I've read and reread de Rossi's book a few times since it came out and since I initially wrote this post (see the original below). As I get further along in my own recovery, I find it more and more relevant. Sadly, I also find parts of it more and more problematic. In particular, the epilogue, in which de Rossi discusses her recovery.
I'm glad - I'm SO glad - that de Rossi is better and that she got through her ED. What she went through was horrible. I just wish she didn't have to throw fat people under the bus in the process. The epilogue of this book is filled with fat-phobic references to "overweight" people "obese" people, bodies that are "heavy" and/or "fat" and it sucks. I wish Portia understood that even at 5'8" and 168 lbs(or whatever she was at her high point), she wasn't "fat" and that even if she had been fat, ACTUALLY fat, as in fat like someone who might regularly discriminated against because of the size of her body, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. But for Portia, it's clear, 168 lbs was not fine and would never/could never be fine. And that's a very sad note to end on, especially in an ED recovery memoir.
There are other problems in the epilogue as well -- notably, de Rossi's insistence that she is "fully recovered." The idea of full recovery is a debated one in the ED community. Some (most, I'd say) feel that like an alcoholic, there's no such thing as being "over" an ED. There's managing it, not engaging in ED behaviours and enjoying good health, but once you've had an ED, you'll always have it, but in recovery, you'll be "symptom free" at the best of times. Portia's feeling - that she is fully over her illness - is is weird one. I hope she never relapses. It happens and it's got to be even more terrible for someone who really didn't understand how easily it can happen.
As much as I like this book and believe this book and relate to this book, the final impression I'm left with every time I reread it is that Portia is happy now only because she's 130 lbs (or thereabouts, or less). It's a fucking slap in the face to real fat people. She writes that in order to recover and live happily, you have to love your body regardless, but in the same page, she uses the word "overweight," as a massive insult, something that might magically go away once you get healthy and stop binging. Only, not all large people binge. Most don't, in my experience. And it's depressing to see someone who ought to understand bullshit body norms better than anyone make this kind of insulting, hurtful mistake.
What if Portia's set weight, her natural weight when eating and living as healthfully as possible, was 168 lbs? What if it was 200 lbs? 350? More? For so many women, that's the case. Plenty of women are both naturally fat AND healthy, but I don't know if Portia believes that. She's obviously still struggling. That's normal. I just wish that instead of ending her book the way she did, she had shown a little solidarity to other women out there - the ones who aren't lucky enough to have a socially acceptable set weight.
I wish I could recommend de Rossi's book now as heartily as I did back in 2011, but in retrospect, I think I made a mistake. The early part of the book is very compelling, but the messages inherent in the conclusion are deeply flawed and will probably do more harm than good to people of both genders who are recovering and looking for new messages to help them along the way. I'm not the only person who thinks so
. The ultimate message in this book, sadly, is that thin (but not too thin) is ultimately the only way to be healthy and happy. And that's just not true.
My initial blog about Portia de Rossi's Unbearable Lightness:
Awhile back, I wrote a post on my personal blog entitled The Weight
. It got a pretty big response. I don't usually write things that are so personal, and I guess that showed. People can be pretty dense, but they know when you're telling the truth in writing. They just know. They can sense when something is authentic.
Portia de Rossi's memoir, Unbearable Lightness is something authentic.
Had I not written the weight post, I would not have read the book, celebrity memoirs so often being inauthetic, silly, or both. But I blogged on the subject, and so many people recommended it, so I thought I ought to give it a try.
I'm glad I did. Really glad. The book is sad and raw, but certainly true. At the same time, it isn't for everyone.
De Rossi isn't a literary writer. She's a literate person, sure, but her style is unsophisticated. The whole thing reads like a long diary entry, or a rambling email. The language is simplistic, the grammar awkward, but that's okay.
I don't need De Rossi to be a literary superstar. I just need her to tell the truth. And she does.
Should you read it? Maybe. If you've ever suffered from an eating disorder, I expect it would interest you. If you've spent a long time dealing with low self-esteem and anxiety about your place in the world, it might resonate. If you watched Ally McBeal, it's fun (and disturbing) to look behind the scenes.
For me, the early part of the book is strongest. As de Rossi spiraled deeper and deeper into her disorders (both bulimia and anorexia and plenty EDNOS in between), the story becomes almost too upsetting and confusing, even for those of us who suffer from EDs. But her description of the process -- of the slow creeping of the disease disgused as diets, heath-consciousness and necessity -- is riveting. I certainly saw myself in de Rossi and making the connection was sobering. She describes, in a really accessible way, what so many of us feel and are, and then goes on to show the terrifying places where that may lead.
And that's important. It's important to be shown exactly where you don't want to go. It helps you avoid it.
