inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #51 of 286: Susannah Indigo (sindigo) Tue 5 Jun 01 19:54
    
 re 48 -- yes I understand, I only meant they don't live in those cities.
 An interesting column on the prejudice against fat people related to
gays is at:
http://www.goodvibes.com/magazine/xxl/current.html?BASKETID=00_3b1d9ad68cc92
  where Hanne Blank, who used to write an advice column called "Ask The
 Fat Broad" is writing a new series on "Rated XXL".
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #52 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 00:13
    
Molly - absolutely.  My journals start just as I'm entering puberty,
and in the first chapter of STICK FIGURE, I note that the rules are
changing all of a sudden.  Not in terms of what I eat, but in terms of
how I act.  I'm told to act "ladylike" which makes no sense to me
because I consider myself a "kid" not a "lady."  And my thinking was,
if "ladies" have to act a certain way - quiet, docile - I wasn't at all
interested in becoming one.  And later, I learned that to be
"ladylike" you had to eat smaller meals, not eat dessert, and be
"delicate" in your behaviors, including those around food.

As for why mothers want their daughters to be thin - in my diaries,
there's a sentence which also appears in the book:  "Julie said her mom
wants her to lose some weight so she won't be chubby and sad as a
teenager."

As demented as this sounds, I think Julie's mother really believed
that her daughter would be happier - more popular, feel more
self-confident, get more (male) attention - as a thin teenager than as
one who might be slightly chubby.  And in the so-called real world,
this is probably (unfortunately) true.  So I think it has more to do
with mothers knowing how cruel the world can be to teen girls who
aren't thin than with mothers competing with their daughters.  Although
the latter definitely exists.  But because it's so dangerous-sounding
or threatening or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, people rarely discuss
mother-daughter rivalry.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #53 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 00:20
    
Ruth - are you talking about women eating cookies over the kitchen
sink because of that passage in my book in which I find my mother doing
that?  Or have you seen someone else do it as well?  

In my book, my mother eats cookies over the sink late at night because
doing so in public, I think, would have seemed shameful to her. But to
me, the whole scene seemed frightening.  Later in the book, when I'm
told I have to stay at the kitchen table until I finish my meal, I
stubbornly sit there until 11:00 at night. Then my mother, unaware that
I'm sitting in the dark, comes into the kitchen for her cookies and
I'm terrified by her behavior.  There was something that seemed so out
of control about it.  And ironically, my parents were telling me not to
engage in bizarre eating habits, and yet here's my mother with her own
version of bizarre eating habits.  Very confusing for girls to
process.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #54 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 00:39
    
David and Ruth... that whole notion of control equated with thinness
is - to a former anorexic, or even a former stringent dieter - an
utterly hilarious notion.  

Refreshing News Flash For Americans Who Wish They Had The Willpower To
Diet: 

When dieting becomes an obsession (and to become as thin as our
culture tells us we should be, you have to be at the obsession level),
the diet controls YOU, you don't control it.  It takes over your life. 


When people ask why I started eating again, why it seemed, from the
diaries, that I "suddenly" gave up my diet, this is the one time I wish
I'd written memoir instead of transcribing my actual diaries. 
Because I'd like to explain that part, add a bit of adult insight, but
I can't, given the material.  And the part I'd like to add is that I
realized the diet was controlling my life and I couldn't TAKE IT
anymore.  I still believed that I was fat, yet I was willing to eat
because being on the diet made me so miserable.  Yes, I could eat a
crouton in ten bites, but that's not true willpower or control. The
truth is, I felt more out of control on the diet than off it.  

So, those traits we associate with thin people?  Hogwash.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #55 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 00:48
    
Kelly: Yeah, the book signings are great - much more interesting for
me than doing TV talkshows or even radio shows (which I like a lot if I
get a good interviewer) because at signings, you have these hour-long
lively discussions with total strangers about incredibly personal
issues.  I think the instant intimacy in that public forum stems from
the fact that everything that comes up - every comment made - is deeply
understood, on a visceral level, by every other woman in that room. 
And men are just flabbergasted... and I think a little freaked out...by
the power and raw energy in the room when you get a bunch of women
together to discuss a book about body image in our culture.

