Fat Girl by Judith Moore is not a book about weight loss, eating disorders, body image, or feminism. It's more simple than that; a personal memoir of pain living inside a fat little girl. Fat is the vehicle she used for expressing her pain and loneliness.
The book begins with a short discussion of life for Moore as a fat adult, but quickly segues to family history of fat triggered by loss. Her father lost his mother at the age of six, and immediately became a fat little boy. Her mother was abandoned by her mother and grew up cold, unable to express love or affection for her daughter. They grew up, met, married, and had a child whom they endoweded with their psychological problems and coping mechanisms. Moore is unflinching in exploring her memories and lays out the whole of her childhood epic before the reader without mercy. Her description of her relationship with food reaches both the divinely inspired and the excrutiatingly painful.
The bookending chapters about Moore's adult life blur the laser-like focus of the chapters about her childhood. Is this a memoir about the pain of being fat? The stigma? The inconvenience and shame? Or is it a portrait of an unloved child? The almost obligatory childhood encounter with sexual abuse is an essential building block of the adult Moore's psyche, but what does it have to do with fat, really?
And so the book tries to be two things, perhaps weakening its impact. It rocked me back onto my heels, emotionally, but is it truly successful? I get the feeling that it was, in any case, completely successful as a lancing of the author's inner boils.
Dare I admit that after reading this, I ate a salad for lunch today, and went for a walk around the block afterword? I understand that I'm not fat, really, I'm not thin, but I'm not fat either. That doesn't keep me from wanting to lose about 15 pounds. I know how I think I should feel. I should love and admire my body for all the wonderful things it can do. I should be really proud of myself for being able to go on long hikes, for being able to jog for two hours, for being able to bike fifty miles in a session (and I am). I get it. But I still don't really like the way I look, or the shape of my body.
I want to have a positive self image, but that only happens when the stars align. I'm better about it now at thirty than I was at 20. I was convinced I was hideous and hated just about everything about how I looked until a couple years ago, when I cut my hair short and came to an agreement with my features. At the moment I'm pretty satisfied with the way I look from the waist up. It's the rest of me that nags quietly at the back of my mind when I look in the mirror. Jesus Christ, why am I bothered by the way my feet look? It's not as if I have toenail fungus or as if anyone has ever told me I have ugly feet or as if anyone ever even sees my feet.
But back to fat. I hate falling for the party line. I hate it when I try to lose weight, because I feel like I've failed at being a liberated woman, or a self-aware individual, or both. But I do it anyway, just like I reach for the second bowl of ice cream while telling myself I've had enough. The flesh is weak! And so is the mind!
PS - I just finished a bowl of polenta with tomato bacon sauce. And I think I'm going to have some ice cream with that.