Dietland (Book) Review

 

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It’s only the first few days of June and I think I’ve already found my book of the year.

I’m going to try to review this without giving much away because I think it’s a fun, dark and interesting look at society, feminism, revenge, beauty and self love, amongst other things – and I want people to read the hell out of it.

Dietland gives us a fat protagonist, Plum which is a treat to find in literature. Or at least, it’s less common to have a fat character presented in a positive light. This seems to be changing, however despite placing a lot of ‘fat main character’ books on my Amazon wish list recently, it still feels like a novelty.

That last statement might not be strictly accurate btw. I should say that I haven’t noticed main fat characters much in the books I’ve read but I would be open to recommendations on books that do feature them. As many as possible! Ones that aren’t the DUFF or end up having massive makeovers to deem themselves acceptable, obvs.

Alicia ‘Plum’ Kettle is deeply apologetic about the fact that she’s fat, so any change in this attitude is a way down the line. More than apologetic, she is obsessed in her quest to lose weight and become her real self – just ‘Alicia’.

Here in the current day, Plum fills a wardrobe with clothes she’ll wear when she’s skinny, when she’s had the stomach stapling surgery she’s booked in for and can finally transform into her true self. She’s been on a diet for most of her life and tends to stick to the safety of her immediate environment to avoid drawing attention to herself. Which doesn’t work really but hey ho.

She works for a big magazine, answering personal emails to her shithead boss, Dear Kitty, who doesn’t have the time to do it herself. Plum spends each day in the local cafe sending advice to ‘her girls’, on anything from self-harming to sexual abuse and life’s what it
is. Kind of in limbo until the real living begins – when she’s thin.

A quick aside from me: I love Plum because I’ve thought like her and I know a lot of people have and still do. I’ve tried to stop this damaging thought process and accept that how I look now is more than likely how I will always look. The concept that “Life begins” at a certain (and mostly impossible) point is incredibly sad.

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Photograph not mine

One seemingly ordinary day, Plum notices that she’s being followed by a dark-haired girl who appears to be making notes about her in a journal. She’s used to comments and people taking her picture on the street but somehow senses this is different.

Little does Plum know that her stalker is about to change her life completely and in the most dramatic way possible.

Running alongside Plum’s ‘rebirth’ is news of a  feminist terrorist organisation named by the media as “Jennifer”, who are committing violent acts of retribution against rapists and abusers, as well as major media outlets and the porn industry.

Sweet and fluffy this book is not and I love it all the more for that. There are horrific descriptions of some of the acts, by both the terrorists and those they are carrying out revenge against. It doesn’t shy away from rape culture and it’s powerful stuff.

Plum’s story is wonderfully empowering and I actually love her. I feel like in many ways she is me, she is every woman and when she starts to figure out where she belongs in this world and begins to enjoy the space she takes up, I may have whooped.

I also love many of the supporting characters who open Plum’s eyes to the all the bullshit out there, without too much personal judgement. Plum undergoes such a transformation by the time you reach the last page that I think it would be impossible not to feel happy for her – and it probably won’t be in the way you’re expecting.

Does Plum undergo the weightloss surgery she’s so focussed on, and start that brand new life that’s been waiting for her since she was a teenager?

And the question you’ll no doubt be asking yourselves: what has the mysterious “Jennifer” got to do with Plum, if anything at all? Find out by picking this book up ASAP.

My Thoughts:

You may not agree with everything that takes place within this book but I think for the most part, any woman can identify with the exhausting notion that we have to look and be a certain way to be deemed acceptable by society.

The issue here is not just fat but beauty on the whole – from the tips of our toes to the roots of our hair. And beyond beauty, there’s an interesting comment on the porn industry that made me think a lot more about it.

I find stories like this empowering while others may not and that’s okay but I think the story fits in a lot with the way I’ve been viewing myself over the last year which might be why it resonates so. I’m learning that I don’t have to be sorry for anything, let alone the amount of space I occupy.

I really just want to read this all over again.

Book details:

Dietland
Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (5 May 2016)
ISBN-10: 1782399291
ISBN-13: 978-1782399292
Bought paperback (new)

If you read this book, or anything similar, please let me know. I’m always up for a good recommendation ❤

The Pursuit of Happiness: Hair

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Picture via Tumblr/Adele’s Instagram

I’ve decided to start my own Happiness campaign which sounds cheesy AF and it is but fuck knows I need it right now.