You asked about tour info. - go to my website www.lorigottlieb.com for
the scoop.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #56 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 01:04
    
Susannah: I have so many stats it's scary.  It's gotten so much worse.
 There are a few stats in my book's epilogue.  And then there are the
usual scary ones that people hand me at book signings about models
thirty years ago weighing X number of pounds less than the average
American woman, and models today weighing X minus 30 pounds less than
the average American woman.  Or the fact that in a recent survey, girls
were asked what they feared most: nuclear war, loss of parents,
cancer, or getting fat.  Guess what they chose.

Paul: Thank you for saying that!  Because my book takes place in L.A.,
I'm always asked if I think this is an "L.A. phenomenon."  Um, hello?!
 

I've had girls come up to me at book signings all over the country
sighing the mantra of teen girls everywhere: "God, I HATE my body!" 
And I think, too, that when I was growing up, my idols were people like
the actresses on "Charlie's Angels" or adult women I'd see in women's
magazines, but today's girls have idols who are their peers: the teen
actresses on the WB and Fox shows, Britney Spears, etc.  So they think,
"If I don't look like these girls, who are my age or thereabouts,
something must be wrong with me."  Whereas when I was comparing my
little teen girl body to women like Jaclyn Smith, I knew I couldn't
possibly have her body because I was just a girl.  I still wanted to be
thin, of course, but I felt less pressure because it wasn't as though
I saw images of my peers on TV or in magazines.  It was something to
aspire to in the future.

I do think the media affects girls (and women) all over the country. 
If you have a TV or a newsstand, you can't escape the pressure.  Which
is why I've had six year olds (yes, age SIX) come up to me at book
signings and announce, "I think I'm too fat."

Here's a tidbit that someone in Atlanta handed me at a recent book
signing:  

"A psychological study in 1995 found that three minutes spent looking
at a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty,
and shameful."
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #57 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 01:08
    
Linda asks what size is considered "normal" nowadays.  Another stat of
interest:  

"The average woman weighs 144 pounds and wears between a 12 and a 14."

I think this means average American woman.  And I'm equating "average"
with "normal" here.  Except that most people equate "normal" with what
they see in the media. Which most definitely is not a size 12 or 14. 
So I have no idea what's considered normal.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #58 of 286: -N. (streak) Wed 6 Jun 01 01:40
    
        I have a question that's a bit tricky to bring up without sounding
like I want to reinforce the messed-up stuff we're talking about. 
Where does obesity fit in?  Not normal weight or chubbiness or even
just regular fatness, but serious obesity of the kind that one really
only seems to see much of in America.  I mean, I am _all_ in favor of
women being comfortable with their bodies, and I have a documented
preference for women with some meat on their bones and some junk in
their trunk, but where does one draw the line before you're talking
about a real health problem?  But then how does one decry the problem
without being painted as a _Cosmo_ editor who wants all women to look
like swizzle sticks with wigs on?  I've seen cases where someone says
"Geez, if that much of the population is chronically obese, that's a
problem" only to be told "You just want people to be obsessed with
thinness instead of being comfortable with their bodies."  I just can't
see getting comfortable with heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep
apnea and all the rest of it as a good thing.  Is there a good way to
promote people actually being at reasonable weights without veering off
to either extreme?  Am I being a jerk?
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #59 of 286: Ruth Greenberg (ruthchava) Wed 6 Jun 01 05:47
    
I'm really glad you asked that, and am waiting for Lori to give her
definitive answer, but I'd say that the preoccupation with dieting has
a lot to do with the obesity we see in this country. If anyone with "a
little meat on the bones and junk in the trunk" is considered obese,
how can people who actually have a health problem due to overweight get
the help they need? And I think often the help they need is not to be
put on a strict diet--it's to be helped to understand why they are
eating, and if they're using food to cope with difficulties in their
lives.

Lori, re cookies over the sink: I have not read your book yet, but got
the "cookies over the sink" ref from a post above mine. I have seen my
mother-in-law, a person who seems very in control about everything in
her life and is not visibly overweight or preoccupied with her own
size, do this and engage in other behavior around food that I find
mysterious and meaningful. The "cookies over the sink" just seems
emblematic of a certain kind of eating in private, to me.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #60 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 10:23
    
N. and Ruth - 

I'm also a medical student at Stanford (don't ask!), so I know all too
well how much of the population is at an unhealthy weight in the OTHER
direction.  My response may sound simplistic, but I've believed this
for years.  In our culture, we focus on aesthetics, rather than health.
 If we were to focus on health - teaching kids (both girls and boys)
healthy eating habits rather than telling girls, "Don't eat that, it
makes you FAT" - and if being healthy became the socially sanctioned
way of being (i.e., the cultural pressure to be "thin" transformed into
the cultural pressure to be healthy - and by this I don't mean tofu
burgers, I just mean balance and moderation as opposed to excess or
starvation), many of us would feel not just better physically, but we'd
look better as a by-product.  

This is precisely why I'm careful in how I respond to people who tout
seeing "fat" actresses on TV as a great breakthrough.  In one sense,
it's refreshing to see women who don't look like bean poles on TV, but
on the other hand, I wonder why we only see the extremes - extremely
skinny and extremely heavy.  

Where are all the healthy-looking people?  I think the women on "The
Sopranos" are good examples of healthy-looking women.  Carmella and the
therapist character may be thinner than most American women, but
they're not anorexic-looking like almost all the other women we see on
T.V.  And they're treated as vital, sexual, complex people, unlike some
of the heavier characters peppered into a show's cast (e.g., see my
earlier post about the Molly character on "Ed").
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #61 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Wed 6 Jun 01 10:28
    
Ruth - The cookies-over-the-sink thing can seem so cliched, but to a
young girl observing this behavior...well...I'd be curious to know your
reaction to how those scenes played out in my diaries.  Several people
at signings have commented on those passages, not because they hadn't
seen that behavior in women before, but because they then remembered
THEIR first reaction upon discovering similar behavior in women around
them, or when they found THEMSELVES doing it.  

And yes, most women who do this seem very controlled publicly, the
opposite of what's going on over the kitchen sink.  There's also the
feeling that if you eat something over the kitchen sink, it doesn't
really "count" the way it would if you were eating at the table.  A
form of denial:  "I'm not really eating. Eating takes place sitting at
a table."
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #62 of 286: Ruth Greenberg (ruthchava) Wed 6 Jun 01 11:03
    
Re: If we were to focus on health - teaching kids (both girls and
boys) healthy eating habits rather than telling girls, "Don't eat that,
it makes you FAT" ...

This is so true, but no one and I mean no one wants to hear about
moderation, esp. when the recipients of male attention are the lollipop
girls we see on tv and in mags. I am perplexed by the number of people
who are willing to give up carbs, or fat, or whatever the faddish bad
item of the week is, but who cannot understand the directions: "Listen
to your body. How do you feel? Hungry? Then eat something (or don't)."

Any idea of how to teach this in a compelling, interesting way?
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #63 of 286: David Gans (tnf) Wed 6 Jun 01 11:39
    

>Yes, I could eat a crouton in ten bites, but that's not true willpower or
>control. The truth is, I felt more out of control on the diet than off it.

That is a powerful image, and an important statement.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #64 of 286: Molly Wright Steenson (explode) Wed 6 Jun 01 13:40
    
Lori, I liked what you had to say about "fat" actresses on tv, and the
fact that there's not too much between the skinny and fat extremes.
When Mode came out, we wrote about it at Maxi -- we were excited to see
some sort of magazine that had women in a multitude of sizes -- normal
sizes. 

But that's also the same problem. Why don't we see the integration of
the images, of size 12 and up women in all media? Why don't we even see
size 10, 140 pound women in other fashion magazine spreads?

And the fact that women read these magazines... an old roommate of
mine talked about the fact that she loved to get her Elle, Mademoiselle
and Allure because "it was like having a girlfriend come over, like
having a sleepover." It kind of made me shudder -- this same roommate
had a mother who was always putting her youngest sister on a diet (the
sister in question wasn't a stick, and is now 5'11" and graduating from
high school -- she needed the meat she had on her body!). It made me
feel sad. 

I'm currently visiting my family in Minneapolis, and we've been
talking about a lot of these issues -- I was fortunate enough to have a
mother who didn't pass on a lot of these messages to me. I was a
rail-skinny, late-blooming, glasses-wearing geek as a kid (still am a
geek, still wear the glasses). At age 17, I hit puberty with a
vengeance, went to live in Germany for a year, and gained 20 pounds.
These days, I really could stand to be in better shape. I have a belly,
I have hips and thighs. I'm a bit zaftig. And I go back and forth. I
have the "I should really lose the weight," or the "I should be buff"
-- even though the people around me -- my mom and family here, and my
boyfriend in Chicago -- like me the way I am.

