Getting Waisted – Monica Parker’s declaration of independence and the road she took to get there
There are good books and then there are good books that feel like they’ve taken a picture of your own life while leaning over your shoulder. Getting Waisted is a very, very good book – it also reads like the author was reading my mail.
Monica Parker is a successful writer, actress and producer. She’s an artist, a fashion designer and an all-around Renaissance woman. She’s married to Gilles, beautiful man, angel cook and all-around McGyver who can do anything, mother to the beautiful young man, Remy. And yet, for much of Monica Parker’s marvelous, magical, accomplished life – to Monica, she was only fat.
Written as if you are in conversation on her front porch of a summer’s evening, Monica tells of being born in Glasgow, Scotland to an Austrian-Hungarian-Jewish mother of some talent and great determination (I believe the term “force of nature” would suit) and a vague, befuddled Brit whom, had I met him, would have made me wonder about autism (“My mother spotted the awkward Englishman standing next to the bar, examining one bottle after another, mumbling their identities, alcohol content, and whatever else it said, even in the fine print.”) This was not a match made in heaven. This was a match between a woman desperate to stay in Britain and get the children from whom she’d been separated by World War II (her son, Monica’s half-brother, survived Auschwitz) and a man who never knew what hit him.
Their incredibly brief physical relationship, to her mother’s shock, produced Monica who tells us that she was born weighing “six and a half pounds. One hour later I weighed sixty-two pounds.” Monica has no memory of being truly tiny, even as a child.
The pressure, as it is for all of us who run from sturdy to honestly round, began immediately, as did the desperate measures. Humorously and deftly written, Monica proceeds to describe her life in chapters defined by weight loss efforts – sometimes single diets and sometimes an entire movement of them. She begins her chapters with the name of the diet, the cost, the weight lost and the weight gained back. I guarantee this book runs from snortworthy to giggle-inducing, but to someone like me, it produced mostly smiles that ranged from grins to winces of shared pain.
Some of what Monica experienced hurt to read. It hurt like my own remembered pain. Reading about being the fat roommate in a household of women who met the social ideal (but, of course, didn’t think so) – always the friend, never the date – felt like an old home week reunion I’d rather avoid. There was the relationship with the beautiful male model who was with her because she was useful. The friend turned lover she lost because she didn’t trust he could truly care for her as a fat woman. And the bastard who taught her that thin could be dangerous.
Then there were the early jobs that focused on her body size – look, she’s capable and flexible but oh, she’s fat – to the one where – in costume – she ushered celebrities onto a soundstage and then had to endure a fat joke hurled at her by the same celebrities, which brought back memories of my own.
Truth was, if this beautiful, talented, capable, lovable, lively – WONDERFUL – woman had been thin, she would have been accepted as all of this from the beginning. More importantly, she would have have accepted herself as being all that, too.
Instead, it took her decades in which she had success after success, even as the world we all live in – a world of judgment, of unmeetable standards, of self-loathing, a world where food is our temptation, our comfort and joy and also the object of our hatred – conspired to tell her that she would only be enough if she tortured her body into being the shape society expected.
Getting Waisted is a book nobody should miss. If you are a person of size – don’t miss it. If you have friends of size – don’t miss it. It’s the story of a life well-lived, but with too much time wasted on what wasn’t important and too long taken figuring out what was. But isn’t that what we do? Read Monica Parker’s words. Hear her wisdom. Embrace yourself as you are, your life as it is and for what you can make of it. You deserve it, as do we all.
Monica and I chatted on the phone for some time – she’s every bit as wonderful to talk to as she is to read. I also sent Monica a list of questions – read on for her witty and perceptive answers:
When you accepted yourself (at last!), did you finally feel you deserved your other lifetime successes?
I have given this a lot of thought and it’s not a black and white answer. I have always had a sense of destiny and that I deserved a great life but I also knew it wouldn’t be given to me. I would have to find it and carve out. Before I accepted my body, I used my size defensively and foisted my will on others with determination to succeed regardless of my size. But when I actually came to accept myself…I stopped working so hard to convince others and myself that I deserved success. It just became easier. So – YES!
Did it make you feel that people liking and loving you was less of some fluke of character on their part and more like you deserved it?
Again, a complicated question with a complicated answer. I have never struggled with getting people to like me. That has always been easy. I like people. Believing that I could be loved in an intimate and complete relationship as my full package was the struggle. I diminished me to protect me but that only made me angry at what I believed to be discrimination. The truth, the discrimination was perpetrated by myself with my expectation that I couldn’t be loved as I was. That was not true – but I believed it. It’s what’s in your head that creates the outcome.
Did you ever feel, as I have, that your human being card had been forcibly stripped from you?
No, I don’t think I have felt that. I am way too much of a fighter. Crazy as this may sound I have always fought for my place at the table – any table.
Did you ever find you felt sorry for the women who fit society’s idea of perfect but who still hated themselves?
Absolutely! As you read in my book, because I have been a dress designer and an actress, I have been surrounded by beautiful girls/women who suffered from worse self loathing than I ever have – I think because most knew their self worth was attached to their looks and if it went, who were they? (There are, of course exceptions; Gloria Steinham for one). The gift of not being ‘magazine worthy’ is we develop in so many other ways to compensate and to get noticed.
Did you find that letting go of the lifetime of body hatred allowed you to more fully express yourself? Hold back less? Relax into being yourself (even revel in it)?
Yes! I enjoy being me. I am by nature a very optimistic person and someone who loves to celebrate everything. I do seem to favor ‘the look at the bright side of life’ philosophy. But with self- acceptance came a comfort in celebrating all that I am exactly as I am.
Did you find you could stop trying to convince people that you were a far better brand of fat person – interesting and funny and bright – and thus worthy of being loved and just accept that there was no need to convince anybody? (In other words, give up being the ‘n Bits dog?)
I don’t understand being the “‘n Bits Dog’ as a reference. I don’t know what that means. [It’s this little guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvoBAeNhNZk] But I also don’t feel that way and never have. I have always been interesting and bright but I suppose along with body acceptance comes peace and comfort and the knowledge that I can comfort others who are not as confident as I am, that they can become so.
Have you had to grieve for time wasted anguishing over your body size? Rage about it?
I certainly have grieved for having had self-loathing. I have certainly grieved for spending any time on feeling badly about my genetics and propensity for gaining weight. But suffering and resentment is a one-way street to being a victim and I never wanted to be that, so I turned it around and saw that I had the power to be a force for positive change.
How do you feel about the megabillion dollar diet industry that promises miracles, never works and even makes the situation worse?
I believe you already know how I feel because you have read my book. I talk about the ‘diet devils’ that make promises that can’t be kept. It’s all a money grab designed to make us feel bad. Its shameful and only makes us feel like failures if we don’t succeed. But its reach is huge and is about everything not just weight. It’s about bullshit perfection, which doesn’t exist or last more than a nano-second. The struggle to be all those things that the beauty industry wants us to shell out money for is what makes my blood boil. We need to channel our energies into more important things than achieving the superficial.
Now that you have let it go and learned to love yourself, have you been able to sink into Gilles’ love and trust it more?
Yes! But, when I met Gilles, I was very young and insecure, which is what most of us are when we are really young. At that time, his English was terrible and I had a high profile in my world – which was hard for Gilles. Attraction is not ever quantifiable. We were attracted to each other and it wasn’t always about looks…even though I thought and still think he is stunning. But I was attracted to his goodness and his heart and I think was attracted to my energy, humor and openness.
Here’s a link to the book’s website: http://www.gettingwaisted.com/
And here’s a link to buy it on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Waisted-Survival-Guide-Society/dp/075731774X