Good Luck With That: Chapter 3

[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 3

(Tweet Link) I'm going to talk a bit more about this book and maybe read Chapter 3 tonight. Please feel free to go into your Settings and mute this hashtag; there's a LOT of fat shaming in this book.

A lot of you have rightfully asked "what is this book FOR?" Obviously I do not know, because I am not the author. But I will make some guesses based on what we've read so far.

The original cover copy to "Good Luck With That" (which has so far been accurate in every detail) told us that Emerson dies from fat and her two fat-but-less-so friends live out their bucket list in her memory. We also know that the author likes The Biggest Loser (TBL) show and seems very familiar with My 600 Pound Life, which is a stigmatizing show about fat people. She has spoken about how inspirational she finds TBL and people who work hard to lose weight.

We know that Emerson, Marley, and Georgia are repeatedly portrayed as fat BECAUSE of food. Marley says all fat people sublimate their feelings and emotions into food, implying that is WHY they are fat. With that data + knowing the tropes we're subjected to + supposing the author thinks she has written something positive and uplifting, I predict we will see that the girls have been self-rejecting themselves from enjoying ~life~

I predict that when they start living their bucket list, they'll find love and happiness and fulfillment and--freed from negative emotions--they'll eat less and lose weight. As a bone to the fat activists, I assume they'll end the novel still vaguely fat but LESS SO. Not "disgusting fat" or "unhealthy fat" or "death fat" like Emerson. Cute "Lane Bryant Model fat" and ambiguously more acceptable to society.

IF that is how this plays out--and again, this is a guess--then "what is this book FOR?" is answered by "this is an attempt to uplift and save fatties from ourselves." The author appears to pity us: the solution to our fat is so simple but we're too weak to grab it.

The next biggest question is: "Are you going to continue reading?"

I'm... going to try, yes. I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. This book is HARMFUL and I hate to subject you all to it. I honestly hope you all have me muted by now. But why continue? Well, I want to warn people about this book. That's a big part of it. I'd also like to use this as a teaching point for other authors on what NOT to do. I'd ALSO like publishers to not back this sort of hateful narrative.

And the thing is, if I stop here at page 11? I guarantee no one will listen to anything I've said. They will assume--they ALWAYS assume--that the book got better, that something justified this mess. We don't WANT to believe that hateful books can be published for no reason. We WANT to trust that an author 'fixed it' somehow. "All that bad stuff was from MARLEY's point of view! The character isn't the author! Characters are allowed to be flawed! Do you want only perfect angels as characters?" I have waltzed this waltz too many times before.

Having said all that, I just looked at the first page for Chapter 3 and I genuinely, honestly, truly nearly lost my dinner. So we'll see how this goes.

[Trigger warning for INTENSE fat stigma ahead.]

Chapter 3 opens from Georgia's point of view. I cannot stress enough that I know NOTHING about any of these women except that they are fat and a vague job description. (Georgia, lawyer; Marley, personal chef; Emerson, ???) I don't know their hair color, their skin color, their family situation, their hopes, their dreams, whether they have pets or children, what they like (except ice cream and cake), what they like to DO (except watch fat shows), what their AGES are. (34, via math.)

I'm... I'm thinking about the first 11 pages of my 2 current wips and there's so much more INFORMATION about the characters than this screaming void.

So. Chapter 3.

Here's something you don't think about every day: it's hard to bury someone as big as Emerson.

It's like a punch to the throat. The casualness of it. The callous bystanderyness. The shaming her even after she's dead.

We had to get a special casket. A truck was needed to get her from the hospital to the funeral home, and the funeral home to the cemetery, because a regular hearse couldn't accommodate it.

"It"? Do you mean "HER"? And this goes on and on! I refuse to quote it. It goes on for an enormous paragraph and I will not quote it in full. I will not. I will piss glass first.

Georgia describes her grief, then says "On the up-side, I wasn't hungry." It is amazing. One page into Georgia's POV and I hate her more than I hate Marley. I would've thought that would be impossible.

*breathes through nose* Georgia and Marley meet Emerson's cousin and caretaker, Ruth. Ruth tells us that Emerson's boyfriend (Mica) was the one who kept bringing her food, and that Emerson ate without ceasing. Marley and Georgia accuse Ruth of being a bitch (she is) and taking Emerson's money to look after her (that's... called a job?).

