Brittany Gibbons’ book Fat Girl Walking is not a diet book. It’s not a self-help book (although there she shares some very helpful things). It is a memoir, and an autobiography, and it is funny as hell.
Something Brittany Gibbons is good at that I am not, by the way, is cursing in the course of her writing, making it seem natural for f*** to be in every fourth paragraph or so. I am horrible at this. I do not curse all that much anyways in the course of my everyday life (I like to save them up so that they really mean something when I use them, as evidenced by the fact that the one time my grandmother heard me swear she thought I was actually dying), and when I go to write it, it feels even more unnatural – I think about the fact that if it doesn’t flow, then it’s probably not the right word, and I think about how we have junior Cannonballers, and, although I know it’s very unlikely that they are reading this, it just makes me uncomfortable. But, I have no problem READING profanity, because all of my sisters talk like truckers, and as unnatural as it is for me to write it, reading it seems like the way it is meant to be: It’s real life language for most adults, and I’m not … leery of it, it just doesn’t fit my writing style as well as it fits other peoples’.
Which is good, because in this book (as well as in her online presence, both at BrittanyHerself.com & in other venues) Gibbons pulls no punches & can puts every one of her curses to good use. She talks about sex – both learning about it in her religious private school education as a child, and what it’s like now, to be known on the Internet as that woman who had sex with her husband every day for a year, as well as a lot of other in between (and alternatively hilarious, sad, or just plain odd) moments. She talks about failure – as a teenager, as a young adult trying to attend college, as a grown adult woman who’d built a successful life and family – and how swiftly it can come and how totally it can destroy everything you thought you were working for, and about bouncing back, working through it, moving on. She talks about growing up weird, and how ridiculous wedding planning can be, and having to go to therapy, and so many, many things.
There are also some very important Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice references in here, too, so you don’t have to worry about that: Brittany Gibbons is just as much a geek as I usually require from my internet friends (since they’re the only people who really get me). If you follow her on Instagram, for example, you’ll see her rejoycing during a recent trip to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, and, well, that’s a good enough endorsement of character right there, if you’re asking me.
But there’s a lot more. In the book, Gibbons is honest about everything. And not, faux, internet, skimming the truth honest, but bone-deep, gut churning, ‘holy hell: I don’t know how you just admitted that outloud’ kind of honest. And – maybe most importantly – she’s honest about what it feels like to be her. And I say ‘most importantly’ not because the other things don’t matter (I happen to think they do, and that Gibbons’ brand of humor imbues them with a spark that’s often missing when such topics are brought up anywhere), but because it was this connection of Gibbons to herself, her body, and through that to all of us and our bodies, that seems so momentous.
It was all this showing us her underbelly that first drew me to Brittany’s blog, that has kept me as a longtime reader of hers (and member of her Curvy Girl Army, on Facebook), and that makes this book so poignant – Because when she talks about being plus size she doesn’t just say “It sucks, but I learned how to love my body,” she says: “Looking my daughter in the face and telling her she was just like me, and in the next breath destroying my body in front of her, was a catastrophic mixed message. I was drowning in self-loathing, and the only way I could save her was to save myself. The problem was I had no idea how.”
And when she talks about her anxiety she doesn’t just say “Hey, I had anxiety pretty bad during college, but look at me – I got up in a bikini in front of millions of people” (EVEN THOUGH THOSE ARE TRUE FACTS), instead she says
“You are probably wondering what the hell is happening right now. If you’ve never had or known someone with anxiety, most of this looks pretty irrational. Like “Hey creep-face, stop biting yourself and go to the classes you are paying eleventy billion dollars to attend.” I’d have loved to. The issue is that as a person with anxiety, I have the inside track on the fact that we’re all doomed, and carrying this knowledge around every second of every day is debilitating. I can’t offer you evidence or logic; I just know these potential horrible events to be true. It’s like living every day as Ben Affleck in Armageddon.”
and then, later:
“It’s been three years, and I still haven’t been able to watch the video of my TED talk. In my head, it went perfectly, and I’d hate to ruin it by picking myself apart or focusing on anything other than the feeling I’d left the stage with that day: pure, unadulterated joy. That talk changed my life. It was the first time I’d addressed a crowd live, and despite being incredibly scared, I survived. Nothing would be as scary as that, which meant I could do anything.”
I mean, that’s the kinda gutsy I like to read about, I don’t know about you. Especially if it’s paired with the following text conversation: