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LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Tour #20: Moose

This book isn't about infertility, but when I read about the way the author, Stephanie Klein, viewed her body, it was impossible to not apply those same thoughts to infertility--the maybe-this-will-work and the internal punishments when it doesn't. The frustration of a body that will not perform as you wish despite hard work and your best efforts.

And, at the same time, I could take the story for what it was because it's a universal struggle--melding the image we wish to attain with what we actually have to work with.

There was a girl in college who was in our group who informed me one night that she ate anything she wanted by chewing and then spitting out the masticated food into a cup. It was her equivalent to chewing tobacco. She did it discreetly, but not privately. I mean, she sat at the table with us and chewed and spat into a plastic cup, participating in the conversation. She thought it was better than vomiting because it didn't bring with it all of the health risks from vomiting.

That night, I asked my boyfriend about it and he sort of shrugged it off. He thought it was weird, but he was so accustomed to it that he didn't really consider it. I remember lying awake in bed and wondering if eating disorders were so common that we didn't bat an eyelash at anyone who wasn't ending up as a story in People magazine.

I am always conscious of how I speak about my own body and how I speak about the ChickieNob's body (the Wolvog as well, but probably less so). How I speak about food and how we use food. It is a hard line to walk--knowing my words can influence her negatively, but will probably not be enough to influence her positively in the face of what she will encounter outside the house.

And it was both painful and wistful to be transported back to the middle school years through the book.

How did the author's weight transformation impact your view of her story (she looks quite svelte on the book jacket)? Did it give credence because she "conquered" her weight? Or did her story become more dismissible because she conformed to what society says looks good?

I was never bothered by the jacket photo but I'm also not one to be bothered that almost all infertility books are written by those who have moved on to parenting (even if they are still in the throes of family building). Writing about weight loss when you're in the throes of weight loss is sort of like trying to fight with someone when you're upset. You're going to have a clearer focus and a more persuasive argument if you're coming at it from a rational point rather than an emotional point, and people rarely lose their passion. It is more often the opposite effect--people keep their passion but gain rationality rather than find rationality when they're in the hold of passion. It is also the difference between a new artist and an older artist--who can still access the emotional content but who has gained the ability to examine a moment with retrospection.

And I found her in the perfect place for retrospection.

She's after the moment timewise, but it's at the surface emotionally due to her pregnancy. Seeing the journal entries was just enough of a taste to get the teenage Stephanie; and frankly, I'm not sure I could have handled or taken seriously an entire book by the teenage Stephanie. The adult Stephanie is a more likeable narrator, not dismissing or negating her former self, but also not keeping to the one note of "it's not fair."

Did she need to remain overweight to have insight into what it's like to be overweight? For me, the answer is no. But that's also because she never claimed to understand what it was like to be an overweight adult. By keeping a tight focus on youth, she doesn't make empty promises into holding a deep understanding of overweight adulthood. Though her body image from those formative years obviously comes into play even in adulthood.

Stephanie Klein writes "Years later I'd feel slightly superior because I'd once been fat. That's the thing...when asked if I'd change my past if I could, I think for a moment and always answer no. There's something...that just makes it mildly worth it. Because a sensitivity is tattooed on a part of you no one else can see but can somehow guess is there. It's always with you." How do you relate to this with regards to infertility?

If you asked me the same question about infertility--to not have gone through it--I'd probably answer the same thing. Because then I wouldn't have these children, these friends, this sensitivity. If you asked me the same question when I was starting fertility treatments, I probably would have answered differently. Especially if the change would undo the pain I was in. It's like asking someone if they wish they hadn't broken their leg after falling off a ladder. The obvious answer as they writhe on the ground would be "yes." But ask them the same question after the bone has healed and they met their spouse in the emergency room of the hospital and even if they have some lingering pain whenever it's about to rain, they'd probably tell you that they'd put up with that for all they gained from the experience.

Stephanie describes how she would picture herself slim, and how that image did not look like her at all. Did you/do you picture yourself slim and if so who do you model yourself on? Are you realistic when you imagine the slim you or do you picture someone you could never be like?

