“I never thought a book could change my life, until I read this one.”

If you don’t believe in fate then I’m going to find it rather tricky to explain the events of last Friday.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed on my way to work, mindlessly, like every fellow passenger on the bus, when I saw an article my friend had shared, titled ,“Lindy West: My husband isn’t fat and that enrages people.”

I vaguely recognised West’s name, and, being a fat woman myself, the headline made me click instantly. Because, you know, it’s always good to see a fellow fat sister doing well for herself.

A photo posted by Lindy West (@thelindywest) on Apr 15, 2016 at 10:25pm PDT

The article, published on The Pool, hit close to home. West explained how she was sitting at a bar with her now husband when a woman, who was a fan of her writing, came up and introduced herself. After a bit of chit-chat, the woman asked what it was like to work at home, was it lonely? West said no because, gesturing to Ahamefule Olou, her then soon-to-be husband, was home with her. Blankly, the lady said, “So, are you two roomates?”

“I wasn’t surprised that this woman took so many wilful leaps past “couple” and landed on “roommates” in her split-second sussing-out of our relationship – it happens all the time,” West wrote.

“But it was a disheartening reminder of an assumption that has circumscribed my life: Couples ought to “match”; Aham and I do not. I am fat and he is not. He is conventionally desirable and I am a “before” picture in an ad. It is considered highly unlikely – borderline inconceivable – that he would choose to be with me in a culture where men are urged to perpetually “upgrade” to the “hottest” woman within reach.”

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I found myself completely consumed by West’s writing, so much so I even missed my bus stop. How had I never read anything by her before? How had it taken me a decade of her being a prominent, fiercely feminist writer for me to stumble across her words?

West somehow managed to say so eloquently the emotions, the feelings, I feel every day.

When a close friend/my grandma asks me why I’m not seeing anyone, it’s because of this: This feeling I don’t deserve to be with someone I am attracted to. Because they could never be attracted to me, surely?

Society has told me, because I am a fat woman, I do not deserve love. I do not deserve to be with someone that doesn’t match how I look. I do not deserve to be anything other than a fat, sad, spinster. Fuck me, right?

West describes this was the way she felt before she met Ohou. Before him, she says, the only conventionally attractive men that wanted to date her were men who wanted to keep her a ‘secret’. Because telling ‘the boys’ you’re dating a fat girl isn’t exactly grounds for bragging rights.

The article finished abruptly and I was left wanting more. And then I saw it, the golden words: This is an extract from Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I had to have this book.

Just looking through my wedding pics again. Photo by Jenny Jimenez.

A photo posted by Lindy West (@thelindywest) on Dec 16, 2015 at 12:29pm PST

And then, as fate would have it, the book was lying on my workmate’s desk as I entered the office. Because fate is a real thing, guys.

When home, I quickly flipped to the chapter of West’s and Ohou’s love story.

“When I think back on my teenage self, what I really needed to hear wasn’t that someone might love me one day if I lost enough weight to qualify as human – it was that I was worthy of love now, just as I was,” West wrote.

“Being fat and happy and in love is still a radical act.”

West, who I now like to refer to as my fairy God mother I’ve never met, has given me the advice I always knew I needed but had never received.

For so long it has been implied the only way I can be happy and the only way someone will ever be able to love me is if I lose weight. I’m not saying I don’t need to, medically I am overweight and this is something I am working on. Slowly but surely I am losing it.

But the notion I can only love and be loved if I lose weight has been like an overbearing monster sitting upon my shoulders, terrifying me to flirt with anyone because surely a fat woman flirting with another human is the most disgusting thing that could ever happen.

And when I have had people flirt with me, touch me, it has made me realise perhaps, for a moment, I am not so disgusting after all.

improve your body confidence
Me in Dubrovnik last year. Image supplied.

It's been a year since I first wrote about my weight and the social anxiety that has come with it. And in that year I have grown so much as a person.

Reading West's book, which I did in one sitting because it was that freaking glorious,  feels like it's come at the right time, the culmination of the confidence I have had building within me over the last year. It has not only made me realise I do, in fact, deserve to be a human with emotions, but that I can be fat and be confident, and loud, and funny and all the things I know I am, without feeling like I need to hide.

And this is the best gift Lindy West, a complete stranger, could have ever given me.

You can buy Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West now.

You can watch Lindy West vs. Candy Corn Oreos below. Because there's nothing better than a funny woman reviewing treacherous food. 

Video via Lindy West

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