By Lesley | May 9, 2008
I’ve been trying to write something about this book – Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir, by Jennette Fulda – but I just can’t get past my incoherent babbling and frothing-at-the-mouth phase, into my articulate and calm critical-discussion phase. I haven’t read the whole thing, just excerpts. I’m not sure I can read the whole thing without being angry the entire time.
What I have read are most of the bits about the LIFE THREATENING GALLBLADDER REMOVAL AT THE TENDER AGE OF 24 and WITH NO FAMILY HISTORY OF GALLBLADDER DISEASE therefore FAT IS TO BLAME (wow, where have I heard all THAT before?), used rather cavalierly in the blurbs being used to promote the book as evidence of fat’s long-term plan to kill the author (blurbs no doubt intended to surf the big flabby wave of Obesity EpidemicTM media rhetoric). Unsurprisingly, reading the gallbladder-related sections made the place where my gallbladder used to be tangibly hurt.*
Generally I’m a big big defender of individual body autonomy as a separate issue from more far-reaching body politics. But this is personal to me, and thus I’m having a deeply personal reaction. When somebody tells a body story remarkably similar to my own, and what they get out of it is that fat acceptance is a bunch of meanies hellbent on making dieters feel guilty (which, WHAT?) and that having gallbladder surgery as a young adult means GREASY FAT DEATH LOOMS EVER NEARER… well, I get a little offended. It’s not the same as a friend wanting to improve hir health (or even lose weight) for individual reasons, which I can solidly get behind, in the interest of loving and supporting my friends. But this… this is a stranger talking about a body that clearly represents my body. In a big published book reaching ten or fifteen people (oh, but I kid Seal Press). It represents my body but not the way I feel about it.
Certainly, having a gallbladder attack sucks like a terrifying supermassive black hole of suck. There’s not enough suck on this whole planet to adequately describe the misery of passing a gallstone. It’s some of the most frightening and intense pain ever. I know. Likewise with gallbladder surgery. I went into surgery thinking it’d be a breeze, outpatient-style, and was shocked at the traumatic reality of the aftermath (such as my surgeon absolutely marveling, astonished, that I was standing and walking and using the bathroom by myself the next morning – I thought I was supposed to be standing and walking by then – I thought I was supposed to be surgeried, recovered, home and out of the damn hospital within 24 hours!). And to some extent I can even understand how someone, particularly a young person, could be so impressed by that experience that it would motivate them to do everything anyone might suggest they need to do, in order to be Healthy.
But weightloss don’t put gallbladders back in the abdomen, y’all. For my part, I came through surgery more in love with my body than ever, for what it could do and what it could survive. I came through more committed to fat acceptance than I was before, because my gallstones were the result of having spent my childhood and teenage years on a rollercoaster of dieting and weight cycling, up and down, up and down. I came through believing that other fat people needed to be told what I wasn’t back then, that constant dieting and weight cycling can and usually will injure your overall health.
This book upsets me because to some extent, it’s speaking for me without my consent. I don’t bear the author any ill will – her experiences are real and being a memoir, all she’s got to write about are, in the end, her experiences. I get that. And I do still affirm the right of the author to do whatever she likes with her body.
I still feel wronged, somehow. Call it a personal problem.
* This weirdness happens anytime I think or talk about my own gallbladder experience, mine having taken place !!!AT THE TENDER AGE OF 23!!! – I’m not sure if having done it a year earlier means I get extra points in the fatty-gallbladder Super Bowl, or if it means I should be dead by now, or what.
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