The Skinny

This weekend I finished a book that I swore I wouldn’t bother reading — Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness.

As a rule, I don’t read celebrity memoirs.  Who cares?, I always think – just another method of look-at-me-overexposure.  In this one, we’ve got the narrator/subject, a still-skinny, beautiful blonde with her eating disorder.  (translate: I hate her already.)  And I was confused by some names on her acknowledgments page:  Oprah Winfrey?  Jonathan Safran Foer (friend? ghost-writer?).

Don’t even get me started on the contrived title play off of Kundera’s classic novel …

But what made me pick up this book, what made me pay retail for the hardcover, was all the backlash I heard from those who view de Rossi’s candor and detail as a “how to” guide for eating disorders.  These remarks pissed me off enough that I had to see/read it for myself.

This is not a “how to” guide, folks.  It is a well-written, professionally structured, honest accounting of de Rossi’s emotional and physical battle with her disease of perfectionism.  It’s so detailed that it’s hard to imagine she left anything out.  Being that she’s still young and making her way in Hollywood, I appreciated her willingness to make herself and her industry look as selfish and shallow and beauty-obsessed as they surely are.  She even dragged her mother through the story with her and showed how her obsessiveness germinated out of that relationship and kept building, even when she was at her sickest 82 pounds.

“For a straight-A student, a model, an actress on a hit TV show, the bar was set very high.  I’m the one who set it.  I thought that by accomplishing things that were exciting to people, I would receive their admiration and love.”

I found the most interesting part of de Rossi’s story to be her unflinching indictment of the Hollywood beauty myth and how we’re all, to some extent, sucked into believing it.  This weekend, my daughter flew into town to run wedding errands — she’s recently engaged — and brought a STAR magazine she’d picked up at the airport.  Angelina Jolie’s gaunt face takes up the whole cover.  She looks like a stick figure.  Inside, it’s all skinny bikini-clad girls, hot stars detailing their plastic surgeries, and multiple diet ads promising Real Weight Loss Results!

Me?  I’d never admit it, but I’m hoping like hell I don’t look/feel fat in my mother-of-the-bride dress this summer.

9 thoughts on “The Skinny

  1. Downith

    Teri, I would hate to have to play the heavy here. So I’m glad you see that honesty about this topic is just hugely, massively important.

  2. lisahgolden

    Can I lard up this conversation by saying that I share your concern about weight (mine, not yours) and yet I like to think that I’m more than just my weight. I’m also my wrinkles and dreaded cougar chest.

    1. Teri Post author

      I would like to be a Big enough person to say I don’t care, but today I’m already irritated about my thighs rubbing together so that won’t work.

  3. amyg

    i am sitting on my couch already feeling the after effects of 2+ hours of my tailgating party for the auburn-oregon game that i’m still watching (war eagle). i stuffed so much food in my mouth that i’m pretty i could go without eating for a month and still survive on what i binged on tonight.

    i’ve been avoiding that book too, but dammit! now i’m going to have to at least pick it up and give it a once over next time i see it staring back at me from the bookstore shelf.

    keep pitching. even your rejection stories–via comments left in other places–inspire me! can’t wait to hear when your (new) dream agent says yes.

  4. glasseye

    Love this topic, Teri. I recently read an article about the photoshop warping they do in fashion magazines. Kate Winslett was made to look like a Barbie doll and was furious. She said, “I do not look that that, and I do not wish to look like that.”

    She’s had a fan in me ever since.

    We have no concept in this society of how to moderate.

    1. Teri Post author

      If I read and studied as much as I worry about not fitting into my jeans, I’d be a f-ing genius. Hard to admit, but true…

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