It's so hard to escape these issues. 

I also have a question about journal writing, Lori -- is it still
something you do? How have your journals changed over the years?
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #65 of 286: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 6 Jun 01 17:53
    
And I have a question about how publishing your journal has affected your
relationship with your mother.

Your mom doesn't come off very well in this book at all, Lori. And while I
understand the scenario was filtered through the eyes of an 11-year-old, the
way you seemed to be treated made me wince.

There's a scene you describe (page 122) when your mom is taking you to an
appointment with Dr. Gold. You quote her as saying "Try to remember what he
says when he explains why you're doing this to us."

Based on what you wrote after the appointment -- "When I got home from Dr.
Gold's, Mom and Dad wanted to know how the appointment went. `What did Dr.
Gold say?' Mom wondered. She probably wanted to know if he figured out why
I'm ruining her life." -- it looks like you accepted the accusation that you
were somehow doing this to mess with your mom.

Did you have any anxiety about seeing this published, knowing that your
mother (whose role was much larger in the book than your dad's) would see
it? What was her reaction when she read the book?
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #66 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Thu 7 Jun 01 00:13
    
Ruth, all those ridiculous diets I talk about in my book?  These are
real!  Some people wondered if I fictionalized them because they seemed
so absurd (like the one where you eat one kind of food each week, like
only fruits/veggies; then protein only the next).  That was my point -
that people follow absurd diets instead of just eating healthy,
balanced meals.  And they don't necessarily get any thinner on these
diets because - hello? - these diets don't work!  They just make you
hungry, because you're not getting the right nutrients, so you can't
maintain the regimen.  Then you overcompensate when the "diet" ends and
back comes the weight.  If people would just eat healthy meals, they'd
look and feel a lot better.  But that's so un-American: it takes too
long.  No promises of "three pounds in three days."
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #67 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Thu 7 Jun 01 00:14
    
David - Exactly.  I hope people "got" that.  Because it flies in the
face of conventional wisdom and our cultural stereotypes.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #68 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Thu 7 Jun 01 00:26
    
Molly: I do keep journals today.  I've never stopped, actually. 
They've changed in the sense that they used to consist mostly of
reporting - "Today this happened" (as in STICK FIGURE) - but over the
years they've become more a potpourri of thoughts, impressions,
something I notice during the day, something I cut out and paste in. 
Much less a record of what I did each day.  And, in fact, I write in
spurts.  Sometimes I'll write 10 pages a day, sometimes I won't write
for a month or two, sometimes I'll jot down a few words or a phrase and
come back to it (or not).  

But I do find that I go a bit berserk without my journals.  So I bring
them with me if I go out of town, in case I feel like writing.  The
other thing is privacy.  This might sound bizarre coming from someone
who made her diaries public, but I'm paranoid that if I get in a car
accident or something happens to me, whoever goes into my house collect
my belongings will find my journals and the impression I'll have left
is one of utter and complete insanity.  (The narcissism here is
embarrassing - as if ANYONE CARES!) So before I leave the house, I try
not to leave my journals out.  

I say this because a few years ago, I was hit by a car and injured
pretty seriously.  My family went into my house to bring things to the
hospital for me, collect my mail, get my messages, etc.  And all I
could think about was, "Oh my God.  My journals are on the kitchen
table!"  Not, "Oh my God, I might be paralyzed!"  So it's paranoia, but
based on a past experience.  (Turns out my family respected my wishes
and closed them unread.)
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #69 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Thu 7 Jun 01 00:30
    
Cynthia - I have so much to say in response to your question that I'm
going to reply tomorrow because it's 12:30 a.m., I'm on deadline for
something, and I have to wake up early for some meetings.  And I want
to make sure I cover everything, because you bring up some important
issues around publishing personal material that involves the personal
lives of others.  So, stay tuned... 

'Night all!
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #70 of 286: Lisa (jonl) Thu 7 Jun 01 08:33
    
Email from Lisa:

Thora Birch is not an Academy Award winning actress. You are probably
thinking of Anna Paquin.

