Good Luck With That: Chapter 1

[Good Luck With That Content Note: Fat Stigma, Eating Disorders. Please take this content note seriously.]

Good Luck With That: I picked up an advance review copy of this book after some twitter hubbub about the cover copy being fatphobic. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter. I do not recommend reading any of this if you are fat or have lived with disordered eating.

Good Luck With That, Chapter 1

(Tweet Link) Okay, I'm going to do another #GoodLuckWithThat reading sprint. Mute in your Twitter settings if you need to; there's fat stigma in this thread.

Chapter 1 opens with Emerson starting a new journal "four years ago". Hang on, I have to math. The prologue was 16 years ago, and the girls were 18. That would make them 34 in the "now" timeframe, and so this is a 30-year-old Emerson starting a new journal. I'm glad we did that math, because that 30 year old age makes everything that's about to follow all the more painful.

I love starting a new journal. It feels so clean! Like, who knows what I can fill these pages up with? Maybe you'll be the diary where I write about my first love, my trip to Rome, my engagement ring, my babies! Okay, that's probably getting ahead of myself, but you never know. I was watching Ellen the other day and this woman was talking about how fast her life changed when she lost weight. So maybe mine will, too.

That was painful when I thought she was 18; it's a knife in my chest now that I know she's 30. She's never been in love? Now, do please note, it is NOT tragic to never be in love. Aromanticism is fine and valid and great! But of course here Emerson WANTS to be in love but never has been, and we're to take from this that her weight is the cause (or, at least, SHE thinks it is).

A note on the "she thinks it is": I am not going to be pleased if the moral is that guys dig fat chicks just fine (they do) but fat chicks don't THINK anyone will want them, so therefore Emerson tragically self-rejected herself and then died. Do not want.

The next part is... disturbing.

Emerson writes her name several times and talks about how she likes her name, Emerson Lydia Duval. She mentions Lydia was a relative, a ballet dancer, and that she tries not to think what Lydia would've thought about Emerson's body.

Emerson Lydia Duval. Someone with that name is definitely elegant and beautiful, hip without being trendy. She clearly went to Smith College [...] She's tall, beautiful, slim. (God, I love that word!) But she can eat anything she wants, of course.

This just GOES ON AND ON and what even is this??? I know whenever *I* buy a new journal, the first page is all about how fat I am!!! This is why it was REALLY disingenuous for the publisher to just change the blurb and say it's not a fat book.

Sometimes, though, she's so busy she forgets to eat, because unless it's a really special meal, food is an afterthought, not 98 percent of what she thinks about.

Is this supposed to be someone with a food addiction, with disordered eating, &/or someone fat? A person can be all three! But it feels like maybe this book thinks they are all three the same thing. They are not.

This goes on for a LONG time, describing "Other Emerson" and her perfect life. It's... I actually want to cry at how awful this is, but it also just doesn't feel right, it's like a song sung off-key. I mentioned before that the Fantasy of Being Thin is a real thing, but in my experience it surfaced in little, insidious ways. "When I'm thin, I'll buy better jeans." Not "when I'm thin, I will speak Mandarin flawlessly". (No really! Other Emerson does.)

The Fantasy of Being Thin, for me, was damaging because it meant putting off NEEDED things. I NEEDED better jeans, but I was waiting until I was thin. "Speak flawless Mandarin as a hobby" is not going to insidiously harm Emerson if she puts it off forever. Thin people have shit like that! Fantasies of the more put-together person they want to be. Like, "this year I'm going to actually learn to play the guitar I bought ten years ago!"

This is important, not nit-pickery! Because someday fantasies like Disneyworld are NOT the same thing as fat people putting their entire lives on hold because we've been told we have to lose weight FIRST. Want to have a baby? Your doctor will tell you to lose weight first. Want to marry your fiance? Your mother will tell you to lose weight first (for the pictures!). Want to change jobs? Your friend will advise you to lose weight first. "I'd like to marry Robert, but I guess we should wait another year so I can slim down for the pictures" is a very subtly different thing than "I'd like to learn French, but I'm too messy right now."

Anyway, after TWO FULL PAGES of this diary reveal, we reach this.

I'm not saying I'll ever become that Emerson. I mean, I know I won't. I just like thinking about her. She keeps me company.

Oh, man, NO. I don't like thin-Ana at all. The Ana my mom holds in her head? The Ana my boyfriends wanted? The Ana society is constantly pushing at me? We're not friends. Maybe we could be if people didn't keep valuing HER over me. But here we are.

And, you know, AGAIN, my fat experience isn't the only fat experience out there. But this isn't labeled as #ownvoices, and I am going to honestly say that this feels all wrong for a 30-year-old woman who has been DEATH FATZ all her life.

Maybe, MAYBE, I still romanticized thin-Ana at 18, though even then I was weary of her. By 30, I was ready to snap that bitch in half; that was how much I hated the thin version of me that society kept insisting I needed to be. By 30, I understood that thin-Ana wouldn't be perfect. She wouldn't speak flawless Mandarin and date Idris Elba's younger lookalike. (Really! This is in the book.) She would've had more opportunities than me, but not because she was BETTER. Because of stigma.

(Lookalike Idris Elba is so smitten with Other Emerson that he bought an engagement ring after their first date and is just waiting for her to be in a place in her life where she's ready to say yes.) (No, really.)

In my imagination, Other Emerson could be friends with someone like me -- someone who gets stared at every time she leaves the house. Someone who's judged and found disgusting every single day. Someone who weighs three times what she should. She would see the real me, not just the fat. She wouldn't see the fat at all. She'd see the funny, kind, sweet person I know I am but no one else tries to see.

The ONLY fat people she knows are Georgia and Marley. How is that possible? I mean, she doesn't have any thin friends either; because at 30, I knew that cis men didn't treat my thin friends MUCH better than they treated me. But where are her fat people? Where is the internet? Thin people need to decide whether fat people are RARE OASISES OF FAT or OBESITY EPIDEMIC EVERYWHERE because you can't have BOTH.

I gotta say, I was initially thinking this section was Emerson at 18 (after fat camp) and sounding like a 14 year old, but no, she's 30 and it even says she's graduated college (with the implication that college was years ago). So a 30 year old woman buys a diary, sits down to write her name out several times because she loves her full name, then fanfics the thin version of herself that she'll never be over several pages. I am worried for Emerson.

This level of obsession with food ("98 percent of what she thinks about") and weight and the fantasy version of herself is... not good. Maybe she's supposed to not be representative of all fat people, but...

Chapter 1 ends with:

Ah, well. Hang with me, Other Emerson. Who knows what life will be like by the time this diary is filled up?

That is all we get. 3 pages of Other Emerson, but I know NOTHING about Emerson except that she's fat. I don't know her major, her job, her hopes, her dreams, NOTHING. I know Other Emerson's job! IN DETAIL. I got to hear more about a thin fantasy than about the fat girl who made her up.

Oh god, I turned the page and.............Chapter 2 will have to wait. I have to stop here for now, sorry.

[tw tw tw tw!!!!] I flipped to a random page, hoping for SOMETHING nice, and landed in the middle of a binge eating scene. Not a single page of this book hasn't been about fat stigma yet. Not ONE. And I have learned, thanks to the random page flip, that Emerson's diary entries will be scattered throughout the book, even after she dies. I'm NOT okay with that at all.


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