The concept of happiness to me is ever-changing. Every now and again, and don’t get me wrong I’m not miserable or sad as I type this, I just feel like I need a joy injection. Just a little something that delivers a swift shot of euphoria to keep me going.

This can be in the form of almost anything, from a new lipstick to three great days in a row at the gym (even one tbf). It can be a series of really good #selfies or a drinking session. The point is it doesn’t matter what it is but you’ll recognise it when you see it. Or more to the point, when you feel it.

So I’m going to spend this Summer exploring the things that make me happy. I’m going to start with this post on hair which is a hugely superficial sounding thing but is actually, in many ways, a much deeper topic to explore.

Wondering what the flip I’m going on about? It’s okay, that happens a lot round here. To hair!

I got my barnet cut off last weekend (image in that thumbnail over there on the right). Big fucking deal you might be thinking but I’ve been a long-haired lady for at least the last decade so bite me. I’ve been having it cut gradually shorter for the last couple of months but wasn’t happy with the overall effect (basically nobody noticed). This is likely because I was too scared to ask for what I actually wanted, something I am renowned for.

Eventually I got exactly what I wished for with a new (and amazing) hairdresser who just got me. It’s short man, and I bloody love it!

My husband does not. But that’s okay, it’s a shock to the system and essentially it grows out of my head so I get to choose. He’ll hopefully come round to how happy it makes me and deal with it.

I mean it’s not like he’s gone off me or anything but it has opened my eyes once again to men. The delicate feelings of poor overlooked and misunderstood men.

I’m not attacking my life partner per se but it’s a head of hair for fuck’s sake. Why shouldn’t a woman do what she wants with it? Why is the (mostly male) concept of femininity so wrapped up in the length of a woman’s hair?

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Forever my inspo but also for hair right now ❤

Femininity to me is so much more and sure, it’s hard to define but it’s more than just a hairstyle (and it’s not gender specific either, yo).

We can’t all waft about with Khaleesi locks and it’s okay. Neither could Daenerys if she was doing anything other than breaking chains and fucking about with dragons, she’d at least have it up in a jaunty pony out of the way. But still men expect us to look that way, like a ‘woman’ at all times, comfort be damned.

Truth is, my long hair was cool and all but it was hell and I never maintained it the way I ‘should’ have. It got badly tangled the closer I got to ‘trim’ time and it was humiliating to sit in a salon having someone comb out the knots for 20 minutes at a time. I felt like a horse and not a prize-winning stallion, let me tell you.

So I decided to change it, for maintenance and also to change it up. Looking through Facebook I’ve had the same do the entire time. I want to look cute as much as the next person – and now I think I do.

I look upon my new hair as a political statement (albeit a small one). One in the eye of the men who’ve asked me what I’ve done to my ‘lovely long locks’.

The Italian man in the Co-op whispered about it with his colleague as I perused the sandwiches for god’s sake. How about I’m not your property?

How about you ring up this Cheese & Pickle, my man and shut your damn mouth?

So yes, I’m looking into happiness on the whole. Who knows where it may take me? But for now, I feel great about my new look and can’t stop running my fingers through my glossy bob (or ‘lob’ = long bob). I’d say that’s a pretty good start.

What makes you happy? (You answer doesn’t have to be existential, it can be as basic as you like) ❤

Get Me Bodied

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Last night I fell into bed at the usual time utterly exhausted. Had I climbed a mountain, or run 10k? Nope, just the usual: spent more than a ‘healthy’ amount of time on Twitter.

I can’t blame my favourite social media app for all these feelings of inertia but a conversation started on there that began to melt my brain, and then got me thinking about all the other negative talk I hear on a day to day basis.

It gets to the point where you can feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and for a moment there I wanted to shout; “Stop the world, I want to get off!”.

Then I remembered that the new patch on my denim jacket urges me to consider what Kathleen Hanna would do and I know I can’t just lie down until it passes. Not that this blog post will change society in 350 words obviously, but at least I can get it off my chest.

