Writing about other people can be such a tricky endeavor; you might think it's old hat to me, but it never is. In my new essay collection Sex & Cupcakes I included an essay that got rejected from Modern Love in The New York Times called "My Boyfriend's Fat." It's one I'm proud of but also have been worried about putting out into the world, precisely because it's both personal and about the most important person in my life. Having been featured as a "character" in short stories, I know that it's probably not a barrel of laughs to be the focal point of a personal essay by your significant other. And yet. I did it. It was important to me and for me a way to express both love and frustration at the way our culture talks about fatness and bodies and "health."
So far, the four reviews of the book that are up on Amazon and a blog, all mention the essay.
The essay that hit me the most from a personal point of view is entitled, ‘My Boyfriend is Fat.’ As the wife of a portly middle aged man (ok, he’s fat), I felt for Rachel, and understood every word she wrote. The stupid comments that people make, the judgements that people (who should often know better) make. Although our circumstances are different in someways there were so many things she said through the words on the page that simply made me go, yes, that’s it! Why DO people say that? What does give people the right to judge?
Alyssa on Amazon:
I also liked 'My Boyfriend's Fat' because she talked about the judgement and comments that people make in our society aimed at those who don't fit the "skinny" group. This essay itself had so much emotion and it stuck with me as I myself am overweight.
Ilovebooks on Amazon
They are all entertaining, but I found myself really struck by the essay she wrote about her overweight boyfriend. It was about the prejudices he faced as an overweight man and her attraction to him. I had an overweight family member and I just related a lot to what she had to say about this.
Wendy W on Amazon
I was especially drawn to her compassion for her boyfriend's weight "issue." I put issue in quotes because the people who are making an issue out of seem to be those who are NOT either Rachel or her beau.
Is it wrong to link to those reviews as if they alone validate my desire to write about that topic, or rather, is it wrong for me to want and crave that feedback? I hope not, because I do genuinely crave it. When I've been sending the ebook out to reviewers I've said something like, "I hope you like it, but even if you don't I want to know your thoughts." And I do, even though I also brace myself, because I don't think there's a way to separate judgment about the writing from judgment about, well, your choices, if you're writing memoir or essays. That's the risk you take by going there.
I wrote that essay not for my boyfriend as target audience but for everyone else who's expressed "concern" to me about his size, and for people who make judgments about fat people. I didn't write it from some World's Most Enlightened Person perspective about the topic, because how could I? I grew up in this same culture and have plenty of body issues myself. But even when we don't want to be changed, the people in our lives changed us. I love that that's the essay, along with "Monogamishmash," being highlighted by readers. I already got an email from a stranger via the Thought Catalog Books site (where, it should be noted, "Fuck" gets its full four-letter glory but on Amazon has to be F***" commenting on the title. Those are the essays that are all about my vulnerabilities and some of the conflicts of both my relationship, but hopefully, something a little more universal.
I was uncertain about publishing this fat essay, about naysayers and judgment, and more protective than usual because it's not my life on the line, exposed. The dance between public and private is an ongoing issue in my relationship. It's such a delicate line sometimes and clearly I so often fall on the public side. But for the last two years and nine months, I've learned to treasure all the private, often ridiculous, sometimes sappy moments that are just ours. To me those make what I do share all the more important. It sounds so lofty even as I type this, but I don't just write to purge or for catharsis, although I do believe writing is inherently selfish for me. I write to connect and learn and find out what other people think.
So if that intrigues you, all 9 essays are just $4.99 with the click of a button. I'll post more about the tattoo essay soon too. My heart surprises me all the time and even though the essay about it remains what it is, an essay is never the end of the story, but a moment in time, frozen in words on the page (or screen, as it were).