I imagine myself much lighter than I am. Someone took a picture of me right before my wedding that shocked the crap out of me. I couldn't believe that was what I looked like. It goaded me to exercise more and eat healthier, but all that went out the window with infertility. I haven't truly found that ground again and keep looking for it. I would like to be healthier--which does include some weight loss--but I lack the motivation. It's just strange to think of myself as thin and then see myself in the mirror.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (above this one). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: It Sucked, and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong (aka Dooce).


Lavender Luz said...

"people keep their passion but gain rationality rather than find rationality when they're in the hold of passion."

This is so true of IF, too. So well put. Time and again, I see the incredible difference in people (myself included) while they were waiting to adopt and then after they become parents. The change in rationality is amazing.

Cassandra said...

A book written by an adolescent Stephanie would also lack perspective about others. For example, when she writes about her mother complaining about her own body image, there's a clear sense that it's unhealthy and contributed to her daughters' body image issues. I don't know that an adolescent would get that; or if she did get it, she'd be much more explicit about it. Klein's approach is more show-don't-tell, which is ultimately the most effective.

Kristin said...

Great review Mel. I Have the same issue with body image that you do but I guess I would rather think of myself as thinner than I really am than the reverse.

Anonymous said...

After reading Ms. Klein's first book, Straight Up & Dirty, I find myself unable to read anything else by this author. Her decision (discussed in that book) to abort a planned pregnancy--a pregnancy that she had actually used Clomid to achieve--when she and her first husband divorced struck me as terribly selfish. I lost all respect for her after reading about it.

Too bad in regard to this book in particular, as I have struggled with my weight all my life myself.

Jen said...

This is a very interesting review. I haven't read the book but I'll have to look for it.

Rebecca said...

The spitting in a cup thing reminded me of a line from Miss Congeniality (don't judge me - it's on cable all the time). Sandra Bullock's character brings pizza and beer to her fellow beauty pagent contestants and they can't believe she's holding actual food. She responds by saying "It's light beer and she's going to throw it up anyway!" It was a throw-away line in the movie- only mentioned once and not even referenced again. Just acknowledging that this is something everyone knows about but no one will put a stop to.

Also, I always think I'm thinner than I really am! Sort of like a backwards annorexic. I'm always in shock that people realize when I gain weight. I assume my baggy clothes fool everyone into thinking I'm as thin as I was when I had actually stuck to my diet.

This was a great read. It reminded me again how everyone in life struggles with something and it's usually not apparent unless you take the time to come out of your own misery to look at it.

loribeth said...

Mel -- my mother did the same thing your friend did for awhile with popcorn (albeit not in public) -- ugh. It's one thing to do it in private, but in public?? (even among friends) Fortunately, she seems to have switched to potato chips to get her salty/crunchy fix.

Re: the "sensitivity tattooed" question -- I didn't answer this one, because I was struggling with the idea that IF was "worth it" -- because for me, I didn't come out of it with a child. Of course, I'd like to change that part of my past, if I could, & not be infertile. But I do believe I learned a lot about myself & humanity while in the thick of the battle. IF & loss will certainly always be tattooed on me, even if people don't always know or see that it's there.

loribeth said...

Oops, I deleted a line & didn't realize it. The reason my mom did that was because she has diverticulitis & popcorn upsets her stomach too much. She misses it horribly (I would too!!).

Anonymous said...


I sort of feel the same way about SK. I've read both her books, but she strikes me as incredibly self-centered and 'truthy'. She used clomid to conceive her twins as well as the first baby, but it's just a passing sentiment, months after the pregnancy announcement, on her blog.

It's not as if anyone wants to "own" the label of infertile. But I just found it condescending, almost that she would announce her pregnancy and talk about how she wondered if the twins were spontaneous (I have twins in my family, everyone! See, Just because I was on clomid doesn't mean that these twins weren't spontaneous!" even though she had trouble conceiving during her first and second marriage.

It's everyone's right to air their fertility in the manner they want too (or not at all), but her up front and frank discussions about everything else in her life leads me to believe that she is almost hiding this fact. It's her prerogative, it just seems so disingenuous coming from someone who purports to be so "straight up and dirty" about everything else.

I think it would make her a much more interesting person if she owned it. "Yeah, I had trouble conceiving for years. And the twins are a highly likely result of my fertility medication. Here's my story...etc."