I'm really happy right now. Really... relieved. It's nice to know that the worst experience of my life is behind me and that I can look forward to a future of light, happiness, and intelligent movies.
See, I just wasted nearly two hours watching the absolutely hideous 2007 film Suburban Girl starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.
It's all uphill from here. It's got to be.
I don't know that I've ever encountered a more horrific film adaptation of any book, ever. I mean, I rented Confessions of a Shopaholic and had to switch it off after the first ten minutes, but I expected that. This was much, much worse.
What was so galling, I suppose, is that Suburban Girl is an adaptation of a really lovely book: Melissa Bank's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. A brilliant book, really. Literary and sharply written, but accessible. And because it is so good, even though the film went straight to video, and even though the trailer was... idiotic, to say the least, I wanted to give it a shot.
Melissa Bank's stories are heavy with dialogue and I figured her words would likely make up a lot of a script. I thought, "How bad could it be?"
It took hours to clean the vomit off my DVD player. Hours.
Everything about this movie is awful, from the ugly, over-the-top sets, to the casting, to the improbably costuming. (Why would a girl who balks at a $50 cab ride have a closet full of Louboutin shoes?) The badly delivered lines and hideously poppy musical selections are really just the tip of the stinking, festering, iceberg.
It's funny how watching a movie like this can educate you. You get to see every awful Hollywood cliche come to life. You can imagine looking right into the writers' room (full of over-privileged, under-educated, less-than-literate kids in American Apparel hoodies and ironic sneakers) and beyond them, into the minds of every sleazy male producer who thinks they understand what it is to be a young woman.
The result is vile. Truly vile.
I'm even considering abandoning my membership in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan club. (Though it's really not Sarah Michelle's fault.) It's not even Alec Baldwin's fault. It's somebody's fault, though. I wish I knew whose.
Don't rent this movie. Obviously. But for the love of all things good and reasonable, go out and buy Melissa Bank's book. After reading it, you'll be just a little bit smarter. Unlike me. I've suffered two full hours of brain damage. I'm going to have to read classics and watch PBS specials for weeks to make up for it.
I'm no food blogger, but every once in awhile I try a new recipe and review it.
The last one was Nigella Lawson's super fast ceviche
. It's great and so are...
Actually, so is kale in general.
Kale is seriously good in so many things. Raw in salad, cooked in soup, steamed with pasta. Kale... mmm. Love it. You should definitely try it. You'll feel great and you'll be pooping green in no time. (Did I just say that? Yikes.)
This recipe has been ALL OVER the blogs in the last couple of years and finally, finally I know why. I am in love. Addicted. Completely into kale chips. Try them and you will be too.
There are tonnes of different recipes out there, but this is how I've been making mine. It works like a charm.DID YOU SAY KALE CHIPS?Ingredients
Kale (1 bunch, any kind)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Wash the kale and remove the ribs. Toss them or reserve them for another recipe.
Tear the kale leaves into small pieces. No need to be pretty. Just make the pieces relatively bite-sized.
Dry the kale in a salad spinner or with paper or tea towels.
Put the pieces in a bowl and toss them with a couple of table spoons of olive oil.
Spray cooking spray on a large baking sheet (or two).
Lay the kale out on the sheet in a single layer.
Sprinkle lightly with salt
Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes.
cc. licensed kale chips (or kale crisps) photo by Claire Sutton from Flickr.
Squirt on a little lemon juice if you like. I find it tasty. Others use vinegar. Try out some different flavours to see what you like best.
Next, I think I might try putting kale in an Italian Wedding Soup. What do you think? Got any other good kale recipes? Quick! Before I become obsessed with something else.
* Raw kale picture by James Wilsher from Stock Xchng.
Nate and I went to the Bahamas over the holidays. (Hateful, I know.) And all we did was read. Well, sort of. We read, sunbathed, swam, hiked, ate, and read some more. And watched Lost in the dark hours. It was lovely.
I deliberately packed a bunch of easy, summertime books. Beach reads, as they're often called. But nothing new. Mostly just stuff I nabbed at the last minute from my local Goodwill.
Here's the roundup of what I made it through, from best to worst, in case you're interested in grabbing some beach reads of your own:
London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave
This book is, by far, the best and most respectable thing I read over the course of my week in the Bahamas. It’s much more of a literary novel than the other stuff I brought, and it’s far better written. Nathan got it for me for Christmas on the recommendation of Melissa Bank, one of my absolute favourite writers, but alas, it wasn’t up to Bank’s standard. Don’t get me wrong, the book was decent. Dave writes realistically and managed to capture some fundamental truths about romantic choices and first loves that were surprisingly touching. I even teared up a few times. But this isn’t a novel for everyone. It is, at times, a little boring. While the story’s history jumped back several years, the main action takes place over the course of one wedding weekend in Scarsdale. And while I know suburban life is a reality for many, I find it hard to relate. Their memories just aren’t my memories, if you know what I mean. And this books relies, in many ways, on readers who can empathize. Were I to pass it on, I'd give it to someone in her mid-to-late twenties who’s been in and out of at least one major relationship, but I’d also recommend that same person read Melissa Bank's books first.
