As I read Frankel's excellent book, I cringed where appropriate, sighed ruefully where appropriate, and even cried where appropriate. Like Frankel, I suffered under the tyranny of middle-school bullies who hated and tormented me for no decent reason at all (you know who you are). Like Frankel, I occasionally have fantasies of telling those nasty people how much they had to do with transforming a relatively happy kid into a miserable teenager whose only thought was to do as well as possible in school so that I could get a scholarship to a college FAR FAR FAR away from anyone who might know me and might remember that a particularly "endearing" sobriquet I was known by in middle school was MonagHAM. Ha ha ha ha. And, to make it all worse -- I was no chubbier than many other girls in my class and turned out to be fairly well-proportioned in high school and college.
That scarring experience resonates for me today in ways that I hardly notice any more -- but reading this book brought them into focus for me. For example, Frankel relates buying a clicker so that she can count all the instances in which she thinks badly of herself or talks unkindly to herself. She counted instances of "negative self-talking" numbering in the hundreds EACH DAY -- in fact, she calculated that she had a negative thought about her body or looks every three and a half minutes. That sounds familiar -- I can't recall the last time I looked at myself in the mirror and liked what I saw -- that's a lie -- it was the day I met my future husband. Ten years ago. Even on my wedding day I was either counting flaws or not thinking about what I looked like, just hoping that everything would go well.
Frankel also talks about the personal consultation she had with her friend, Stacy London, the style guru from What Not to Wear. Everything in Frankel's closet was chosen to hide some perceived flaw. Most of it was trashed and, armed with explicit instructions from London, Frankel bought a new wardrobe which suited her life, looks, and style. It's a secret fantasy of mine to be whisked away by the What Not to Wear team and transformed, except that I would only want to do it after losing weight and I'm too shy to go on TV. But anyone who knows me in person can see that my clothes follow a pattern -- the things I choose are mostly black, green, or brown. I like to fade into the background -- I don't want people to look at me too much. And that shows. But I am working on changing that.