The author lavishly describes the huuuuge casket and makes sure we notice how few people show up to the funeral because being fat means being unloved. (Even Emerson's boyfriend doesn't come, apparently.) All of this is set up to scare Georgia, Marley, and the reader into not being Emerson. It's scaremongering fatness. I am disgusted that the publisher changed the cover copy to hide that. People are going to be HURT by this book. EDs triggered. Self-harm attempted.

By the grave, "the crane was parked in full view. Even in death, it seemed Emerson would be deprived of dignity." It's amusing and infuriating to see the author pretend to care about our dignity. That detail came only a few short pages after a stigmatizingly lavish description of Ruth bathing Emerson regularly, which I also will not quote.

Oh good, Georgia and Marley are going to tour Emerson's house. This will be fun! The front door is "ruined", I presume to get Emerson out and to the hospital; we're informed Emerson moved into the den "when she couldn't haul herself up the stairs anymore."

And then there was the damning evidence... a pizza box on the desk, a couple of empty cereal boxes, a package of Double Stuf Oreos, a red and white bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I could hear my brother's ugly voice in my head letting loose a tirade of disgust.

On the desk, which was reassuringly free from food

FUCK THIS BOOK. Christ on a CRACKER, how did this get WORSE? I thought everything beforehand was bad, but this is just rampant fat-hating bullshit. Emerson can't just BE FAT? she has to have KFC buckets all over her room?

Emerson had been stuck here, in this room, in that body, for the past year. Our friend had been a prisoner...of her own making, granted, but a prisoner just the same.

NO NO NO NO NO. I am not a PRISONER of my body!

*extremely slow blink*

Georgia goes home and describes her pet: a rescued greyhound, a former racing dog. He "was basically a couch potato...a cat in dog's clothing". One of the most famous fat activists I know (@Shakestweetz) has a rescue greyhound, whose pics she posts with her cats. Just saying.

The greyhound's name is Admiral and she calls him Ad.

@Shakestweetz's greyhound's name is Dudley and she calls him Dud.

Did the author look up the TINIEST bit of fat activism and just pillage character details because her characters needed to have SOME personality?? I don't want to be all Conspiracy Meme Guy, but we KNOW that some authors pillage details from marginalized people's lives when they want ~authenticity~

Marley brings food over and Georgia mentally calorie counts the servings. Numbers are used. This is INCREDIBLY dangerous, imho, that this book doesn't warn for this. If you're going to write a book about disordered eating, you need to WARN people. Otherwise you are going to trigger people and they are then hurt.

Marley and Georgia live together (sorta) and have a pact not to food judge each other. Good! They also don't say anything if one is "overeating or purging". Wait.

I know, because I flipped ahead, that a later scene shows Emerson binge-eating. Now it's implied that both Georgia and Marley binge and purge. So all three of them--

Does the author think ALL fat people--

yes, probably she does.

And with that one realization, I bounced from furious to tired. Like. Yes. Yes, Jan, all fat people totally have disordered eating. You found us out. Well done.

[tw: sex work slurs] Randomly, Georgia describes her love of Crate & Barrel decorating goods as being "a whore" for them. I don't know, guys, I just work here.

Hookay, here's the Things We'll Do When We're Skinny list that Emerson made them promise on her death bed to do. (JUST LIKE THE COVER COPY SAID.)

* Hold hands with a cute guy in public.

* Go running in tight clothes and a sports bra.

Wait a gosh dang second. Georgia was married (now divorced) AND she is an in-betweenie obsessed with yo-yo dieting. How are these not done for her? I mean, look, I'm not saying EVERY inbetweenie has done these things, but the implication is that someone who CAN fit in jogging clothes and HAS been a socially acceptable size (at various times) has never ONCE done this despite an OBSESSION with weight loss?

This is why I said you can't just "let the reader decide!" whether the characters are fat or not; their lives are different depending on size. Inbetweenie yo-yo Georgia has NOT had the same life experiences as always-size-22 Marley.

* Get a piggyback ride from a guy.

