Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion, edited by Virgie Tovar (she/her), is not what I expected, and in a good way! Firstly, not all the writers confirm they are “fierce.” Instead, their journeys are challenging, circuitous, maybe even weebling between confidence and defeat.
The contributors leaned older, from what I remember, more women in their 40s rather than their 20s, which I appreciate. Lately, I’ve been feeling curmudgeonly, but am trying to be honest, about the fact that books written by people in their 20s do not strike me as particularly deep. Then again, is that because I see so many “how to love yourself when you’re fat” self-help books filling the shelves in libraries and bookstores written by women under 30? “Like, just do it! Just be brave! Eat that cake, sister!” isn’t great advice when you’re old enough to have watched 9/11 unfold.
Back to Hot & Heavy. It’s in the name: a variety of women write what they think it means to be “fierce.” Tovar organized the brief essays into the three categories in the title (life, love, fashion). The “life” section was run-of-the-mill in some ways for me. People struggling with fat-shaming families or bullies in school — but those may be the stories you need to hear, to confirm or validate your own experiences. The “life” section also includes how it feels to regularly go to the gym as a fat person or be the fat yoga teacher at the front of the room and have younger, thinner students side-eyeing their instructor. I liked the exercise-related essays, as I don’t see a ton of books about that topic yet.
The “love” section was such a hoot, and empowering, too. When one woman becomes a fat prostitute, she finds the right support system for her work, adding, “I thought I had found the Promised Land for fat hos.” Another woman describes preparing to lose her virginity, which she is eager to do as a horny fourteen-year-old high schooler. The author was honest about her desire to be sexual, to not feel ashamed, and what it was like her first time, especially in a fat body. And it was funny! Another writer discovered self-pleasure later than she expected and was surprised by how she felt about her body afterward. When was the last time you read something honest and open about sex in a bigger body?
Finally, the “fashion” section was the one I least looked forward to. Fashion in fat girl fiction seems to be the norm now. Sure, she’s fat, but she’s also a wizard on a sewing machine and makes her own clothes! Really? I know so few people like that. Where are these people? But the essays Tovar includes give examples of how to alter or spice up your own clothes with doodads from craft stores (buttons, pins, ribbons, and a pair of scissors). And what it means for a dance troupe to choose a size-inclusive performance outfit. And how one woman gets past those sweltering days of being a fat girl in jeans while everyone else is wearing shorts (guilty).
The essays in Hot & Heavy brought a lot of new information, and a whole bunch of new (to me) voices, to the conversation about women in fat bodies. Highly recommended!
CW: fat shaming, sizeism