I can honestly say, ladies, that I don’t know of any woman who is completely happy with her body. As sad as it is, we focus on what we deem to be flaws and rarely appreciate the parts that are perfectly acceptable. Take my hands, for example. They are perfectly acceptable, even attractive hands with beautiful nails; I should appreciate them more. Too bad my muffin top demands all my attention.
It’s tough to stay focused on the good when we live in a society that body shames. If you don’t fit the norm, which, for some reason, is a completely unrealistic model-thin yet athletic, big-boobed Barbie doll caricature of a woman, people (including our own inner voices) ridicule our not-so-acceptable parts.
I’m the mother of a tween who has a strong, healthy body. Yet I’m starting to hear her talk about herself. I’ve always been careful about staying positive when around her. I want her to know that all body types are acceptable and lovely. But she overhears other people make comments about how thin and tiny she is (a genetic trait that she gets from me). I was teased mercilessly as a child because I was so skinny. And now my daughter is telling me that she needs to put on weight and I can’t help but think about how rude people are. How dare they make remarks about her!
Rae Earl knows all about how rude people can be. At seventeen years old, she had just been released from a psychiatric ward, was boy-crazy, lonely, and, ahem, fat. The year was 1989 and Rae recorded all her deepest feelings, insecurities, longings, and fears in her daily diary, now published in the raw as My Mad Fat Diary.
To her friends, Rae is a happy-go-lucky gal with quick wit and a larger-than-life personality. She spends her days gossiping at her posh school, and her nights hanging at the posh pub with her posh friends. She’s everybody’s mate who can dance up a storm and laugh off even the snidest remark about her weight.
Or so everybody thinks.
Rae lives with her overbearing mum and deaf cat in Stamford, Lincolnshire, where she records and confesses everything in her diary. A self-proclaimed “Meryl Streep of Stamford,” Rae justifies deserving an Oscar for the performance she puts on every day. She may be “confident and happy” to her friends, but what she is hiding is that she is a mad, fat mess.
What Rae really wants is to be thin and beautiful and healthy and desirable. She dreams of having a brilliant job, beautiful clothing for her new svelte figure, telling her friends to “sod off,” and Tom Cruise. She’d settle for a snog with just about anybody.
My Mad Fat Diary is a brutally honest and brilliant portrayal of a girl struggling with her identity, clashing with her mother, and fighting the self-loathing that comes naturally with teen years.
Rae Earl is a full-time writer living in Tasmania. My Mad Fat Diary is the basis of a hit British television series on Hulu. U.S. Edition: St. Martin’s Press, 2016.