I went away last weekend to finish a big editing project that was due this week and which I naturally didn’t start until 72 hours before it had to be completed.
While I was editing my own stuff, I knew that I needed something to read as well as write otherwise I would have gone stark raving bonkers.
So I excitedly bought Portia De Rossi’s new memoir, Unbearable Lightness, on my Kindle for the astonishing price of $12.95. I only know how to read books two ways – fast or not at all. I inhaled this one in a couple of days.
When I mention to anyone that I read it, they seem very eager to know how it was. So I’m going to tell you.
There really is no other way to describe it. I was going to tell you who this book isn’t for. I was going to tell you that you’d be disappointed if you were hoping to read about some of the celebrities Portia has worked with, like Elle Macpherson, Hugh Grant, Calista Flockhart, Courtney Thorne Smith, Jane Krakowski, Lucy Liu and Christian Slater. There’s no mention of most of those people and maybe one or two sentences about the others. There’s not much Ellen in this book either, not until right at the end in the epilogue.
And this frustrated me at times when I was reading it.
But then I realised something. This book is about an eating disorder. A terrible and extreme eating disorder. And what I came to understand through the book was that anorexia – or any eating disorder – is a lonely, isolating, life-sucking thing that doesn’t leave room for anything else.
I don’t know if this is a good book to read if you currently have an eating disorder or are in the early stages of recovery. I’d be interested to hear what others thought about that.
There are a lot of details about Portia’s anorexia and bulimia. Excruciating detail. She leaves nothing out in the name of vanity or nicety or an attempt to sugar coat what her life was like for her, physically, mentally or emotionally. Actually, the book is often quite emotionless because an eating disorder can often be used as a way to block feelings.
She examines her body and her relationship with it scrupulously and in minute detail, repeatedly turning it over and peering at it incessantly from every angle. And this can be exhausting just like being in the grips of an eating disorder must be exhausting. And yet I never wanted to put it down. I was propelled through Portia’s story, willing for her to get better.
And she does, as we know. She meets her Princess Charming and they marry and she gets better. Actually, that’s not true.
Importantly, she gets better BEFORE she meets Ellen and I’m relieved about this. Ellen doesn’t ‘save her’ from anorexia. Nobody can. Portia saves herself but not before she nearly dies. Throughout her life she does a damn good job of trying to kill herself with (and without) food.