I don’t make any secret of this on social media, much like my raging non-straight sexuality or my feminism. I post selfies where you can see my double chin. My favorite insult is “you can kiss my fat, cellulite laden, stretch mark decorated ass”. I’ve been fat my entire life; my mother is fat; my grandmother was fat. It runs in the family, the only thing in my family that does run.
As a child, this didn’t exactly bother me. Yes, I was bullied. I still remember the boys who called me bulldozer and said that the ground shook whenever I walked (which is an insult the author of this book faces as well.) When I wore a bathing suit to a church pool party, a frequent bully of mine made fun of my fat thighs. I never wondered what was wrong with me; I wondered what the fuck their problem was. That changed once I hit the teenage years. I became uncomfortable in my body and did everything I could to hide it. I avoided looking at myself in mirrors, much like Mrs. Gibbons. I struggled with eating properly.
It wasn’t until I read in a Seventeen magazine (I know, I KNOW) that I should look in a mirror every day and tell myself I was pretty and fine as I was that I started to get over my body image issues.
Today, I don’t even think about my weight. Well, sometimes I do, but more in terms of “hey, my cat thinks I’m really comfortable, must be all the extra padding” instead of “hey I really hate how my thighs jiggle when I dance.”
This is just a really long winded way of saying that, while reading Fat Girl Walking, I pretty much related to Mrs. Gibbons 100%. When she spoke of her bullying, I cringed and remembered my own bullies and their taunts. When she related her clothing woes, I nodded in understanding. If I had had this book when I was a teenager, it would have saved me a lot of grief over the years until I learned to undo my own harmful body hatred.
Her writing style is funny and easy to read, and her sense of humor had me stifling my giggles more than once, causing all my cats to look at me like I’d gone round the bend. (One story about her experience with Ben Wa balls had me laughing until I cried.) But more than just style, Fat Girl Walking has substance. And sadly, Mrs. Gibbons’ message of fat acceptance and loving your body is one that still isn’t heard enough, especially by those who need it most.
If I had any critique about the book, there’s a story she tells us early on about her, her father, and a kitten that I could have done without. I do see why it was included and perhaps if I weren’t triggered by stories where animals get harmed I wouldn’t have been as bothered, but I do want to warn others who need it that there’s a very upsetting story featuring an animal getting hurt and killed early on, so please keep that in mind.
I’m glad I read Fat Girl Walking, and I hope everyone who needs to accept their weight does too.