry.

However, it's certainly been my experience that if I'm going to be called a fat fuck to my face, that does indeed come more often from men than from women. It's also been my experience that negative body judgements from women are more often expressed in less direct ways.

As a father to a daughter who has already had to deal with a certain amount of bullying at school for which the excuse has been race rather than size, I've had cause to notice that her experience of girl vs boy bullying has been remarkably similar to my own: the boys are all in-your-face aggression and dominance displays, while the girls employ subtler but actually more lastingly hurtful social manipulation.

If we're going to view bullying and shaming through the prism of patriarchy, that seems to me to be a much more promising split to focus on.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


If fat acceptance is to have any meaning at all, it's got to be that we are not going to coerce people to feel one particular kind of way about their body, to suggest that they have some kind of moral or social responsibility to have one attitude or another. I haven't read Hunger yet, but I've never seen Gay suggest that other overweight women are so because of awful childhood trauma, or that other overweight people need to lose weight just because she wants to.
posted by praemunire at 10:28 PM on July 2, 2017 [16 favorites]


But maybe being heavy enough to break her own ankle just by standing on it means she has a point.

I'm not sure that's what Gay describes as happening. She says she was experiencing severe stomach pain (but she does not says what caused that) which caused her to pass out. I imagine she broke the ankle in the fall, not that it literally snapped underneath her.
posted by glitter at 1:08 AM on July 3, 2017 [15 favorites]


The point (unlike the author, and unlike me after fucking both my Achilles tendons, bang bang, one right after the other, by trying to go from dead stop to full run) stands.
posted by flabdablet at 1:28 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am doing a lot of work right now on the bags and bags of shame I have been carrying around due to sexual abuse and other abuses I dealt with during my childhood. I'll fully admit that it's not for the weak or the faint of heart. Roxane is clearly neither of these.

I love Roxane Gay. LOVE HER. I am terrified to read Hunger so I haven't started it, but I'm quite sure that I need to.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:45 PM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]




I just listened to the Fresh Air interview and Terry Gross asked her why she wouldn't consider bariatric surgery. Her reasons were: extreme risk of going under the knife (true, but not nearly the danger it was even 15 years ago), re-arranging and/or removing part of the intestinal track (OK?) being nutrient-deprived 'for the rest of your life' (not true) and a low success rate (especially when compared to all other weight loss tools, very much not true).

Having elective surgery is a very personal choice, but for me it didn't *feel* like a choice. And if you are as unhappy as I was and as unhappy as I perceive Roxanne to be, it is likely the only choice. Lately I have been hearing that you're not supposed to say "I'm fat" but rather "I have fat." Because people with cancer have it, but they *aren't* cancer, or something. Well, before I had the surgery, I didn't have fat, I WAS FAT. It defined me more than any other part of myself. It ruled my life. And even with all the wonderful things going on for Roxanne Gay, it rules her life too.

She said that she went to an introductory sesssion for the surgery 20 years ago and then rejected the idea. I wish she would go to another session and reconsider. To use the cancer example again, some of the treatments for cancer are dangerous and have side effects and yes, low success rates. But you would still consider doing them if you knew there was a good chance of removing the cancer.
posted by BeBoth at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2017


You don't get to make choices about what other people do with their bodies, BeBoth. I'm glad that you figured out what was right for you, but everyone is different, and she has to figure out what is right for her. And she's clearly a smart, thoughtful person, so you should trust that she knows what she's doing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


I empathise so much with Gay here. I was raped, a long time ago. I steadily kept eating until I was invisible and stayed there, until pregnancy made me sick enough to lose weight and then breastfeeding made me svelte. I did therapy for a while too, and I stayed svelte. Until I was sexually harassed in a space I thought I was safe in.

Then I buzzed my hair and I gained weight at a clip. Every time I looked in the mirror and saw svelte curves instead of a protective layer I ate. Every time I was complimented for the loss, I ate. I ate until the comments stopped, until the attention stopped.

But this time around I am weakened by pregnancy (still). My joints are aching, my feet are a mess, my spine is a nightmare, and my pelvis is unstable. So I have a choice - this physical discomfort or a psychological and emotional one. The physical is easier to deal with to be honest, than flinching at attention, at compliments, at the look of my own self in the mirror.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


Gay's work really resonates with me. Her experience is familiar to me, and strange at the same time. I went through some early trauma, and then damaged my health pretty badly in high school and college and a lot of it was because I felt that all ownership of my body had been taken away from me. It was like I spitefully said to myself, "Let's just trash this place; it's not ours anymore, anyway."

Gay, on the other hand, writes of getting larger to get less vulnerable. But she also expresses regret for not trusting people enough to ask for help and faith that help would have been forthcoming. She's extremely generous towards family and friends and ex-lovers. There's one point in the book where I said out loud, "Oh no; are you kidding?" because she was being so... not nice, but open to understanding someone in a way that seems completely foreign to me.

I've read a lot of eating disorder memoirs, and a lot of addiction memoirs and this one blew me away. Again, very familiar, and very strange.
posted by BibiRose at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


To read about how shitty people are in response to her appearance ... and then to see a photo of her looking, to my mind, rather average in size. I wish I could give her a hug but I guess I'll just have to buy her books.
posted by bunderful at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


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