Thursday, August 15, 2013

On being bigger

The responses from folks who've read Bigger have been really positive. Of course, they sort of have to be since I "know" pretty much everyone who's read it, even if I only know them via the blogworld. You've all always been very supportive, and I'm so glad I decided to start this little blog seven years ago.

What I really hoped with regard to the book was that women would relate to my main character, Nicky. She's a plus-sized beauty who wasn't always plus-sized, so she's experienced the world in a variety of dress sizes. And the world is a weird, sometimes cruel place for women of all sizes, for a variety of reasons.

Several people have told me they were even uncomfortable reading about Nicky's experience as an overweight woman, and that's pretty much what I was going for. Even thin women experience raging insecurity, and I think everyone can relate to feeling as though people are staring at their flaws. The difference is people really are staring at obese people and judging them. Harshly. Doesn't matter how brilliant or kind or wonderful they are as human beings. 

Nicky is pretty much me. I've never been as big as Nicky got, but I needed her to be a little extra chunky for plot purposes. Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows I'm a little obsessed with my weight, new diets, new exercise programs, all of it. My weight fluctuates like a mofo, so for the book, I drew from personal experience.

And my personal experience is that there are certain weights that, for me, make me practically invisible to strangers. I've been weights that made strangers behave rudely toward me. I've been weights that made strangers behave deferentially toward me. And none of it makes any fucking sense, because I've always been the same exact person. I'm kind and polite and quiet. I return shopping carts to the shopping cart stand. I let people merge in front of me. I always tip 20%. I'd understand being treated like a leper if I, say, stopped bathing, or wore clothes that had poo stains on them or something. But, there's something about an extra layer of pudge that some people find repulsive.

All of my past experiences with weight fluctuation have made being pregnant an interesting time in my life. At first, when my stomach started growing, it felt wrong. I felt guilty for looking semi-pregnant, as though I'd been binging on brownies rather than growing a human. Before I looked really pregnant, and before I could feel the baby kicking, I just felt mostly like I needed to hide myself. Which is sort of terrible, right? But I knew people could see something happening, and I imagined them thinking I just had a really bad muffin top. (For the record, I am firmly against muffin tops on women of all sizes.)

Now, at six and a half months, I am undeniably pregnant and strangers behave in a whole new way. They seem more patient with me, more kind, more understanding. There's always been something about pregnant women, right? You just don't treat them like another asshole on the street who's trying to cut in line. You might even encourage them to cut in line.

And I feel really unapologetic about how I look right now. Maybe all pregnant women get this self-righteous feeling? I am growing someone inside me. It's not easy. But it's amazing, therefore I am sort of amazing, and so is any woman who's done this. I want to bump fists with other pregnant women I see in public (but I just smile at them instead). 

This unapologetic feeling is going to change after I have the baby, of course, and that should be a whole other sociological experiment. Are people more forgiving of a little extra weight on moms? If the media is any kind of indicator, the answer is no. How will Kate lose the baby weight? news programs were screaming the day Kate Middleton stood outside the hospital holding her son, who'd been born only 24 hours earlier. Who the fuck cares? I want to scream back. Look at what she just did! She grew a person and then pushed him out of her body!

(Let's not even discuss stretch marks, which famous people don't seem to get, for some reason.)

So you might guess what future books in the Nicky Beets series will include, if I'm continuing to base Nicky on myself. And -- spoiler alert -- I am. Weight issues fascinate me. Always have, and I'm afraid they always will. 


  1. Looking forward to more adventures with Nicky... and hopefully sharing new experiences with you!

  2. Oh, man, I wish you would write a whole blog on the way people treat you at different weights. I've been about the same weight for forever, so I have nothing to offer, but I can tell you that I notice a huge difference in how people treat me based on how I dress. When I wear my normal uniform of nice-but-still-trying-to-show-how-fun-I-am shirt and jeans, I feel basically invisible. But the moment I put on a dress, suddenly everyone notices that I have a vagina, and every man everywhere talks to me. They ask me for directions on the street. They ask me what I'm having for lunch in the elevator. I'm half-convinced that my short hair really does have everyone thinking I'm a man 90% of the time. Still haven't managed to crack your book. Convinced it's brilliant nonetheless.

    1. I so rarely wear dresses that I couldn't even tell you if people treat me differently based on how I'm dressed. My normal uniform is jeans and a top. But I find your observation VERY interesting. I don't think people think you're a man when you're in your normal garb, but I do think women with short hair might be intimidating to men. It's a brave and somewhat unusual choice to wear it short, and I don't think they even know how to react.

  3. I was listening to a podcast the other night and this woman was talking about Catfish. Some guy was SO UPSET that a woman had lied and said she wasn't fat. He had lied, too, of course, but she was FAT and had lied about it. And the podcaster (Julie Klausner - I'm a wicked fangirl) was talking about how if you're a woman, the only thing you can do that's worse than be fat is basically genocide, and even that is iffy. Might be forgivable if you're not-fat.

    I also haven't ever been thin enough to be treated much differently, but even 20 pounds makes a difference. It's stunning.

    One thing I love about the book is that it recognizes and plays with how completely all-encompassing weight issues are. I think if most men (or women without weight issues) realized how often people who are overweight think about their weight, they'd be horrified.

    1. The double standard for women vs men makes me completely insane. And yes! Women who are fat are basically The Worst, right? Because if you're fat, it's assumed you're also unclean, stupid, and probably a dick. So weird.

      20 lbs makes a huge difference for me. Even 10 pounds makes a difference.

      And you're so right -- people who've never truly struggled with weight issues have no idea how it can take over your life, dictating what you choose to do and how you choose to do it every day.