It’s about bodies (who knew?).

The thing that triggered me yesterday was news of a plus-size issue of Glamour magazine. Cool. But apparently, or at least this is how it looks to the outside world, they’d struggled to actually fill an entire issue with ‘acceptable’ women of size so they’d turned to Amy Schumer as one of their poster children.

She’s not plus-size in my eyes but by that stage I didn’t know what dress size she was so, whatever (obviously it wasn’t going to be a large one). Schumer, on social media, reposted the cover with the a “Hey Twitter, what are your thoughts?”. She went on to say she had nothing against being plus-size but that as a US size 6 (plus-size begins at 16), she doesn’t consider herself to be in that category. She also claimed she was never told or asked that she’d be in this edition, and that she’s offended by it.

This whole thing does raise the question of why she’s so bothered about the association to this label, especially when she’s started off by being so body positive. I get that the label is not for some. Ashley Graham wants to be referred to as sexylicious ffs! But from what I’ve seen, Amy has made a career out of fat jokes about herself, I guess she just doesn’t think it’s cool that anyone would consider her that way, beyond herself. It’s just such a mixed message.

I’m not saying she’s wrong for raising the point of how this labeling could affect young people but I just… I’m tired of it all.

Not even to mention the fact that they could have filled this issue with hundreds of incredible fat ladies who aren’t models and made this issue actually something special.

I’m tired of fat people still not having it better in 2016. I’m tired of insidious fat talk seeping into my every day life and never being put in check. I’m tired of Amy Schumer’s poor comic delivery if I’m honest.

Most of all, I’m tired of thinking about my own body all the time. Like, all the shitting time!

Out for drinks on Friday I found myself talking about this vessel I call my body wayyyyyy too much and it was only because one person in my party likes to bring it up. I’m not sure why: to make me feel different? Special? Not good enough? It’s likely not malicious but it’s helped me on my way to typing this out. Shut up about it already!

Normally I’m all for this chatter. I’m getting better at it and I accept myself a hell of a lot more than I did ten/two years/one year/six months/a day ago but sometimes I just feel worn down. I think it’s the beauty industry altogether, with fat just being one branch of it.

And you know what else, I’m a privileged fat person at that – I’m white, at the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum and I’m represented a hell of a lot more in the media and all around than a lot of other women. So I have much less of a right to be moaning right now.

So, before my head falls off (at least I’d lose half a stone, amiright? BOOM):

  • Is it okay to be fat? Yes.
  • Do fat people deserve the same considerations as thin people? Yes.
  • Is it a form of rebellion to love yourself despite the fact people around you are telling you not to? Yes.
  • Is it okay to hate yourself every once in a while, despite all your body po personal achievements? Fuck yes.
  • Is it okay to be thin and beautiful? Yes.
  • Is it okay to opt out of triggering body talk? Always yes.
  • Is it okay to call someone up on their casual fatphobia? Yes.
  • Is it okay to feel down about bodies in general and write an incoherent post about it on your blog? God I hope so.

Finally:

  • Is it okay to dislike Amy Schumer (not for this) but still sort of enjoy Trainwreck (2015)? I don’t care what the answer to this one is TBH.

That’s where I am head wise today. If I were given the opportunity to be a brain in a jar for a while I might take them up on it just for another perspective.

One day you know maybe there won’t be the need to assess women by their size and conversations like this will be a thing of the past. I look forward to that day but until then, call me plus, give me clothes that fit and less of the fucking attitude.

What’s on your mind today? ❤

Painting the Walls

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I’ve never identified more with an illustration found on Twitter before (Heather of Yummy Sushi Pajamas kindly sourced the artist, who is Suzeart).

This is exactly how I view my tattoos and how wonderfully that’s been put here. Too often I’ve told myself I’ll wait until I’m a certain way (thin, obviously) before I treat myself to nice clothes, a decent haircut – new tattoos. Once I even set myself the goal of a new tattoo at every significant weight loss milestone – how sad is that? If you want ink and can afford it, why wait? Treat yourself NOW dammit.

I didn’t really start to love myself until I started to take some ownership. To witness other fat ladies online doing something as radical as loving the fuck out of their bodies had such an impact that I can’t really put it into adequate words. I knew I had to start taking responsibility too. This involved taking back the word “fat”, using it as a descriptor rather than a derogatory term, accepting what I really look like and not hiding away in shame.