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
Despite this book’s cover, this isn’t pure fluff. Sex and the City (the TV show) is, but the book that inspired it, like this book, isn't. It’s too complex, too cutting, really, to be lumped into the genre fiction category. It's a bit of a mystery that centres on the (largely very rich) inhabitants of one Manhattan residence. The characters have lots of money, posh jobs, and silly names (a Bushnell trademark). Is it realistic or believable? Not really. But neither is is predictable, at least until the last 100 pages or so, which is nice. I interviewed Bushnell a few years back and I was convinced that TV's Carrie Bradshaw did her wrong. Bradshaw is much less appealing, much less smart than the real Bushnell, who (though she sometimes uses words I'm not sure she understands) isn't a bad writer. I don't want to say that this book is literary, because it isn't. There’s a bit of scandal, a bit of sex, and plenty of petty jealously, as well as some exotic/fabulous bits about what it’s like to be super rich. And that’s all good fun. My evaluation is that it’s not high art, but it's not a terrible thing to take on holiday. It starts slow, so give it a bit of a chance to take hold.
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding
I feel a bit sorry for Helen Fielding. There was really no way for her to follow Bridget Jones with a character who could possibly stand up. It was never going to happen. Olivia Joules is a very appealing lady, but I see why this book sort of bombed. The 007-style mystery/suspense/action storyline is just too out there. And Joules doesn’t have the “that could be me!” appeal that Jones’ has. She’s just too ridiculous. That said, this was a fun read. Fielding is a talented, smooth writer, which puts her head and shoulders above many so-called ‘women’s authors.' Protagonist Joules has, as the title suggests, an overactive imagination, which is not to say she’s unlikable. The only real problem with this book, considering what’s it’s attempting to do (which is entertain, not enlighten) is that it reads like a movie script. In fact, it would have made a much better film than it does a novel.
Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
I really wanted to like this book. I grabbed it because, like so many people, I actually thought McLaughlin and Kraus’ first effort – The Nanny Diaries – was pretty enjoyable. This book, however, was much less so. It’s not bad, exactly, but neither is it very satisfying. Surprisingly, it raises a lot of interesting questions about third wave feminism, but the main character just isn’t very appealing, and the story merely grazes feminist and ethical issues that the authors would perhaps have done better to avoid in the first place. And most frustratingly, while the lead of The Nanny Diaries gets to vent some of her frustration in the end, this book’s heroine (who is literally named “Girl,” which is supposed to mean something it doesn’t quite succeed at meaning) fails to make any sort of difference at all. We leave her in much the same way we found her. (Older and wiser, of course, but not having made anything resembling a positive impact on the world.) It’s annoying. In The Nanny Diaries, you’re left with the hope that Nanny might have made some sort of difference to a bad situation, but with Girl, you’re sure she failed utterly. And that’s a serious bummer.
Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger
I hate using the word chick-lit. It's so offensive. Unfortunately, Weisberger's work is chick-lit in the sense that it's genre fiction that adheres to some pretty strict rules. (You know Weisberger. She wrote The Devil Wears Prada - a much better effort than anything she's done since.) The reason The Devil Wears Prada is so much better than Weisberger's subsequent works is, I think (and I hate to say it) Ana Wintour. A thinly veiled Ana Wintour is a better, more compelling character than anyone Weisberger's made up. The three women in this book are a hodgepodge of the semi-real, acting out scenarios I'm sure Weisberger's real life friends and neighbours will find familiar (which is to say, nicked) but their stories aren't at all cohesive. It's like Weisberger cherry picked a number of anecdotes from real life, and tried to cobble them together into a novel. It just doesn't work. The character's banal romantic and emotional entanglements and traumas don't ring true. All in all, this is a very light, only slightly enjoyable book, but it's not terrible if you're not looking for something memorable. In fact, I've already forgotten the plot.
Imaginary Men by Anjjali Banerjee
This book was just awful. It was silly, badly written and badly done all around. Nonetheless, I finished it, in part because it was so easy to get through. Imagine your basic rom-com. Now turn the white leading lady into an Indian-American and throw in a dash of Bollywood and you’ve got Imaginary Men. To be fair, I enjoyed the way Banerjee used dialogue. She captured the way Indian families often speak to one another (which I'd say I know from first-hand experience) but there was little else about the book that was engaging. With a rom-com, you always know what’s coming, right? No matter how many barriers are thrown up between the romantic leads, you know how it’s going to turn out. Same here.