Nobody likes an overweight, fat, obese person and if you’re an overweight, fat, obese woman not only does society hate you but as far as they’re concerned you might as well kill yourself because you deserve all the rude remarks, insulting comments, stares, and laughter that are tossed your way.
Alicia Kettle, everyone calls her Plum, weighs in at a little over 300 pounds. She lives her life trying not to be noticed. She dresses in dark colors, her dresses are long, and her arms are always covered even during the hot New York summers. She looks down when she’s outside, minds her own business, and yet each and everyday some stranger feels they’re obligated to say something rude and nasty to her about her weight.
Plum dreams of becoming Alicia, her real self. Alicia is slim and beautiful. All men want her and all women want to be her. But in order for Plum to transform into Alicia she needs to have stomach bypass surgery which is expensive. Oh, her insurance will pay for the surgery but how will Plum afford to pay for all the follow up skin removal surgeries, the boob job she’ll have to get, and the stomach uplifting she’ll need? One thing at a time. First things first. Plum has schedule the bypass surgery and once that’s over with and she gets a little closer to being Alicia she’ll worry about everything else.
Plum works at home. She’s employed by a glamour type teen girl’s magazine. She answers questions from the teens. Of course the girls don’t know that Plum is answering the questions. Their emails are for the beautiful Kitty who runs the magazine. Kitty is far too busy gazing into the mirror to answer the thousands of emails she gets every week so Plum was hired to answer them. The questions are on many topics from dieting, to boyfriends, to slashing themselves, to parental problems, school, girlfriends, fashion, really anything that worries female teens, which is everything.
Plum likes working from home. She goes to her best friend Carmen’s cafe everyday and sits for hours drinking coffee and answering the emails. Kitty told her that human resources thought it would be nice for Plum to work at home but in reality Kitty didn’t want Plum in the office building which is filled with beautiful, slim, women. Plum just doesn’t fit that bill.
So day in and day out Plum doesn’t stray from a five block radius of her apartment, answering emails, drinking coffee, and ignoring all the cheap rude remarks that are flung at her about her weight.
But things are going to turn around for Plum very soon. Now don’t assume that Plum is going to transform herself into a size 2. She is going to be transformed into something far better than Alicia and all with the help of a terrorists group called Jennifer.
Jennifer is a group who kidnaps and then kills men who abuse women in any and every way. They even have a hit list. Jennifer also kidnaps and murders women who stay with these men accepting and defending the violence that’s handed to them. Jennifer is like a feminist terrorist group who is trying to regain their dignity from men who have claimed it. They refuse to be the “little girls” that look up to men as if the men were Gods, all knowing what’s best for all females. The group killed 12 men by throwing them out of an airplane at 10,000 feet because they raped a 12 year old girl for hours. Jennifer murdered a porn star/model because she allowed herself to be raped on the big screen even though she was harmed many times and needed surgery. Even so, she continued with her career, that is until Jennifer ended it all for good.
Is Plum part of Jennifer? Not at all but her fight to take back her dignity from people who believe that she doesn’t deserve it because of her weight is what Jennifer is doing with men. With the help of other fractured women at Calliope House Plum leans how to stick up for herself, defend herself, and not just sit back and let others say things to her without firing back. Plum learns how to be Plum and perhaps even not think about transforming herself to the thin, beautiful Alicia.
“Dietland” by Sarai Walker is an amazing book. I found it so amazing that I’m going to buy it and I always do my best not to buy books.
But “Dietland” is not so amazing to all women.
I’ve read reviews about the book on Goodreads and Amazon and many of the women only like the beginning of the book where Plum is agonizing over her weight and how she should lose it. But when the story about Jennifer became more prominent in the second half of the story many women didn’t understand the correlation between Jennifer’s fight and Plum’s fight. These women didn’t understand Plum’s fight because they are not Plum. They were never Plum, and they never will be Plum.
I am Plum.
I understand Plum’s anger and fight because I’ve fought the same battles my entire life. When I was young I had classmates, teachers, strangers, relatives saying some mean things to me because of my weight and because I was fat I had to sit back and listen to all these remarks and do my best to hold my tears until I got home and locked myself in my room. Society says that you are wrong to be fat, that’s it your fault that you’re fat and you have to do whatever it takes to become thin and beautiful like Plum’s Alicia. You are not allowed to be content with what you look like. You have to be thin and trim even if you starve yourself. It’s sickening. I’ve always known this and I rarely ever spoke up to defend myself because, being fat, I wasn’t allowed to.
A few weeks ago I was telling a friend of how when I was maybe 16 or so I was waiting at the corner for the light to turn green when a NYC garbage truck drove by. The men on the truck screamed a few crass things to me about my weight and then threw a huge bag of garbage on me! Did I really deserve that? Many of you will say yes because I was too fat and the men were just trying to teach me how wrong I was to be so heavy.
My friend said, “That never happens in my state. It must be a New York thing.” No, it is not a big, bad New York thing, it’s an every state, city, town, county thing. My friend believed it was a New York thing because nothing like that has ever happened to her. She was never now or ever overweight, fat, or obese. Oh, she’ll say she has to lose 20 pounds but having to lose 20 pounds is not being 100 pounds overweight. Being 20 pounds over the ideal weight is fine as far as society is concerned. Most women will say that they’d rather lose a limb than be fat. When people abuse fat people it’s because they’re afraid that if they eat that one donut they will become fat and have society abuse them the way they abuse fat people.
In ten days I’ll be turning 66 and “Dietland” has actually said out loud to what I’ve always believed but was afraid to say myself. It’s okay to be fat if that’s what I want. It’s okay to wear yellow and red and green if I want and it’s okay for me to go into a cafe and order a sandwich if I want. What’s not okay is for total strangers, friends, and family to preach to you and make rude remarks to you about your weight and then attack you and say you don’t have a sense of humor when you tell them you don’t appreciate their “unsolicited advice.”
I just want to touch on the “Dietland” that is being shown on the television station, AMC. It’s not the same as the book. The television show had a male lead character. Why? Who is he? He is not in the book. But everytime something bad happens to Plum it’s this male character who is coming to her rescue while in the book it’s women who help her out. I’m disappointed that the television series falls back on the “man helping out the weak woman” story line which is the exact opposite of what the book is saying.
In the book Kitty is nothing more than a background character while in the television show she’s on screen almost as much as Plum. This bothers me too. And the worse thing is that the television version is not really showing the fight that Jennifer is waging and comparing it to the fight that Plum is going through.
But the show has not ended yet so maybe things will change in episodes to come.
Every woman should read Dietland” by Sarai Walker even if you’re a size 2. You might have a problem, not necessarily weight related, and Ms. Walker’s book and words will help light a fire under you.