* Be in a photo shoot.



Hell's bells, I'M getting a professional photo shoot this month because I'm a ruddy author!

* Eat dessert in public.

Okay, yes, again, this can be UNCOMFORTABLE for us fatties to do, but these 34 year old women have NEVER done this?? Really??

* Tuck in a shirt.

See previous comments about professional lawyer.

* Shop at a store for regular people.

Burn it all down, we're done here.

* Have a cute stranger buy you a drink at a bar.

Okay, again, fat people are not-- What the hell is this? Does the author not realize that people do find us sexy, because we are sexy? SOME people don't, but not ALL people.

* Go home to meet his parents.

* Tell off the people who had a problem with us when we were fat.

That's the list.

It's so... unambitious. 18 year old girls, vibrant and full of energy, on the cusp of college wrote this. There's no "climb Everest" or "travel the Sahara". This is a list of "be passively pretty". Impress boys. Impress girls. Buy clothes and food and pictures of oneself. That's it. THAT was all they wanted. Color me deeply unimpressed by... all of this?

Didn't Queen Latifah do a movie where she thought she was dying and she went on wacky adventures for her bucket list? THAT premise is interesting. This is just sad and limp. A wet paper bag of a premise.

This list is the FOUNDATION of the book, a promise of what's to come. I don't want to read this! Stigma aside, it's BORING. Gosh, how will we sustain the drama of the tucked in shirt.

I'm almost offended as a writer, at the idea of asking people to read a book like this. I mean, a good writer can make anything interesting but TUCKED IN SHIRTS? Oh god, does she think... does she think we CAN'T tuck in our shirts? Like there's not enough material? God in heaven, Georgie is the one who wrote the "run in a sports bra" one. She's been established as NOT a plus size!!!

"Actually," Marley said, "I HAVE had a cute guy buy me a drink. Gays count, right?"

Boy, the respect for marginalized people just drips off the page, eh.

Marley has had a crush on the same guy for five years, and Georgia judges him for not realizing:

yes, sure [Marley was] overweight, but she carried it well--she'd always had a waist and great boobs. She could get away with zaftig or Rubenesque.

So Marley already HAS a Lane Bryant model figure AND worked as a chef at a restaurant, but NO ONE--no cute customer, no cute kitchen staff--has bought her a nearby drink. Sure. It's hilarious that the discussion questions asked if fat stigma comes from women instead of men, when the FICTIONAL men in this world are way more stigmatizing of fat than in my world.

I am fat. I could get a drink from a cute guy this week if I wanted. I say this not to minimize anyone's romantic struggles out there (and we know "a drink from" isn't the same as "respect and affection from"), but to point out how BLEAK she imagines our lives.

"Hold hands with a cute guy in public," Marley continued. "That won't be a problem. I can run up to a hot guy, grab his hand, and drag him a few yards. Check."

My ex-husband and I had held hands all the time. And he'd been extremely hot. I couldn't count the number of times people had looked surprised to see us as a couple.

Her ex-husband is also a Bad Ex, such as we've seen so far, in case you were wondering.

The women agonize over the list and whether they have "time" to do with, what with all the... vague... things... they probably definitely do. Most of the list can be done in a day, but I think that's the point because it fits with my theory that this book is about saving fatties because we're too weak and self-rejecting to enjoy life.

In fact, that's probably WHY the list is so boring and unambitious. If it said "be president of the USA" then there would be reasons why that isn't attainable for a fat woman. You, the reader, are supposed to look at that list and think "Georgia and Marley, you sweet ninnies, you could do this in a DAY if you put your mind to it!" I know this because I nearly fell into that trap.

The list HAS to be unambitious because the whole moral (I predict) is that the girls were using their fatness to "hide" and they could've done these things all along if they'd been brave. Anyway, that's the end of chapter 3. Georgia, like Emerson, has some kind of mildly-cushy inheritance, so all three of these women appear to be relatively rich, I assume to double-down on their fatness being "their fault".

I am just. Yeah. Okay. That chapter sure did happen.

I'm informed that the VASTLY BETTER Queen Latifah movie is called Last Holiday and her bucket list was stymied by MONEY not FATNESS. I need to watch it.


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