Friday, April 24, 2009

Random or not....a personal tale of body image

By far, one of the most frequent questions I get from readers is "Why did you write ALL ABOUT VEE?" The answer I tell them is my standard how-I-got-the-idea anecdote: Not long after moving to LA, I saw a heavy young woman waiting to cross the street in Beverly Hills near all the talent and literary agencies and it occurred to me that she could be an actor on her way to an appointment and that made me wonder what it would be like to be larger in a city that values skinny above skill. And since I'm all about fish-out-of-water stories, I took that character and moved her from Arizona to LA just to freak her out and see what she'd do.

Kind of like me.

In truth, Veronica - or Vee - is nothing like me. I have none of the confidence or self-esteem that she has regarding her weight or her talent. She has a very deep well of support from her friends and family that she can go to when she needs a boost. None of that is present in my life nor has it ever been.

One of the reasons I wrote that book is that I have always had a problem with my weight. I have always thought of myself as a Fat Girl. In Connecticut. In Boston. In New York City. And especially in LA. It doesn't matter what the mirror reflects or what the numbers on the scale add up to. The number is never small enough. The size on my jeans is never small enough. I am never small enough.

On the internet, I troll the Fatosphere, a collection of blogs by men and women who espouse Fat Acceptance (FA) and Health at Every Size (HAES). I love these blogs! They're insightful and truthful and I find myself nodding in agreement whenever I read them. I heartily endorse the practices they proscribe. For others, though, not for me.

Why? Am I being hypocritical thinking like this?'s a bigger light to shine on the inner workings of Leigh's mind: I also regularly visit a blog called Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder, run by Dr. Stacey, a clinical psychologist in New York City. I don't lurk there - I post. Often. Because I am a woman with an ED. Anorexia if you haven't figured it out. And btw, thanks for not mentioning it. :)

FA - what Rebecca Rabinowitz and other experts promote - is Fat Acceptance. Rebecca read ALL ABOUT VEE recently and blogged about it. (See this link for the very interesting blog thread which answered many of my questions.) While VEE had a lot of great things going for it, FA was not one of them. This boggled my mind: I had a character who was big and who loved herself for being big and had friends and a boyfriend and was popular and talented and wasn't that promoting FA?

Well, no. Because Vee lost weight - not much but enough to negate the theme that it's okay to be large. I thought that's what I was saying in the book. By not having her diet or smoke or get lap band surgery, I assumed I was promoting FA and HAES. But Vee does lose weight when she takes up yoga.

In an earlier draft of the book, Vee's friend Ginny and Vee's love interest Malcolm react very negatively to her losing weight. Ginny thinks she's rejecting her and Malcolm just wants her to be exactly as she was forever and ever. Alas, those scenes were "trimmed" (hah!) from the book so the voices of readers who might have wondered if Vee losing weight was a cop-out were silenced. Perhaps if those characters and scenes had stayed, Rebecca Rabinowitz might have given me higher marks!

I will probably always be this way about myself and my weight. It's deeply ingrained in me, it's who I am and always have been. It infects all that I do and say and write about. But I won't stop trying to get better. And in the meantime, at least my characters have the courage I don't.