And not putting my body down.

That’s the hardest part for me I think, seeing myself caught on camera by someone else and not freaking out, feeling crushed by how grotesque I am. But nobody said it would be perfect, or easy. Learning and maintaining a strong sense of love for oneself is an ongoing project as far as I see it. I very much doubt you one day arrive at a permanent plateau of total and utter satisfaction for who you are – or maybe some people do.

I started getting more into brightly coloured tattoos about 2 years ago. Before that I had tattoos, but they were mostly rebellious or part of my rites of passage. I was lucky enough to make friends with a tattooist who could facilitate this on the reg and together we changed the landscape of my chubby little arm forever. Although we’ve both moved on and I see Alex now instead, during that time I started to think of myself as less of a useless lump and more of an empowered person, doing what I wanted without permission.

That felt good and although I’m nobody’s door mat, I sometimes find it hard to demand things for myself. Painting the walls and hanging pictures all over my body is a form of expressing exactly who I am, without having to use the words I so often stumble over.

I put myself under the needle again yesterday afternoon and let me tell you that ribs are a whole other ball game when it comes to tattoo pain. Youch. So so worth it though to be able to rock the piece below.

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Yes that’s side boob

This is my new mantra BTW. When I feel the need to run myself down to others or be derogatory or rude about my looks, I shall stop and remember that I love myself. More than that, I completely adore myself, rolls and all.

It’s fitting somehow that I went through Hell to get this tattoo (not really, my tattooist is very good) – a nod to the journey *puke* from utter repulsion to self-acceptance. None of it’s easy, for any of us but if we can at least get on the right track, we’ll start a happy life-long relationship with someone who will love us for the rest of our lives, and love us better than anyone else can.

It’s okay, I’m going now. I just wanted to share the above illustration and a few of my thoughts on moving into your body fully and decorating as you see fit.

I know tattoos and body modification aren’t everybody’s idea of expression but I think this can translate to how you wear your hair and make up your face, how you dress – not everything has to be permanent or set in stone. I just happen to like my paintwork that way.

Always have, always will ❤

Lest we forget my inspiration for the above skin decoration, my original post featuring Artist Yayoi Kusama.

Dealing with Work the Riot Grrrl Way

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  • [Called into boss’ office for a rollicking]

Boss: What have you got to say for yourself then, Christa?
Me: *Lifts shirt to reveal ‘FUCK THE PATRIACHY’ etched across belly in black eyeliner*
Boss: …

  • [In meeting]

Boss: Where are we at with that thing, Christa?
Me: *Pushes knuckles together to spell out ‘Revolution’*
Boss: No, but really
Me: *Stares*
Boss: Get out

  • [Boss enters office]

Boss: Where’s Christa?
Colleague: Dunno, but she stuck that to your door with an envelope opener:
Note: WE WILL TAKE BACK ALL THE WORDS THAT WERE INVENTED TO HATE, MARGINALISE AND ALIENATE US. BITCH CUNT DYKE SLUT WHORE (MARKETING EXECUTIVE)
Boss: Not again

Day 31: Happy NY!

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The exact opposite of how I’ll be spending my NYE

Happy New Year everyone!

Whatever you’re doing with your evening; whether you party like it’s 1999, go to bed @ 9 or get drunk on cheap Baileys in your pyjamas in front of Alan Carr (me), I hope you have a great time.

And you know what? I’m a sucker for a “Go you!” meme, that’s no secret but I hope this fresh year brings you whatever you need. Maybe we’ll all change a bit and start 2016 with a fresh attitude. Maybe we will get that great new job or stop letting people take advantage of our better natures.

Maybe nothing at all will change. Maybe we’ll still be envious of a loved one, or too hard on our bodies. Maybe we’ll never pick up a sketchbook to find out if there’s an illustrator trapped within (me).

Any and all of that is okay. Let’s make a pact not to be horrible to ourselves about every little thing. If we want to make positive changes, let’s try to do that but every little bump in the road is not the end of the world. We’re already good enough, more than enough actually and we should learn to accept this.

