While yesterday was, of course, “Fat Tuesday” (aka: Weight Watchers meeting/weigh in day), I saved my fat kid talk for after I’d finished I’m Not the New Me. After all, I can only regale my “readers” (aka: close friends who are good enough to click through my Twitter/Facebook links) with my “waaaaahhhhh, I’m fattttttt” talk so many times a week XD Plus, I found myself quite liking and, more importantly, relating to Wendy McClure’s book, once I got through the beginning. As you may recall, I wasn’t feeling the book at first. In fact, three or four years ago when I received it as a gift, I started and then put it down, never to pick it up again. McClure does herself no favors in the opening chapters, jumping inbetween comedic scenes of personal realization, with a tone that is meant to be funny, but just comes off as grating and somewhat confusing.
But once I got through the first fifty pages or so, the book really picked up and, more importantly, I realized “oh God, this is me.” Not completely, of course. McClure started out bigger than I did, and has the backstory of growing up with an obese, yo-yo dieting (stomach stapling) mother, plus her tendency to burst into tears at any moment (she describes herself as always having been “sensitive”). I’ve also never shopped at Lane Bryant, though I have been the fat girl in the department store unable to find anything that fits, or is flattering. It’s when McClure stopped trying so hard to make her Fat Story interesting and funny that the book took off — my first “OMG I KNOW” moment was when she was shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding, to show off her new size 18 figure. She writes:
“The whole idea is that Lane Bryant understands how you feel: you bring your fat girl pain to Lane… Their very generous fitting rooms with wide, stylish veneer doors convey Big Girl Entitlement. All in all, Lane Bryant does a very convincing job at being a mall store. I’ve heard that thin girls will sometimes walk into Lane Bryant and for the longest time have no idea where they are.”
Then there are forays into website maintenance, “meeting people from the internet,” online dating, Weight Watchers comedy, disastrous relationships, fat girl pain, gym aversion and so many other things. Often McClure tries to hard to be pithy and insightful — many of the “chapters” are just 1-2 page vignettes wherein McClure expounds on Something Brilliant, with punchy, purposeful prose. Some of her realizations are poignant, others are muddled and just seem superfluous.
Regardless, overall the book works. I found myself eager to return to it, despite my early reluctance. Particularly McClure’s relationship woes, and experiences with the online world reeled me in — I can relate, in so many ways, though I would almost have liked to see more depth of analysis. But, then again, McClure isn’t a sociologist, and while on some points she aptly outlines the psychological traumas and dilemmas of a fat girl shedding pounds (and finding that, after all, she is NOT a different, better person), she misses some opportunities for analysis where she’d rather be funny. This is probably just me projecting my own interests onto her story and, hey, the benefit of being a writer myself is that I can always cover these topics, instead.
If you’ve ever done Weight Watchers, or just been overweight and uncomfortable, and want to read a real account of someone who struggles with the weight loss process and finds the big “happy ending” elusive, it’s a good book to read. Plus if you have experience with online culture — fandom friends, I am looking at you, while very “early 2000s,” there is a lot to relate to, particularly “JournalCon” and the friendships McClure develops with other denizens of the online webblog universe. Alas, I’m Not the New Me seems out of print, though you can buy it used from Amazon. However, McClure does still maintain her website “poundy.com,” the site that launched her book, though it is now, of course, a proper blog, instead of a Geocities collection of web pages (I had one of those, too! I liked that about the book, too, oh, websites in 2000/2001). You can read it here. You can also “catch up” on what happened after the book here.
She gained the weight back, it seems, which honestly makes me like her, and her book, MORE. Because, hey! So did I. *awkward chuckle* Weight loss is a struggle, it’s real, and I’m Not the New Me carries a (potentially grim?) but real message: I’m Not the New Me, and can I ever be the New Me? Or will I just be Me only less fat? (that’s from my last post, not the book XD)
I like it when a book surprises me like this