Have a groovy day, Lisa
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #71 of 286: Molly Wright Steenson (explode) Thu 7 Jun 01 10:07
    
Cynthia, great question -- I had to wonder about that too. And Lori,
this comment you made is really interesting (and as you've noted, a
little ironic): 

"The narcissism here is embarrassing - as if ANYONE CARES!) So before
I leave the house, I try not to leave my journals out."

On one hand, you've been able to be very public about something you
wrote (and many posts earlier, you also said something about the woman
who sent you all of her journals, and the fact that journals should be
private). And yet today, it seems like your writings are too close to
the bone. This is also interesting to me on a personal level -- I've
been an avid journaler, but these days, I keep a personal website which
I update every few days (http://www.girlwonder.com). What I put there
is personal but not what I'd put in a journal. But since I've started
keeping it, I don't journal as much anymore. There's a funny
public/private and past/present dichotomy here, I think.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #72 of 286: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 7 Jun 01 10:41
    

I remember the diet where you eat one kind of food one week and a
different kind the next!  Wasn't that the Beverly Hills diet?

I used to be an avid journaler until I caught my first husband reading
them.  Of course, that marriage was doomed right then and there!

Another reason, though, that I stopped journaling was because I realized I
was using the journal to work things through with people instead of
talking to them directly.  So I learned to talk to the people I needed to
talk to and that led to the death of my journaling.

In a way, writing on the WELL has taken the place of journaling.  If I
have something I want to express, I do it here instead of in a
journal.  If I were to do an extract of what I posted in a given period of
time, I'm sure that it would match what I would have written in a journal.

So, I guess, I'm still journaling, only interactively.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #73 of 286: when cheese is insulted, it catches its winces! (pellmell) Thu 7 Jun 01 11:06
    
What castle said. My journal gives me advice and sympathy and sends me
little presents in the mail sometimes even. 
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #74 of 286: this American incuriosity (crow) Thu 7 Jun 01 11:48
    
Yeah, the well works that way for me a lot. Sometimes I think I should write
more of this stuff in private and quit boring people.

My housemate is an avid journaller, has been for years. he recently
completed a project of re-reading about ten years worth.
  
inkwell.vue.112 : Lori Gottlieb - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
permalink #75 of 286: Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Thu 7 Jun 01 23:55
    
Interestingly, I haven't written in my journal since I've been doing
this discussion on the WELL.  But I don't think it's because I'm
writing the same content here that I'd write in my journals.  I think
it has more to do with expressing oneself - you may have noticed that I
tend to log on around midnight, when I get home and right before bed.
And after posting, I've felt "cleansed" - it's been cathartic and
nurturing in an odd way - I feel like when I read a post from someone
who's written before, I'm starting to get a sense of the person behind
the post. I find myself laughing or nodding in agreement or smiling at
a shared experience, and I'm fascinated that we're all engaged in this
discussion from wherever we happen to live.  I've started to form
images of what I think each of you might look like, based on your words
(ironic, given the topic here!), I picture what kind of desk or
computer set-up each of you has, whether you're in an office or at
home, on and on. So there's something comforting about this experience.
 I use my journals to achieve that same sort of centeredness, so I
guess when I log off I feel like I don't have such a strong urge to
write in the journals.

But...and I realized this tonight: there's a content question.  Before
I logged on here tonight, I had something I REALLY wanted to write in
my journal. But I thought if I did that, I wouldn't have time to join
this discussion until morning. So here I am, writing this now, enjoying
this experience.  And yet, I think I'll write in my journal tonight. 
Why?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the kinds of
things I write here seem like part of an interaction - sharing
thoughts/ideas - while what I want to write in my journal would bore
the bejesus out of anyone who doesn't know me personally.  Actually, it
would probably bore the bejesus out of those people too!  

What's fascinating(and becoming quasi-addicting to me) about the WELL
is that we share very personal information with complete strangers. But
it has a context.  There's a topic - in this case, my book, STICK
FIGURE - so what we share relates (however tangentially) to that topic.
 It's not like anyone's randomly posting something about how much
their marriage sucks, or how they have a boyfriend but are secretly
attracted to another guy, or whatever.  We're talking about body image
and memoir and journals and gender roles and what we've learned,
personally, about our own acceptance of ourselves in the face of insane
societal pressure to look a certain way, but it's not at all the kind
of stuff I think we'd find in each of our journals.  Or am I way off
base here?
  

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