What Fat Women Want

Wanting to be thin is only part of the story

Notes from the Situation Room

I feel encumbered rather than suicidal.

Chalk my Psychology Today silence up to the paralyzing fear that an underpaid freelance everything feels when her one steady source of income is pulled at the last minute.  It was nothing I did that resulted in this and it's likely I'll be re-employed for the summer quarter.  It's even a good thing in that I have a manuscript due in mid-June and have lots of time to work on it.  But even with those caveats, I have been largely frozen, counting and recounting how much money I might pull in before rent is due, how much I regret ever having spent money on anything but abstinent food, rent, telephone and internet, and feeling guilty that I'm not doing more, right now, to pull myself up by the bootstraps.

There are interesting facets to this miasma, however.  One of them is that, while I'm displaying all the signs of the depressions I have experienced before -- isolation, abnormal sleeping and eating patterns, listlessness and lack of interest -- it doesn't quite feel like depression.  I feel more as though my emotional health is broken but ambulatory, that, with enormous effort and great clumsiness, I should be getting around in a walking cast.  If I took the cast off (or quit medication and therapy), I would be more tempted to use what's left of my credit to rent a car and drive west (my native territory), leaving my apartment and its contents to the fate of a dump truck. 

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I feel encumbered rather than suicidal.  Except for my dog and my old bear, I look around my Bat Cave and desire to keep nothing in it.

My funks, whether they're they sorts I'm familiar with or situational, make me small and ascetic.  I want only to go back to bed and turn my face to the wall.  Inevitably I wake up.  In a stituational depression, this is shattering to my self-esteem.  Waking up to a real worry rather than the unnamable black is waking up to what a weak and cowardly person I am.  Poor and frightened, yes -- but that doesn't mean I am prohibited from taking a shower, doing laundry, cleaning a pile that looks like a hoarder's seedling, working on my book or walking the streets looking for loose change.  (I once found 550 dollars in a DUMBO gutter on a deserted street.  It paid off a Visa card.)

When I wake up to the black wall of depression, I can't get enough chick lit onto my Kindle.  Bring it on -- the snappy whining, the kooky parents and best friends and gay guys, the betrayals, the romantic and professional epiphanies, the labels and brand names and Notting Hill and Fifth Avenue-with-a-view.  Chick lit is entertaining, predictable and guaranteed to provide a happy ending.

Oddly, however, my financial crisis has me downloading as much Tudor history as I can find.  I've loved Elizabeth I since high school and have expanded my interests to include the hundred other characters that E I is, really, there mere outcome of. 

Are the Tudors an attempt to buck up, my reach for a cri de guerre -- or are they the satisfaction of a snippy fifth grader who tells on her naughty school mates when I catch an episode of The Tudors on TV or read the latest historical novel about a bit player in the five (or six, depending on last names) the orbits of the sovereigns?

It is almost as predictable reading as those crazy girls with their shoes.  I know who dies when and how.  I know the highlights of reigns and the plots.  The biggest difference between the two bookshelves is that the Tudors offer tiny, refining details.  It is interesting that the myth of Cardinal Wolsey's origins as the son of a butcher persist to this day, that Elizabeth insisted her ladies-in-waiting wear black and white clothing, that Walsingham's one great friend was his son-in-law, Phillip Sidney, whose Astrophel and Stella is the puzzle piece that made me understand Literature as a wonderful comlicated version of Where's Waldo?

I am a pretender to the chick lit genre but the Tudors only inspire me to a certain smugness that I know more than their pop culture caretakers do -- or that I care more about the truth.

Maybe "truth" is a key to the difference between these two broad depressive states for me.  My existential depressions finds an anesthetic in clever fantasy, whereas this existence depression, as debilitating as it is, harbors a quest for answers and the actual.

Which is ironic.  Elizabeth was as slow to act as I am -- without the worry of rent.

Frances Kuffel is the author of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self.

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