So yes, that will be me starting to get a hangover after my second glass of lukewarm Irish Cream, probably having a bath with my book and trying desperately to stay awake until midnight, just because. That’s what we do in our house.

NYE makes me sad and I’ve always been relieved when it’s gone. But I like the promise of a new day, a new page. I just know that every day is a new page, not just the 1st January.

Catch you in 2016 my friends!

Stuff I DEFINITELY Won’t Be Buying in the January Sales

January is a very depressing month for many. For me it’s kind of okay because I’ve had extensive Hermit Training and don’t mind not seeing anyone but my husband for extended periods of time. I also have 78 unread books in a pile next to the bed so I’ll be busy, thanks.

That said, I do have to go to work like most other people and that means being near the internet and the January Sales which are there just to cheer us up, aren’t they? Nothing like instant gratification to fight off the New Year Blues, if only for the 15 seconds it takes to tear into the packaging and unearth our new friends.

I’ve been coveting quite a few things, how unusual for me, and here they are. Some things that are already in the sale or I hope soon will be, so I CAN RESIST THEM and feel VIRTUOUS.

All items in this post available via ASOS.com (but of course).

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ASOS Curve Monochrome Jumpsuit, £22.50 (Reduced from £45) ~ ASOS Curve Twist Bardot Skater Dress, £30 ~ Adidas Originals Polka Dot Track Pants, £33 (Reduced from £55)

God I love this jumpsuit. This would be a very welcome addition to the work wardrobe, looks instantly smart and chic, and would rock with a bold, colourful statement necklace to offset the monochrome.

That dress! I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with that much flesh on show in the office but I do feel my shoulders are one of my best features, so I could rock this in the pub feeling feminine AF. Lovely and a little bit ‘braver’ than my usual style.

These track pants are currently out of stock in my size but I want them so bad. Right now I live in gym gear after work, so these would add a much needed cool injection. Not that I care about being hot in the gym (just as well really).

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New Look Inspire Tailored Coat, £29.50 (Reduced from £39.99) ~ Adidas Originals Pastel Rose Shopper Bag, £19.50 (Reduced from £33) ~ ASOS Curve Knitted Bodycon Dress in Metallic Stripe, £19 (Reduced from £38)

I feel like I haven’t quite nailed the coat thing this Winter which isn’t such a disaster given that we haven’t had weather cold enough yet. I don’t think this tailored lovely is a very warm looking option but it is gorgeous. And I’ve got some great brooches that need showcasing, so…

Another one for the gym and isn’t it pretty?

This dress has been on my Wish List for a long time. I adore it. I like knit and basically, I just want it, okay?

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ASOS Curve Lounge Pant, £22 ~ ASOS Curve Jumpsuit with Zips, £24 (Reduced from £48) ~ ASOS Curve Plunge Wrap Bow Side Teddy, £25

I thought this was the whole set but it appears just to be the bottoms. You can get the top to match here. How cosy!

Another jumpsuit and actually, if I had to choose between this and the monochrome (above), I’d have a hard time. I mean look at it. It looks so finished. I love the zips, which add a real utility edge. Dreamy.

How hot is this? I’m not a roaming around the flat in a negligee type but if I was… I’d do it in items like this. SEXY.

And last but not least, on top of my Most Wanted List, this bad boy:

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Babyliss New Big Hair, £45

My boo, Tatty of Camelia Ophelia has this and I’m certain it would transform my life. I have big hair already but it has a tendency toward frizziness, especially in the windy weather. This could just be the thing to finally tame it. Image how chic I could finally be!

~

So there you go, there’s my impossibly superficial Sales Wish List. Of course, I won’t be purchasing any of this for myself because I’ve decided to take charge of my finances in 2016 and won’t be in a position to shop until at least April.

I’ve also decided to treat myself to the ultimate #selflove tattoo (it will be small and discreet), inspired by this post. Of course I will reveal all when the time comes but any spare pennies will be going towards that (my final, yet vital extravagance).

I’m serious about clearing my debt, but a girl can still dream, right?

UPDATE: I accidentally bought the stripey dress and the monochrome jumpsuit. They were ridiculously cheap (reduced further). Tatty made me do it! Ha. (What? It’s not New Year YET).