<The Wire, Back to School Special Edition>
<For Publication Wednesday, August 8>
FAT GIRL WALKING
Jamie D. Carcaterra
I am so sick of reading books and articles about fat girls written by skinny women. Or worse yet, skinny guys. Tell me, what in the name of all that’s creamy and chocolate do skinny guys know about being a fat girl?
The fat girl never gets to be the main character. She never gets to talk, really talk, about her life and her feelings and her dreams. Nobody wants to publish books about fat girls, by fat girls, or for fat girls, except maybe diet books. No way.
We’re not even supposed to mention the word fat in print, because we might get accused of supporting overweight-ness and contributing to the ongoing public health crisis in this country <insert hysterical gasp here>, or because we might cause an eating disorder.
To heck with all of that.
I’m a fat girl!
And I’m not just any fat girl. I’m THE Fat Girl, baby. I’m a senior, and I by-God do own the world this year, so put that on ice and gulp it down. I’m The Wire’s new feature—the Fat Girl Manifesto. I’m large. I’m loud. Go big or go home!
Let me take care of a few myths right now, before you even set up a stereotype:
Speak gently to poor Fat Girl. She can’t help her terrible disability. Okay, bullshit. I’m not chubby. I’m not chunky. I’m not hormonally-challenged or endocrine-disordered. I do not prefer platitudes like large or plus-sized—or clinical words like obese.
I’m fat, fat, fat. If the word makes you uncomfortable, that’s your problem. Go to www.naafa.org and get a real education. Yeah, that’s right. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. F-A-T. That’s the word. Get used to it. Get over it. I have to. Every single day of my life.
Poor Fat Girl needs to be educated about her problem. Even more caca, this time on toast. I’m not clueless about nutrition and exercise or waiting for that wonderful a-ha moment to motivate me to “lose weight.” I know how to eat. I know how to exercise.
Guess what? I’m still fat, and blond, with so-so skin and big feet, just like my mom, my dad, and most of my relatives. We’re the Fat Family. Or the Blond Bombers. Maybe the Psoriasis Clan? Oh, wait. The Bigfeet. Actually, we’re the Carcaterras, and we don’t apologize for taking up two seats on airplanes. Well, my mom does, but she apologizes for everything, so don’t take that too seriously.
Myth Number Three. Poor Fat Girl laughs to hide her tears. More and more poop, just piling up in the corner. I’m not a jolly round person. I’m a peevish, sarcastic, smart, dramatic round person. I’m larger than life. I’ve had roles in Garwood’s stage productions all four years of high school. I’m playing Evillene in The Wiz this year, and the role soooo suits me. I helped start our cable channel that my friend Frederica anchors now. I’m The Wire’s feature editor.
When Fat Girl laughs, it’s because something’s funny. Usually something I said.
Myth Number Four. Poor lonely Fat Girl can’t get a date. Big blare from the bullshit sensor. My boyfriend’s name is Burke Westin, he’s a starting tackle on our championship football team, and we clear the damned floor at every dance.
Being fat isn’t always like those sappy after-school specials and snot-rag sob books. Not every fat person is twisted up about how their outsides don’t match their insides.
Myth Number Five. All poor Fat Girl wants to do is lose weight. So not true. Fat Girl has a to-do list almost as big as her beautiful body. It goes something like this: don’t wonk the math section this next (and last) time you take the ACT, keep Burke happy, meet one thousand senior-related deadlines, play practice, and oh, yeah. The biggest ones of all. Finish college and scholarship applications.
Seniors, I bet I just made you nervous. I bet you’re glancing at that half-finished entrance essay. Bet you’re thinking about “supporting materials” you haven’t collected yet.
Underclassfools, bet you’re wondering why half the seniors just ran screaming down the hallway.
Fat Girl knows. Fat Girl knows everything. Got me on that? Good. Now we can get to the point. Why am I printing my manifesto in the school newspaper?
Pop quiz! No, don’t panic. It’s multiple choice:
- I’m running for homecoming queen.
- I want you to testify for me when I go postal on some stick-figure supermodel or that freak pedaling his exercise machines on late-night infomercials.
- I want the world to get a clue about life as a Fat Girl, from a Fat Girl’s perspective.
- I want to win the National Feature Award, for “outstanding journalism promoting the public well-being,” a scholarship to the journalism program of my choice. My family doesn’t have much dough, so that’s the only way I’m takin’ the big ride to higher education. Otherwise it’s work-a-job and take a few classes at a time. I want the scholarship!
- All of the above.
- None of the above.
- Don’t you wish you knew.
- Hint: It’s not A.
- Hint, hint: It might be B. Depends on the night—and the supermodel.
- Hint, hint, hint: C’s a really good bet. But then again, so is D. D’s major.
I’ll give you reports on what Fat Girl has been up to, and I’ll answer the questions you send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to Fat Girl and send her to college!
You know you want to do it.
“This zesty page-turner will hook readers with romance and energy while addressing a woefully ignored subject.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Speaks forcefully about fat issues to those who have experienced them—as well as to those who haven’t.” —Booklist
“Jamie is a strong, interesting character who grows over the course of the novel, recognizing her own contradictions. This is a powerful story for readers of any weight.” —School Library Journal
“Thought-provoking and, frequently, vigorous.” —Publishers Weekly
“Readers will not only be challenged but also changed by meeting Jamie.” —BCCB
“Jamie’s character is so well drawn that readers will feel her misery. …[T]he story is so well written that Jamie’s agony is poignant to anyone, regardless of where one falls on the weight scale.” —VOYA