Second book I read over the weekend was Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed. The entire book is protagonist Canni'se (short for Candace) struggle to find love, success and fame despite the fact that she is a
larger woman. Or that she is fat, basically. It's a Bridget Jones Diary, with different problems.
Jennifer Weiner writes in a pretty engaging style. I didn't put down the book. But throughout, and especially after, reading the book I became more and more disenchanted with the story and the moral. Cannie doesn't really have a lot going for her, other than her fat disability. Perhaps she is an engaging journalist, though the story really provides little evidence of that. Cannie is an entertainment reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper. She writes about celebrities. She writes puff pieces.
Just before the story begins, she dumps her long time boyfriend who loves her greatly. She needs space. She wants to take a break. The rest of the book, she pines for him and blames him for abandoning her. She throws herself back at him, and is resentful when he doesn't jump right back. In fact, being a writer himself, he writes about their relationship in his column in Moxie magazine. No names are mentioned, and his articles are critical of himself and positive toward her and even her size. And yet she feels humiliated. He's a loser I agree, as later on he writes about something Cannie requests that he refrain from publicly revealing.
Anyway, Cannie whines a lot about how fat people are put down. About how it's the last acceptable prejudice. She also whines about not being able to be thin. News flash Cannie, your positions are opposite each other. Either it's acceptable to be heavy, or it's not. If it's okay to be heavy, you shouldn't be spending the inordinate amount of mental energy wishing to be thin. Convince yourself first, and perhaps the rest of the world will follow.
I don't mean that in the literal sense. The world will not become accepting of large people simply because one woman learns to accept herself. But what will happen is that what the world thinks of her size will matter only in passing to a person comfortable with her size. Eventually, Cannie does become comfortable with her size, but only right at the end of the story, and there is not explanation of why, either in her characters actions or in anything of her author-exposed thoughts. For once, I would like to see an author explore the idea of a protagonist being comfortable with their own
handicap (for wont of a better term) and show how being well-adjusted affects their perception of other people's prejudices.
The idea that weight is the last acceptable prejudice is a selfish proposition. There are plenty of
acceptable prejudices that are wholly unacceptable in my perfect world. But everyone likes to think of themselves and their challenges as completely unique. It ain't so. Yet when a fat person cries out
I am oppressed like no other! the nerd in me responds
B.S.! I was near friendless and alone for years. I've not walked in a heavy person shoes, but neither has any person walked in my shoes. So why does no one come to my aid? Why is my minority not have a champion?
Therein lies the crux of the problem. We all want people to come to our aid. We want our injustices taken care of, even though deep down we frequently buy into them ourselves, like Cannie does in this story. We want to be recognized to overcoming these obstacles. And we feel cheated when it does not happen, but someone else does get their champion. Some whites see the N.A.A.C.P. and wonder why black people get an organization for their cause, but they do not. Deep down, it only reinforces the idea they themselves hold that they truly aren't worthy. And so the white cause becomes their means to whistle to themselves in the dark.
The same goes for Cannie in the story. Her fight for fat acceptance is an attempt to whistle in the dark to hide her own fear that she really isn't worthy. (The lack of love from her father only reinforces this fear.)
And it is the same fear that causes me to cry out,
stop whining! Inside, I want someone to champion my cause, and the lack of a champion reinforces my own fear.
In reality, my happiness is based mostly on what goes on inside me, not on a cause. And so it shouldn't matter to me if my social handicap doesn't receive the same recognition as the currently in vogue defense of heavyset people. It's not a contest.
That's the lesson I learned from this book, although I don't think it's the lesson Ms. Weiner intended. Her moral of accepting people based on who they are not on how they look is valid. But it was drowned in my view by the fact that her character is someone I wouldn't want to spend time with. Nevertheless, it's a book worth reading even for the idea that overweight people should be accepted, as few novels even attempt to fight that battle.
And that ought to get me a few responses.